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Is Your Project Worth Your Time?

time_pieces Last time, we looked at the two most common ways to analyze a potential project. We focused on the money side which works great for business decisions because the cost of time is included implicitly.

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But if you’re a business owner, do you include the value of your time in your calculations? How about when you’re making a personal decision? It’s important to add time into the equation.

To do that, follow this process:

  • Step 1: Estimate project hours. How much time will you spend if you do this project?
  • Step 2: Select your alternative activity. What would you do if you weren’t working on this project?
  • Step 3: Calculate your opportunity cost per hour. Your opportunity cost per hour is the amount of money you could earn (or not spend) per hour on the alternative activity you chose in Step 2.

For example, if you would watch TV instead of working on this project, then that time wouldn’t be valued at much. Maybe, instead of watching TV, you would clean your house. Now that’s worth something!

How much would you pay somebody to clean your house? How many hours would it take you to do it yourself? Divide the amount you would pay someone to do the work by the number of hours it would take you to do it yourself to get your opportunity cost per hour.

  • Step 4: Determine the total cost of your invested time. Multiply the number of project hours (Step 1) by your opportunity cost per hour (Step 3). That’s the value of the time you will invest in this project. This should be added to the money you will invest to find your total investment.

Example – Getting certified (Part II)

Let’s look at the same project we considered yesterday – you decide to go back to school and get certified for some specialty. Here are the details:

Cost: $2,000
Incremental income: $2,000 in Years 1 through 3 (then you retire)
Opportunity cost of your capital: 6%

Now let’s add in the time component. Assume that, if you put the same time into another activity instead of this certification program, you would expect to earn $2,000. That’s the opportunity cost of your time. So instead of an investment of $2,000 (as mentioned above), your investment is really $4,000.

Payback period doubles

We see that your payback period is two years. You’ll be fully compensated for your invested time and money by the end of the second year. But remember, when we didn’t factor the value of your time into the equation, your payback period was only one year. So it doubles in this case.

Net Present Value falls

We said yesterday that calculating the Net Present Value (NPV) was a better way to determine whether or not you should do a project. In this case, with the value of your time factored in, the NPV is about $1,300 as shown in this screenshot from Microsoft Excel:

Microsoft Excel Time Set Up Screen Shot

As you may recall – if our NPV is greater than $0, then we take on the project. That’s the case here so we would want to do this project. In fact, even factoring in our time, this project – under the assumptions we’ve made – would return 23%. That’s a pretty good return on our time and our money!

But not nearly as good as the 84% we thought it was when we weren’t placing any value on our time. That’s why it’s so important to include our time. As we said, businesses do this implicitly because they have to pay people to do projects. But when we’re taking them on ourselves, we have to be sure to place the appropriate value on our time. We forget this too often … to our own detriment. 

Now you have the ammunition you need to determine whether or not you should take on that project you’re considering! 

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We thank you so much for reading our post today. Join us next time when we share a magic elixir we just discovered … it’s success in a can! Until then, here’s to your bigg success!

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Is Your Project Worth Your Money?

money If you’re like most bigg goal-getters, you have a lot of ideas. But how do you know which ones you should invest in? That’s what we want to talk about today – project selection.

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This process can be used for so many things. You could use it to decide if you should start a business. It would help figure out if you should expand your existing business. You could even use it to determine if it’s worth going back and getting more education.

To get started, you’ll need to make some projections, using assumptions, about the expected income and expenses of your project. The process itself is a science but the assumptions are definitely an art. It requires that you use your own judgment and the only way to learn how to do it is by doing it.

So let’s look at the two most common ways to determine if a project is worth doing.

Payback period

As its name implies, this method simply looks at how quickly you get your investment back. So if you invest $100 now and earn $25 the first year and $75 the second year, you have a two-year payback.

Payback is commonly used because it’s so simple. But think about it … it ignores all the money you could make after the payback period. And that can really skew your investing decisions. You choose projects that return your investment quickly and neglect projects that may offer greater potential but more patience. 

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Discounted cash flow (DCF)

Fortunately, there is a better way to calculate the worth of a project. With this method, you explicitly recognize that a dollar today is worth more than a dollar tomorrow. However, a dollar tomorrow is still worth something which isn’t recognized by the payback method.

It’s called discounted cash flow because we look at all of our expected cash flows and determine how much they’re worth right now by discounting them back to today. That is called the “net present value” (NPV).

