Millionaire Chef Recipes

Millionaire Chef: Investment Portfolio, June 2021

I have been learning about investing and saving a small amount of cash for making investments. I started investing after I paid off my credit card debts. I set up Acorns (disclosure: referral link, I get $500 when 3 of you sign up!) and Wealthfront (disclosure: referral link, I’d get $5,000 managed for free, and so will you.) and they invest with my savings (a different savings from my emergency fund).

I’ve also opened a Robinhood account (disclosure: referral link, you and I will both get a free stock, picked by Robinhood) to invest in stocks. Robinhood has had bad press because its user experience could encourage gambling behaviors. However, I invest with caution and Robinhood works perfectly well for me. I use Robinhood to trade stocks, ETFs, and Cryptocurrencies, and I pay no commissions on my trades.

First and foremost, I invest 20% ~ 23% of my income. My Investments are broken down into the categories below:

– Stocks
– ETFs – Exchange Traded Funds, an investment that tracks the performance of an index or a sector
– Real Estate
– Cryptocurrencies

My stock portfolio contains mostly mature companies that have a good track record in management and the ability to innovate. Periodically, I’d invest in small firms that are young and promising in their product development. I like investing in technology and innovations. However, investing in technology is risky; therefore, I balance my investment with safer bets on great companies such as Microsoft, Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Apple. My returns are based on 1 to 3.5 years of investment.
Besides buying individual stocks, I also invest heavily in ETFs, Exchange Traded Funds. Investing in ETFs gives me a chance to invest in a group of stocks and track their performance altogether; I invest mostly in technology and innovation ETFs. My biggest position is in WisdomTree Cloud Computing Fund, and it tracks some of the biggest names in the tech industry: Paypal, Zoom, Adobe, Square, and Dropbox. We used these apps a lot and they will be around for a while, with COVID or not. My returns are based on 1 to 3.5 years of investment.

I’ve started to invest in cryptocurrencies, Bitcoin and Ethereum, in 2021. From learning about the history of fiat currency, I believe money will be treated differently in the future given the rising in e-payment and innovation in cybersecurity. However, I invest in cryptocurrencies with caution since they are still immature and volatile. And yikes…I haven’t been doing so well in this category. My returns are based on 6-months of investment.

Last but not least, I used Fundrise to invest in real estate. Fundrise is a robo-advisor, and it invests my money according to my investment goals. I don’t invest in real estate as frequently as I do with other types of investment. I get better returns on investing in equities with cash I save; therefore, I will hold off on adding more money to my Fundrise account.

I invest with an intention to grow wealth in the long term. I have no intention of taking out any of my investments until I retire. Therefore, I practice restraint and only invest the money I have left after paying my rent, credit card, and other basics.

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Millionaire Chef: Using Credit Card(s)

Photo Courtesy of Nerdwallet

Credit card is a useful tool to save money if used strategically.

There are two types of credit card options, cash back vs. travel cards.

Cash back cards earn you a percentage of cash based on the money you spend, generally between 1% to 6%, while travel cards give you points and you can convert them to cash when you purchase airline or train tickets.

I only use 1 credit card, and it is a travel card. My rules for using a credit card are the following:

only spend what I could pay off at the end of each month

I have a monthly budget and I stick to my goals and only spend accordingly.

automate my monthly payment to avoid late fees

I automate my credit card payment to avoid late fees. However, I still remember the payment date in order to track my monthly spending, which ultimately is the plan to focus on living.

use my credit card as much I can for fixed costs (utilities, MetroCard, subscriptions)

I optimize my credit card to earn travel points. Using my credit card towards household spendings helps me optimize my reward even if I don’t spend money elsewhere.

only use my points for traveling because I get the most return when I convert my points to purchase tickets

I consolidate my credit card usage towards one travel card because my goal is to travel and do it cheaply. Therefore, I only redeem my points towards airline tickets, which gives me the best return on my investment.

Here’s the snapshot of my current credit card spending:
*The total amount is approximately 25%~28% of my income.

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Millionaire Chef: Invest in Health

Photo Courtesy of Reggie Soang

Working in a kitchen is labor intensive. Burns and bruises are mere scratches compared to long-term side effects from standing, lifting heavy weights, and breathing in smoke constantly.

