The Unstuck Network
How would your life change if you reached Financial Independence and got to the point where working is optional? What actions can you take today to make that not just possible but probable. Jonathan & Brad explore the tactics that the FI community uses to reclaim decades of their lives. They discuss reducing expenses, crushing debt, tax optimization, building passive income streams through online businesses and real estate and how to travel the world for free. Every episode is packed with actionable tips and no topic is too big or small as long as it speeds up the process of reaching financial independence.
288 | Mad Fientist
Should you rush to reach FI? Or use it as a map in a lifelong pursuit to master your relationship with time, money, and happiness? Brandon, from the Mad Fientist, wishes he would have found more free time to work on other goals while on his journey to FI. When Brandon was first on the show four years ago, he had just reached FI and discussed the psychological hurdles he had to overcome. What's changed for him since then, and with the benefit of hindsight, what would he do differently? Brandon's dream as a child was to write music and put it out in the world. However, his musical tastes are not mainstream, so becoming a pop star was never one of his ambitions. He did not want to just be a consumer, he wanted to be a creator and always felt that it was his job that was holding him back. It wasn't until after reaching FI that he realized it wasn't was what holding him back at all. He had been spending his free time on things like television on travel instead of his music project. His problem was psychological. As a math and science guy, he didn't believe he could do it. Trying meant the risk of failure, and if he failed, the dream would be gone. It took Brandon two years to come to grips with and get over that hurdle. During his pursuit of financial independence, Brandon has tunnel vision, with all his time and effort devoted to making and saving more so that he could reach FI more quickly. The result was a decrease in his overall happiness. He admits that he did it wrong. The whole point is to master the relationship between money, time, and happiness. Mastery is probably better to focus on over goals. Goals delay your happiness because you are always looking to the future instead of enjoying the present or the journey. Reaching FI for Brandon didn't have an impact on his life other than making him more confident that he could step away from his job. Motivating yourself to do something is hard when you don't have any sort of external motivation to do it. In 2017, Brandon wanted to do two things: get better at songwriting and get fit. The personal trainer he was working with asked him how much he wanted to bench press or how much muscle mass he wanted to put on. Those were goals Brandon didn't care about. With his mastery mindset, he only wanted to get healthy and stay healthy. In contrast to getting fit, his specific goal for songwriting was to write a song and share it with his brother. When he finished it, not only was it awful, but the whole process was awful and it caused him to quit pursuing any additional songwriting until he summoned up the courage again in 2019. Pursuing mastery may be summed up by asking, “Am I better today than I was yesterday?” Continuing to answer yes is pursuing mastery. Brandon found it to be true that doing something consistently changes who you are. He never felt like a musician until he was doing it for 25 hours a week. He still feels like his triangle is skewed toward money at the expense of time and happiness so he has been trying to figure out how to use money to get more time or increase happiness. For example, he wrote eight songs and wanted to get them to sound as great as possible, so he hired a Grammy award-winning sound mixing engineer to help mix his album. He was able to both learn and make a better final product. He doesn't want to waste money but does want to figure out how to use it efficiently and maximize the triangle of money, time, and happiness. There's a lot of unconscious spending in society that doesn't really bring happiness either. Getting on the path to FI helps you sort out the equation a bit more. We're terrible at knowing what will make us happy. That's where experimenting comes in. Experiment with your spending and your activities. What still feels good a week later versus ended up being meaningless. It's okay to spend money sometimes as long as you do it from a place of value. If you are in a deprivation zone, one thing that helped Brandon was to relax for two years with respect to his spending. If it was something he and his wife wanted to do, they did it. At the end of the year, although it felt like they had lived an extravagant life, they spend just $3,000 more than normal. In the deprivation zone, you are testing the lower limits. You can test the upper limits and then hopefully find the sweet spot. It's difficult to find where the sweet spot is for you without testing the limits. Once you have the bigs things taken care of, the little ones don't seem to matter. Brandon had already limited his large structural recurring expenses. What he had given himself latitude with were the everyday one-off decisions that in aggregate, turn out to barely move the needle of his finances. Brad and his family have anchored themselves to a $2 per person per meal per day rule. It helps them to apply intentionality to their meal planning. He thinks it's better to try and optimize and then dial it back if gets to be a little too much than continue to go through life being unaware. Brandon is an introvert, so announcing publicly that he is releasing his first album is a big deal. Back when he wasn't making progress because he wasn't putting the time in, he talked his brother into going to a park and playing a show. The thought of doing it was scary, but he already knew what it was like not to it. He wanted to know what the world would be like if he did do it. While playing in the park, a man slipped Brandon his email address. It turned out he source talent for a music festival in Scotland and asked if they wanted to play at it. Brandon taking that chance in the park reminded Brad of a quote by Scott Young, “Your deepest moments of happiness don't come from doing easy things. They come from realizing your potential and overcoming your limiting beliefs about yourself”. Both financial independence and the pursuit of financial independence allow you to begin building armor. Failure is good. You have to be bad at something before you are good at it. FI definitely helped Brandon build his armor. He didn't have anyone to answer to or worry about stumbling across what he was doing. He also uses an alter ego for his work in the financial space, as well as another for his music. Something that Brand did to progress with his music was conduct an ultralearning experiment. He took three months where he blocked out all other activities competing for this attention to do the thing that he wanted to do, which was write songs. He committed to devoting 25 hours a week and built spreadsheets of prioritized tasks. He says it is the only reason he succeeded. He focused on the hours and the effort and then by-product comes out of it. For others just trying to get started learning, Brandon thinks copying what you love is a great place to start. Your unique set of influences is enough to make what you do unique. The unique skills each of them possess is what lead to this very podcast. Brad being a CPA with a travel rewards website is what got him a guest spot on Brandon's podcast. Then Jonathan heard the podcast and discovered both Brad and he lived in Richmond, which lead him to first contact Brad. Every good idea comes out of a bad idea, or an okay idea, or even a mediocre idea. You do not need to get it right the first time. The fact that you are willing to try gives you the opportunity to get feedback and iterate into something amazing. Brandon's album is available for just $5! You can pre-order your copy at Resources Mentioned In Today's Conversation ChooseFI Episode 017 Mad Fientist and Origin Story James Clear “Forget About Setting Goals. Focus on This Instead.“ Ultralearning: Master Hard Skills, Outsmart the Competition, and Accelerate Your Career by Scott Young If You Want To Support ChooseFI: Earn $1,000 in cashback with ChooseFI's 3-card credit card strategy.  Share FI by sending a friend ChooseFI: Your Blueprint to Financial Independence.