Calculating the NPV is a four step process:

  • Determine how much you will invest by year.
    Usually most of your investment in a new project is made upfront (and probably in the first year). But if your project requires that you make an investment over a few years, you’ll want to account for that.
  • Estimate how much income this project will generate by year.
    Obviously, you don’t want to take on a project if it doesn’t increase your income. So look at how much you think you will make with this project and compare that to how much you think you plan to make without it. That’s your increased income from the project.
  • Decide upon your opportunity cost.
    Here’s where it gets a little tricky. Consider where you could invest your money if you didn’t invest it in this project. Weigh in how certain you are about your projections.
    For example, if you determined your project was no more risky than investing in Certificates of Deposit at a FDIC-insured bank, you could use the interest paid on those accounts as your opportunity cost.

Most projects aren’t that certain so your rate will usually be higher than that. Just remember – the less certain you are about your incremental income, the higher your opportunity cost.

  • Run the numbers in Microsoft Excel (or your favorite spreadsheet program) using the formula:

NPV formula

Example – Should I get certified?

We’ll offer an example so you can see this concept in action. Let’s say you want to go back to school to get certified. It costs $2,000 for the certification program. You expect to make an additional $2,000 a year if you do it. You plan to retire in three years so the increased income won’t benefit you for too long. You’ve looked at other opportunities and determined that you need to earn at least 6% on your money.

We see that your payback period is one year. That’s how long it will take to pay you back the money you invested.

Using DCF, your NPV is $3,157 as shown in this screenshot from Microsoft Excel:

Microsoft Excel set up screen shot

To get that, use Excel’s “Insert Function” command:

Microsoft Excel insert formula command screen shot

With DCF, the rule is: If NPV > $0, then invest in the project. After all, your expected return exceeds your expected cost. So in this case, your NPV is over $3,000. Therefore, you should go for it! 

If you want to know what your annual return is, just change the opportunity cost field in your spreadsheet until your NPV equals $0. In this case, your annual return is 83% over the life of the project.

In general, pick the projects with the highest NPV until you run out of money to invest. However, there is one important variable we failed to account for in this calculation – your time. We’ll discuss that tomorrow.

Thanks so much for stopping in to read our post today. Until next time, here’s to your bigg success!

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Should I Stick with Stocks?

mattress Last time, we talked about a new trend – people stuffing their mattresses the 21st century way. Baby boomers seem to be the main group behind this trend. They are buying treasury bills and gold coins as safe harbors from the volatile stock market.

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It’s understandable that baby boomers are looking for alternatives because many of them are so close to retirement.

But what if you’re not about to retire … should you stick with stocks?
We’ve heard a lot about how the recent decline in stock prices has wiped out all of the last ten years worth of gains. So it’s a really good question. We decided to do some analysis of our own.

Before we start, allow us to make one disclaimer: We’re going to provide an example to help you understand how the market works. Your decisions about your portfolio should be based on your specific situation. We recommend that you talk with a certified financial advisor to help you with that.

Stocks and Certificates of Deposit

To keep it simple, we looked at just two assets – stocks, represented by the S&P 500 (Source: Yahoo! Finance) and risk-free investments, represented by one-month CDs (Source: Federal Reserve) in FDIC-insured institutions.

There may be better assets to invest in (e.g. a broader stock market index), but we still felt that these represented risky assets and risk-free assets relatively well. We were curious about what has happened in the past, looking at various scenarios, with these two assets. This is a good place to insert a couple of caveats:

  • We are looking at historical numbers. We’re not psychic nor do we possess any other ability to project the future.
  • We used nominal pre-tax rates of return, so inflation and taxes have not been factored in to the returns we’ll discuss.

The last ten years
When we look at the last ten years (going back from December 31, 2008), we see that the stock market underperformed its historical average through almost the entire decade.

The best mix of these two assets for the last ten years would have been no mix at all. Investing 100 percent in CDs provided the best return. Even then, the return was not that great: 3.62% per year by our calculations. The worst return, as you might guess, was being 100 percent invested in stocks over the last ten years. They lost about one percent per year.

What about prior ten-year periods?
One ten-year period isn’t all that instructive. So we went back ten more years (January 1, 1989 to December 31, 1998) and looked at those returns. The highest returns in that period came from a portfolio of 100% stocks, which returned 17.28% annually.

So stocks are one for two. Let’s break the tie and go back another ten years. Can you hear the disco music playing?

A portfolio that was fully invested in stocks delivered the best return in that period (January 1, 1979 to December 31, 1988) as well. They earned a return of 14.36% per year.

