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Net Worth Update February 2015 – Sean Cooper (+6.7%)

Welcome to the Million Dollar Journey February 2015 Net Worth Update – Team MDJ edition. A select group of readers were selected to be part of Team MDJ which was conceived after the million dollar net worth milestone was achieved in June 2014. Sean Cooper was selected as a team member and will post net worth updates on a regular basis. Here is more about Sean.

Profile:

  • Name: Sean Cooper
  • Age: 29
  • Net Worth: $585,926
  • Day Job: Employed with a major global pension consulting firm.
  • Family Income: $50,000 (full-time job), $18,600 (rental income before expenses), $20,000 (approximate freelance income), $5,000 (part-time job)
  • Goals: Mortgage paid off by 31, million dollar net worth by mid thirties.
  • Notes: Owns a house, rents out main floor. Most of net worth is in the principal residence. No other debt besides mortgage.

2015 looks to be a big year for me. I’ve set several ambitious goals for 2015. Not only do I turn 30 at the end of February, I plan to be mortgage-free by the end of November. I’m considering my investment options to better diversify, since most of my net worth is tied up in my house.

2015 has started off pretty busy at work. January is always a crazy month because pension adjustments and pension adjustment reversals are due by month end. I’ve also taken on a heavier workload with the hope of being promoted. I’ve gone from preparing pension packages to checking and reviewing packages from junior employees. August 2015 will mark my five year anniversary at my company. It’s my goal to be promoted to a senior pension analyst before the end of the fiscal year (June 30th) and I’m well on my way. This should provide a nice boost in salary and the opportunity to advance further in my career.

With mortgage freedom on the horizon, I’m starting to look at my investment options once my mortgage is paid off. When I’m mortgage-free, the first thing I’ll do is max out my TFSA. I’m debating on what to invest my money in. Currently, my RRSPs are invested in the TD e-Series Funds (30% Canadian equities, 30% U.S. equities, 30% International equities, and 10% Canadian bonds). I’m not much for trading stocks; I prefer turn-key investments that provide a solid long-term return. I’m debating between the TD e-Series Funds and Tangerine Investment Funds. Readers, do you have any other suggestions?

My new tenants have been wonderful so far. I couldn’t ask for better tenants. They’ve been courteous, considerate and always pay their rent on time. They even offered to paint my upstairs and did a fantastic job. After my old tenants moved, I decided to change the rent from inclusive to plus utilities. I did this because my old tenants didn’t respect my utility bill. Fzor example, they left a heater on for two straight months, causing my hydro bill to skyrocket. Furthermore, utility rates tend to increase well above the rate of inflation, yet I’m only allowed to increase the rent one or two percent a year. This arrangement has worked out great so far. Although it’s a pain to photocopy utility bills, it’s well worth the effort; my tenants have paid the utilities on time every time.

After last quarter, my investment portfolio has recovered nicely. My RRSP account is up 8.36 percent (without making any further contributions). You may be wondering why I have a lot of money sitting in cash right now. With all the freelance income I earned this year, I expect a hefty tax bill. Also, I plan to start contributing to my RRSP in March, maximizing my contributions for the year before August 1st, my mortgage anniversary date, when I can start making lump sum payments on my mortgage once again.

On to the net worth numbers:

Assets: $649,394 (+4.17%)

  • Cash: $25,259 (+714.35%)
  • Registered/Retirement Investment Accounts (RRSP): $49,377 (+8.36%)
  • Tax Free Savings Accounts (TFSA): $0 (+0.00%)
  • Defined Benefit Pension: $24,421 (+0.00%) (commuted value adjusted annually in June when I receive my annual statement)
  • Non-Registered Investment Accounts: $337 (+4.05%)
  • Principal Residence: $550,000 (+0.00%) (purchase price adjusted for average selling price annually)

Liabilities: $63,468 (-15.52%)

  • Principal Residence Mortgage: $63,468 (-15.52%)

Total Net Worth: ~$585,926 (+6.7%)

  • Started 2014 with Net Worth: $460,500
  • Year to Date Gain/Loss: +27.24%

Some quick notes and explanations to common questions:

The Cash

The cash is held in a no fee chequing account with PC Financial. I use my chequing account for regular bill payments, as well as making lump sum payments on my mortgage.