Jan 17
1 hr 7 min
287 | The Examined Life
Are you the kind of person who sets New Year's resolutions? Like many Americans, Jonathan used to set weight loss goals for the new year, but not this year. Instead, he and his accountability partner, JD Roth, spent the previous nine months working on it and began the year, at or very close to their goal weight. Not having to work on big weight loss goals is allowing Jonathan to be aware and focus on testing smaller adjustments that will make him feel better and have more energy. Brad once had an experience while on vacation that made him realize how his normal diet was causing him joint pain. He wasn't even aware he had joint pain until one day it was gone. It was only then that he understood he had a problem that needed to be worked on. When you live an examined life, you don't have to accept the things that are reducing your capacity to function as normal. Brad thought his morning smoothies were a healthy choice, but it turns out the negative impact was a sugar crash necessitating an afternoon nap. It wasn't something he noticed until he stopped the daily smoothie routine. The examined life concept can be applied to your personal finance life as well. It's not as much a goal as it is a mastery of process. Brad embraces James Clear's concept of setting up systems that work in his life versus setting goals. He has set up eight different things he wants to accomplish as a part of a system with checkpoints along the way. In an attempt to develop two new habits, Brad is habit stacking. With habit stacking, you take one habit you have and combine it with another you want to create. Brad has combined his desire to become more fluent in Japanese with moving more during the day by taking walks around the neighborhood while listening to the Pimsleur language learning app. It's not perfect, but it's a system that is working for him. Brad is also following the advice of Chris Guillebeau and conducting his own annual review. This annual review sets the big picture, the intentions, the purpose, and outcomes. It then breaks life down into different areas where concrete goals may be set, such as self, health, family, community, travel, and others. While neither has large plots of land in suburban Richmond, VA, Jonathan and Brad have both contemplated starting some sort of micro garden. Listener James wrote in to say that he's been able to cut down on his grocery bill by going a whole year eating only vegetables he's grown himself. James says knowledge isn't needed. Just try growing things. You'll learn as you go. Also, grow what you are actually going to eat. Kale is great, but not if you won't eat it. And finally, squash is king as it produces pounds and pounds of food. Start with a 4'x4′ or 6'x6′ plot of land and plant 2 summer squashes and 2 winter squashes two feet apart. Water the roots, not the leaves. If you don't have a yard, get creative like a friend with a yard, a community garden, or a local farm. In your own garden, build up your soil health with compost. When you are genuinely interested in learning, finding mentors willing to help can be easy. Jonathan's brother, Andrew who edits the podcast, has been interested in sustainable homesteading. Through the ChooseFI Facebook groups, he has found a community to learn from and is getting free room and board in exchange for work. You get so much power and understanding in your own life just by understanding the concepts of FI. You don't need to be at your FI number to achieve power and autonomy in your life. It starts the moment you decide to make small changes to make your life better. Neither Jonathan nor Andrew have reached FI, yet for all intents and purposes, they are living a financially independent lifestyle. The goal isn't to have the most money, it's to be post-money, which is beyond the point where money matters. What do you want your life to look like, and what do you need to pull that off? Suzanne sent in a question about expense ratios. She didn't know where to look to find out how much she is paying across their various investments. First, there may be a fee attached to the fund for it being executed the way it is, known as the expense ratio. Second, if access to the fund is through a financial manager, there could be an assets under management fee. The impact these fees can have on your investments is enormous. They can cost an investor millions of dollars over a 40-year time frame. Brad suggested Suzanne google the funds' names or ticker symbol and expense ratio, such as “VTSAX expense ratio”. The result should be just one or two clicks away. To reduce costs, long-term investors should use a commission fee platform to purchase funds, such as M1 Finance when investing outside of your employer. Resources Mentioned In Today's Conversation Chris Guillebeau's “How to Conduct Your Own Annual Review” Grass to Veggies ChooseFI Episode 248 You are More than Your Social Capital with Laura Oldanie M1 Finance Review If You Want To Support ChooseFI: Earn $1,000 in cashback with ChooseFI's 3-card credit card strategy.  Share FI by sending a friend ChooseFI: Your Blueprint to Financial Independence.
Jan 14
50 min
286 | I Like to Dabble
Many industries we once believed were recession-proof have proven otherwise. What can we do to build multiple streams of income and the resilience needed so that we're not reliant on anyone else for financial security? Side hustles and passive income are key strategies. Daniella worked for an IT company for four years when they laid her the weekend before her wedding. Luckily, she quickly found a remote job working as a contractor but was laid off from it as well. The layoffs ruined Daniella's confidence and self-esteem. Before the first layoff, she was living paycheck to paycheck and carrying debt. Occasionally, she needed to sell things for gas money until the next paycheck arrived. It was a financial low. Daniella still had the severance from her first job in an emergency fund and was encouraged to freelance to keep stable while looking for a new job. Freelancing was something Daniella had some experience with and reached out to an old client. The talent stack Daniella developed was not simply technical. She had a strong artistic and design background which was mostly self-taught. She says when going for a job interview, be upfront about all of the experience you have. Think about it and write it all down so you don't leave anything out. Not all jobs require the employee to be a world-class expert. Sometimes having a wide variety of experience and being able to synthesize different pieces of information is what employers need. The freelancing came out of panic. In addition to the debt, she had not been aggressively investing for retirement and believed the only way to go forward was a job. After finally landing a new job with a FinTech company, Daniella began reading about personal finance for her blog about the journey she and her wife were on to get their finances together. Dabbling is something Daniella has done since high school but it was never something she believed could be used to build wealth. Reading the stories of others changed her mind. The future became clear on what they had to do versus what they wanted to do. While her original side hustles only fueled her spending behaviors, they eventually morphed into doing fun things. Her wife is an expert in reselling guitars, and in addition to freelancing, Daniella also did thrift store flips, repaired items for resale, and sold her own paintings of live concert events. Daniella is in a much different financial position now. They have one year's worth of an emergency fund saved up, and all of their debt is paid off. They still have their side hustles, and her blog makes a third of what she makes in her full-time job. If she were to lose her job again, she would be able to reach out to the huge online network she's built over the last three and a half years. Facebook, Instagram, Reddit, and Twitter and great for networking. Daniella started by searching for different hashtags on Twitter. Jonathan loves Facebook groups. When there is something he wants to learn, he leans into Facebook groups to benefit his talent stack. Daniella believes Twitter is especially good for freelance gigs, while Instagram is good for anything since people expect others to slide into their DMs and comments on that platform. Since she can work remotely from anywhere and they have multiple side hustles, Daniella and her wife are working on a move from Missouri to Washington State. Resources Mentioned In Today's Conversation Give your child a headstart with their financial and nutritional well-being with Meal Planning for Kids. Watch shows live and on-demand with Fubo TV. Build a better real estate investment portfolio with Fundrise. Get started on your own journey to financial independence today at If You Want To Support ChooseFI: Earn $1,000 in cashback with ChooseFI's 3-card credit card strategy.  Share FI by sending a friend ChooseFI: Your Blueprint to Financial Independence.
