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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.
264 | Recognizing Scarcity and Uncertainty | Leisa Peterson
Your money story informs so much of your life even if you're not aware of it. For 30 years, Leisa Peterson has been researching and studying how trauma in early life contributes to the money challenges faced later in life. Growing up with a scarcity mindset, money became an escape that gave her motivation. Leisa decided in her mid-twenties that she was going to have money in her life and not have any stresses about it as her parents did. Earning money became an all-consuming response to the trauma she had experienced. There's a very broad spectrum of trauma from mild to quite serious and not everyone reacts to it in the same way. Some people like Leisa may end up wanting a lot of money, while others are lead to feeling like they have no control over money. An adverse childhood study from Kaiser was intended to understand how childhood trauma affected health. In Leisa's reading of the study, she found one of the findings included financial problems and realized this was something not a lot of people were talking about. These childhood experiences become very disruptive, brings an uncertainty to how life is viewed and crushed the sense of self. The concept of scarcity and uncertainty go together. This leads to struggling with either an extreme need to control or feeling out of control with money. Because kids are absorbing everything we say, it's important to change the language we use around money. When people become more familiar with their trauma backstory, they are better able to talk with their partner about their money challenges. Disconnects in communication can occur when each other's backstories are quite different. We can only know what we know from our own perspective. The job in relationships is not just to understand ourselves, but to see the other person and how they are approaching money differently because of their backstory. When people think of something as being scare in supply, they are going to buy more of it. Toilet paper is a relevant example of this for 2020. Someone coming from a home without enough money may have strange buying behaviors. Their idea of scarcity or uncertainty may be showing up in their daily behaviors with money. For spouses or partners who have different money stories, Leisa encourages them to just start somewhere. Think about how money was treated at home growing up and have a conversation about it. Questions to consider asking are: Did mom and dad talk about money? Did mom and dad fight about money? What is your first memory of money? When did you make your first money? How did that make you feel? Were you afraid? It can be difficult to have these conversations for the first time with another person. Journaling is a way to privately have them with yourself first. The first person you share these feelings with should be someone you trust and it may be someone other than your partner. Throughout her career, Leisa has found that people react to money very differently. The majority either hold it tightly or avoid control of it altogether, with a minority viewing it as a tool and are at peace with it. Having one strong fire in your life influences the way you think about money in life. The earlier the influence in life, the better. Parents sometimes joke or convey the wrong message about money. Leisa says it's important to go back and close the loop with children. In the FI community, we want our children to have the skills to take care of themselves and be financially independent, but is it possible for them to have too much abundance? Leisa says she wants to be very open about what goes on in their home, discuss their failures, and teach them the value of money and hard work. After reaching her goal of becoming a millionaire, Leisa made a massive change in her life. She and her husband sold it all and took a year off to travel with their son. The trip changed their entire approach to life. Previously, Leisa's family had been consumers of their money. After the trip, they took their nest egg, created investments where their money began working for them. A result of Leisa's drive to become a millionaire was that once achieved, people began to treat her differently. The outward display of wealth began to affect her friendships. It was then that Leisa realized the money was not all that important to her. Leisa's book, The Mindful Millionaire, tells these stories about our money experiences, our relationships with money, and how we can transform them into thinking about money as a tool. The key takeaway from this conversation is that words matter. It's important to think about the unintended consequences of the conversations we are having with our spouses, partners, and kids. Have humility in these conversations and be honest. RESOURCES MENTIONED IN TODAY'S CONVERSATION Build a better retirement plan today with NewRetirement ChooseFI Episode 246 Overcoming and Battling Financial Abuse Open a commission-free brokerage account with M1 Finance Get started on your own journey to financial independence 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.
Oct 25
39 min
263 | Pick Your Five: Accountability & Decision-Making
Jonathan draws a parallel between the episode on Monday with professional poker player Annie Duke and hitting his weight loss goals. Finding himself well over his desired weight, Jonathan took a health challenge and has kept the weight off for six months making him a weightloss statistical abnormality. Where most people diet and get to a goal weight, because the effort was a diet, they end up regaining the weight. What Jonathan did was make a lifestyle change. Tying to the discussion with Annie Duke, Jonathan recognized that he couldn't control everything, made better decisions, and set himself up for more opportunities. All of it helped to increase the opportunity for luck to strike. Jonathan isn't alone in his endeavor. Through weekly accountability phone calls with his father and FI community member, JD Roth, they check in to ask if each has followed through with their goals for the week Their goals aren't all that strict but they are trying to be 1% more intentional with their decisions and look at their decision-making framework, watching for triggers, giving into them less often, and coming up with solutions to not be tempted. Brad notes the discipline equals freedom and that the framework Jonathan has created for himself makes everything easier and no longer requires willpower. The accountability and decision-making strategies Jonathan applied to his weightless journey can be used for virtually anything you want to achieve in life. Taking action and trying to be just 1% better what ChooseFI is all about. All of the small wins begin to add up, creating nothing but good, grows your gap, and continuous the virtuous circle. When we upgrade the quality of our decisions, the impact of them begins to compound and increases our probability of success. Brad discusses how 70-80% of the contestations he hears involve one of the three killers of happiness: sarcasm, complaining, and blaming. We can change our mindset and the locus of control to impact our future. He believes putting space between stimulus and control can have positive and compounding effects. As often mentioned on the show, you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. Those five have the greatest influence on your life and you don't want them to have those happiness killer characteristics. Be intentional with your five picks. Choose people who give you a path forward and will hold you accountable to the things you said were important to you. Brad and Jonathan discussed how the concept of resulting, pro and con lists, and infecting others with our opinions before asking for advice is not helpful when trying to make better decisions. As mentioned during Monday's episode, making better decisions requires depth and an understanding of probability and magnitude. A challenge for listeners is to write down the five people you spend the most time with and who have the most influence on you. Then write down that their characteristics are that make them a good fit for your top five. And finally, what are the ideal characteristics for people who would be influencing your decisions and where can you find them? The second exercise is to approach someone and ask for their