Savings

My savings are held in a Tax Free Savings Account (TFSA) with Canadian Direct Financial. I mainly use my TFSA as an emergency fund and to save towards the balance owing when I file my personal income tax return at the end of April. Even though I contribute the maximum to my RRSP annually, I still have a large balance owing to the taxman since I receive rental income and income from self-employment (I’m a freelance writer).

You may be wondering why my balance is currently $0. At the beginning of the year I had $15,000 in my TFSA. However, this year was especially costly, as I had to spend $25,000 on repairs and renovations to my house, including a new retaining wall, side walk, front porch, sump pump, and eaves troughs. I plan to rebuild my emergency fund once I’ve maximized the prepayment privileges on my mortgage. If any more costly home repairs creep up, I can always slow down on prepaying my mortgage.

Where Do the Savings Come From?

I’m very frugal with my money. People are often amazed at how low my monthly expenses are. For most families the most costly household expenses are housing (mortgage or rent), transportation, and food. I’ve been able to minimize all three through lifestyle choices.

As a single first-time home buyer in Toronto, I decided to take on the added responsibility of being a landlord. Instead of living upstairs, I decided to live in the basement and rent the upstairs to a family. I got this brilliant idea from the host of HGTV’s Income Property, Scott McGillivray, who lived in his basement for nine years while renting out the upstairs unit to save money.

Instead of driving a car, I cycle the majority of the year and take public transit during wintertime. In my recent article in the Financial Post readers were amazed I only spend $100 per month on groceries. How have I managed to spend so little? I shop at discount supermarkets, price match, avoid fast food, and buy sale items in bulk. I’m also vegetarian, which helps me avoid paying the outrageous prices for meat.

How Have I Been Able to Pay Down My Mortgage So Quickly?

Despite an annual salary of only $50,000, I’ve been able to pay down over half of my mortgage in only two years through hard work and determination. Besides being a landlord, I’m a financial journalist. I also work part-time at a grocery store once a week. Through secondary sources of income, I’ve been able to maximize the prepayment privileges on my mortgage and maximize my RRSP contributions each year.

Update February 2015 – I’ve received a few questions about how I’ve been able to pay down my mortgage so quickly. It’s mainly been through my freelance income. I tend to be conservative with my estimate of freelance income, as it can vary a lot from month to month. For example, some months I earn $2,000, while others I earn $5,000+. For 2014, I ended up earning over $60,000 in freelance income. Earnings that much in freelance income requires working 80 hours or more a week (including my full-time job). I don’t plan to keep this insane workload up forever. Once my mortgage is paid off at the end of 2015, I plan to scale back and only focus on the freelance work that I enjoy.

Real Estate

My real estate holdings consist of my primary residence. I purchased my house in August 2012 for $425,000 with a mortgage of $255,000. As I live in Toronto, one of Canada’s most expensive housing markets, I’ve based the value of my principal residence on comparable properties that have recently sold in my neighbourhood.

Pension

The pension amount listed above is the value of my defined benefit pension plan. I take the commuted value from my annual statement, which I receive by June 30th each year. I am fortunate to receive the commuted value on my annual statement, as most employers don’t provide it. This makes retirement planning a lot easier.

If you would like to read more articles like this, you can sign up for my free newsletter service below (we will not spam you).

About the author: Sean Cooper is a single, 20-something year old, first time home buyer located in Toronto. He has experience in the financial sector as a Pension Analyst, RESP administrator and Income Tax Preparer. He holds a Bachelor of Commerce in business management from Ryerson University. You can read some of his other articles here.

{ 34 comments… add one }
  • Adam @ AdamChudy.com February 16, 2015, 1:59 pm

    Awesome numbers. I’m definitely impressed with the rapid paydown.

    We don’t have our place separated in to 2 floors, but we do have a roommate that helps substantially.

  • A Frugal Family's Journey February 16, 2015, 3:23 pm

    Love seeing and hearing about other successful journeys. They are always very inspiring. Most importantly, they motivate us to keep up our intensity!

    Wishing Sean Cooper the best of luck in 2015 and beyond! AFFJ

  • Reality check February 16, 2015, 4:43 pm

    Why? Why? Why?
    Why do people save money if they don’t know how to spend it? If you can live on $100 a month in groceries. why are you try to save money? You can probably retire and live for 40 years on $100,000. If you have any family give your money to them at least you can see someone enjoy, you will never be able to do that yourself?