I am a health advocate, and investing in health has gradually become the center of attention in the hospitality industry.  Not only do we have to promote a healthy lifestyle, but we also have to coach people on investing in health.

Staying healthy is a commitment I make to my family, friends, and bosses. Being healthy allows me to cultivate friendships and relationships, and work better. Therefore, I allocate a portion of my income to purchase health insurance. 

In a state-sponsored health insurance marketplace (under the Affordable Care Act), insurance plans are categorized into 4 tiers: bronze, silver, gold, and platinum. Different metals offer different levels of benefit, with bronze being the lowest and platinum the highest.

To understand health insurance, these are terms to be familiar with: deductible, premiums, copay, and coinsurance.

deductible – the amount you must pay for covered services before your health insurance provider begins to pay.
premiums – the amount you pay to the health insurance company each month to maintain your coverage
copay – a fixed amount you pay for a covered health care service after you’ve paid your deductible. (You may be subject to copay before your deductible has been met.)
coinsurance – a percentage of a medical charge that you pay, with the rest paid by your health insurance plan, that typically applies after your deductible has been met

The higher the premium, the lower the deductible, and the sooner the coverage starts. Vice versa. 

My poor financial literacy had cost me opportunities to invest in my health when I was young. Learning the basics has helped me choose a plan that suits my lifestyle and budget.

My investment in health is part of my plan to achieve financial freedom. Having health insurance allows me to focus on living. Having decent health is worthy of every penny I save and allows me to work and save some more.

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Millionaire Chef: Chef’s Survival Kit

Photo Courtesy of Reggie Soang

Shit happens, and that’s why we always have a back-up plan in the kitchen (I will also teach you how to be a great cook, but that’s another topic).

In life, shit happens too. Therefore, building an emergency fund is second to none in building personal wealth.

After I paid off my debts, I immediately opened a savings account to save for an emergency fund. To calculate your emergency fund, take your absolute monthly expenses and multiply it by however many months you wish to have saved.

I generally try and keep 6 months of emergency fund. However, shit happens. Therefore, I fluctuate between having 3 to 6 months of emergency fund in my savings account.

An emergency fund is meant for emergency. Therefore, the money is meant to be kept and grow at the most conservative rate. Currently, most of the savings account have 0.1% ~ 0.5% annual rate of return, which is almost nothing. However, money tucked away in a savings account will give you peace of mind if anything unexpected were to happen in your life.

Here are ways to build your emergency fund:
1. Start small by skipping things you don’t need, like eating out less often 
I cut down on alcohol consumption and stopped taking taxis or uber (unless it was absolutely necessary)
2. Cut back on the cash in your no-interest checking account. If you typically have any money leftover after paying off your bills, put those money into a high-yield saving account
I automate a certain amount of cash to be transferred into my savings account according to my plan
3. Treat your emergency fund as a bill that you have to pay every month and automate the transfer of the fund
I automate a certain amount of cash to be transferred into my savings account according to my plan
4. Stop using credit card until you could pay it off entirely
I only used a credit card to pay my utilities and phone bill until I could consistently pay off a good chunk of my debts, and then I’d use it for entertainment occasionally.
5. Put your tax refund into your emergency account immediately
I actually used my tax refund to pay off my credit card debts.
6. Audit your expenses regularly to see if you need to increase your emergency fund
I track my expenses weekly, and it’s a routine before I make any “fun” purchases.

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Millionaire Chef: Retiring Rich

Photo Courtesy of Reggie Soang

I will retire rich. It’s a goal and a pursuit to enjoy living.

Retiring rich would give me peace of mind if my health deteriorates.

Retiring rich would give me the opportunity to pursue other interests and to keep living.

Rarely does a restaurant, unless it is a part of a larger hospitality group, offer retirement saving to its employees. However, you could start saving early by opening an IRA account with an online brokerage.

There are two types of IRA accounts: Traditional and Roth IRA. Both are great tools for saving for retirement. One is not better than the other, the mere difference is based on each individual’s preference in either paying tax now or later. (fund withdrawn from a retirement account is taxed as an income).

While a Traditional IRA lets you deduct your income in the annual tax return and defer tax payment, you are subject to pay income tax when you withdraw the money later.

In contrast, money that goes into ROTH IRA is post-tax. You are using part of your take-home paycheck to contribute to the retirement account. Therefore, money withdrawn later is not subject to income tax.

