The law a diminishing returns. When saving for tomorrow hurts today.

If you are part of the FIRE movement then you probably have a very high rate of savings, on average people pursuing early retirement have a forty percent or higher savings rate. Maybe you aren’t that hardcore about retiring early but are interested in saving for a normal retirement, either way you are making a decision to delay instant gratification for a reward later in life. Now for the FIRE community the delay in gratification is geared towards amassing a large enough portfolio of assets to throw off enough passive income to replace their earned income. The problem with this pursuit arises when the saving for tomorrow begins to hurt the present. Don’t get me wrong, working hard and saving a huge percent of income to leave the work force early and have more time to spend with the people we love and do the things that truly bring us joy is a very noble goal and in my opinion worth the sacrifice. Luckily I live in a beautiful city that has lots of green space and plenty of free or low cost activities for us to do. I also am a naturally frugal person and don’t require much to make me happy, so personally it is easy for me to not spend much money. On the other hand since I am not a single man but rather a family man with four teenagers and a beautiful wife, I have to take their best interest into account when deciding on family finances and how to spend our money. For starters my wife is also fairly frugal and luckily for me she shares the same interest in low cost outdoor activities, in fact her favorite thing to do is research waterfalls for us to go discover. This usually cost us some gas, some trail mix, and jerky, maybe if we decide to splurge we will stop for lunch. My kids on the other hand are all very different and unique individuals who have widely varying likes and dislikes. For starters going out to eat can be similar to an election, each kid will debate hard for their favorite place, often times joining forces with another candidate to strengthen their position. Rarely do they ever consider the cost of said restaurant or their parents dining preferences, they absolutely positively do not think about delaying present gratification so that I could allocate some of the funds to their 529 accounts. In some ways I admire that youthful ignorance of fear about the future. The kids also each have different activities they enjoy and we try to entertain those interest as much as possible. Those activities include, wrestling, martial arts, rock climbing, cross country, cheering, video games, shopping, and what seems like a never ending assortment of birthday parties and school related activities. As both loving parents who want to raise well rounded adults and give them every opportunity possible to discover what interest them, we have to also be financially responsible for both their future as well as ours. This often causes us to have to make tough decisions on how we budget our family money. The way we choose to do this is allocate a certain amount of money to kids activities and then divide that by four, that gives us a per kid budget for their activities. Now since some activities such as being a cheer leader are more expensive by nature, we ask our kids to decide if they want to only do one expensive activity or multiple activities, honestly sometimes we spend a little more on certain kids due to them going to state tournaments but this is a decision we make and we usually try to make it a family event.

kid s plating water on grass field during daytime

The point is that we can’t prioritize saving for tomorrow at the expense of today. Some of my best memories are of playing sports growing up and while I may not play contact sports today, I do enjoy playing tennis or shooting baskets from time to time. I also believe that being a part of a team and learning to work together to overcome obstacles, as well as learning to be a good sport regardless of winning or losing has helped me as an adult learning to navigate the business world, having a healthy sense of competition doesn’t hurt either. I know that by spending money on the present whether on the kids or on dates with my wife, or on family vacations may delay our exit from the workforce, however they are also investments in our current happiness and in our future selves.

two person carrying black inflatable pool float on brown wooden bridge near waterfalls

One of the best books I ever read was “Man’s Search for Meaning” which is set in the Nazi concentration camps and is seen through the eyes of a survivor. The book tells of the horrible living conditions as well as the abusive and inhuman treatment that took place, but analyzed as to what kept some prisoners going and made some give up and die. All were extremely malnourished, abused mentally and physically, as well as having all hope for the future stolen from them. Just imagine having everything you own taken from you, being ripped apart from your family and not knowing what horrible things were being done to them, being forced to work without shoes in the snow, and not being fed enough food for a small child to live on. However the author discovered that it was the people that were able to find some good, some small thing to be thankful for, that were able to survive. Every time I am going through a difficult situation I return to that book to get a perspective of gratefulness. The more I practice being grateful for even the little things in life as well as being present in the moment the less I feel a sense of delayed gratification.

silhouette of man touching woman against sunset sky

Many things that are good for us such as religion, exercise, dieting, and saving can be great for us and give us great outcomes, however all of them can also be taken to an extreme that have equally devastating consequences. In religion you see the extremist that are willing to kill others for their religion, in dieting and exercise you see people that develop eating disorders due to a negative view of themselves, in the savings arena we see people that go to such extremes that they not only drastically decrease their current enjoyment of life but also those around them. All of my prior examples usually stem from an underlying disorder and no matter how much weight someone loses or how much money they save, they will never feel satisfied.