  • Dave Smith February 16, 2015, 11:29 pm

    Good job, Sean. You asked for fund suggestions. i think you might find Steadyhand Investment Funds (www.steadyhand.com) an interesting choice. They offer a small group of low fee ,actively managed mutual funds.They have been pioneers in communications, transparent reporting and clear cut advice. They offer a fee reduction program based on the amount you have invested and on your tenure with the firm.
    They manage 100% of my TFSAs and about 40% of my RRSPs. The balance of my RRSPs are held with Phillips,Hager and North another good choice, in my opinion.

  • Ryan C. February 17, 2015, 11:44 am

    Nice work. My only comment is regarding the emergency fund TFSA. You mention that you intend to rebuild your emergency fund once you’ve maximized the pre-payment privileges on your mortgage. Should you not focus on rebuilding the emergency fund first, before maximizing the mortgage pre-payment?
    Perhaps you are in the excellent position of being able to refill your emergency fund in very short order by a combination of good cash flow and frugal overhead. I would be interested to hear your thoughts on how you assess your risk.

  • Elbyron February 17, 2015, 8:16 pm

    Regarding your upcoming choice between Tangerine and TD e-Series funds, it’s basically a simple trade-off between convenience and profit. Tangerine makes it easy to open a new account, and takes care of asset allocation for you by assuming that investors want an equal mix of Canadian, US, and International equities, balanced out with bonds in a proportion of your choosing. Well, you’re limited to 4 choices for the bond/equity balance. Re-balancing is done for you, so all you need to do is just keep adding your money to it. Very simple, but it comes at a cost: they charge a 1.07% MER, which is certainly going to be a lot better than the actively managed funds Dave Smith referred to above, but is still double what you’ll pay for e-Series funds.

    If you go with TD e-Series, there’s a little extra hassle getting a regular TFSA mutual fund account opened first, then mailing in a form to get it switched to e-Series. But you’ve already gone through that for your RRSP so you know it’s not really that hard to do. You get to decide for yourself what mixture of Canadian, US, International, and Bonds that you want (30/30/30/10 is not an option with Tangerine). Some people like to also buy some REIT funds but since you’re already holding a rental property my opinion is that you skip those. You can also gradually shift more towards bonds as you get closer to retirement, which is generally a good strategy. While you could do the same with Tangerine, having only 4 allocations to choose from makes it tricky as you’d have to either jump from one proportion to the next, or use a mixture of their funds – which is going to require just as much calculation as doing the allocations yourself with eSeries. The biggest upside to e-Series is that you’ll probably average somewhere around 0.3 – 0.5 in MER fees. This could be fairly significant: over 25 years with regular contributions, you could be 10% richer by going with eSeries!

    I typically recommend eSeries to all my friends and family with 2 exceptions: for those who are totally financially illiterate and have no inclination to learn about investing, I will recommend Tangerine. For those who already have a good grasp on the basics of investing and are willing to learn more, I recommend using index ETFs through a discount brokerage (which is what I do). It’s a little more work to setup, and a few more decisions to make since there are many options to achieve the asset allocation I want, but the MER fees are even lower than eSeries (some as low as 0.05%). It costs me nothing to contribute (all ETFs purchases are free on Questrade) and the cost to sell is negligible – currently up to $9.95 per trade but who knows what it’ll be when I retire and start wanting to withdraw.

  • David February 17, 2015, 11:29 pm

    $39,000 net worth increase in one month (+6.7%) on $88,000 annual gross income ($62,000 after tax)?

    No offense, but I sure hope you’re not doing the math on my pension!

    Why on earth do you bother to be so cheap counting every penny when you’re putting down almost $40k a month?

  • Sean Cooper, Financial Journalist February 18, 2015, 12:12 am

    @ Elbyron
    Thank you for the helpful advice. I already have my RRSPs invested in the e-Series. Would I be foolish to invest my TFSA in the e-Series as well?

    @David
    The net worth statements are QUARTERLY, not monthly. I wish I was making $40K a month. That would make things a lot easier. And it’s frugal, not cheap.

  • Sarah February 18, 2015, 11:02 am

    @David

    his gross income is far in excess of $88,000 – it was about $130,000 last year.

    His math isn’t off, he’s just being dishonest in reporting his earnings. He states he’s being “conservative” in estimating his freelance income, but even if he “only” made $2,000/month as he states he might in his low earning months, that’s still over the $20,000 he reports.