Jan 10
39 min
285 | Beginning of a New Era
What You'll Get Out Of Today's Show 2021 kicks off the fifth year of the ChooseFI podcast. Despite being at different points in their own financial journeys, Brad and Jonathan have experienced the benefit of incremental growth with both their finances and self-improvement. While it may seem simple and even mediocre, they are living amazing lives. You need to control what you can control, starting from wherever you are. If you can optimize at the margins, you can reclaim decades of your life. It's not just the ChooseFI podcast trying to share this message and concepts. The entire community is working to share this message. In a Facebook post from Jessica, she shares that her goal at the age of 19 was to save $5,000 so that she could feel stable. She began finally saving at the age of 26. By spending less and earning more, five years later, she hit the net worth milestone of $100,000. The concepts ChooseFI presents are not new. The show brings information together to tell a story to motivate and encourage people to take action with it. Don't just do what people tell you to do. Look at what they are doing. JL Collins' blog series, The Stock Series, started out as a way to document what he wanted to teach his daughter about investing. Warren Buffett plans ate leave 90% of his investments in a low-cost index fund. What is impressive about index fund investing is that there is ample evidence that over the long-term, this simple plan outperforms other strategies. Index funds, like total stock market index funds, are self-cleansing. Rather than trying to pick the winners or attempting to build your own index where you need to stay abreast of what's happening in the market, your ownership in companies performing poorly automatically decreases as a percentage with an index fund. To illustrate this point, of the original companies making up the DOW in the early 1900s, none of them remain within it today. With an index fund, you end up buying the up and coming companies that are replacing those losing value without having to do any research. It's an odd phenomenon that people do not like to buy stock when the market is down. There are drops of 10% just about every year, 30% every few years, and black swan events like 2020 are more common than we like to believe. Despite of the ups and downs, stay the course and keep investing. US currency is backed by the confidence of the federal government. As much as a large percentage of the world also has confidence in our government, $100 today is not worth the same as it was a hundred years ago. Not only has inflation eroded the value, but more money has been printed than 100 years ago. Whenever the government prints more money or injects a stimulus, our money is worth a little bit less. What is the value of cryptocurrencies, like Bitcoin? They are speculative. You buy now and hope later someone else will pay more for it. Brad has sworn off speculative purchases after a horrible real estate investment years ago, but as a life-long learner, he has a remote interest in it. Warren Buffett has described Bitcoin as “rat poison squared” because, like gold, it doesn't produce anything. Investing in it is speculative. Moving money back and forth for 5 billion people in the world is both difficult and expensive. People without real access to the world economy can use Bitcoin to meet their needs. There are thousands of different cryptocurrencies available and most of them may disappear at some point. Their value is volatile and utility limited. It's also subject to manipulation and is currently unregulated, but we'll keep hearing more about digital currencies. The future is going to change, so Brad is always willing to learn. Since it's the first episode of the new year, what can you do to make your life just a little bit better? Increase your contributions to your 401K by 1%. Look for investment options with the lowest fees and think about moving them over. Cut an expense you aren't getting value from. Max out your HSA account. Contribute to your 2021 IRAs and other retirement investment accounts. Use Trim to help you lower your recurring bills. If you are looking for a new career, train for a new SalesForce position earning $65-80,000 a year with the course Jonathan and Bradley Rice created. The five-day SalesForce Challenge with Talent Stacker is free. Resources Mentioned In Today's Conversation Meal Planning Made Easy ChooseFI Episode 284 JL Collins Get a free 60 day trial of Linkedin Sales Navigator Start the year with a smart money move and get up to $3,500 when you transfer to M1 Finance Fifth Wheel Physical Therapist ChooseFI Episode 072 Should I buy Bitcoin with Myles Wakeham ChooseFI Episode 099 Generous Giving on the Path to FI with Michael Peterson Save money magically with Trim ChooseFI Episode 117 Making the Case for Part-Time with Bradley Rice Sign up for the free five-day SalesForce Challenge If You Want To Support ChooseFI: Earn $1,000 in cashback with ChooseFI's 3-card credit card strategy.  Share FI by sending a friend ChooseFI: Your Blueprint to Financial Independence.
