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Systematically Increasing Income and Intentionally Decreasing Spending with A Purple Life

The BiggerPockets Money Podcast
45 min read
Systematically Increasing Income and Intentionally Decreasing Spending with A Purple Life

Purple graduated from college and got a job in New York City making $35,000 a year. And spending $35,000 a year. Her net worth was a whopping $5,000. Her partner shared the concept of financial independence with her, but she wasn’t interested.

Two years later, her net worth had grown considerably, but she was still not tracking her spending or paying attention to much of her finances.

So, she took a good look at her money situation and discovered that there were places she could make cuts—yet not really feel them.

She moved across the country, she changed jobs, she asked for raises. And she saved and invested her money.

And her net worth grew to the point that she is retiring before the end of the year and traveling the world—all because she looked at her financial situation and said, “I can do better than that!”

Listen in to hear just how she increased her income and decreased her spending to craft the life she wanted!

Click here to listen on iTunes.

Listen to the Podcast Here

Read the Transcript Here

Mindy: Welcome to the BiggerPockets Money Podcast, show number 110, where we interview Purple from A Purple Life and hear how she systematically increased her income every year while decreasing her spending and boosting her savings and net worth. Purple is set to retire next year, at age 30, so we’ll hear what that looks like to her too.

A Purple Life: And then I realized I still wasn’t fulfilled at that dream job. I still was looking out the window thinking of all the things I could be doing in the world, that I could be seeing. I was like, Okay. I concede. I’ll look into this deeper,” and then I realized my preconceived notions were wrong. It’s not about deprivation. It’s not about giving up your happiness now for later. There’s a balance that can be struck, and so I dove in.

Mindy: Hello. Hello. Hello. My name is Mindy Jensen, and with me, as always, is my stupendous cohost, Scott Trench. Scott and I are here to make financial independence less scary, less just for somebody else, and show you that by following the proven steps you can put yourself on the road to early financial freedom and get money out of the way, so you can lead your best life.

Scott: Wherever you are in your financial or life journey, you can begin rapidly moving towards a position capable of generating a great income, saving a huge percentage of that income, and setting yourself up to make larger and larger investments on your way to financial freedom. Whether you want to retire early and travel the world, go on to make big time investments in assets like real estate, or start your own business, We’ll help you build a financial position capable of launching yourself towards your dreams.

Mindy: Scott, I am so excited that we finally got together with A Purple Life, or Purple from A Purple Life. I have been tag teaming her back and forth, and I am super excited to share her story today, because she has a story of kind of the best of both worlds, significantly increasing her income, while significantly reducing her spending, while not feeling deprived, or feeling left out, or feeling all the other things that everybody says is so bad about financial independence.

Scott: Yup. A great, great story here, a very repeatable story. I mean, she starts out making $35,000 in Manhattan, New York city. I clarify that, because I know someone who lives in Manhattan, Kansas, which has a very different expense profile than Manhattan, New York. But for the vast majority of people who know that I’m referring to Manhattan, it’s a very expensive place, and making $35,000 a year in 2012 is not very much, and just an incredible effort on every major front from A Purple Life to be able to retire by 30 years old.

Mindy: Yes. What struck me the most about this episode is the fact that she wasn’t afraid to leave a job to get a higher paying job. I think a lot of people have heard the advice, the career advice, don’t job hop. Stay at a job for two years, so it looks like you are dedicated and all of that, but at one point in the show she says, “I left this job, because it was a toxic experience and my health was suffering.” Absolutely give her so many kudos just for leaving, because it’s so easy to say, “Well, I don’t have anything else. I don’t have any money.” It’s easy to feel so beat down during that time that you don’t even have the energy to go look for another job.

Scott: Yup. Absolutely. I mean, that’s a huge part of the equation here, and really the focal point I think of this episode is really she made choices on the expense front of course that made a huge impact, but it’s really the career advancement that she got there, and I think there’s a lot of take away from that.

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Mindy: Okay. Huge thanks to the sponsor of today’s show, Purple from A Purple Life. Welcome to the BiggerPockets Money Podcast. I’m so excited that we finally connected. When I say finally connected, that makes it sound like it was your fault, when it was 100% my fault, so apologies for that. But I’m so glad we are finally able to connect. How are you today?