opinion on something without prejudicing it first. Don't lead with what it is that you really want to do. Ask your question in a way that gets you additional information you maybe hadn't considered yet. The first win from the community comes from Jodie, a self-professed broke chick who found FI in 2016. Since then, she's doubled her salary, gotten out a debt, flipped a live-in property, paid off her card, got married, formed two business with her husband, quit her job, and hit $100,000 in investments. Congratulations on taking action and changing your life, Jodie! In response to Brad's weekly email, Evan writes about not shooting for FI with reckless urgency, but a thoughtful understanding of the use of money and how it can improve his life after breaking his finger required surgery. FI isn't about deprivation, but buying the things you value. While the world is slowly getting back to normal during the pandemic, John calls in sharing how his wife was able to pivot her events business, Escape Room Races. The pandemic killed her in-person events, but she was able to rebrand, and pivot to a virtual format which is bringing in tons of new virtual events and they just had their biggest month ever. Speaking of live events, previous ChooseFI guest, Christine, from episode 137, sent in a letter saying that at least 50 ChooseFI listeners have come to Nashville and taken her tour. Last Fall, one guest from New Zealand Brough five friends from all over the world after hearing about Christine's tour, A Little Local Flavor, on ChooseFI. She also has converted her friends into ChooseFI listeners. When you respond to Brad's weekly email and we read your win on the air, you will get one of the ChooseFI Publishing books. The first winner is Ahmed who wrote in to say he recently graduated college and was due to move to a high cost of living city. Because they moved to working remotely, Ahmad is saving on rent by staying at home with his parents in a low-cost of living city and investing the savings. The second winner is Tommy who received an email from his state's 529 program that he was receiving a $500 Maryland state contribution. RESOURCES MENTIONED IN TODAY'S CONVERSATION Earn $1000 or more with ChooseFI's 3-card cashback strategy Open a commission-free brokerage account with M1 Finance Make more on your savings with high-yield savings account from CIT Bank Join the ChooseFI Facebook group Get on Brad's weekly email list and receive The FI Weekly every Tuesday ChooseFI Episode 137 Rebuilding a Life You Love With Christine Discover the sites, sounds, and flavors of Nashville with Christine ChooseFI Episode 021 The Pillars of FI Maryland's 529 State Contribution Program 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.
Oct 22
46 min
262 | How to Decide | Annie Duke
Annie Duke is a world champion poker player and author of Thinking in Bets, a book which makes the case for embracing uncertainty in our decision-making framework. In Annie's latest book, How to Decide: Simple Tools for Making Better Choices, she answers the question, what does a good decision-making process look like and how to incorporate that into your own life. The only way we can become better at making decisions is from our own experience, and our experience is going to be the outcomes of past decisions we've made. We need to understand the way in which knowing how something turned out can mess with our ability to figure out why. In a thought experiment concerning the 2015 Super Bowl between the Seahawks and the Patriots, Annie reviews a play called by Pete Carroll in the last seconds of the game. Though widely panned as the worst play called in Super Bowl history, Annie states that it's hard to evaluate the quality of the play called when we already know the outcome. Had the outcome of Pete Carroll's play been a touchdown, the reaction would have been the opposite. This phenomenon is called Resulting, where the quality of the result is attributed the quality of the decision. Reviewing the actual odds of the result of that specific play, Annie determines that Pete Carroll's decision was far from the worst play called of all time as there was only a 25 likelihood of that specific result. Annie applies what she's learned playing poker, specifically realizing that what you see happen doesn't change the decision that you make, to other aspects of life. The paradox of experience is that while we know we need all of these experiences to learn, we see how things unfold and we take our lessons for individual experiences, not in the aggregate. Poker has some surprising similarities to real life in that your outcome is a combination of luck and the quality of your decisions. The definition of luck is what you don't have control over. You cannot control your own luck. You can control the quality of the decisions you make and reduce the chance that luck has an influence that will turn out poorly for you. While we are all under the influence of luck, we are also very much under the influence of our own decisions. In our decision making, we should see the luck clearly and make the decisions that are more likely to advance our goals. Brad ties that to ChooseFI's philosophy of the aggravation of marginal gains and striving to do 1% better. We have a lot of cognitive bias that delude us into believing things are much more stable than they really are. COVID has torn that away from us. We are also feeling the effect of imperfect information. COVID is not a special case, it's just something we can't hide from the uncertainty. COVID does give us an opportunity to think about how to navigate uncertainty which will improve all decisions we make. A pro and con list has no dimensions to it, specifically missing are the magnitude of the payoff or how much will it advance or take away from your goal, and what is the probability of each con. These lists also amply biases you already have and can be gamed to reach a predetermined decision. With inside view thinking, our personal models create cognitive trenches. When new information comes in, we mold it into a model we already have rather than be objective. An outside view is what is true of the world. To try and avoid inside view thinking, we need to expose ourselves to different perspectives of corrective information. The foundation we base our decisions on is flimsy and full of inaccuracies. We should increase the probability that we collide with perspectives and information we don't know. It's okay to say you don't know very much and decide to get more information to become a better decision-maker. Making a good decision with one stock doesn't necessarily make you a good investor, you would have to look at all the decisions made with your portfolio. When getting to your outside view, it helps to get yourself into the future because it helps us look back on ourselves. We also need to realize that we tend to believe we are more likely to be successful than we actually are. It's helpful to think about all the ways in which you might fail. A pre-mortem is the idea that time travel and negative thinking will result in an outside view and lead to better decision making. A backcast is the opposite of a pre-mortem where you look at the luck and skills that lead to a positive outcome. To find groups of people to get the best opinions from, find people who are interested in finding what is true in the world, but by putting the framework in place, you can turn anybody into an amazing true-seeking pod. When seeking other's opinions, it's best not to divulge your own opinion beforehand. It results in one of three ways: it might show the other person's opinion is right, the truth may lie in the middle somewhere, or it may show your opinion is right and help you to understand it better. Annie believes that mostly we should be making decisions faster than we do. The decision-making process is a skill and it takes time to understand which we should be taking our time we should take our time with and which could be faster. The speed of our decisions should be made by the impact of the decision and optionality available. RESOURCES MENTIONED IN TODAY'S CONVERSATION Earn $1,000 in cashback with ChooseFI's 3-card credit card strategy Switch to Mint Mobile and save with free shipping Get our #1 recommended travel rewards credit card, the Chase Sapphire Preferred and earn 80,000 points Get started on the path to financial independence 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.