Jan 7
50 min
284 | JL Collins Returns
When it comes to investing strategies, one of the most influential books available claims that if you keep it simple, you'll actually do better. Here to talk about the philosophy behind his investment strategy is one ofChooseFI's most requested guests, JL Collins, author of The Simple Path to Wealth, and popular blog series, The Stock Series. The influence of JL Collins cannot be overstated. The content he produced changed the trajectory of Brad's life and made him feel comfortable investing. In 2011, JL's daughter was in college but was turned off of all things financial after he pushed too hard. Because he wanted her to know how to invest and handle money, he decided that he needed to write it down for when she was ready. It was suggested that he archive the advice in a blog and share with friends and family. Much to his surprise, strangers began to find it and he quickly had an international audience. The book came out of the growth of his blog. Always having the ambition to write a book, The Simple Path to Wealth became a more organized and concise compilation of his blog articles. Four years later, 2020 has been its best selling year and the success has greatly exceeded expectations. Readers have responded positively to the authenticity of his writing, which he believes is because he was writing for his daughter. Now that she is a young adult, she's been receptive to the information and is now on board with the strategy presented. For Brad, investing always seemed like something that required thousands of hours of understanding and special insight until he began reading The Stock Series on JL's website. It gave him hope that he had a chance at long-term success for wealth that would last for many decades. JL acknowledges the method in the book is the last and best method he came to after going through other iterations involving picking stocks and actively managed funds. The other methods work, but they are harder and a lot less powerful than a low-cost index fund. JL says this method isn't just for beginners, it's the best way to invest for everybody. The most powerful way to invest is the simplest and the easiest. He realized that not everyone wants to think about investing the way he like thinking about it. Most people know it's important, but have more important things they want to do with their lives. His approach allows them to set it and forget it. The investing world is complex by design because the more difficult it is to understand, the more Wall Street can charge in fees. Jack Bogle, the founder of Vanguard, was the first one to invent index funds and talk about index fund investing. Because outperforming the market as a whole is extraordinarily difficult, only 20% of fund managers in any one year can do it. After 30 years, the percentage of fund managers that can do it is less than 1%. Even Warren Buffet wrote in his 2013 Berkshire Hathaway shareholder letter that he would advise the trustee of his estate to invest 10% in government bonds and 90% in a very low-cost S&P 500 index fund. A mutual fund, or similarly, an Exchange Traded Fund (ETF), takes money from a lot of investors and lumps it together to invest it in something. The S&P 500 index invests in the 500 largest US companies that make up the S&P index, while an actively managed mutual fund may focus on a different parameter, such as energy or technology. An actively managed fund attempts to pick stocks that over time will outperform the index which is an expensive route and reflected in what the investor pays for the fund, called the expense ratio. Every fund has an expense ratio, but what matters is how high it is. Because index funds don't have those expensive fund managers, the fees are very low. JL's most recommended Vanguard fund, VTSAX, has a 0.04% expense ratio. Actively managed funds average 1%. The impact 1% has compounded over time is dramatic. On a $1M portfolio, you may be withdrawing 4%, or $40,000, each year, while 1%, or $10,000, goes into the pockets of those managing your portfolio. That's money not going to you or working for you by growing over time. In an article Brad wrote several years ago, he looked at the impact fees had on an investment portfolio. With a 1% expense ratio and/or a 1% fee for assets under management, the fees over a 40-year period cost millions of dollars. Owning index funds means you own all of the companies within that index, both the winners and the losers. VTSAX is Vanguard's total stock market index fund which invests in virtually every publicly-traded US company. There is very little difference between VTSAX and the S&P 500 index fund since VTSAX is capweighted, meaning it owns more of the largest companies. Only 15-20% are small or mid-cap companies. JL loves index funds because they are self-cleansing, meaning that you benefit from the winners while the losers drift away. The worst you can lose is 100% on a company, but you can gain 200% or even 1000% with the winners. Tesla is a great example of the upside. An S&P 500 index or total stock market index fund is essentially the same regardless of which brokerage firm it is purchased from. JL prefers Vanguard because it is structured where its interests are identical with the investors. The investors own the Vanguard funds which helps to continually drive down costs. The impact of changing from a fund with a 0.04% fee to 0.02% or even 0% isn't tremendous. JL prefers to stick with a company like Vanguard that favors the investor over the owner. Another thing Vanguard is trying to do is make investing more accessible. They have lowered the minimum investment for VTSAX from $10,000 to $3,000. Those without an initial $3,000 to invest can opt for VTI, the Exchange Traded Fund version of VTSAX. VTI is primarily a trading vehicle that any amount of money may be invested in. Like a stock, buy and sell orders are executed immediately, while index funds prices are set at the close of the business day. Traditionally, investors have needed to purchase whole shares of ETFs. Companies like M1 Finance have made it possible to buy fractional shares. It would be wonderful if we could time the market, but it's more important to have time in the market. The best way to lose money is to try and dance in and out of the market. Trying to time the market does not work. When the market began to drop during the beginning of the COVID pandemic, JL held strong in his conviction that no one knew what the market was going to do. The important thing to do is to stay the course. You have to expect market drops during your investing lifetime. JL says no one should follow his advice unless they are absolutely clear that they will not sell when the market drops. Selling is not an option. Market drops are temporary. After Black Monday in October 1987, JL, despite knowing better, lost his resolve and sold near the very bottom of the market. He didn't buy back in until the market had completely recovered. Now, market fluctuations don't bother him. Roughly 20 companies make up 30% of your holdings in an S&P 500 index fund. Any company or sector that rises to the top means you'll own more of it. When those companies fade away, the individual who owned them in an index fund will fare better than an investor who owned them as a single stock. The most powerful companies today will not be the most powerful companies decades from now. Of the original companies making up the DOW, not a single one remains in the DOW. With an index fund, you never have to worry about what's fading out or what's rising. You will always be there. Resources Mentioned In Today's Conversation ChooseFI Episode 019 The Stock Series Part 1 with JL Collins If You Want To Support ChooseFI: Earn $1,000 in cashback with ChooseFI's 3-card credit card strategy.  Share FI by sending a friend ChooseFI: Your Blueprint to Financial Independence.  