A Purple Life: I’m wonderful. How are y’all doing?

Mindy: We’re doing great. I’m so excited to hear your story, because when I looked at your overview, it seems like you weren’t really paying attention to finances in the beginning of your employment career, but then something switched and you decided to start paying attention to it. Once you started paying attention to it, all of a sudden your net worth grew, I would say exponentially. So, let’s get into your money story. Where does it start, and how did you get to where you are today?

A Purple Life: Well, my money story starts when I was a kid and I was originally being raised by a single mom. I knew that we didn’t have a lot, but we weren’t struggling necessarily. But what was really great is that my mom has always been open about money with me. So, in the beginning, I was paid $1 per chore, and when I went to collect, she gave me 70 cents. I was like, “This isn’t what we agreed to,” and she’s like, “Oh. You know, taxes and social security.” I said, “What’s that? No. Where’s my money going?” So, from a young age I was learning stuff about finances already. Then my mom got remarried when I was eight. I had been stuffing away all of my chore money, and I actually became a bank for my step siblings, and my stepbrother still owes me $50, so with interest I feel like I’m a millionaire, but I just need to get my hands on that money that he owes me. I’ll bring it up next time I see him.

Mindy: Yeah, Bob.

A Purple Life: Right? Bob. I also just found money fascinating. My aunt and uncle lived abroad for a lot of my childhood, and then when they asked me what I wanted them to bring me, they’re like, what a weird kid, because I asked them to bring me foreign currency from where they were living. I just found it really cool. Then I would see my mom paying her bills and balancing her checkbook, back when that’s what we did, and I was like, “Can you teach me how to do that?” So, then I started paying her bills at like 12 years old, because I found it fun. So, a straight up weirdo from the beginning. I always just found money really interesting and the fact that it’s pieces of paper that we agreed have a certain amount of meaning and it’s just about trust. It’s really strange.

Mindy: So, what did your balance sheet look like going into high school and college? Did you work in high school, and did you work in college? Did you go to college? I guess I should ask that question first.

A Purple Life: I did go to college. I worked in high school as a receptionist for my high school actually. Then in college, my mom actually told me, maybe I’d even say forbid me from working, because she wanted me to really focus on my grades and getting through everything, which is fair, because my partner did work during that time, and it does make things a little harder when you have less time to focus on your studies. So, my money in high school, I made a couple thousand dollars. It wasn’t wild. I just used that to go to movies with my friends and all that stuff.

A Purple Life: Then in college, my mom would give me like 20 bucks a month or something, so I can go out, since I don’t have a job. But since I didn’t have any income, I just squirreled it away, like 99% of it. So, when she said, “Oh. Do you need more money?”, I was like, “No. I’m good. I have all of it that you gave me before, 20 bucks a month.” She’s like, “Are you not living your best life? What are you doing?” “There’s nothing to do. I’m studying, I don’t care about going out to eat. It’s fine, and also this is my little emergency fund. I don’t have any income.” So, that’s what my money story looked like coming out of college. With all that high school money and saved from college I had about $5,000. That’s when I moved straight from the graduation line actually to Manhattan and started my first job the day after graduation.

Scott: Did you have any debt whatsoever?

A Purple Life: I did not. I was really lucky. My mom has never really spent lavishly on anything, except for her children’s education. I actually asked her not to pay for my college education. I went to a private school, very expensive, but she wanted to. I think that had to do with she actually got into a really prestigious college and wasn’t able to go because of finances. That’s what I suspect, but when she hears this, she’ll be like, “That’s not why.”

Mindy: You have to let us know what she said. I’m going to correct you. The next time somebody says, “Do you need money?”, you say yes. If somebody wants to give you money, you allow them to give you money.

A Purple Life: No. There’s so much guilt associated with it, even 10 years later. She could have retired. She did retire at 55, but she could’ve retired at like 50 or less if she hadn’t paid for my college probably.

Mindy: Okay. I’m going to correct you again. Mindy and Purple fight the whole time.

A Purple Life: Let’s do it.

Mindy: She retired at 55. I don’t know if you’ve read the internet, but people are not retiring anymore. They can’t retire. They’re having to work until the day they die. So, the fact she retired and 10 years early is amazing. She chose to put you through college. It’s a gift. Just say thank you.