    @Sean

    You’re doing an amazing job whichever way you slice it, but your dishonesty really takes away from your achievements. You might want to change your income description to reflect the reality rather than low balling so much – you increase your home value every year to reflect your impression of the real estate market, so you obviously don’t try to be conservative in your estimation there.

  • David February 18, 2015, 11:30 am

    @ Sean, you might want to update your title then to 6.7% q/q. You have Feb 2015 right next to +6.7%, which makes it appear to be monthly.

    @ Sarah, So is he “conservative” with the CRA and reports $88k income or $130k? Being “conservative” as you suggest is only relevant to unknown or future variables, but it’s quite clear that apparently has a demonstrated track record of actual earnings. He is like an Enron accountant, picking and choosing what he reports to craft a better story for himself. He claims to be conservative on his income statement, yet does not included tax liabilities on his rental property. Who knows what else…

    If his income is $130k, that would be $91k net after tax per year. Yet his annualized net worth increase is $150k. So how does he make up the $60k gap? From a $50k investment portfolio?

  • Tony the Tiger February 18, 2015, 4:39 pm

    @ David & Sarah

    You guys are both right. I’ve thought this all along with Sean. I don’t get the impression he’s being “conservative” at all.

    The numbers don’t add up. It seems to me like cooking the books to make it seem like he’s some incredible wealth builder by understating his income and overstating his assets. Here’s my high level run at the numbers:

    $50,000 (job)
    $18,600 (rental income)
    $20,000 (approximate freelance income)
    $88,600 Total Annual Income

    Let’s assume you can claim CCA and other expenses to get your taxable rental income to 0 (not exactly conservative).
    We’d then get $70,000 annual taxable income
    $55,076 annual take home pay (http://www.ey.com/CA/en/Services/Tax/Tax-Calculators-2014-Personal-Tax)
    $13,769 per quarter

    Let’s assume you don’t spend a single dime (no gas, metro pass, food, toilet paper) cause you’re so “frugal”. So $13,769 plus 1/4 of your annual rental income $4,650 gives you a total of $18,419 in after-tax dollars to play with for the quarter.
    Actual reported change in Net worth = $37,644. Anyone else having trouble adding this up? What could the difference be from? Well he paid off $11,663 of the mortgage – ok. His RRSP rose in value by $3,811 – ok. And then, $22,157 of cash shows up from where? According to your profile, you only took home $18,419 this quarter. Where did this come from? Oh wait, you actually make $5,000 a month in freelance income.
    Let’s run the numbers again using your actual income (again assuming taxable rental income is $0). Gross annual taxable = $110,000. After tax annual = $79,219. Quarterly after-tax = $19,805. Plus your quarterly rental income of $4,650 = total quarterly after tax of $24,455.
    This seems more reasonable but still doesn’t account for the total quarterly delta. You somehow managed to pay off $11,663 of the mortgage and add $22,157 of cash in a quarter ($33,820) despite only having $24,455 of after tax income and no living expenses.

    With all due respect, whatever you’re doing, you’re doing it well. But I have to call BS on the numbers here. How can you understate your backward looking freelance income? We’re not asking you to estimate next year. Just report what you actually earned in the period that already passed.

  • Gen Y Finance Guy February 18, 2015, 5:09 pm

    Very impressive numbers. Not only did you put a very sizable down payment down it is amazing that you will be debt Free by November.

    Looks like I have a lot of catching up to do. Looking forward to seeing more posts from you in the future.

    I too am on a plan to accelerate the pay down of my mortgage. But I am going to take 7 years to do it. The stretch goal is 5 years. But I am sure if I read enough of your posts that I will be compelled to expedite the timeline myself.

    Thanks for sharing.

  • David February 18, 2015, 8:47 pm

    @ Tony

    It’s not just about income. If you rent out your house, you pay tax on CGs. He lives in the basement, so at least 2/3 of his house is subject. If he depreciates it all like you suggest, then 100% CGs are subject.

    Regardless, this guy is clearly misrepresenting himself in public.

  • David February 18, 2015, 8:51 pm

    @ Tony

    This is actually the same reason so many frauds eventually get discovered: someone takes a closer at something that just didn’t seem right.

    However, because he’s only trying to sell books and not rip off Granny’s savings or the investing public, it is somehow OK.

  • Sampson February 19, 2015, 1:09 pm

    @ T the T,

    No tax on the self-employment income, so there is some deferred tax liability bundled in. $20,000 per quarter from the freelance income could easily explain the discrepancy.