In closing it is up to us to find a balance between our future goals and our present lives. It is just as important to enjoy the present as it is to plan for our future enjoyment as well. Regardless of whether we decide to allocate more money towards today or towards tomorrow, if we don’t learn how to be grateful for things in our present life, we will never be truly satisfied with any achievement.

Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed it.

CHEF ON FIRE

How to save hundreds of dollars every month on your grocery bill.

Being a chef I know first hand how easy it is to overspend on food and as a father of 4 teenagers I know how hard it is to keep everyone happy while still staying on budget. I need to make it clear that even though I am a classically trained chef and do it professionally for a living, it is actually my beautiful wife who does most of the cooking for our family, this is comparable to the landscaper who has to worst looking yard in the neighborhood because after doing something for 8-12 hours a day, the last thing you want to do is come home and do it again. I am a big believer that we should all treat our homes like a business and constantly monitor our income and expenses and look for ways to increase or decrease either. In food service establishments we refer to the major expenses as Prime Costprime cost are Food, Labor, and Alcohol. We refer to them as prime cost because they are the primary non-fixed cost of running your business and if you control them you can significantly increase your profit margins. The long standing industry average for food cost is 32%, meaning that 32 cents of every dollar earned went to purchasing food. Obviously just like our households every business is different and will have a different food cost percentage goal, think fast food versus fine dining. Often times as a consultant I spend long hours breaking down individual menu items food cost to see where we can save money or if we need to charge more, some items will have a higher food cost by than others, like a burger compared to a steak. It is interesting to note that even though the fast food restaurant may have a lower food cost percentage the steak house may actually make more profit per plate sold, think a burger that cost $1.00 to make and is sold for $3.25 versus a steak that cost $10 to make but sells for $24.99, the steak may have a higher food cost as a percentage but you are putting $14.99 in your pocket each time you sell one versus $2.25 per burger sold, now obviously the fast food restaurant probably has a much higher volume than the fine dining restaurant so their money is made through sheer volume.

selective focus photography of beef steak with sauce

Now how does all of this relate to our everyday household food budgets? Well to start with the first thing a good restaurant owner would do is set a budget for food purchases based off of expected sales for a certain period, this would be the same for us and each household would be different based off of the number of people living in the house and the income being earned in the home. Since we don’t sell the food we purchase to anyone and only produce it for our own consumption we need to reverse the food cost equation to represent food purchases as a percentage of our personal or household income. So someone earning $45,000 a year who wanted to set a food spend budget of 15% of income, should plan to spend $6,750 a year. Now since a year is a long time to wait to see if you are on track or not, we need to break that down into smaller periods to help us track our expenditures a little closer. Let’s say monthly, so $6,750 per year would give you $562.50 to spend on food that would need to last at least 30 days. Here is where we get back to the point that each household just like restaurants are individual entities and need to be treated as so. A household of one is different than a household of four, the household of one will only need to cover their own consumption so will obviously spend less money overall than the family but because most items aren’t sold in single servings the single person will most likely spend a larger percentage per person on food each month. The family of four will likely spend less per person and depending on whether it’s a single or double income household it may have a much larger food cost percentage of income but because the food can be prepared in larger quantities and each item needed will be stretched across a wider use, they will probably have a cheaper per person cost overall.

photo of woman eating pizza

Now all of this is great but how do we save money? Well now that you have a budget to stick to and a period to spend that money in, we can now plan out four weeks worth of meals with our budget in mind. The first week of the period will have a much higher cost as we will need to purchase items that we don’t currently have but that will last for not only this period but most likely several months, things like salt, pepper, oil, seasonings, dressings, condiments, etc… Next we need to purchase the actual food to make the dishes on our menu, the most highly perishable and in most cases the biggest waste of money in homes is produce, therefore produce should be purchased as close to the planned day of use as possible and rotated appropriately. Next the more expensive items like meat and dairy should be purchased with an eye on quality and value. Once the first week’s food is purchased we can see how realistic our budget is and how much we have left to spend for the remaining weeks in the period, we will also see if our forecast for consumption amounts are correct, are we eating more or less than planned. Once all of this is figured out we can now plan around any life events such a birthday parties, anniversaries, etc.. and allocate extra money to those weeks. One of the most important things going forward is to take a weekly inventory of the items you have left over form week one, we do this first to make sure we don’t purchase these items again unnecessarily and to see if maybe we need to make some slight adjustment to our upcoming week’s menu to utilize leftovers. I can not stress this enough, controlling loss of produce from spoilage, honing in on production amounts, and taking good inventories of what we have on our shelves will save a family thousands of dollars each year alone. Once this is perfected then additional savings will be found in learning to cook with less desirable cuts of meat, to greatly reduce the overall cost of a dish and looking for good sales on staple items.