A Purple Life: I am saying thank you, and that’s also one of the reasons I’m trying so hard to retire soon, so I do have more time to spend with her, since she did give me that gift that definitely cut years off of my working career.

Mindy: That’s a huge gift she gave you. Okay. So, thanks to mom … Purple Mom, you are the best ever. So, okay. So, you just graduated from college, and you went from the graduation line to … I’m sorry. I missed that.

A Purple Life: Manhattan.

Mindy: To Manhattan. Okay. So, Manhattan is super cheap to live, so you were just able to save, save, save.

A Purple Life: Exactly. Super easy life.

Mindy: Yeah.

A Purple Life: No. I started my first job at an ad agency downtown. I was living in a one room of a house at the very last stop of the A-Train, the Northern most tip of Manhattan, the farthest you can go. I was making $35,000 and paying that rent. Then a couple months later I moved in with my partner and a roommate slightly further downtown for a lot more rent, and so I was spending I think it was $1,500 a month, which it takes a lot out of my little 35,000, especially taking in to account the very highest state and city taxes on top of federal that New York has. So, I was scrounging. I ate a lot of literally beans and rice, lots of spaghetti, didn’t go out to eat for I think at least six months at all, but we made it work.

A Purple Life: After about a year, I actually quit, because it was a really toxic environment and it was taking a toll on my health. My partner and my mom were like, “Nothing’s worth this. Just quit. You’ll find something else.” I was like, “It’s my first job. I don’t know. I have no skills.” But I quit and hilariously, after I gave my two weeks notice and it was my first Monday of freedom, I got a call when I was on the elliptical at 9:00 AM saying I have a job, which was a promotion, and it was for 48K.

Mindy: Wow.

A Purple Life: Yeah.

Mindy: I want to just double back and hear you say that again. I quit, because it was a toxic situation, and nothing is worth that. I have a job that is not toxic at all. I love it very much, but I have worked wherever that job was that you worked, where it was horrible, and every day you dreaded going in. If you are listening to this show and you have a job that gives you ulcers and stress and causes all sorts of shenanigans in your life, start looking for a new one. You have Purple’s permission, you have my permission, and you have Scott’s permission, even though he hasn’t even chimed in yet, to get a job that makes your heart sing every single day. Okay.

Scott: Yes. I totally agree with that. With your $35,000 a year job that was toxic, how long were you there for, again?

A Purple Life: A year.

Scott: A year. Okay. And were you able to save up any, accumulate any wealth during that period, or did you have to take on debt, or what did you come out of that year with financially?

A Purple Life: So, one of the great things that my mom instilled in me was to invest as soon as possible. She actually didn’t start investing at all in stocks until she was 30 years old. Then she’s still retired at 55. So, she told me like, “You have a job now. Start going into your 401k.” I had no idea what funds to use. She was actually using a slightly sketchy financial advisor at the time, and he gave me less than ideal advice, but the tax savings on that 401k still did help me. So, at the end of that one year, I had $20,000 saved, mostly just in that 401k, somehow. The market was obviously going wild and coming back on an upswing. But, yeah. I didn’t really do anything, and yet I still saved some money in wild New York.

Scott: So, you made $35,000, you spent $1,500 a month in rent, which is 18,000, which leaves you with 17,000 leftover, and because the market went up, you were able to still invest and generate $20,000 in wealth by the end of that year. What year was this?

A Purple Life: 2012. That’s total 20,000. So, I left college with five, so really at 15,000 saved. Yeah.

Scott: Awesome. So, you probably saved up a few thousand dollars and made a big return on a lot of that as well.

A Purple Life: Exactly.

Scott: Okay. Great. All right. So, things change. You go from 35,000 to 48,000. You start that job immediately upon transitioning effectively. What happens for you next?

A Purple Life: Then about 10 months later, I actually got laid off, which is very common in ad agencies. Churn is real. In fact, if people are somewhere for more than two years, they’re like, “Why are you still here? What’s going on?” It’s so common for people to come and go. So, I got laid off, and I had actually already been talking to a friend of mine that was the receptionist at the first job that moved into recruiting. She’d called me saying, “So, I think this job works for you.” It was a promotion. It was 65K, and I was like, “Oh. I don’t know if I’m ready for another promotion.” I roll my eyes at myself now. Imposter syndrome is real. I interviewed for it. I got it. Then hilariously, three weeks later, I got laid off again.