Oct 18
1 hr 7 min
261 |"Nothing Gold Can Stay" | What is a HELOC?
After 18 years of ownership, Brad says goodbye to his beloved Honda Civic, Golden Boy. When it comes to car ownership, ChooseFI often talks about only buying a new car every 15 years. Over a 45 year adult lifetime, the savings, when invested, can amount to almost $750,000 when compared to someone who leases or just manages a constant car payment. Although Brad wanted to keep the car, it had been having some mechanical issues and his family was no longer comfortable riding in it anymore. The impact it was having on Brad's family was not worth it. For his next vehicle, Brad opted for a 2013 Honda Civic rather than a brand new car. He purchased his new Civic through Caravana, the car vending machine business, who was selling Civics for roughly $3,000 less than CarMax. The buying process through Caravan was quick and streamlined. The car was delivered to his home and he spent approximately one-hour signing paperwork and finalizing documents. There are sweet spots when purchasing used vehicles. Although Brad's car is seven years old, after five years, cars have generally already depreciated at the fastest rate. If you are going to buy new, keep it forever. If you buy used, target 5-7 years old. Listener Oscar wrote into the show asking about Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC) which hasn't been something that ChooseFI has discussed much in previous episodes. A HELOC is a revolving line of credit on your home where the equity you have in your home is used to secure it. For instance, a home worth $300,000 with a mortgage balance of $100,000 has $200,000 worth of equity. A HELOC allows homeowners to tap into the equity locked up in their homes. An advantage of using a home equity loan over other options for access to cash, like credit cards, is that the interest rate is often much lower, although it is a variable rate and can change. The interest rate on a HELOC may be in the 3-5% range versus 15-30% with credit cards. For homeowners who placed a sizable down payment on their home, whose home has appreciated, made extra payments, etc., a HELOC becomes a potential source of low-interest revolving credit. A HELOC is different from a home equity loan in that with a loan, the loan amount is deposited into your bank account and interest begins accruing immediately. A HELOC provides you with the ability to tap into the equity at any time, such as in the case of an emergency. No interest accrues until you decide to access the money. It gives you options if ever needed. Occasionally, HELOCs can be had for no closing costs. Considering that the process to apply and be approved for a HELOC can take weeks, it can be useful to have one in place so that it is already available if and when it is needed. Frequent guest and friend of ChooseFI, Big ERN, does not have an emergency fund. He believes that there is an opportunity cost to keeping 6 months of expenses in a liquid account that is likely earning every little in interest. In a thought experiment, he tried to envision a true emergency that he could not cover with credit cards or a HELOC. Those working to build an emergency fund before beginning to invest are potentially missing out on higher interest rates earned from investments. They might be better off investing their savings and using money from a HELOC to cover monthly expenses in an emergency rather than selling off investments or using high-interest credit cards. Jonathan mentioned that there are schemes to paying off a mortgage early using HELOCs and credit cards that people can learn about for a fee. Brad doesn't doubt that these might work, but it's too complex. There's no insider knowledge worth paying for. He doesn't believe these methods are any more beneficial than making additional principal payments to a traditional mortgage. Rather than a HELOC, Jonathan uses a margin loan through M1 Finance for a line of credit. He can borrow up to 40% of his invested assets with an interest rate of 2.75-3.5% and have the money in his account in minutes. Margin loans on investment accounts are lines of credit options for renters. Listener Alex wrote in with his win with a High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP) and Health Savings Account (HSA). Listener Rachel wrote in saying that she has reached FI and didn't even know it. As a result, she was able to leave a toxic work environment in the middle of a pandemic and spend more time with her nice and nephew. FI wins read on the show win their choice of one of ChooseFI's books so keep them coming! Listeners Brian and Deb maxed out their 401Ks this week before their contracts ended to take full advantage of the company's match and on Oct 23 will officially be financially independent. RESOURCES MENTIONED IN TODAY'S CONVERSATION Learn about ChooseFi's 3-card $1,000 cashback credit card strategy ChooseFI Episode 022 The Ultimate Guide to the True Cost of Car Ownership Get a fantastic term life insurance policy at a fantastic price with PolicyGenius Earn a high-interest rate on your savings account with CIT Bank ChooseFI Episode 066 The Emergency Fund…Is It a Bad Idea? Read DoughRoller's article, Can You Really Pay Off Your Mortgage Early with a HELOC? ChooseFI Episode 009 Travel Rewards: How to Travel the World for Almost Free (The Easy Way) Sign up for ChooseFI's FREE travel rewards course Learn more about M1 Finance here Sign up to receive Brad's newsletter, The FI Weekly IF YOU WANT TO SUPPORT CHOOSEFI:   Share FI by sending a friend ChooseFI: Your Blueprint to Financial Independence.  