Jan 3
1 hr 11 min
283 | End of Year Wins | Part 3
It's Part 3 of ChooseFI's end-of-year wins where we hear directly from our community members. During this live event, listeners shared the actions they've taken during the past year that have helped them to spend less, earn more, and enjoy the journey. This year, the year-end-win episode took place in a three hour live Facebook and YouTube event featuring around 20 members of the community. Are you building an amazing life or are you a cog stuck in a very depressing wheel? It could be either or it could be both. The community members featured in this end-of-year wins episode have had the wake-up call. We can't control everything, but there probably are some things we can control that we haven't yet considered. Hopefully, these wins from the community will provide inspiration and imagination to find improvement with at least one thing. Our first win comes from Sara, who teaches high school science. She began listening to the podcast in December of 2018 and after binge listening to half of the available episodes, she opened a Vanguard account with all of the money she had saved. This year, she put money into 457s, maxed out Roth accounts, and put some money in a 403b. And finally, Sara also just made her last mortgage payment, paying it off in just 11 years. With the mortgage paid off, Sara is now debt-free. A special shout out to MK who recently gave birth to a brand new tax-deduction, otherwise known as a baby girl. MK and her husband, Jason, hit FI in their late twenties, and in addition to working for ChooseFI, MK has written a handful of science fiction books and teaches others how to self-publish with her YouTube channel, Author Your Ambition. The next end-of-year win comes from Whitney who fired her financial planner this year. While her financial planner had set Whitney and her husband up fairly well, they were finally ready to fly on their own. Now that she understood what she was doing, she was able to get out of some of the actively-managed funds and do some tax-loss harvesting. After an unfortunate incident with a supervisor, Whitney was motivated to figure out how she could not work if she didn't want to. Previously, she had no extra time to figure things out, but being at home due to COVID allowed her to explore hobbies, take care of health issues, and do more activities with her son. Although making even the 1% better changes aren't always easy, it is a positive feedback loop where it becomes easier and easier. Whitney plans is to retire in the next couple of years. Next is Carlos, who welcomed a new baby this year. His wife took some photography classes and after seeing that her photos were pretty good, set up a new business as a photographer. Jonathan says he's noticed a pattern when trying to learn a new skill. The first is that it's something that interests you. Next is finding a community, getting some training, and finally doing it. Although Carlos‘ wife had to hit pause with the business a few times during the pandemic, she's still managed to have success even in this challenging year. Carlos started a blog this year. As an immigrant from Brazil, he had issues with the IRS and decided to share his experiences so that he could help prevent others from making some of the same mistakes. He's is writing the first article and will soon be launching Alien Moolah. Citlali and Jose have spent the last year adapting and keeping good habits. They moved to California three years ago and needed to get a budget together and manage cash flow after encountering high rent prices. They found ChooseFI early when just six episodes had been released. Living on a single income, they were open to the messages presented. Since then, they have tried house hacking, Citlali earned a degree through Udacity, got a job working on autonomous vehicles, and they moved to Texas, which decreased their cost of living. Jose says the aggregation of marginal gains has helped them to save. Meal prepping has cut their meal costs and allowed them more free time during the week for other things. Because the pandemic has them driving less and they've built up a good emergency fund, they've reduced their auto insurance coverage and cut the cost in half. They also frequently use the library for ebooks and more unusual things like museum passes. Citlali‘s big win this year for a 50% salary increase following her performance review which is helping to increase their gap. But Jose and Citlali are reaping the benefits of FI before reaching it. With family in Mexico that has been hit hard by the pandemic, they have been able to provide financial assistance to buy food and pay off medical debt. Shannon's year has been one of adaptation. She works at a college where her responsibilities have increased and transitioned. As a result, her boss was able to negotiate approval for her position to be full-time. The increase in Shannon's gap allowed her to pay off her car loan. Shannon also started a unique side hustle creating videos combining World of Warcraft and making cocktails, under the title TipsiGaming, which can be found on YouTube and Twitch. With no debt and this year's salary increase, Shannon hopes to buy a home and house hack the payment. Finding ChooseFI a little over a year ago, Shannon has one month in emergency savings and now she has seven months saved up. Wrapping up the series are Rob and Joni who are preparing to hit the road for RV life. They discovered the FI community about two and a half years ago. Starting from essentially zero, their net worth is up to $250,000 and their investments are at $150,000. They quickly got used to living in 200 square feet, enjoyed get rid of stuff, decluttering their life, and being able to quickly clean up their home. They both work from home, making them location independent. When they married in 2016, they followed a more traditional contribution of 10% into a 401K. Though they were debt-free when they found the FI community, they didn't start to crush the income side until about two years ago when Joni combined her skillsets, switched careers, and doubled her income. Rob and Joni's expenses are fairly low. The RV is paid off but they bought some land to put it on. when on the road, their base expenses should be roughly $2,000 a month. For more information on the free Five Day Challenge or to sign up for the newsletter, go to Next week JL Collins joins the podcast again to revisit the Stock Series concepts and share his perspective on some of the nuances discussed with other guests of the show. Resources Mentioned In Today's Conversation Your Money or Your Life by Vicki Robin ChooseFI Episode 019 The Stock Series Part 1 with JL Collins The Simple Path to Wealth by JL Collins If You Want To Support ChooseFI: Earn $1,000 in cashback with ChooseFI's 3-card credit card strategy.  Share FI by sending a friend ChooseFI: Your Blueprint to Financial Independence.
Dec 31, 2020
1 hr 2 min
282 | End of Year Wins | Part 2
It's Part 2 of ChooseFI's end-of-year wins where we hear directly from our community members. During this live event, listeners shared the actions they've taken during the past year that have helped them to spend less, earn more, and enjoy the journey. This year, the year-end-win episode took place in a three hour live Facebook and YouTube event featuring around 20 members of the community. After listening to the podcast for months or years, how did individual members of the community take in information and take action leading to success in a very challenging year? Success isn't just the nuts and bolts of money. Ultimately, it's a life optimization strategy. In response to Brad sharing in an earlier episode that he was joining Alan Donegan in his burpee challenge, Christine wrote in to share that she was inspired to step up her run by throwing in burpees along the way even if she couldn't complete the pushups. Being perfect isn't realistic. Challenge and struggling are important, as is trying to get to the point of mastery. You grow during times of discomfort and failure. The first end-of-year win comes from Eric. Introduced to FI by his best friends over a year ago, Eric binged listened to the podcast. In January of 2020, Eric and his wife re-scripted their financial life. Eric is an architect and started creating YouTube content as a side hustle on his channel 30X40 Design Workshop. Re-scripting their financial life started with paying down all their debt, including mortgage, with the cash they had saved that wasn't doing very much for them and built a six-month emergency fund. Having that headspace allowed them to take more risks during the year. They don't have a specific monthly budget, but as long as his wife keeps her job as a research scientist, they are good. Everything he makes is going toward FI, including a post-tax brokerage account and 529s. The FI literacy they've picked up from the podcast has shown they are a lot closer to their FI number than they thought. The friend who introduced Eric to FI was Jason, who also had end-of-year wins to share. Jason figured out early in his career that he didn't want to persist working for other people until retirement age. Five years ago, Jason learned about the FIRE community and began to buckle down, working toward a strategy. Jason says they've always been good savers and put salary increases and bonuses toward retirement savings. In 2019, he realized 2020 was the year they could hit FI. He actually achieved it in May 2019 and stayed at his job until June 2020 because he had some things he wanted to see through. In June, they moved from a high-cost-of-living area to a more moderately priced