Scott: Oh, man. Oh, wow.

Mindy: Wait. They hired you and then laid you off three weeks later?

A Purple Life: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Mindy: Okay.

A Purple Life: Ad agencies. So fun. But it all worked out, because I had had coffee with a woman that knew my cousin from a Portland ad agency actually. All about networking. I emailed her like, “You won’t believe what just happened. I just started at X agency and they laid me off after three weeks.” She’s like, “What? Do you want to come to my agency?” I was like, “Oh. Okay.” then she was the one I negotiated with, so I was like, “I want 65K. I want this title,” that I had just gotten the promotion for. She’s like, “Oh. We’ll see what we can do.” then I stayed at that agency for a year and a half, or a little under two years, and I actually changed roles within that agency, because, once again, it was toxic, but I felt comfortable asking, “Can I go to another client, even though you hired me for this client? Because they’re the worst.” And she said yes. So, I got a much better environment. Then I also got a slight raise to 68K. That’s when I decided to go for my financial independence actually.

Scott: Okay. Great. So, this is a turning point it sounds. You discovered by around this time, after your year and a half to two year stint at the third agency or the fourth …

A Purple Life: There’s a lot of them.

Scott: What’s your balance sheet, as you mentioned earlier? What is your situation, in terms of wealth, at this time, and what year are we at?

A Purple Life: So, going all the way back, we got the second job at … it was 2012. I had a net worth of about $20,000. then I got that 65K job in 2013, and I had $30,000. this is still not intentional saving, still doing the 401k. I rolled it over. Then in 2014, I got that slight raise to 68K, and I had a net worth of about $50,000. That’s when I decided to go for financial independence. I actually learned about it two years before that from my partner, and I am sad to say that I ignored him for two years. But when I did get that less toxic job, where I was making 68, I actually thought it was my dream job, because I had a complete checklist of what that dream job would be, and it hit all the marks, I still didn’t want to get up on Monday and go to work. So, I was like, “Okay. Maybe this alternative, financial independence, retire early thing is something I should look into.”

Scott: Love it. So, so can you walk us … start us from the beginning of the discussions with your partner? How did that transpire at first? And it sounds like you didn’t listen. Can you walk us through that?

A Purple Life: Yes. So, he actually learned about FIRE from Reddit. He was on r/personalfinance subreddit, and then that led him to the financial independence subreddit. I’m pretty sure he just sent me a link to either that or a early post from Mr. Money Mustache. Back then, there weren’t as many FIRE blogs at all, and a lot of them looked very similar, white male programmers basically. Then I read a couple of posts from Mr. Money Mustache, and he was talking about punching people in the face for doing stupid stuff with their money. I was like, ah, what? Sorry, Pete. I love you. Very, very nice to meet you that one time. But it wasn’t the best introduction for me, and I was kind of taken aback. I was like, “What is this? I don’t want to not spend money. Why not? I just earned it. I’m in Manhattan, like shouldn’t I be living my best life, as they say?” So, yeah, it didn’t hit me the right way, and I didn’t give it a fair shot as a result, so that’s on me.

A Purple Life: Then two years later, when I had already told myself, “I just need that dream job. They’re wrong. I just need to be happy at work, like everyone says, and then everything will be perfect, and I’ll want to keep working until I’m 55, like my mom, and then I’ll retire early, and it’ll be fine. Why do I need to speed up the timeline?” Then I realized I still wasn’t fulfilled at that dream job. I still was looking out the window thinking of all the things I could be doing in the world, that I could be seeing. I was like, “Okay. I concede. I’ll look into this deeper.” Then I realized my preconceived notions were wrong. It’s not about deprivation. It’s not about giving up your happiness now for later. There’s a balance that can be struck. And so I dove in.