Oct 15
49 min
260 | What's your Survival Number? | Jully-Alma Taveras
Immigrating to the United States as a child, by early adulthood, Jully found herself caught up in our consumer culture and had acquired five figures worth of debt. After working to dig her way out and starting on her path to finical independence, she's become an advocate. Drawing from her experience, she now help Latinas become financial powerful through investing. At the age of four, Jully moved from the Dominican Republic to New York. Her extended family all began making the move as well, but as many immigrants to, they continued to send money and invest in their socioeconomic systems back home. For immigrants, investing in their home countries has multiple purposes. There is often an expectation that money will be sent home to support the family. Jully's father supported her grandmother by building her a new home and making sure she was taken care of. However, when the grandmother also immigrated to the US, the house back in the Dominican Republic was rented out and became the first property in a real estate portfolio. Immigrants have struggles that a typical American doesn't go through. Investing in real estate in their home countries helps connect them to their communities. However, Jully says immigrants tend to invest more in real estate than in the stock market. She shares the message that it is important to diversify their investments. When she started working for a non-profit at the age of 19, Jully began investing a 403b for the free money. That decision was criticized by her mother who felt retirement was a long way off and that it wasn't necessary because Americans receive Social Security. When her family first arrived in the US, they didn't speak the language. It was a lesson in how to figure things out in the moment and just survive. It took a couple of years before her father began thinking in an entrepreneurial way and on a bigger scale. He went from driving a taxi to starting a bodega business. The bodega enabled Jully to see both her parents work in that environment, build their business, send money home, and contribute to the community. The money lessons she learned from her parents were to be generous and give. But the reality was her father worked a lot to build their life and they didn't see him much. Had he invested more, perhaps they would have been able to see him more. Jully went to school for fashion merchandising and economics. When she got her first job, lifestyle inflation kicked in. Working in the fashion industry required looking good with the latest trends. After accumulating the debt, Jully realized that she was channeling her emotions with her shopping. She was both celebrating and consoling herself with shopping to the point where it became unhealthy. Thankfully she had continued to invest even when the debt was bringing her down. It wasn't until her father became ill that she realized the safety net she had in her parents won't always be there. At that point, she began working to pay off all her debt. Once debt-free, Jully increased her 401K investments to around 20%. Jully notes that when first entering the workforce, you feel that nothing can go wrong, or if it does, you'll just figure it out. But you have to start with the basics. You have to start with the foundation of an emergency fund. Credit card debt is subject to incredibly high-interest rates of 12-30%. With five figures of debt, the compound interest is working against you and it's hard to fig yourself out from under it. To get out from under her credit card debt, Jully had to make significant payments toward it. The key was knowing her survival number. She created a simple chart with eight categories of things you need to come up with a survival number. The categories include housing, food, transportation, and even entertainment. Jully's survival number is $581. The items in her $581 figure are the absolute minimum things she needs to survive and keep her life sane. The reason she can keep her number so low is by house hacking her four-bedroom apartment. With master leasing, she is responsible for the rent each month, but she then uses sub-leases to rent out rooms. She uses Craigslist to market the rooms for lease in her apartment and thinks it is important to find people with similar lifestyles and working schedules which creates a good co-habiting space for everyone. After paying off her debt in 2016, Jully felt an incredible sense of freedom, quit her corporate job, and went to work for herself. She has been inspired and motivated by the financial independence community to use her platform, Investing Latina, to provide resources and stories, to inspire others to do more, increase financial stability, and reach financial independence. Given the struggles that her family faced when they first arrived in this country, Jully speak about building credit and establishing yourself. Jully's conversations with new immigrants start her three pillars, building credit, investing in the stock market, and real estate. The first step is to open a debit account to start establishing relationships with banks. While there is still something of a stigma to talking about money and investing in the stock market in her family and community, Jully is hopeful that it will normalize and influence others. Even having small conversations like, “What are you saving for?” is a little way to get started. As someone who works in fashion, Jully's transition to her survival number she realized her shopping was an addiction. Using Marie Kondo's methods for embracing minimalism, she cleared out her closets to create a capsule wardrobe, focusing on the items that fit well, looked good on her, and were comfortable. RESOURCES MENTIONED IN TODAY'S CONVERSATION Learn about ChooseFI's 3-card cash back strategy Easily find coupon codes and save money when you join Honey Track your real estate portfolio's performance and get your first 90 days of advisory fees waived with Fundrise IF YOU WANT TO SUPPORT CHOOSEFI:   Share FI by sending a friend ChooseFI: Your Blueprint to Financial Independence.  