location. He began blogging on his website, The Next Phase is Now, to help work through the tornado of feelings he was experiencing. Before retiring, they lived on their FI budget for a full year to give them confidence. Currently, Jason is drawing from his cash reserves, which he moves from a Fidelity account to his checking account once a month like a paycheck. Next up is a question from Rebecca, who wants to know how to calculate her FI number when both she and her husband have pensions. Jonathan says the difference between your monthly expenses and your pension is what your FI number will need to cover. The book by Grumpus Maximus, The Golden Albatross: How to Determine if Your Pension is Worth It, as well as episodes 057 and 227 with Grumpus are good to check out if you have a pension. The next listener sharing her wins is Sara. Sara sold her care and began investing in VTSAX this year after graduating in 2019. As a new investor, the market fluctuations this year were intimidating, but after reading The Simple Path to Wealth, she felt like she was getting in during a low period. Sara's only debt is $78,000 in student loans which she hopes to pay off by age 30. During this 0% interest period, she has deferred making payments and has saved $20,000. It's a safety net that she's trying to decide what to do with. Her employer offers a .5% match up to 6% in her retirement plan. Sara has increased her contribution since deferring her student loan payments and is looking to roll over an account from a previous employer. Sara is trying to keep her expenses low and estimates her savings rate to be 30-40%. Listener Jake has made a lot of big moves this year, which means undoing all of the American dream ideas that had been drilled into him, like the fancy apartment, car, and clothes. They weren't making him happy. After listening to the podcast, Jake took action and moved into a place that cost him half as much, traded in the fancy car for a used Prius he paid cash for, and slashed his spending. Another big move Jake made was to refinance his private student loans with a 10% interest rate to 4%. He's putting every extra dollar toward student loans and will 100% debt-free by the end of January. The Talent Stacker podcast has lit a fire under him and Jake's goal for the end of 2021 is to hit $100,000 net worth. Being able to work remotely, Jake has moved back in with his parents and reduced his rent to zero. Bradsays he credits living with his parents after graduation as the springboard for everything that came after. Zach says it's been a great year figuring out his why of FI and taking actionable steps. He thinks whether we realize it or not, we're all chasing time and health. He wants to travel the world in business class and loves his 2006 Hyundai Sonata. For Zach, finding happiness wherever he is at is the FI goal. It's all about what you personally value. His investments are set up to meet his passive income goal. At the beginning of COVID, Zach started two businesses. While a pandemic doesn't sound like a good time to start a business, Zach says any time of strife and change creates opportunity. Next up is Kosta who says despite the tough year, his path to FI has accelerated and COVID hammered home the need to do it. Three years ago, Kosta and his fiance thought they had made it with their lucrative careers. But when he learned about FI in 2018, he was hooked. They worked together as a team to pay down student loan debt and put a 20% downpayment on the house they bought at the beginning of this year. Health issues that may take both of them out of work motivated them to ensure their later years were easier. And a by-product of FI, Kosta has lost 84 funds this year! Resources Mentioned In Today's Conversation Buy a ChooseFI ebook bundle and save an extra 15% with code “holiday15” Build a better portfolio with M1 Finance ChooseFI ebook store If You Want To Support ChooseFI: Earn $1,000 in cashback with ChooseFI's 3-card credit card strategy.  Share FI by sending a friend ChooseFI: Your Blueprint to Financial Independence.
Dec 27, 2020
56 min
281 | End of Year Wins | Part 1
It's the ChooseFI Christmas Edition where we hear end-of-year wins direct from our community members. During this live event, listeners shared the actions they've taken during the past year that have helped them to spend less, earn more, and enjoy the journey. This year, the year-end-win episode took place in a three hour live Facebook and YouTube event featuring around 20 members of the community. Despite how tough this year has been, many people were able to implement some of the strategies and tactics discussed on the show into practice and find more margin in their lives. The first featured win comes from Valerie. She purchased a condo a couple of years ago and has been working on renovating it. While not a financial win, Valerie says putting it behind her is her biggest personal win. Finally closing out the permits allowed her to refinance her mortgage, saving her $466 a month. She was also able to pay off her credit card renovation debt, saving her an additional $600 a month. In total, Valerie paid off $34,000 of debt. Besides the debt, Valerie also maxed out contributions to her HSA and because she now has an additional $1,000 a month, she increased her 401k contributions from 8% to 11%. Valerie opened her first taxable investment account and rebalanced her portfolio, while her side hustles earned her $4,000, mostly from participating in focus groups. Due to COVID, Valerie wasn't spending as much money and it allowed her to focus on things she might not have had the time to do and she's now one-third of the way to her FI number and hoping to retire by 2030. Brad comments that cutting $1,000 in monthly expenses is $300,000 less Valerie needs in retirement when using the 4% rule. Valerie has been sharing her copy of ChooseFI: Your Blueprint to Financial Independence with family members. The second end-0f-year-win comes from Michelle who learned about ChooseFI after Googling financial independence while attending a conference. To convert her husband, she had him read ChooseFI's book and then scheduled a date night to discuss it. Michelle‘s husband, Greg, never thought he could retire early. They didn't have a lot of debt but bought into the concept of getting 1% better and things began to snowball. During the last year, Michelle and Greg joined their finances, maxed out their 401k, sold a rental home, bought a short-term rental, and broke up with their financial advisor. They opened a Vanguard account and moved their accounts over after discovering their financial advisor was making a lot more in fees than the $50 per month to come up with an investment plan. Because Michelle and Greg met later in life, they had maintained separate accounts. After joining finances and being transparent, they found making small 1% better changes each week didn't hurt at all. All of the extra money that came in from COVID refunds or bonuses went toward paying off the debt from new windows. They also started travel hacking. Michelle says when breaking up with your finical advisor, chances are they won't understand FI, so state that it's you not them and feel free to contact her for help breaking up with your advisor. Up next is Chris, who has been a member of the FI community for about three years. He got started by reading The Simple Path to Wealth and Your Money or Your Life. For Chris, the pandemic has been an opportunity allowing him to save $15,000. He's been able to max out his HSA and Simple IRA. Chris also has two adult children to who he has introduced the concept of FI, as well as his nieces and nephews who have been very receptive to the information Chris has provided. He says to reach out and if they are interested they will let you know. One of the actions Chris took this year was to switch to Policygenius, which saved him 50% on policy premiums. The next end-of-year-win comes from Lauren. Lauren found ChooseFI in late-August and is on Episode 61R. Lauren got a side gig in August being a census worker which enabled her to pay off all $7,000 she had in consumer debt. With all of the premium pay she earned, it ended up being $1,300 a week. She says she wouldn't have taken on the side hustle if it wasn't for the podcast. After learning about 403b's, she switched from stocks and bonds to VTSAX. She and her husband also opened up a joint VTSAX account and reduced all of their monthly recurring bills to as low as they could possibly be. She's currently looking for hacks for satellite service. In July, they moved into a home that they are caretakers for, which is an upgrade that eliminated $1,100 in rent. They found the caretaker job through her mother but says other caretaker or home sitting positions can be found online. Since August, Lauren has earned or save roughly $9,000 since finding ChooseFI and taking action. They are now trying to pump as much money as possible into retirement accounts. When an old job asked her to come back to work for them, she opted to focus on what things were important, like the baby she and her husband are expecting and how they can raise it frugally. Resources Mentioned In Today's Conversation Register for The Simple Startup Winter Challenge and save 15% with the promo code “podcast” Automate your investing strategy with M1 Finance Sign up for the ChooseFI Foundation's FREE FI101 course Get the ChooseFI Foundation's FREE preK-12 finical literacy curriculum If You Want To Support ChooseFI: Earn $1,000 in cashback with ChooseFI's 3-card credit card strategy.  Share FI by sending a friend ChooseFI: Your Blueprint to Financial Independence.