Scott: Love it. So, I have two lessons from your story here. Right? One is if you’re trying to convince your partner to pursue FIRE, don’t position it as face punching or any other kind of big negative. Don’t paint their current outlook or the way that most people do it as ridiculous in there, because you’re likely to turn folks off. Then two, if your partner is not on board with things and you’re just patient and politely bring up the subject from time to time without pressing it, you may create a change down stream or find that they will come around to it downstream. What do you think about that? Are those fair takeaways from this?

A Purple Life: I think that’s completely fair. I do know that our situation is a little unique, because we don’t combine our finances at all, so I understand that he was patient, because it wasn’t like I was spending wildly while he was trying to save and retire early. He was really like, “No. I just gave you some advice, and if you don’t take it, I’m still going to do this, so it’s cool.” I know that can be hard when you have combined finances like that.

Scott: No. It makes perfect sense. All right. So, what changes in 2014 when you decided to go after it?

A Purple Life: Well, our first thing was that I looked at my biggest expenses, which were Manhattan rent and also, I didn’t know at the time, but taxes. Then we created a spreadsheet of where we should move based on a couple of criteria, salaries, overall cost of living, standard of living, whether access to public transit. I’ve never owned a car. I’m never planning on it. Access to international airports, that kind of stuff. Seattle won.

Scott: So, was this a discussion, or was this like a research project?

A Purple Life: Both?

Scott: Fair. Okay. Did you list out criteria and make a spreadsheet or something?

A Purple Life: Oh, yeah. It’s color coded. It’s beautiful.

Scott: Awesome. All right. So, you create this research project, spreadsheet with your partner about where to live, which is awesome, by the way, and you settle on Seattle. Love it.

A Purple Life: Exactly. And we settled in Seattle, because we realize that the salaries are about the same as New York, which I had no idea about, and the cost of living is about half. Then when we got here, we basically reduced our rent, in so much that we went from a studio apartment to a lovely one bedroom and saved about a little over $600, $1,000 a year, almost $7,000 a year just with that. Then with the state and city tax savings, that’s was over $10,000 a year. So, just with those two changes I went from spending about $35,000 in New York to about $18,000, and that’s where I am now.

Scott: One of the things that I think people who live in New York love about New York is the amount of things to do and the spending on those types of things. I’m gathering that those were not important to you. Is that right? You weren’t going out all the time and dropping 100 bucks on brunch or whatever it is those New Yorkers do?

A Purple Life: I actually was doing those things.

Scott: All right. Fair enough. Good. I’m glad I asked.

A Purple Life: Not $100 on brunch, though, well, probably close, because those bottomless brunches can get pricey. But I absolutely love eating, and so I used to spend hundreds of dollars a month on just eating out. I rarely cooked. I would buy lunch out, breakfast, and then I also want fancy dinners, like restaurant week was huge for me, and I think those are like at least 50 bucks a pop before drinks, or taxes, or anything like that, tip.

Scott: Okay. So, your main expenses were rent and food then?

A Purple Life: Yup.

Scott: Well, I’m just wondering how you were able to save so much on so little if you weren’t cutting back on food. Was there basically nothing else that was a major contributor to your expenses?

A Purple Life: So, I did cut back on food. When we left New York, I started seeing that my food budget or my eating out budget was decreasing, because I did start teaching myself to cook. So, I went from like hundreds of dollars a month to in 2015 I averaged 175, 2016, 140, 2017, $50 a month, 2018 it was 60, and last year it was 57, so it just kept going down, down, down as my skills got better. I also started eating keto, and that made me realize that I can get a lot more meat and fat at home for a lot less, and I actually prefer it, because I’m a serious introvert, so having a dinner party is my dream, instead of meeting 20 people at a restaurant sounds kind of like a nightmare. So, that was something I decreased kind of unintentionally. I didn’t have that goal, because going from $200 to $50 a month, it’s not a huge change.

A Purple Life: The other thing I changed was my phone bill. I used to have an iPhone and pay $90 a month for that privilege. Then I switched to Republic Wireless. At that time, they were $15 a month, and nothing changed in my life. I just had to learn an Android, which was fairly simple, but that was fairly big savings. But other than that, no. I didn’t really change much. It was just that move across the country. I have possibly.