Oct 11
44 min
259 | Kristi & Big ERN
In our eighth Households of FI touchpoint episodes, Kristi was successfully following the standard path with a six-figure job and keeping up with the Joneses but waiting to take a breath and enjoy life. After finding FI, she realized the money was no longer the goal but simply a tool. Kristi has been connected with Big ERN, from Early Retirement Now, and over several conversations, they discuss Employee Stock Purchase Plans, 401K contribution strategies, the phase of retirement, and more. While wealth accumulation is simple math, decumulation is more complicated so Big ERN created the ultimate safe withdrawal rate series. Some recent changes Kristi has made to her investments since starting her path to FI are moving from a Roth 401K to a traditional 401K and maxing her contributions out. She also moved her current balance and future contributions out of target retirement date fund and into an S&P 500 fund. While Kristi has the option to self-manage her 401K in a Schwab account which would give her access to a total stock market fund, Big ERN doesn't believe that the difference between it and an S&P 500 fund is minor. Expense ratios are a more important consideration. Moving from a 0.2% expense ratio to a 0.02% might be worthwhile, but leaving the money where it is fine when the difference is 0.01% unless it is an in-kind transfer or a quick process. Human Resources may know how long the process is likely to take. Kristi approached her HR department about making after-tax contributions so that she could do a mega-backdoor Roth conversion, but the HR department was not clear on how much she would be allowed to contribute. She found the ChooseFI community to be quite helpful for bouncing ideas off of. She's also interested in her company's Employee Stock Purchase Plan (ESPP). The advantage of it is that she can purchase stock at a 15% discount, but she will pay taxes on the discount and be required to hold the stock for two years. Such a purchase gives her investment a 5% per year boost, however, there's no diversification in purchasing company stock. Kristi's income, bonuses, and employment are all already tied to her company. That being said, Being ERN says he would probably still do the ESPP, although he would only keep two year's worth of money in the plan and then pull it out. After taking it out, it will be subject to long-term capital gains. The ESPP may have contribution limits, in which case she should make the additional contributions to her 401K and then do the backdoor Roth conversions. Big ERN likes to say don't let the tail wag the dog, meaning that asset allocation and expected returns should be the primary concern before tax considerations. Kristi has a difficult time determining exactly how much to contribute as her company does it by percentage and how bonuses are paid out. If she overshoots it, she could miss out on the company match in the last month of two of the year. Big ERN says some companies will do a true-up, or another HR term, where they will still contribute the match. Some who have access to a true-up prefer to contribute the maximum to their 401K at the beginning of the year so that their money is in the market longer. Those without a true-up need to be careful. Big ERN suggested Kristi could look at the minimum and maximum of her salary and bonuses to come up with a range. $19,500 divided by her maximum would give her a rough percentage to start the year with. Toward the end of the year, she will need to look at it again and make adjustments. Kristi also asked about Big ERN's thoughts on the stages of retirement, but she is most interested in the early retirement phase. Retirement is an uneven path. Health expenses may be higher before Medicare kicks in and there will be a boost of income once Social Security is received. How do you structure your withdrawals? What are the tax aspects? Which accounts do you tap into first? And what should the assist allocation be? Big ERN doesn't recommend 100% equities for people in retirement. 75% stocks and 25% bonds is a better allocation. Kristi will likely have to rely on more than just her taxable accounts during the early retirement phase. She could tap into her Roth IRA accounts as well which may get her to 59 1/2 when she could then begin withdrawals from her 401K tax and penalty-free. It's best to spread the tax liability as equally as you can due to our progressive tax system. Although trying to optimize taxes is important, safe withdrawal rate and asset allocation are significantly more so. Not all of the withdrawals in retirement are taxable. Some of the withdraw money is principal, which taxes were already paid on. Good tax planning versus alright tax planning in retirement probably doesn't make a significant difference. Kristi was also curious about when contributing to taxable accounts might be advantageous over continuing to fund retirement accounts for those who want to retire early. Big ERN thinks what there are cases when it might make sense, but for most people who can assume they will be in a lower tax bracket in retirement, it's better to fund retirement accounts. Previously, Big ERN had provided Kristi with a spreadsheet to use for determining cash flow issues before she turns 59 1/2 and model Roth 401K conversions. Kristi says that she has been participating in her company ESPP but hadn't sold any of the company stock until recently. She debated how much to sell and still has a lot remaining. Big ERN suggests that she could sell over a period of time to avoid any regret that might occur with a large price increase. However, there could be commissions associated with selling. As long as she's held it for more than two years, it's all subjective to long-term capital gains or will help with tax-loss harvesting. Low-cost shares with the highest capital gains should be deferred as long as possible. A little tax-arbitrage is the sell the investments with the highest cost-basis and lowest tax bill. Big ERN mentions that a lot of people have loss aversion but sometimes it's best to cut your losses, let it go, and take the tax benefit. Kristi has concerns about HSA rules changing after she's stashed all that money away and paying out-of-pocket for medical expenses. HSAs, however, have a triple tax benefit. there are no taxes paid on contributions, the money grows tax-free and comes out tax-free as long as it's used toward qualified medical expenses. HSA participants can save their receipts and allow the money to grow. Current or previous years' health expenses may be submitted for reimbursement. In the United States, rules tend to be backdated, so that if HSA rules do change in the future, the old rules will likely still apply to the contributions. Still, Big ERN suggests not letting the HSA grow to more than 15% of total net worth. It's important to note that not all target-date funds are the same. The closer the retirement date, the more conservative the fund is going to be. For most people, a total stock market or S&P 500 fund with a low expense ratio is good enough. Taxes shouldn't drive decision making. Make the best moves that impact you over the long-term. Buying a house for the mortgage interest deduction makes no sense for most people with the new higher standard deduction. When it comes to tax deductions, the point isn't o get a deduction just to get a deduction, it's to bring home more income RESOURCES MENTIONED IN TODAY'S CONVERSATION Take control and build your plan for financial independence today with NewRetirement and get 14 days for free ChooseFI Episode 221 Introducing Our Households of FI!! Part 1 ChooseFI Episode 224 Introducing Our Households of FI!! Part 2 Early Retirement Now Check out ChooseFI's review of the Chase Freedom Flex card Invest in low-cost broad based index funds with M1 Finance ChooseFI Episode 035 Sequence of Return Risk | Early Retirement Now ChooseFI Episode 019 JL Collins The Stock Series Part 1 Is an Employee Stock Purchase Plan (ESPP) Better than a Retirement Account? Get on our email list and start on your own path to financial independence IF YOU WANT TO SUPPORT CHOOSEFI:   Share FI by sending a friend ChooseFI: Your Blueprint to Financial Independence.  