adult blond board brunette

So how do you forecast how much food to make and how much food to buy, it’s very easy. Let’s look at the family of four. We have 4 people who will eat 6 ounces of meat and 3 ounces of each side, so 4 x 6/16 =1.5 pounds of meat needed. Easy right, well wait anytime you cook something you have what I call production waste which is basically the loss of water and or fat which causes the end product to weigh less than it started out at. so let’s say we will lose 10% of the weight during cooking, so (4 x 6)/16 x 0.10 = 0.15 pounds or 2.4 ounces, in this example we would need to add 10% to our original amount needed to compensate for the lost weight during cooking. With the sides this isn’t really an issue and with items such as rice or pasta they will actually multiply both weight and volume during cooking by as much as three times the original amount. If you can control your protein cost also known as “Center of the Plate Cost” your sides will not add much to the overall cost of the plate.

chef cooking food kitchen

So to sum it up, make a budget, plan menus around that budget, figure out amount of food needed to produce meals, purchase food, and record leftovers or shortages to help better forecast for next week. Keep track of expenditures from week to week to see if you are running a surplus or deficit of funds in the food budget to make sure we don’t exceed our budget in the last week of the month. All of will add up to massive savings that can be used to fund a Roth IRA or even a 529 account for a child’s college tuition, saving $3,000 or more per year would go a long way to covering your children’s education cost or towards your retirement goals. Just as we discussed a restaurants PRIME cost of food, labor, and alcohol, if you can stay away form debt and control your housing, food, and transportation cost you will be well on your way to financial success.

Thanks for reading.

CHEF on FIRE

Separating the FI from the RE in FI/RE.

The “FIRE” (Financial Independence – Retire Early) lifestyle has been receiving a whole lot of outside press lately, while this is obviously a good thing as it has the power to greatly improve the lives of those that choose to adopt it’s lifestyle and philosophies, it also has drawn the wrath of many that choose to focus on the Early Retirement aspect alone and point out how it may or may not be actually feasible as a long term plan. To be able to properly separate the two ideas we first need to define them.

silhouette photography of group of people jumping during golden time

Many people in the FIRE community may have first been introduced to personal finance by Dave Ramsey and his Financial Peace program, Dave preaches that debt creates bondage in the form of financial obligations from the lender to the borrower. Financial Independence is a very similar concept in that once someone reaches FI they have the peace of mind to know that they are in a financial situation to make choices that are not afforded to people who are living paycheck to paycheck. Financial Independence in a nutshell is the point where an individual has accumulated enough income producing assets to live off of without having to work any longer, this freedom allows them to choose to either continue what they are doing or pursue either another career or even stop working all together. For most in the FI community the game plan seems to be the accumulation off a large enough investment portfolio to withdraw 4% of the principle to cover living expenses, while allowing the interest earned over and above the 4% withdrawal to continue to accumulate, thus creating a perpetual money machine. There are of course many other routes such as rental income form real estate and passive income from ownership in private businesses. There are different stages of Financial Independence, from having enough saved to be able to take time off from work or to accept a lower paying position that offers a better quality of life, to having enough money saved to never have to work again. Financial Independence allows an individual to have many options not available to most people and one of those options is Early Retirement.