Dec 24, 2020
41 min
280 | The Debt Free Guys
Is it possible to live fabulously without being fabulously broke? The Debt Free Guys say you can. After a year and a half of dating, John and David finally came out of the closet to each other regarding their finances. Between the two of them, they had $51,000 in credit card debt even though they had 15 years of experience in financial services helping others with managing their money. Starting with the first credit card his parents gave him for emergencies, David began a 17-year run carrying credit card debt. Instead of reserving for emergencies, he viewed it as a source of side money and never understood the value of paying it off. Despite never paying the balance off, his credit card limits kept increasing. After accumulating a significant amount of credit card, he began having trouble making even the minimum payments. Once, when his parents wired him money, it was immediately garnished from his bank account because he had failed to make payments. And yet he still didn't learn his lesson. Both John and David came from a time when it wasn't okay to be gay. As a result of being a part of a marginalized community, many parts of society sent the message that they couldn't be who they were. The baggage they carried, as a result, manifested itself in various ways, one of which can be financial challenges. Prudential conducted a study that showed there is a sexual orientation and gender identity pay gap. A university study has also shown that simply being gender non-conforming can limit you from getting a job or being promoted. As a result, gay men sometimes seek validation through their clothing, bodies, cars, houses, and vacations even if they have to finance it. The LGBT community hasn't traditionally fit the image of retired couples financial services companies market to. The community hasn't been encouraged through representation to think about their finances. The premise of the Queer Money Podcast is the get the finance conversation started which is what any community needs to start moving toward financial security. They challenge the community to think about what it is they truly want in life despite how they are told they should look, act, and want. It was the trap they had been living in. Although they were making decent salaries and experts in money, John and David weren't living according to their values. After having the discussion, they decided what they wanted was to be able to retire comfortably, travel without accumulating credit card debt, and give back to the LGBT community in a way that didn't penalize them. David says that even in the financial services industry there is a facade and although the experts know what they should do, they are hiding the truth about who they really are. Even for those who know the tricks to save, it can be hard to put it into practice. When you don't tell the truth about who you really are, you don't seek assistance or help to become the person you are pretending to be. While their credit card debt was at $51,000, John and David were spending $10,000 a year in interest payments. They believe that like them, most people who have similarly high credit card debts have a spending problem, not an income problem. The first step is to sit down and have the conversation with yourself, your partner, or your family about what it is you want your life to look like. The second step was eye-opening. John and David performed a spending analysis tracking when every penny spent had gone in the previous year. They had been living like rock stars, spending money on dining out, happy hours, designer clothing, and travel yet they didn't think their quality of life had been that great. They finally realized they were financial messes when walking into their dark, basement apartment right after considering buying land to build a vacation home on in the Colorado mountains. They questioned where their life was going and confessed their debts to each other. Figuring out what they wanted took three to four months, the spending analysis took a weekend, and it was two and a half years to pay off the credit card debt. Unfortunately, after paying it off, they reverted to old habits and racked up $6,000 on reedit cards again. Realizing they were on the wrong path again, they corrected course and paid that off in several more months. The spending analysis showed that with several small tweaks, they could recoup a lot of their spending. Grocery and dining out costs were cut and when going out with friends, they tried to do it without spending much money so they could maintain the social aspect of their lives. John and David knew that if they could not have fun during the process of paying off debt, it would not last. When confessing why they couldn't spend on activities like before, they found the friends they told were completely fine with it. For some friends, it created an opportunity to have their own money conversation, while other friends did drift away. One of the strategies John and David used was to look for free or inexpensive actives they could do on the days they wanted to be social with others. They were blown away by the number of free and fun activities they found in the city of Denver. Learning that you don't have to spend a ton of money to have a good time changed the way they thought about having a good time. They called it the NSE for Not So Expensive. John and David believe that when you put it out that you are saving for your financial goals, you begin to attract other people who want to have that goal in their life too and build a community of people supporting the lifestyle you want to create. Another tactic John and David used were Milestone Rewards. They would stash away a small mouth of money to have some fun with as a reward when they had met a goal, such as paying off a certain amount of debt. After completing the spending analysis, they realized it would take four to six years to pay off their debt using the snowball or avalanche methods. They knew they needed to do it quickly or they would get bored. It was the high-interest credit card debt preventing them from paying it off quickly, so they came up with the debt lasso method. With the debt lasso method, they lowered their interest rate to as low as possible and consolidated the credit card debt to as few locations as possible. The debt lasso method has several pieces to it. You have to commit to not adding more to your card balances and commit to paying a specific amount every single month toward the balances. Next, similar to the snowball method, if you can pay one off in full in a month or two, do it and get the quick win. Then use the lasso process to pull all of the balances into as few locations as possible at as low-interest rates as possible. Then everything should be automated. When monthly payments are automated, you'll never miss a payment which is when interest rates will be raised. And finally, monitor your accounts so you know when a card is paid off and move payments to the next account or make extra payments when you can. The snowball method works on emotion and has you pay off cards with the lowest balances, one after the other. In contrast, the avalanche process has you pay off the cards with the highest interest rates first. Using the debt lasso method, they did have to pay approximately 3% in balance transfer fees, but they shaved years off the repayment plan saving more in interest payments. Because John and David each had good credit, they were able to consolidate the debt from two to three high-interest cards each to 0% interest for 12-18 months cards and continued to roll the debt to 0% interest cards as needed while paying down their debt. On the Debt Free Guys website, they have created a calculator to estimate how long it will take to pay credit card debt off using different payoff methods. They encourage folks to pay the most money toward cards with the highest interest rates. John and David say that while 0% credit cards may not be plentiful right now, they've found that credit card companies will often send out 0% offers when a credit card's debt has been paid off because they know you likely have other credit card debt. Just be sure to understand the fine print to avoid any unpleasant surprises. It is incredibly helpful for partners to be in the same state of mind when it comes to paying off debt. It's also useful to find a tribe of people who are doing it or an accountability partner. The Debt Free Guys have a weekly call named Money Therapy included with their credit card payoff course. To join the community and get the debt lasso calculator, go to Resources Mentioned In Today's Conversation Buy a ChooseFI ebook bundle and save an extra 15% with code "holiday15" Join the Debt Free Guys community Start investing outside of your retirement accounts with M1 Finance Find the right freelancer for your job with Fiverr and get one free year with promo code "ChooseFI" If You Want To Support ChooseFI: Earn $1,000 in cashback with ChooseFI's 3-card credit card strategy.  Share FI by sending a friend ChooseFI: Your Blueprint to Financial Independence.    