Oct 8
1 hr 8 min
258 | Back to Basics Part 2: The Income Side of the Equation
Brad has been taking part in a mastermind group and teaching its members about financial independence. While they understood the “Why of FI”, how to get started wasn't as clear. The Back to Basics series of episodes covers just that, how to get started on the path to FI. The journey to financial independence is not about deprivation. It is about a life of personal choice and abundance. Its starts with understanding your “why” and then setting goals for the next 5, 10, or 15 years. There's a difference between the money you need to pay bills and meet basic needs and discretionary spending. Understanding how much your lifestyle costs is the first step. It can be psychologically difficult to do this first step. It may reveal mistakes, but it's important to be honest with yourself and not beat yourself up over them. We all make mistakes. After knowing what your life costs, what comes next? To calculate your FI number based on your current lifestyle, multiply your monthly expenses by 12 to get your annual expenses. This is how much money you will need each and every year in retirement to cover your expenses. The 4% Rule of Thumb suggests that you can withdraw 4% from your total assets each year to live on and reasonably expect the money to last for the remainder of your life. For example, if you have $1 million in assets, 4% of it is $40,000 that you could withdraw each year. The 4% withdraw rate is adjusted for inflation. To get to your FI number, multiply your annual expenses by 25. $40,000 multiplied by 25 is $1 million. $80,000 in annual expenses, multiplied by 25, results in a FI number of $2 million. Whether starting with a net worth of zero or with some assets, the next step would be determining your current path to your FI number. The point of saving money is not for it to be finally used for a retirement far off in the future. Save to reclaim decades of your life when you can spend time as you see fit. Reframing the goal of saving allows you to reorient and see that saving money is investing in your time. One of the reasons Brad and Jonathan enjoy board games so much may have parallels with financial independence. Both involve iteration and getting better and better at making smarter decisions through gamification. People who win games the most have an intermediate mindset. They understand the limitations balanced with longterm thinking. When looking at income, what is the bare minimum needed to cover your expenses? For a married couple living in Virginia spending $80,000 a year on expenses, they will need to earn an income of $102,000 before taxes and without contributing to savings or retirement. They would pay $9,000 in federal taxes, $5,000 in state taxes, and roughly $8,000 in FICA (social security and medicare taxes), for a total of $22,000 in taxes. When income and expenses are exactly the same, you can never afford to retire. How do you create some space between the two? Expenses are not always fixed. Cars loans come to the end of their terms and student loans are paid off. Add in some cuts to a few other line items in your budget and you might find an extra $1,000. How might that change things? Cutting $1,000 from your monthly expenses reduces your annual expenses and subsequently your FI number by a whopping $300,000. What should you do with that extra $1,000 a month? Putting that savings into a 401K allows that money to begin working for you. In addition, the $1,000 a month going into a 401K becomes a tax deduction and reduces your federal income tax. For the couple in the previous example earning $102,000 per year and bringing home $80,000 after taxes, contributing $12,000 to a 401K doesn't mean they have $12,000 less to spend. With the tax advantages of contributing to a 401K, they will bring home $70,000, only reducing their take-home pay by $10,000. They saved $2,000 in taxes. Since they already have enough money to meet their expenses, that extra $2,000 saved in taxes could go toward a Roth IRA. Part 3 in the Back to Basics series will talk about optimization on both the income and expenses side of things. Our hypothetical couple, starting with a zero net worth, after investing $1,167 a month (totaling $14,000 per year) at an average 8% rate of return, will hit their FI number of $1.7 million in 30 years. RESOURCES MENTIONED IN TODAY'S CONVERSATION ChooseFI Episode 257 Back to Basics: Getting Started With FI Part 1 ChooseFI Episode 132R Insurance | A Framework Easily compare and buy life insurance with PolicyGenius Get started on Fundrise with no advisory fees for 90 days ChooseFI's financial calculators Learn how to get started on your path to financial independence at IF YOU WANT TO SUPPORT CHOOSEFI:   Share FI by sending a friend ChooseFI: Your Blueprint to Financial Independence.  
Oct 4
40 min
257 | Back to Basics: Getting Started with FI
In this ChooseFI Back to Basics episode, we review Health Savings Accounts (HSA). What happens when you need to finally pull money out after funding it year after year? ChooseFI Chief Content Officer, MK, is just weeks away from having her baby. For years, she and her husband, Jason, have been funding separate HSA accounts without making any withdrawals. They now contribute to a family plan HSA and decided it was a good time to test out how complicated the process was to withdraw HSA funds. They discovered some plans are easier than others. The process of withdrawing funds from the fund MK had rolled over to Fidelity was super easy. Jason's was a bit more tricky due to the Health Insurance Portability Accountability Act (HIPPA) compliance laws and auto-reinvest settings. Now that they tested it out, they feel confident they will know what to do in the future. An HSA is a type of investment vehicle that gives you a tax deduction in the current year and helps pay for healthcare-related expenses. Only those participating in qualified in high-deductible healthcare plans are eligible for HSAs. For 2020, the IRS defines a high-deductible plan as one with a deductible of $1,400 for an individual, or $2,800 for a family. the maximum a family may contribute in 2020 is $7,100, and half of that for an individual. The money going into the account isn't subject to income tax and sits in the HSA account until you submit for reimbursement of healthcare expenses. HSA withdrawals for healthcare expenses are also tax-free.The benefit of an HSA is that the money can build and grow over time. Healthcare expenses do not need to be submitted for reimbursement as they are incurred. HSA participants can pay out-of-pocket and wait for years before requesting reimbursement if they choose to. The IRS criteria dos state that the high-deductible plan must be a qualified plan. Check with your company's human resources department to determine if your plan is a qualified one. HSA participants should also understand who their plan is with, what investment options they have, and what the fees are. Based on fees, Fidelity and Lively are two good providers who offer low-cost, board-based investment fund options. The goal is to cash flow medical expenses in your younger years when they are generally lower, funding the HSA with pre-tax dollars and allow them to grow until later in life when healthcare costs begin to increase. There may be additional tax benefits from using your employer's HSA provider rather than Fidelity or Lively. Because you can submit for reimbursement years after the expense was incurred, save your receipts. Brad has a Google doc that lists all of the healthcare expenses he pays out-of-pocket and saves a pdf of the receipt in his Google Drive account. Even if your provider offers a way to upload receipts, you should always maintain your own records and only use the provider's system as a secondary backup. If you change HSA, you could lose your receipts. It is your responsibility to verify to the IRS that you've been using the funds in the HSA appropriately. It makes it easier if you have all of that information maintained in your own cloud-based account. After several years