    I don’t understand why the author doesn’t simply post EXACT numbers on income. Most of us salaried folks (even with bonuses) can anticipate within 1-2% our annual income, but with such significant self-employment income, just add this real value to as an quarterly updated line item. This would resolve all the discontent.

  • Timmy and the Lords of the Underworld February 19, 2015, 5:09 pm

    A few comments:

    First, the numbers that Sean provided simply don’t work. This isn’t the first time people have noted inconsistencies – see my comments on his November post. Tony the Tiger provides a good analysis in post #11. In fact, Tony’s analysis is generous to Sean for two reasons. First, it assumes that Sean spends no money – yes, he’s frugal, but he still spends something on his mortgage, food, transportation, etc., which increases the unexplained shortfall further. Second, Tony assumes that the rental income is fully non-taxable (which might or might not be true). Sampson suggested that the difference might be due to tax on the freelance income, but Tony has already taken that into account in post #11.

    Second, the concept of conservatism is completely irrelevant when he’s reporting historical financial information. Since he’s already earned that income, it should be reporting accurately. (It would make sense for Sean to be conservative when budgeting _future_ freelance income, since that can be unpredictable, but that’s a difference concept). Consistently under-reporting freelance income is misleading.

    Third, Sean hasn’t recorded the future tax liabilities that will be payable on his RRSP, or on his home (he has a large capital gain, but since the majority of the home is used to generate rental income, the principle residence exemption won’t apply for the percentage of the home that he’s renting out). I can’t fault Sean too much here, as most people don’t include this, but it’s still technically incorrect.

    Fourth, Sean consistently misrepresents the primary reason for his increase in net worth. I`m not sure if he`s doing this intentionally, or if he`s honestly confused. Both explicitly and implicitly, Sean suggests that if you live like a pauper (clipping coupons, washing and re-using plastic bags, etc) you can get rich like him. An objective review of his finances suggests that, although the savings are important, the real driver of the increase in his net worth is the fact that he has three sources of income – his job, his rental property, and his freelance work.

    For example, he emphasizes that he spends barely $1K on food per year (compared to a normal, single adult who might spend $3-4K) – that`s nice, but it`s puzzling to emphasize that while consistently understating his significant freelance income ($60K). In fact, if you read his self-aggrandizing post “How I Reached $500K Net Worth by Age 29”, Sean doesn’t mention the single biggest source of income – his freelance work! That can only be considered a shocking omission. He talks about rental income, but most of the tips are relating to saving (“live like a student”, “pay yourself first”, “frugal spending”). Again, I don’t know if it’s deliberate or not, but Sean is trying to position him as a normal person who gets rich by clipping coupons – that helps, but it’s a small part of a bigger, more lucrative strategy.

    I’m a young professional and I also earn freelance income (not nearly as much as Sean though). I think his articles would be more interesting and relevant if he discusses how he grew his freelance income. You won`t get rich by eating Kraft dinner, but you can get there by having several diverse revenue streams.

    Fifth, I don’t understand his obsession with paying down his mortgage so quickly. I could pay my mortgage tomorrow if I wanted to, but I won’t because, in my judgment, I can earn more money in the stock market (even after accounting for taxes and risk) than I’d save by paying down the mortgage. Additionally, I don’t want substantially all of my net worth tied up in a single, non-liquid asset. (The main benefit to paying down the mortgage so quickly is to avoid the fixed payments if one loses their job, but that’s hardly a risk here since Sean has three different revenue streams). I wonder how much of this is based on sound financial planning, and how much is to position himself as an “expert who paid off his mortgage by age 30”.

    Sean obviously makes a lot of money by promoting himself as a financial expert, but the numbers don’t make sense and the underlying message is misleading.

  • Kevin February 19, 2015, 5:43 pm

    I would like to be the first to ask MDJ to respond to the above posts after discussion with Sean or remove him from these updates.

  • David February 19, 2015, 6:09 pm

    @ Timmy

    I agree that Sean’s choice of “being conservative” could just be a result of him not knowing any better, but that fact that he’s conservative (Ex, on income) or not conservative (Ex. on his balance sheet, a conservative would hold the value of his home at book and show all future liabilities against it) whenever it suits him to make his story better is what makes me think he’s quite aware.