man and woman holding hand walking beside body of water during sunset

Early Retirement or the “RE” in FI/RE is as mentioned earlier when someone has accumulated enough assets to live off of the earnings and no longer depend on outside income derived from another person or entity. Everyone has a different path to Financial Independence and therefore will arrive at the crossroad of continuing work or Retiring Early at different times and stages in their lives.  Retiring Early is an option only afforded to someone that has already achieved Financial Independence. Many detractors of the Early Retirement movement point to the fact that there is not much data to back test to see whether the 4% rule will actually work over a 40-50 year retirement period, however they fail to see that the main point is that the individual has achieved financial independence at an early age, something that the majority of people may not ever actually achieve in their entire life, this is great evidence that Financially Independent people are extremely good at handling their personal finances and that if a problem does arise in the future they will most likely be able to resolve it with the same hard work, focus, and discipline that got them to financial independence at such an early age. Another thing to keep in mind is that the 4% withdrawal rate was not just picked out of thin air but actually derived from a study known as the trinity study that sought to find the highest withdrawal rate that would allow for complete certainty of never running out of income and in fact the majority of the time the scenarios in the study had someone using the 4% rule end up with much more money than they started with 30 years later, even after making yearly withdrawals of 4%. This is because the stock market on average returns much more than 4% and thus allows the principle to continue to grow over time.

man and woman holding hands walking on seashore during sunrise

Fortunately their are many young and extremely intelligent bloggers in the FIRE community that are there to help and not just offer generic advice but give highly specific and specialized advice to people of all walks of life, so regardless if you are a physician, a mechanic, a pharmacist, a chef, a military officer, or even a single parent, there is a blog out there just for you that offers specific advice that can not only save you money but time and frustration from trying to comb through what seems like never ending advertisements from investment firms wanting to charge you to invest your money.

As you can probably tell from the name Chef on FIRE, I mostly speak to the restaurant and service industry segment about how to maximize their incomes and investments. I have a personal love for those that choose to serve others and feel that they deserve to be able to retire in confidence and hopefully enjoy having someone serve them for a change. While this is the audience that I focus on, I am constantly learning from reading post from other bloggers and think that they offer a great insight into the lives that other professions offer. It is great to know that regardless of the type of career one chooses, they have to ability to become Financially Independent if they are willing to work hard, save money, and learn to invest it wisely.

Dividends

If you own stocks you are probably somewhat familiar with dividends, but what exactly are they? In simple terms a dividend is a portion of the excess revenue a company has available after paying all operating cost that they choose to distribute to  owners/shareholders. That sounds great but is it? Personally I love dividends and see them as a sign of both maturity and stability, this is because usually a new company will reserve most of if not all earnings to re-invest in the company for growth, this isn’t bad because that growth allows them to increase earnings which will hopefully result in an increase in the value per share of the company. In contrast a large and established company may not have much room for further growth except through acquisitions, since they don’t need to employee excess revenue they choose to pay it out in the form of dividends which is attractive to many investors, especially older investors looking for income and stability. The dividend investor may also benefit from share appreciation but nowhere near the same rate as the younger faster growing company, in fact the per share price will actually fall after the dividend payout due to the fact that the company just moved hundreds of thousands of dollars off of their books, of course that money went straight to you the shareholder so it’s not really a loss but a way to earn passive income. Currently income from dividend payouts is taxed at different rates depending on your gross income, see the chart below.

Qualified Dividend Tax Rate Single Filing Status Married Filing Jointly Head of Household Married Filing Separately
0% $0-$38,600 $0-$77,200 $0-$51,700 $0-$38,600
15% $38,601-$425,800 $77,201-$479,000 $51,701-$452,400 $38,601-$239,500
20% $425,801 or more $479,001 or more $452,401 or more $239,501 or more

close up photography of people holding coca cola bottles

Some of my favorite dividend paying stocks are listed below with their current dividend yield.

Coca-Cola – 3.37% – Dividend has grown each year for 55 years

Pepsi – 3.36% – Dividend has grown each year for 45 years

AT&T – 6.08% – Dividend has grown each year for 33 years

person holding pepsi can

Now we can’t talk about dividends without mentioning the Dividend Aristocrats, to meet the criteria to be called a Dividend Aristocrat, a company must be a member of the S&P 500 index and have a minimum of one dividend increase annually for at least the last 25 consecutive years. The first list of Dividend Aristocrats was published in 1989, with 26 companies on the list, this list is often times considered a list of some of the strongest and most dominant companies in the world since to have been able to earn excess profits from operations even through all the bear markets and recessions, the companies must have a great operating system and strong competitive advantages.

For the die hard index fund investor there are dividend funds that track high paying dividend stocks, two of my favorite are listed below with their dividend yields.