or decades of cash-flowing healthcare, it may be possible to have tens of thousands of dollars of reimbursable expenses that are accessible anytime, tax, and penalty-free whenever it is needed. The final episode in round one of the Households of FI series airs next week. Throughout this series, ChooseFI follows eight diverse households at different points on their path to FI. More exciting news for ChooseFi is the website redesign, expected to launch in the coming weeks. The new website format was designed with your experience and journey to financial independence in mind. The content on the site has been curated so that people looking for specific content can easily find what they are looking for. If you would like to receive a notification when the new website has been launched, go to and an email will be sent to you when it's ready. Brad recently gave a presentation to Dominick Quartuccio's Do Inner Work mastermind group on the Why of FI. Though people seemed to understand the why of FI, there were questions regarding how to get to FI. How does someone go about getting started? It starts with visualizing where you want to be in 10-15 years, what your goals, and what kind of options you'd like to have. If Brad were to go back to when he began his journey, he would have said that there's got to be more to life than what he's experiencing. Life was comfortable, but it felt like Groundhog Day. He could see himself doing it for the rest of his life. The second task when starting on the path to FI is to take an assessment of what your life actually costs. What you earn minus what you spend, equals the gap, or the amount of money you have left to work with. Adding up your structural expenses, recurring monthly bills, unplanned expenses, and then looking at all the little discretionary expenses can be a difficult task. No one should beat themselves up over it. Once added all together, you have a realistic estimate of what your life actually costs. It's not complicated math. ChooseFI Episode 258 airing on Monday will tackle the other side of the equation, the gap, and discover how to affect the outcome. It's the first anniversary of the release of ChooseFI's book! To celebrate, we're giving away the first chapter for free when you go to The weekly book giveaways are back! Winners will be selected from response to Brad's newsletter call for FI wins. This week's winner is Belinda. After tracking her spending for three months, she made a budget and reduced her family's food budget by $900 a month. She's also funding her Vanguard account $500 a month, refinanced her car loan, her husband maxed out his 401K, and she hopes to max out her SEP IRA. She says having control of their money is giving them power back over their lives. RESOURCES MENTIONED IN TODAY'S CONVERSATION Protect your online activity with ExpressVPN and get an extra 3 months free. Find your own unique path to FI with NewRetirement. Get notified when the new ChooseFI website launches! Dominick Quartuccio's Do Inner Work mastermind group ChooseFI Episode 038 The Why of FI ChooseFI Episode 100 Welcome to the FI Community Get the first Chapter of ChooseFI: Your Blueprint For Financial Independence for free! IF YOU WANT TO SUPPORT CHOOSEFI:   Share FI by sending a friend ChooseFI: Your Blueprint to Financial Independence.  
Oct 1
52 min
256 | Double Your Income by Flipping the Second-Hand Market | Flea Market Flippers
How can you recognize the value in the secondhand market, begin optimizing a strategy, and turn it into income? Today's guests, Rob and Melissa Stephenson, the Flea Market Flippers, have built a six-figure business flipping the bargains they find. Rob spent weekends as a child with his parents visiting yard sales. They bought items and then listed them for sale to a bigger market using the newspaper classified section. Rob followed in their footsteps, flipping items as another side job without realizing the full potential of it. Selling used items is no longer a local market. With the launch sites like eBay with 181 million users, the whole world becomes the market. Rob and Melissa's business model capitalizes on larger items, such as commercial exercise equipment or restaurant equipment. They find the items locally from establishments going out of business. They look for the higher retail items which will make them a lot of money. It helps them to work less and make more profit. From their 89 sales last year, they made $80,000. For example, over the summer, they found a 40-inch range that retailed for $4,500. They bought it for $200, brought it home, then sold on eBay for $2,800. Over the last five years, Rob and Melissa have honed their freight skills and can ship very large and heavy items for reasonable prices. While they have become comfortable shipping large items, Rob and Melissa want people to start where they are at. Start with the items in your house, learn the system, how to take photos, how to sell on eBay to slowly build your confidence. The majority of the time, they research an item before buying it. Some things do sell quickly, but other items need time for the right buyer to find them before they sell. There are skill sets involved that make flipping items work: finding the deals, researching prices, making offers, marketing, taking good photos, and shipping. However, Melissa says it's actually a really simple business. There are lots of options for finding items, but Rob's favorite apps are Facebook Marketplace and OfferUp. He will scroll through them for ten minutes while sitting in his LazyBoy at night. There are fewer risks than there were several years ago. Smartphones have made it possible to jump onto eBay to check everything for the last 30-60 days that has sold. It's similar to the MLS with the housing market and looking for comparable properties that recently sold. If you can't find it on eBay, a good rule of thumb for items in good condition is 50% off retail. They no longer do many actions on eBay, opting for Buy It Now and listing for the price they want. Since you can see what an item has sold for the in past, if you want to sell it quickly you can just price it a little bit lower than that. Rob and Melissa sell 85% of their items on eBay and the rest on Facebook Marketplace. They usually cross-post items but eBay is consistently a winner. Fees on eBay are 13%. PayPal processing is 3% and 10% goes to eBay. They believe the opportunity to sell to a larger audience is worth the fee. Taking good pictures is important, with clean photos and nothing in the background. Fancy photography equipment isn't required. They still use their iPhones for everything. Since eBay allows up to 12 photos, you should use all 12 photos. The title for the item is the most important since eBay is essentially a search engine and the searches will come up on Google too. Descriptions are less important and Rob likes to underpromise and overdeliver so people have realistic expectations. Since they already have a good idea of how much it going to cost, they build it into the item cost and offer free shipping. It helps items to sell more quickly and reduce emailing back and forth with the buyer. Rob and Melissa love what they do and already feel like they are retired even if they haven't hit their FI number. Rob spend about 20-25 hours a week on their flipping business. They both like to travel and have a goal of being able to pay for the trip by flipping while on the road. Flipping is something Rob and Melissa are so passionate about that they teach a course. They have two groups they've been teaching, one with no experience flipping, and another group of experienced flippers looking to go freight. Rob and Melissa offer a webinar, which can be found at, and a paid course. RESOURCES MENTIONED IN TODAY'S CONVERSATION Get an increased bonus of 80,000 Ultimate Rewards points with the Chase Sapphire Preferred Improve your writing skills and get a 20% discount on Grammarly Premium Check out Rob and Melissa's webinar IF YOU WANT TO SUPPORT CHOOSEFI:   Share FI by sending a friend ChooseFI: Your Blueprint to Financial Independence.  