    Finally, regarding your 5th point. I don’t think it’s the fact that he has 3 sources of income, but rather than he is high income period, likely grossing $200k per year. When you’re making that kind of coin, I don’t think eating steak every night instead of Kraft Dinner is going to have a material difference on your wealth creation.

    Assuming he files taxes, Sean is aware of what his true income is and the trends related to it. If he’s not aware what it is, then he’s taking quite the risk by posting this information on the internet as the CRA may one day come across it.

  • Tony The Tiger February 19, 2015, 9:55 pm

    @ Timmy

    You said it better than I ever could.

    @ Kevin

    I second that motion. One more for the carry.

    Sean’s posts aren’t genuine. The balance sheet has been carefully crafted to paint the picture he wants. The income statement is understated. I don’t see how this self aggrandized “personal finance expert” could claim ignorance. It all reeks of self promotion to grow his “freelance” income. That’s all fine and good, and I wish him the best. We’re just asking for some honesty.

    Lastly, I just want to say good on Sarah and David for being the first to publicly point this out. I’ve been suspicious for a while but didn’t want to stir the pot. Cheers to both of you!

  • Katarina February 20, 2015, 12:14 am

    Being true vegetarian is more expensive. Eating healthy is more important. In winter months you can spend all $100 just on fruit and vegetable. What about dairy product? Who can live on macaroni & cheese all the time? If he eats at his mom or in community kitchens he can do it.

  • Al February 20, 2015, 11:27 am

    @ Kevin

    One more vote for MDJ to respond to the posts after discussion or asking Sean to refrain from posting

  • Sarah February 20, 2015, 1:42 pm

    So I just want to point out that I in NO WAY was suggesting that Sean is being dishonest in reporting his income to CRA – I am 100% confident that he is legitimately declaring everything. I simply meant he was dishonest in his reporting in his public articles, net worth statements, etc.

    Also, I would argue that his net worth increases are not only due to the substantially higher income that he has, but also to the fact that he is increasing the value of his home (the bulk of his net worth) annually based on what he believes to be market price. This has resulted in a nearly 30% increase in just 2.5 years. Most people keep the value of their principle residence at purchase price or increase by inflation only.

  • Joseph February 20, 2015, 1:43 pm

    @Timmy

    Yes I would be interested in reading about how Sean has been growing his freelance income but at the same time I’m actually afraid what he’ll reveal especially after reading how he only spends $100 on groceries a month.

    Sean made $60K in freelance income which is more than his full time job. He does this all as a freelance writer. When exactly does he have the time to write so much that he is making more than his regular salary? Sure it’s possible that he has a few clients that pay a lot but it still takes time to write this stuff.

    Presumably he’s writing this stuff on his own time, but again $60K in freelance income is basically a full time job. Is he waking up at 5am to write, going to work, comes home and writes more?

    If this is the case then, who cares how much he is making. That’s not a healthy life at all. It also puts his net worth into perspective. It’s great that he’ll pay off his mortgage at 31 but that’s a pretty insane (not normal) lifestyle.

  • FrugalTrader FrugalTrader February 20, 2015, 2:07 pm

    Sean’s posts certainly stir up a lot of controversy. I will discuss some of these points with him to see if we can get some closure.

  • nobleea February 20, 2015, 4:51 pm

    Joseph (#23),

    “Presumably he’s writing this stuff on his own time, but again $60K in freelance income is basically a full time job. Is he waking up at 5am to write, going to work, comes home and writes more?”
    He mentions that he works 80hrs a week to earn the 60K in freelance income. He says including his full time job, so I will assume 40-50 hours a week on freelance items. That works out to about $27/hr, but since it’s all OT (already has a regular job), the base rate is closer to $18/hr. Working 45 hours extra a week would require working almost every waking hour during the week, plus a full weekend day. It’s good that he realizes this is only for a short time period, because that’s not healthy at all. If I was going to throw my 20’s away working, it’d have to be at a base rate well well above $20/hr.

  • David February 20, 2015, 8:21 pm

    Sarah,

    How can you be 100% confident that he’s not evading taxes or hiding income?

    Why would anyone tell the CRA I make $X and tell everyone else I make $Y?

    The fact of the matter is, without full disclosure, you don’t know whether he’s being dishonest to the CRA, to the public, or both.

  • SST February 20, 2015, 9:25 pm

    Hilarious!

    It seems all have forgotten a fundamental economic law:
    You Get What You Pay For.