Dec 20, 2020
52 min
279 | Be Wise, Your Financial Future is at Stake | Dan Otter
Teachers have been getting taken advantage of when it comes to their investment options. Thankfully, the internet and technology have made it easier to get the word out and help teachers wanting to do better. During his first year of teaching, Dan Otter was asked if he cared about his financial future. He politely listened to a hardball sales pitch about an investment scheme he didn't fully understand. Rather than blindly following other teachers at his school who had invested in it, Dan began to educate himself by learning about John Bogle, Vanguard, and low-cost investing. He learned the salesperson who had approached him was trying to sell him a high-cost annuity inside a 403b and that it was a terrible product. Unfortunately, most of his colleagues had signed up for these poor investment products despite having more than 100 options available to them, including Vanguard. Dan began to speak up and asked pointed questions when other teachers began to talk about their sales agent in the teacher's lounge. Though he had never done it before, he started looking at their statements and showing them how much the fees were. Appreciating Dan‘s insight and help, it was suggested that he put on workshops. After thinking about it, he bought the domain 403bWise, and with help from a friend, they built and launched the website in March 2000. The mission of the website was education and advocacy, where teachers and school employees could come and learn about the 403b in a non-sales environment and also advocate for low-cost options like Vanguard. Although this was 20 years ago, Dan says the problem with 403b persists today. Teachers usually find 403bWise after they have been sold one of these expensive products. Dan says that not all 403b's are created equal. After working in different environments where 403b's are available. They were largely terrible in the public school systems with many vendors. Private schools generally have just one vendor, as do universities, like Fidelity, TIAA-CREF, or Vanguard. 403b's fall outside of federal oversight, specifically Arista regulation, so the employer does not have the same kind of fiduciary duty. Just being on the list signifies tacit endorsement, however, the vendors are not vetted by the school districts. Just because you aren't paying money out of pocket, doesn't mean there are no fees. Vendors make the fees hard to find. Teachers all over the country can get fee information on the website, Dan says to look for costs in two places; mortality and expense, and then look at the mutual funds that are part of the annuity. If you find out that you are in a bad product, you may also have to pay 7% of your balance just to get out of it. Using the hypothetical example of a relatively new teacher earning $50,000 per year who expects to retire after 30 years, the difference between investing in one of these terrible annuity products versus one found after learning more from 403bWise can be $200,000. Over 35 years, a teacher contributing $250 a month earning 6% will earn $185,391 when investing with one of the lunchroom sales agents, while the teacher investing the same $250 a month earning 6% interest with a low-cost company will have $343,000 at the end of 35 years. Dan was able to visit the Vanguard campus as a guest of their 403b unit and says they are very focused on this market and getting on vendor lists. A good fee for a 403b is 0.5, or 50 basis points, or less. Companies like Fidelity, Vanguard, and Aspire Financial Services are good. In California, CalSTERS, the state pension agency, created their own 403b after and is on most vendor lists. Do not confuse Fidelity with American Fidelity Assurance, which is a high-cost company. A 457 may be an even better plan than the 403b. Reputable 457 plan companies include TIAA-CREF, T. Rowe Price, and Vanguard. The National Tax Deferred Savings Association is a well-funded lobby with an interest in maintaining a high cost, multi-vendor 403b environment. Montgomery Country schools in Maryland is one of the few school districts to put their 403b plan out for bid. They reduced the number of vendors down to just one, Fidelity, and plan participation and contribution have increased. Dan would like to see every district do what Montgomery County did, but it needs to start with the teachers from the ground up. The 403Wise website has three main sections, education, advocacy, and community. Under the Quick Start Guide, the tool, Find a Good Vendor, on the home page allows teachers to search within their own school district. 403b compliance is often outsourced to third-party administrators who bring in vendors who yield them revenue. Even one of the big national unions, the NEA, has an endorsement deal with a financial company called Security Benefit, which offers a product called the NEA Value Builder with load fees of 5%. After being sued, they offer a fantastic and unadvertised product called NEA Direct Investment. Anyone who would like to try and make a difference in their school district should reach out to 403bWise because they are building a network of advocates. In addition to joining the Facebook group, reviewing the website, and learning about the 403b vendors available to you, check to see if a 457b plan is also available. A 457b works similarly to a 403b but has a few more amazing benefits. If you separate from service, you can access the money in a 457b tax and penalty-free. Also, when just three years before retirement age, you may double contributions. And finally, 457b's requires more fiduciary oversight. Resources Mentioned In Today's Conversation Register for the Simple Startup Winter Challenge and save 15% with the code "podcast" ChooseFI Episode 220 Fix My 403b with Nancy Bachety Fix My 403b Buy any 3 month plan and get another 3 months for free when you switch to Mint Mobile Create a shopping list with Honey for a chance to win! If You Want To Support ChooseFI: Earn $1,000 in cashback with ChooseFI's 3-card credit card strategy.  Share FI by sending a friend ChooseFI: Your Blueprint to Financial Independence.
Dec 17, 2020
39 min
Load more