I opened a Roth IRA account with Wealthfront, a robo-advisor, and it invests my retirement saving in a personalized stock portfolio. My average return is 7%~10% annually. And my money compounds over time.

I choose to open a ROTH IRA because I am expecting to be in the higher tax bracket when I retire; therefore, by contributing to ROTH IRA, I will be able to withdraw my money without paying any tax.

Saving for retirement is the first step towards achieving financial freedom. Money saved and invested compounds over time. A 10-year gap of saving could be the difference of $500k in your bank when you retire.

Regarding to my personal stock portfolio, I let my robo-advisor, Wealthfront, invest for me according to my risk tolerance.

I am 36-year-old and single, and I have a decent job. Therefore, I lean towards on the riskier side of my investment. The risk tolerance is usually decided in relation to your age; the older you get, the less risky your investment should be, given you will have less years to work and make up any losses incurred in your investment.

Saving for retirement is a long game worth playing. Life is short, yet long enough for us to live and enjoy. While we toil our days away at work, the greatest reward at the end is to enjoy the wealth we build for retirement. 

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Millionaire Chef: Where Does My Money Go?

Photo courtesy of Reggie Soang

My journey in acquiring financial freedom starts with determining my fund allocation and automating my savings accordingly.

I allocate my money to the following categories.

  • Fixed cost: 60% ~ 65%
  • Long-term saving: 5% ~ 10%
  • Retirement: 11%
  • Long-term investment: 5% ~10%
  • Fun: 5% ~ 10%

By setting a goal and sticking to the game plan, I no longer have to “skip that latte” because I have already made the purchases by allocating my money to the right categories. No more guilt and deprivation!

To further detail my spendings, I’ve listed the money that goes into each of the 5 major categories.

Fixed Cost
– Rent
– Utilities (gas, heat, electricity, internet, cellphone)
– Subscriptions (Netflix, iCloud Storage, Google Storage, MS Office)
– Transportation (NYC Metro Card)
– Health Insurance
– Household spending (toilet paper, paper towels, etc)

Most of the fixed cost items could be automated through an online payment portal, which alleviates your stress by paying bills on time without accruing any interests and fees.

Long Term Saving
– High yield online saving account

I opened an online saving account called Marcus with Goldman Sachs, which offers one of the highest interest rates in a saving account. I automate the money to be transferred monthly. 

Roth IRA 

I’ve opened a Roth-IRA with Wealthfront, which is a robo-advisor that lets you select your risk tolerance and then generates a personalized stock portfolio to help you invest.

The earning on my retirement saving is growing at a similar rate of return with the stock market, between 5% to 10% annually.

Long – term investment
– Stocks
– Bitcoin
– Real Estate

I have an account with Robinhood that allows me to purchase stocks, exchanged traded fund (ETF), and Bitcoin without paying commissions. These investments are riskier and they bring me 5% to 10% of return annually.

I invest in real estate through an app called Fundrise. Fundrise is a real estate robo-advisor where your investment is placed into a trust after you select your investment goal. Fundrise gives 3 options for your goals: supplemental income, balanced investing, and long-term growth. My investment goal is long-term growth.

– Wine purchases
– Traveling
– Dining out
– Going on dates (movie tickets, amusement park tickets, coffee, etc)
– Book purchases
– Groceries

My idea for fun is anything that I enjoy doing outside of my work. Drinking wines, eating out, going on dates, or buying books on Amazon.

Though groceries are essential to my living, I consider groceries as part of the “fun” budget because of the flexibility for me to splurge on luxurious ingredients, such as avocados, smoked salmon, or fancy cheeses to go with my wines.

My fund allocation guides my spending. With a plan, I am able to be more mindful of where every dollar goes.  With a consistent effort, I am no longer depriving myself of drinking wines and eating good food. I am also on my way to acquiring financial freedom.

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Millionaire Chef: Compound Interest

I was the fish swimming in the freedom of charging multiple credit cards, to later be caught by a mightier force, the compound interest rate.

One of the easiest ways to grow your wealth is to automate your savings with a robo-advisor, such as Acorns, Wealthfront, or Betterment, and automate your credit card payment to avoid fees and interests.

Money invested is compounded over time. Compound interest is powerful, and it could either work in your favor or hurt you if not monitored carefully.