Is ten years long enough?
Financial advisors have said for years that stocks perform best over longer periods of time. They used to tell us that we should have at least five years before we needed the money or we shouldn’t invest in stocks. Now we’re hearing more and more that ten years is the magic number.

But here’s the thing … we really shouldn’t even count on that as we’ve learned the last ten years.

How long until you retire?
Let’s think about this … if you’re 40-years old, you might have twenty years before you want to retire. At 30, let’s say you have 30 years. How have the returns looked over that period?

Looking back twenty years, even with the most recent decade, our best bet would have been to be fully invested in stocks. Our return would have been 8.14% annually. It’s ditto for the most recent thirty years. An all-stock portfolio returned 10.21% per annum, about its historical average.

So, our research shows that history shows that you should stick with stocks over the long term. But is there a way to lower your risk without sacrificing returns unjustly?

The price of a higher return
There is a price to pay to get a higher return. That price is more volatility and volatility equals risk. Riskier investments should pay more to compensate you for the risk you’re taking. Stocks are riskier than CDs; therefore, they should pay more.

The price of less risk
We just said that riskier investments generally offer higher returns as compensation for the risk. So why not just invest in CDs and other risk-free assets? Because they may not return enough to get you where you need to go. There is a better answer.

Diversification smoothes it out
When you diversify your assets – investing part of your portfolio in risky assets like stocks and a portion in risk-free assets like CDs, you smooth out the volatility, relative to just investing in stocks, while still getting a higher return than if you invested all your money in just CDs.

Example: A 50/50 Mix

As we discussed earlier, had you just invested in stocks over the last thirty years, you would have made about 10 percent per year on your investment. However, you would have lost about one percent a year in the most recent decade.

What if you can’t stomach losses like that?

Obviously, any money invested in stocks is at risk. However, if we had invested 50 percent in stocks and 50 percent in CDs over the last thirty years:

  • We wouldn’t have lost money over the last decade. In fact, we would have made 1.31% per year.
  • The thirty-year return on our portfolio would have been 8.32% a year. While it’s less than the 10 percent we could have earned by just investing in stocks, it’s not that much less. Looks pretty good right now, doesn’t it?

We want to emphasize again that we’re not saying a 50/50 mix is right for you. Consult your financial planner. We just picked 50/50 to see what would have happened with an even mix of these two assets.

Long on stocks
As you can see from the returns we quoted earlier, the experts are right – stocks are good long term investments. If you need the money ten years from now, you need to be careful. If you’re a 30- or 40-year old funding your retirement, a good basket of stocks as part of a well-diversified portfolio is a great place to stick your money.

Short on dollars
Going back to where we started, more people are investing very conservatively in treasuries right now. The problem is, if you invest too conservatively, you have to make a choice. Will you be short on dollars now or at retirement?

If you choose to fully fund your retirement, it means you’ll have to invest more now to reach your goal, which means you’ll have to sacrifice more now than is probably necessary.

We still don’t know if we’ve hit bottom on the stock market. But here’s what we do know – most market timers get it wrong most of the time. That’s why we won’t try!

If you have time until you need the money, invest in a well-diversified portfolio. You won’t be quite as happy in the good times, but you won’t be nearly as upset during the bad. 

We really appreciate you spending some time with us today. Join us next time when we interview John Jantsch, The Duct Tape Marketer, about how to make customers stick without busting the bank. Until then, here’s to your bigg success!

Subscribe to The Bigg Success Show in iTunes. 

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Direct link to The Bigg Success Show audio file:
http://media.libsyn.com/media/biggsuccess/00265-111408.mp3

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Is the Cheapest Place for Gas Costing You Money?

empty We’ve been talking about ways to save money. Today we want to look at something that is top of mind for many of us – how to save money on gas.

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Follow the price of oil like a speculator

Oil prices go up and down. If you knew the price of oil went up, you might want to hurry to fill up. If you knew it went down, maybe it would pay to wait a day or two. Now you can track the price of oil at Oil-Price.net. Large companies do it; why shouldn’t we?

Time your purchase

While we haven’t seen any research that proves this theory, it seems that gas prices often go up right before the weekend, especially long weekends. So test for yourself and, if you agree, try to buy your gas by the middle of the week.

Serial rewards

Some credit cards offer extra rebates (e.g. 5% instead of a normal 1% to 2%) on fuel purchases during an introductory period (e.g. six months). Consider this – if you have good credit, employ a strategy where you get a new card and use it through the ramped up reward period. Then move on to another one.