    All of MDJ, including Mr. Cooper’s writings, can be had for F-R-E-E.
    Nowhere on this website does it mention you will be greeted with quality or even honesty.

    Mr. Cooper isn’t licensed to sell any financial product, service, or advice; he’s not providing anything of a professional nature. Bottom line, he’s simply telling us a story. It’s just that he’s not a very good story teller (and it’s kind of embarassing).

    There also seems to be no angry vehemence against Frugal Trader (or any other ‘Update’ persona). Why not? He, like Mr. Cooper, provides no proof whatsoever to support his personal finance claims, they (and he!) could all be fabricated. Perhaps FT is simply better at math and marketing. At least we know Mr. Cooper’s name and face!

    Kudos to Cooper for riding the ‘No Such Thing as Bad Press’ wave.
    To cop a Charlie Sheenism — WINNING!

    p.s. — I’m applying early for Team MDJ v2.0! :)

  • Sean Cooper, Financial Journalist February 21, 2015, 9:27 pm

    I am being fully honest with my numbers. As mentioned, I tend to be conservative and understate my freelance income. In 2014, I had $60,000 of freelance income. The reason I didn’t include that figure is because it’s very unstable. For example, in December 2014 I earned nearly $5,000 from one-time projects, but this month I’m only going to earn only $2,000. I treat freelance money as found money. Including a high number in my budget would be foolish because it’s not guaranteed. For example, I lost four well-paying clients in the last month because of declining business.

    I put everything to rest, I will revise my freelance number to $60,000 (even though I doubt I’ll earn that much this year). My plan is simple: work my @$$ off to pay off my mortgage and enjoy the rest of my life debt-free.

  • Sarah February 21, 2015, 9:31 pm

    @David,

    When I said I was 100% confident I didn’t mean it literally – you are right, I can’t be sure because I do not know him. I simply meant that I was not implying that he was trying to mislead the CRA as was suggested.

    I assume this because that would be crazy – he’s got his name and face all over the internet – stories not just here, but also on other blogs and even profiled in the Globe and Mail. I would assume that he wouldn’t publicly brag about tax evasion, that’s all.

    On the other hand, LOTS of people “tell the CRA I make $X and tell everyone else I make $Y”. People are generally honest in reporting their income, because most people only have official income verified through T4s etc. At the same time, lots of people act as though they have/make much more than they do. People like to brag, like to impress…certainly if it makes them popular. Maybe Sean just wants to be the popular kid for once?

  • Sarah February 21, 2015, 9:35 pm

    @Sean,
    This seems like a great opportunity – rather than state you make $X in freelance per year, why not include in your updates what you actually made, and why. So if it’s a low month, tell us about it – loss of clients? Taking a break? If it’s a good month, was it because you did a tonne of guest blog posts or perhaps you’ve found a regular gig.

    This is the kind of info that’s interesting – like I said, you’re doing an amazing job…but the inconsistency in reporting acts like a distraction – kind of like Rob Ford at Toronto city hall.

  • SKL February 22, 2015, 10:06 pm

    I’m interested in watching Sean’s progression over the next year but a few tweaks to the way he reports might help. He could adjust the way he includes the freelance income and report the previous quarter’s actuals next to his 2015 projected total.

    Also, it would help us follow along if maybe he reached out to a realtor to get a selling price on his house. People often overestimate their home’s value so getting a professional to look at comps in the area couldn’t hurt…unless he doesn’t want to know the answer; it could seriously change his net worth.

  • Chris February 23, 2015, 1:07 am

    I am the same age as Sean and have similar net worth. I have roughly half of my net worth tied up in the housing market, 10% in stocks, and the other 40% in cash which I plan to use this summer to buy another property for my growing family (wife and 2 kids). The two rental properties will pay for themselves and half of the new house with rent that is collected on a monthly basis.

    If housing prices stay at current levels I can reach my goal within 5 years by saving 47k per year which is within reach due to low housing costs and my wife and I working full time with above average incomes.

    For Sean to save the 430k in 5 years it is obtainable but it will take a lot of sacrifice and some clever investing.

    I look forward to reading your net worth updates.

    • GoodLuck April 26, 2015, 2:50 pm

      “If housing prices stay at current levels…”

      Ha.

  • EL February 26, 2015, 11:18 pm

    Congrats Sean on the good income and increasing net worth. DO you post anywhere the source of the freelance income? I actually saw that income Property episode with Scott. I cant believe he owns over 100 properties today.

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