To make compound interest work in your favor, if you invested $100 and had an average of 5% annual growth rate, your first year of return would be based on the $100 you invested. Your second-year return would be a 5% growth on $105, with the extra $5 from year-1’s investment.

With the compound interest principle in mind, one could apply the same logic to loans or debts, such as mortgages, student loans, or credit card debts.

Credit card debts are one of the most common forms of debt in America. Credit card interests are calculated on a daily basis. To illustrate credit card debts’ crippling effect…

Let’s assume your daily average credit card balance is $100 (to get your daily average, you have to add up your daily balance and divide it by the number of days in a billing cycle, which is usually 30 days), your credit card annual percentage rate, APR, is 20%. and Your billing cycle is 30 days. Here’s the math…

Daily interest rate: 20% divided by 365 days, which is 0.05%
Interest charged: multiply daily average of $100 by 0.0005 (0.o5%), which is $0.05, a nickel.
Total interest charged: multiply $0.05 by 30 days (a billing cycle), which is $1.5.

You’d be charged $1.5 of interest if you don’t pay $100 of the credit card balance on time, in the first month.

Here’s the catch…credit card interest is a compound interest, which means the interest accrued will be added to your balance and get charged with interest again if you don’t pay it off.

To further demonstrate credit card debt’s damage…

Supposedly you keep your daily balance at $100, and you’ve only paid the minimum for last month’s credit card balance, which is $15 usually. You will be carrying $86.50 to the next month ($85.00 unpaid balance + $1.50 interest accrued).

Your new daily average will balloon to $186.50 ($100 current monthly average + 86.50 previous balance). To calculate the new interest by using the method described above, your new interest would be $2.80 by the end of the second month (assuming your daily average stays the same from day-1 to day-30), which is a 86% increase! Now…picture your 5-figure credit card debt and the interest it’d accrue over time. I made the mistake of overlooking its impact.

To help you understand credit card interests, click on the links below:

Nerdwallet: How Credit Card Interests are Calculated 

Bottom line, compound interest is earned (or owed) on the already-existing principal, and it could work in your favor or hurt you in the long run. To achieve financial freedom, pay off your debts ASAP and save right now!

The Balance: Explains compound interests on credit card debts and how long it’d take to pay off a $1,000 balance.

The Balance: Explains the periodic interest rate, which is usually applied to any unpaid credit card balance.


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Millionaire Chef: Saving with a Robo-Advisor

Photo Courtesy of Reggie Soang

Hi, my name is Reggie. I am a chef who carried student loans and credit card debts for a decade. Through help from some of my friends, I paid off my debts and started saving and investing. I am here to backtrack my steps and share my experiences with you. I have made do with what I earn, which wasn’t much at some point, and you can too.

My story starts with me carrying massive debts in my 20’s. I did not have a good habit of saving and did not have the knowledge to invest and earn passive income. 

One of my closest friends eventually took me under his wings and guided me to pay off my debts. I went from 5-figure in the negative to having close to 6-figure in net asset in 5 years. I am also on my way to become a millionaire by the time I want to retire.

Working towards becoming a millionaire is not about being superficially rich and flashy. Working towards becoming a millionaire is about having great financial habits that enable me to live a stable and happy life, provide for myself and others. 

I want to take this opportunity to share my tips with my fellow colleagues in hospitality and everyone else who is interested in achieving financial freedom. I am not here to brag or preach. I want to share real tips in saving money and having a healthy approach to personal finance. 

We all have lived paycheck to paycheck and worked for minimum wage. However, with a bit of diligence and discipline, we could build a personal wealth that would allow us to retire comfortably. 

My first tool in saving money is using an app called Acorns. I use Acorns to save money in 2 ways. First, I automated my app to put away 5 to 10 dollars a day from my checking account. Secondly, Acorns “rounds up” the spare change to the next dollar on all purchases. Once the roundups reach $5, it withdraws the money and invests in a personalized stock portfolio. Your stock portfolio can be as conservative or aggressive according to your risk tolerance. 

Acorns also shows you the projection of your saving by the time you want to retire. You could use this tool to set your goal and automate your daily savings for as long as you want. Acorns is a robo-advisor that automates your savings and investments. Automate my saving and investment give me a peace of mind and allows me to focus on living.