VYM – 3.26% – Expense ratio of 0.08%

VIG – 2.03 – Expense ratio of 0.08%

apartment architecture buildings business

Of Course a discussion of dividends wouldn’t be complete without mentioning REITs, better known as Real Estate Investment Trust. In simple terms a REIT is a fund that owns and operates income producing land and or real estate, this usually consist of a mix of commercial properties such as retail spaces, office buildings, storage facilities, and apartments. The REIT investor/shareholder benefits from the steady stream of rental payment made by the tenants and the best part is that by law a REIT must pay out at least 90% of it’s taxable income to shareholders. Below is a list of my favorite REITs along with their current dividend yields.

VNQ – 4.29% – Expense ration 0.12%

Personally I own both VNQ and VYM in my ROTH IRA as well as the three single stock companies listed earlier with about 3 other high yield dividend stocks, however I am not nor do I plan to increase my holdings in the single stock, only in the index and REIT funds. I like owning them in my ROTH because the dividend income is earned tax free and is a not only a long term holding for me but an inheritance vehicle for my children that I hope will benefit from a steady source of tax free income for someday. I must say that I also own both VOO and VTI as well as VEU, in both my ROTH and my Traditional IRA for long term capital appreciation but I have always loved dividend stocks since my first purchase of Coca Cola stock many years ago and I still remember seeing the first dividend payment in my account:)

I hope you enjoyed this article and appreciate you taking the time to read it.

CHEF ON FIRE

 

 

 

 

Understanding America’s National Debt.

Currently America and it’s citizens owe roughly 21.48 trillion dollars, some of this debt is actually owed to itself. How is that you may ask? Well some of our federal agencies actually operate in the black and take in more than they spend, unfortunately since other agencies operate at a loss our government will take the surplus from one agency and use it to cover the short fall of another, this is basically just intra-agency accounting and moving funds around on the books. The other debt is owed to public and private entities. Other foreign governments loan America money and in return get Treasury bonds, the same goes for individual investors/citizens. Currently individual investors as well as large financial institutions such as banks, mutual funds, insurance companies, as well as large public companies hold the majority of the debt. How did the national debt originate?

person signing contract paper

The United States actually began incurring debt before it became a nation, leaders of the colonies borrowed money from France and the Netherlands to fund the Revolutionary War and their independence from Great Britain. The Continental Congress, which would come to be known as the  U.S. Congress, did not have the power to tax citizens so the debt continued to grow. By 1790, it was over $75 million, which represented a 30 percent debt-to-GDP ratio. When Andrew Jackson took office in 1828, the national debt was a massive $58 million,  Jackson called the debt a “national curse.” By selling off federally owned land in the West, Jackson managed to pay off all the national debt, however within a year  an economic recession led the government to start borrowing again and our country has never been debt free since, but how did we get over 21 trillion dollars in debt?

full frame shot of eye

 

One way to measure debt is to compare it to (GDP) Gross Domestic Product, GDP is the total revenue created within a country, historically America has hovered around the 50% debt to GDP. Only Presidents Andrew Jackson, Martin Van Buren, John Tyler, and Franklin Pierce left office with the debt at 1% or less of GDP.  In percentage terms, Roosevelt increased the national debt more than any other president. He added $236 billion, increasing the debt by over 1,000%, this was largely due to his instituting large government aid programs during tough economic times. Here is a quick list of the recent presidents during my lifetime and the debt that was added during their presidential terms.

man hat usa portrait

Ronald Reagan – $1.8 trillion – 49% of GDP

George H Bush – $1.58 trillion – 62% of GDP

Bill Clinton – $1.396 trillion – 54%  (only recent president to not run country at a budget deficit, left office with a $36 billion surplus)

George W Bush – $5.849 trillion – 77%. of GDP

Barack Obama – $8.335 trillion – 105% of GDP (Added more debt than any president ever)

man person suit united states of america

Donald Trump – Since he is still President we can’t actually say what the debt will be from his presidency. We do know that Trump promised to eliminate the debt in 8 years and actually dropped the national debt by over a $100 billion but since then it has increased. Trump has made some massive tax cuts which has stimulated the economy, this should lower the debt to GDP as a percentage but historically lowering taxes raises federal debt due to less funds coming in to operate the government on.