Mindy: I’d say a better life for a lot less money. How does your quality of life diminish? Because clearly if you’re not doing all of the things, then you’re having a horrible life. I really liked what you said. It’s not about deprivation, and it doesn’t sound like you’re depriving yourself. You just don’t pay all that rent. Right? I mean, I don’t want to diminish your changes, but you haven’t made any big changes, I mean, except moving across the country. I guess some people might-

A Purple Life: So small.

Mindy: … some people might think that’s a big change. I’ve actually moved a ton in my life, and that’s no big deal for me, but actually, I do have a hard time relating to people who have lived in the same place forever and they’re like, “Oh. I could never move.” It’s like, “I moved Tuesday, and I’m going to move next Tuesday. I just move all the time.” So, that’s awesome. You’re making more money by following your passion, and following your bliss, and getting rid of these toxic workplaces. What year are we up to now? 2015?

A Purple Life: We are up to 2015.

Mindy: Okay. So, what happened in 2015?

A Purple Life: Oh, goodness. What did happen? 2015.

Mindy: Consult your spreadsheet. Anytime anybody ever says, “Oh. So, I made a spreadsheet,” I smile, because that’s like the theme with every guest we’ve ever had. I think there’s been two that didn’t do spreadsheets, and everybody else is like, “I put every bit of my life into a spreadsheet, and it’s great. I can analyze all sorts of things.” I know you listening are thinking the same thing. “I do that too.”

A Purple Life: No. I do love my spreadsheets. I have way too many of them. They bring me joy.

Mindy: No. You don’t. You have just the right amount.

A Purple Life: So, 2015. We were packing up to leave New York. We decided on Seattle. My partner had actually never visited before. He had only been to San Diego on the West Coast, so this was about to be interesting.

Mindy: Oh. They’re slightly different cities.

A Purple Life: Just the literal opposite in the US. I was trying to find a job in Seattle while still in New York, which I had heard is difficult. But I had already quit my job a couple months before we were leaving, just so I could get everything ready, and packed, and give away most of our stuff, and move it, and all that. I was extremely lucky that for the first time in my life I applied to a place online, they got back to me, and then they hired me over Skype.

Mindy: Yay.

Scott: All right.

A Purple Life: It was ridiculous. That job I asked for 85, and I got it.

Scott: Wonderful. So, a huge raise-

Mindy: Wow.

Scott: … moving across the country with that.

A Purple Life: Yes indeed. So, by the end of 2015 we had just settled in Seattle. I was still at that 85K job, and my net worth hit $90,000. This is after I am trying to max out my 401k. I’m trying for the first time to have a traditional IRA and max that. I think I did max it the first year. Then if I have anything left over, I was starting to squirrel it away in taxable accounts as well, so it’s starting to get serious.

Scott: Love it. So, all right. That explains the asset allocation, the income, and the expenses. All right there. So, how did things go the next couple of years?

A Purple Life: So, 2016, about the same. In June of that year, I got laid off. Big shocker. Here we go.

Scott: Oh, no.

A Purple Life: It happens, guys, so often. Actually, I was about to quit, so I was really happy about that.

Mindy: That’s really great.

A Purple Life: Mm-hmm (affirmative). I was super happy. So, I think I took a couple of months off. I was just chilling and traveling around for awhile. But then November of that year, I got my current job, and I started at 103. At the end of 2016 I had $137,000. Then this is when my spending in 2017 finally hit its current level, which is 18,000. In 2016, it was about 22. By the end of 2017, with that 103 job, my net worth hit $234,000. In 2018, I got a slight raise and started making 106. By the end of the year, even though we had that little correction, I was at $280,000. Then this, or not this year, in 2019, I got another slight raise to $110,000, and at the end of the year … Uh-oh. My spreadsheet is not up-to-date. One moment. How embarrassing. At the end of 2019, I had $448,000. As of this recording, I’m at 466,000.

Mindy: Okay. So, I just want to rewind back to 2012. Your net worth was $20,000, and in seven years your net worth went from $20,000 to $448,000 simply by not giving up anything that was important to you, making a conscious decision to live in a place that did not cost $15,000 a year in extra taxes and rent, and you’re still as happy as you were then, I’m assuming. That’s kind of a-

A Purple Life: Happier.

Mindy: … leading question. Happier, because you have $448,000 in the bank at the end of last year, and then it’s January, so there’s a nice little bump up.