Loyalty programs

Our grocery store chain has opened convenience stores next to their main stores. To drive (pun intended) business to these new stores, they’re offering an incentive to their grocery store customers.

For every $25 you spend on groceries, you get a 5 cent per gallon discount on gas at their convenience store. We saved 60 cents a gallon on a recent purchase.

Shop before you shop

Sites like Gas Buddy, Gas Price Watch, and Fuel Me Up help you find the gas stations with the cheapest fuel in your area. Gas Buddy seems best for our area; check them all out to see which is best for you.

But before you do …

Is it worth the drive to save money on gas?

We know people who drive out of their way to go to the gas station with the cheapest fuel. It seems almost oxymoronic, doesn’t it? And aren’t you glad we got the “oxy” in there?

It struck us as an interesting question to prove out – is it worth burning fuel to save money on fuel?

gas-buddy_small

Here’s our calculation …

(click the image to enlarge)

We found the prices for our area gas stations at Gas Buddy, as shown in the picture above. Using MapQuest, we determined that it would be a 3-mile round-trip from the Bigg Studio to the closest gas station, which charged $3.85 per gallon. This was the second highest priced gas in our area on that day. That figures!

It’s an 8-mile round trip to the station with the cheapest gas – $3.66 gallon. Using our handy calculator (okay, we were able to calculate this in our head), we saw that we could save 19 cents per gallon by making the drive. That seems pretty significant.

But here’s the rub … our car only has a 17.4 gallon gas tank. So if our tank was bone dry when we arrived at the gas station (a feat we probably come close to more often than we would like to think), the most we could save is $3.31.

Suddenly it wasn’t as interesting for us. We often work from our house so we don’t really drive that much. But we have friends who drive a lot for work; they fill up their car as often as three times a week, so that would add up to over $500 for the year. Alright, it’s worth continuing.

In order to get the cheapest fuel, we would have to drive 5 more miles. How much does that cost? The best source we could think of for that is the Internal Revenue Service. They allow a deduction of 50.5 cents for every mile driven for business. Since we figured the IRS wasn’t in the business of being generous with deductions, we figured if anything this might be a little on the low side.

So we multiplied the 5 miles by the 50.5 cent cost per mile. It would cost us $2.53 to drive to the station to get the cheapest gas, where we would save $3.31 if our tank was completely empty.

The most we could save by driving was 78 cents per fill-up.

Even for our friends who fill up three times a week, this only translates into about $120 per year. It hardly seems worth it when you consider …

We’ve assumed that our time isn’t worth anything. Because it’s going to take more time to drive out of our way for the cheaper gas.

(Side note: Unless our tank was less than ¼ full, it would actually cost us money to get the cheaper fuel.)

So here’s what we concluded:

Driving to find the cheapest gas doesn’t really work for us. It might work for you, especially if you have a bigger gas tank. You can use the process we’ve mapped out to run your own numbers. But don’t forget to place some value on your time!

However, in general, it’s probably a waste of time and money to drive out of your way for gas, unless you can …

Combine that trip with other deals

It just so happens that the gas station with the cheapest price in our area is in a retail zone. It may be the same for you. So if that area offers the best deals on the staples you need, and you combine that with coupons like the woman who feeds her family of five for as little as $10 a week, and fill up with the cheapest gas in your area while you’re there, paid for by your ramped up rewards credit card that you’ll pay off every month, now you have something going for you!

Here’s one more thought on buying fuel. It’s a very simple one, but we recently got burned by NOT doing this. What does that say about us?

Pay attention

We pulled off the highway not long ago to fuel up. We turned right as we exited the off-ramp and turned right into the first gas station just off the highway. As we were filling up, we noticed the sign that showed the prices of gas.

Then we noticed the sign at the gas station across the road. We could have bought gas for 20 cents a gallon less … had we just made a left turn! 

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Pages

Business Owners Must Be Duplicitous

By Bigg Success Staff
06-05-08

Bigg Success in Business

growing 

You may get conflicting messages about being in business. You hear that you need to be passionate about what you do. You’re also told to approach every business decision rationally.

So which is it – love or logic?

Love
As an entrepreneur, you need to love what you do. If you don’t love it, you won’t be able to make it through the inevitable tough times. So get into a business about which you have a passion.