Sep 27
37 min
255 | If People Can Do it Then I Can Do it Too | Leslie Tayne Connects with Vivian
Picking back up with the Household of FI series, Vivian is a single mom who found FI in the last year, but initially, it seemed impossible. It wasn't until she was introduced to the ChooseFI podcast and saw real people reaching financial independence that she believed she could do it too. Vivian has been dealing with a number of challenges: a cancer diagnosis, a child custody battle, and caring for parents who have no savings of their own. As a pharmacist, she earns a significant income. She's already managed to pay off $300,000 in student loans in six years and believes she can save $60,000 a year. Vivian has been paired with mentor, Leslie Tayne, also a single mom and attorney who helps people with debt relief. Leslie acknowledges that what Vivian is going through with her separation is one the most challenging times in her life and it is a very emotional experience along with being financially damaging. However, there is a light on the other side and she will come out with more freedom and more control. Because her significant other's mom used to watch her child while she was a work, childcare is a challenge right now. Childcare is expensive and not something you can find discounts on. As an attorney, Leslie helps her clients to fix their financial messes without judgment. She doesn't believe in a debt-free life since life has its ups and downs. Instead, it's okay if being debt-free is not realistic. We should learn to embrace our debt but what is important is how you manage the debt. Due to the separation, Vivian will be selling the house that is entirely in her name. If she makes a profit, she should talk to her tax preparer about qualifying for a capital gains exemption. Vivian is also interested in ways to save for her child's college education to which Leslie offers several options: contributing to a 529 plan, a state pre-pay program, or a regular savings account. There are tax advantages to contributing to a 529 plan over a savings account and should Vivian's child decide to not go to school, the money in the 529 plan may be used for grandchildren or withdrawn with earnings taxed at regular income tax rates. The Texas pre-pay option would allow Vivian to lock in current undergraduate tuition rates and required fees. When it comes to budgeting for groceries, Leslie says that her family mostly eats at home and orders out just once a week. One trick to not overspending at the grocery store is not to take the children with you, shop with a list, don't allow yourself to get distracted, and buy non-perishables in bulk. When you have no choice but to bring your child with you, you can allow them to pick one item so that they can pick something they want without filling your cart with everything they want. It limits your financial exposure when shopping. While eating out, rather than order a kid's meal, share bites of your own meal, and develop a taste for adult foods. Vivian's daughter is not yet attending pre-K schooling, due to the virus but may be able to find reasonably-priced options that give her the option to socialize. Because her significant other has not been cooperative during their separation, all of the attorney costs and other fees have gotten be very expensive. Vivian needs to be as cooperative as possible to limit her financial exposure. Leslie says a good piece of advice is don't marry or get involved with anyone you don't want to be divorced from. It's often advisable to keep finances separate in a relationship and protect any assets with a prenup or postnup because it is very tricky to untangle them should the relationship end. Everyone should look at what deciding to combine finances in a relationship really means and how it impacts things. Brad reviewed the capital gains tax question and said because Vivian has lived there for at least two of the last five years, she would be eligible for up to $250,000 in capital gains tax exclusion. The decisions being made should be ones that will make life better over the long-term. Brad's goal is to set the groundwork for a successful life. Jonathan notes that Vivian doesn't appear to have an issue with her savings rate, instead, she may be at risk of slipping into a deprivation state. To fight this urge, Brad believes we need to have a better idea of what the path looks like for her. As ChooseFI follows Vivian during this study, she will need to better understand her expenses and her FI number. She needs to have a sense of where she is to know where she is going. ChooseFI recognizes that some audience members are just finding and joining us now. ChooseFI is building out a curated path to help you figure out where you are and what information will serve you best. Sign up to receive this information and more at RESOURCES MENTIONED IN TODAY'S CONVERSATION ChooseFI Episode 155 FI for Single Parents The Tayne Law Group Compare life insurance policies with Policygenius Get 80,000 Ultimate Rewards points with the Chase Sapphire Preferred Get back to basics with ChooseFI! IF YOU WANT TO SUPPORT CHOOSEFI:   Share FI by sending a friend ChooseFI: Your Blueprint to Financial Independence.  
Sep 24
57 min
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