silhouette of statue near trump building at daytime

So what is the answer to eliminating the National Debt? Well first we need to be able to operate the government without going into debt, the annual cost of running the government is around $4.147 trillion , of which we run close to $700 billion in the red, otherwise known as a budget deficit, meaning we spend $700 billion more per year than we take in and that number keeps rising each year. So what do we spend all that money on, check out my blog post “What does it cost to be the Boss” to get an idea of what America spends your tax dollars on. I say your tax dollars, because the only way the Government has to bring in money to operate is through taxing us it’s citizens. Now taxes aren’t a bad thing as long as we get something out of them, think military and police protection, sewers, highways, public schools, etc…. but the truth is that if you want to get out of debt you have to spend less than you bring in. Just like us as individuals have to make tough decisions everyday about how we spend our money, the officials we elect to represent us need to make some tough decisions on how they spend our money. Tough decisions include what you are willing to live without and what you are willing to sacrifice in the present to be better off in the future. Imagine if America got on the Financial Independence bandwagon and learned to postpone instant gratification…….. 

Thanks for reading, if you liked the article let me know.

Thanks,

ChefonFIRE

 

 

Choosing a career

Is college worth the money and time? This is one of the biggest questions I get asked. I get this from young kids in high school to adults looking to move up in their career. I believe that the best investment that anyone can make is in themselves. Deciding to invest in an education and then spending years pursuing that education just to receive a degree is a huge commitment and shows dedication to setting a goal and actually following through on that goal. While certain fields such a medicine and law obviously require advanced degrees as a barrier to entry many other high paying careers do not. That being said there are many ways to invest in oneself other than traditional college. Since experience trumps all I am a big believer in specialized knowledge and the worst thing about college is how broad the study matter is. The people that earn the most money are the ones with a very specialized skill or knowledge. An example would be a brain surgeon compared to a family doctor, the surgeon is paid a great deal more money based off of his ability to be highly skilled and focused on one thing and be an expert in his field. I think that in today’s world where information is at our fingertips with a smartphone in almost everyone’s pocket that a college degree is no longer worth what it was to our parents’ generation. I would recommend going to college if you or your parents are able to pay for it but not at the expense of taking out student loans. I’ve heard it said that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become a professional, so if you devoted 8 hours a day to practicing your craft it would take 1,250 days or 4.5 years to become great at it, of course if you work 12 hour days, you cut the learning curve drastically. The best form of education is hands on experience coupled with a passion for something. Find what you love and study it until you are an expert at it.

adult business career clean

Choosing the right career in life is one of the biggest decisions people face. I think that the best thing to do is work in as many roles as you can while you are young to get a feel for what you really like. Once you find your passion it is still good to move around within that industry to get different perspectives on how to operate and to build your network. Finding a good company and staying with them for life is a way of the past for both employees and employers. However finding a good mentor that can help you pinpoint what would be a good career fit is invaluable. I started my career in small owner operated companies and loved every minute of it. The experience and insight I received working side by side with the owner was invaluable especially at such a young age. However the one thing I learned was that many of these entrepreneurs were great at some things but not at building a business, in actuality many of them barely made enough money to keep the doors open. This can be very problematic as you grow and begin to work your way up the chain and realize that the glass ceiling is much lower than you originally realized. As I’ve advanced in my career I am very thankful for the lessons I learned from those independent operators who relied on growing sales and controlling cost to not only pay the business’s bills but to feed and support their families.

city people street walking

In contrast working at a large fortune 500 company or corporate America offers a host of benefits as well as some downfalls. One of the best things is the health benefits and the unlimited advancement potential. The company I am with currently offers me a great quality of life as well as many other perks such as a company phone, laptop computer, and an expense card for company related expenses. As I advance the pay and the perks get better with things such as a company car. At the age that I am now I would never leave corporate America to return to an independent owner operated company due to the lack of funds they have. However even with all the great corporate jobs in this country owning a business is still the number one way to gain wealth in America. America was founded on individual freedom for its citizens and that includes the ability to open any type of business we desire. America’s legal system is another part of what makes this country so great. The ability to own a name, logo, land, etc… Is what gives us all the opportunity to prosper? I recommend finding a good job that you can grow with and work it while you are growing your own business. While you are working for someone else remember that you are a product and you need to market yourself to your employer and to other firms that are in the market for people with your skills. How you dress, walk, talk, and act are all part of your personal brand and help others decide how much they perceive you to be worth. It is always good to be known as the person that gets things done. Not only as one who gets all your task done before the deadline but also as the person that helps others get their jobs done and demonstrates that they have a working knowledge of how not only other people’s positions operate but how other departments operate as well.