  • Then take pride in your accomplishments. Celebrate them like you’ve just won the Super Bowl. Be human in defeat. Learn from it and then move on. Practice the 24-hour rule – give yourself 24-hours to enjoy victory or recover from a loss. Then move on.
  • Be stubborn about what matters. There are things that are important to your success. They are your core values and purpose. Don’t ever agree to compromise on the things that are important, but be quick to concede if a better idea comes along that’s not in conflict with these core values and your purpose.
  • Finally, don’t fear the fear. As a business owner, you will face fearful times. That’s okay. Successful entrepreneurs have faced the same fears; they just overcame them. You’ll need to do the same. Press on.

Logic
Emotion clouds your judgment. You have to get beyond your emotions in order to succeed in business. You have to be calculating, weighing the pros and cons of a given strategy against your goals and the pressures of the market.

  • Separate your ego from your business. Entrepreneurs often get in trouble when they start creating monuments to themselves with the resources of their businesses. Don’t make that mistake! Every business decision should move you one step closer to your dream life.
  • Admit your mistakes. If you don’t admit them, you’ll never learn from them. Unsuccessful business owners often devote even more resources trying to turn a bad decision into a good one. It rarely works. Admit your mistake and move on.
  • Aim before you fire. This is one of the best ways to make sure you’re not acting emotionally. Get ready … aim … fire. Business owners who fail often get caught up in the moment and forget this crucial step.
  • Focus on results. Measure everything you accomplish against your goals. Have you exceeded them or fallen short? Why? Answering those questions along the way will take you a long way toward the success of which you dream.


Example

An example of love and logic at play is to remember why you got into business in the first place. You had a goal in mind. You had a plan on how to achieve it. Along the way, you gained new insight and information. You changed your plan, but the goal is still the same. You’re practicing love and logic at the same time!

The bottom line is that it pays to be emotional and unemotional at the same time about your business … be irrationally rational!

Hear today's lesson and laugh on The Bigg Success Show. 

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How Much Should You Make An Hour?

By Bigg Success Staff
Updated 3.16.17

Leading-Edge Application
0000105-freelance_switch_hourly_rate_calculator

For all you freelancers, consultants, and service professionals, an hourly rate calculator is a great tool to calculate the rate you need to charge to make the money you want. We originally wrote this post about a tool called the FreelanceSwitch Hourly Rate Calculator, but that seems to no longer be available online. However below are the steps an costs that calculator used to crank out a number for you.

And we found a new tool to plug those numbers into: the Freelance Hourly Rate Calculator. You’ll see the steps are similar, and what is on this page will help you better understand the steps on their page.

Preparation
You’ll need to gather up some information beforehand. Specifically, know what it costs you to do business as well as your personal costs of living. You’ll also want to think about your work patterns – how much you want to work and when. Finally, you’ll want to think about your goals for retirement savings, major purchases, and the like.

Now you’re ready for the hourly rate calculator! You’re less than twenty minutes away from knowing how much you should make!

Step 1 – Calculate your business costs
You’ll be asked, item by item, to enter your costs including:

  • Rent for your office
  • Travel
  • Furniture and equipment, including computers
  • Software
  • Communications, such as internet and cellular phone
  • Insurance on your business
  • Professionals, like legal and accounting services
  • Supplies
  • Promotion
  • Miscellaneous costs not covered above

Step 2 – Calculate your personal costs
Then, you’ll be asked to consider your personal costs, like:

  • Rent / mortgage
  • Daily expenses.
  • Retirement
  • Occasional expenses – repairs, holidays, etc.
  • Other expenses not covered above

Step 3 – Determine how many hours you can bill
With all your costs in, you’re ready to determine how many hours you can actually bill out each year.

You’ll be asked to break that down by:

  • work days each week
  • vacation
  • personal days
  • holidays
  • work hours each day
  • your billable percentage

Step 4 – Set your profit (savings) goal
How much profit do you want? If you don’t have enough profit, you won’t stay in business. If you get greedy, you’re unlikely to attract clients in the first place.

Be reasonable, but still allow for enough money to fund major purchases, like cars, home remodels, or anything else you would like to do.

Step 5 – Click to calculate!
You’ll end up with two numbers – your ideal hourly rate and your break-even hourly rate.

Now you have to use your instinct. What will it take to make you happy? What are clients paying now for services like yours? What’ are competitors charging? How does your reputation, skills, and experience compare to theirs?

These are all factors you should consider in setting your hourly rate. Ultimately, you must rely on your gut instinct, but at least you have a scientific way to get to it if you use this great tool.

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