Scott: Well, let me ask you this. The big story here to me is your income tripling over this time period. Right? That’s I think what allowed you to accumulate the hundreds and thousands of dollars in excess of what you were accumulating the first couple of years, even with the new focus on FI. You started your career at $35,000 a year in Manhattan, which is not a high income I imagine in that line of work. Is your career track what you would consider repeatable for other folks, or, and it’s fair to say either way on this, do you think you’re an exceptional performer that really crushed it here?

A Purple Life: I don’t think I’m exceptional, and I do think it’s repeatable, if you are willing to take some risks. Half of the time I did get laid off, so I was kind of forced out of the nest, but the other half I quit. I quit even when I had what I thought was my dream job to move across the country, so that was terrifying, to be honest. I didn’t know if I would be happy across the country. I didn’t know if I would find a job I enjoyed. I didn’t know anything, but I tried it.

A Purple Life: Then, also, I’ve always loved doing research, a lot of research, before any job interview, so I know what the market rate for promotion is. I know what it’s supposed to be in different cities, and so I asked for it. I’m very strict with if someone comes back and says, “Oh, well. Well, actually that’s out of our range,” I say, “Okay, but I’m going to move on. Thank you for telling me.” So, I don’t waste my time, if they can’t meet me where I know I should be making that money. Then obviously all the job hops help a lot. Most of my friends are still at their same comfy job, not taking risks, which is fine, but then they complain to me that they can’t save any money, because they’re making the same amount that they did five years ago. So, yeah. I think it’s definitely repeatable, if you want to take that risk.

Scott: Let me ask you this. The first year you were able to save about 15 grand-ish on top of your five that you came out of college with, and that was at the $35,000 a year job. Were you more comfortable than maybe your peers working the same line of work, because you had been able to save up money on that? Do you think that influenced your decision, or maybe you saw that your peers were living paycheck to paycheck and too scared to make that leap?

A Purple Life: I don’t think I did at that point, just because I think all of that money was in my 401k, besides the $5,000, so I didn’t really feel like it was something I could tap into.

Scott: Great point.

A Purple Life: But maybe subconsciously, because I didn’t see anyone else quitting that toxic job. Some of the people I worked with are still there, so maybe it did subconsciously. I just didn’t realize it.

Scott: Awesome. Do you think that it is impacting your ability to be so easy to change jobs in the years following, the fact that you’ve built up a very solid financial position?

A Purple Life: Definitely. It definitely did. Me being willy-nilly or happy about being laid off when my colleagues are terrified, that’s huge. I did have think it was hundreds of thousands, or at least a hundred thousand, dollars saved with those later layoffs, where I was like, “I’m just going to travel for a few months. See you whenever. It’ll be fine,” and my colleagues were scrambling and taking the first job that was offered to them or taking the first salary that was offered to them, because they were afraid and didn’t have that emergency fund. Definitely.

Scott: All right. Hope you’re enjoying the show. We’ll be right back after a word from today’s show sponsor.

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Mindy: Okay. So, for people that are listening, you just said you really like to do research and you know what a job pays. What are some tips for asking for a raise, and where do people go to do this research? Because just, “Hey, I want to raise,” is a terrible way to ask for a raise. I know that, but what is a good way to ask?

A Purple Life: So, I actually don’t usually ask for raises, just to give that background. I’ve gotten them at this job simply by saying, “Hey. This is my performance review. It looks like I’m checking all the boxes. We have a matrix. I’m doing really well. I think we should talk about a raise,” but I don’t think that’s the perfect way to go about it. Also, I don’t actually … I don’t want to say I don’t care, but I don’t. I’m not staking my financial future on the little 2% raises that they’re willing to give me for a lot of work, so I don’t think I’m the perfect person to give that kind of advice. But I do think I have some good tips for if you are looking for a completely new job and looking for that completely new amount of money.

A Purple Life: Where I go to do research on those kinds of things Glassdoor.com, which is amazing, not just for salary brackets, because it’s crowdsourced from actual people that work there, but also for reviews of different companies. So, in the interview process, you can see if there’s some serious red flags and it’s a place that might be toxic and you don’t want to work. Indeed.com also has some pretty good salary information, PayScale.com. Then really just playing the game when you’re interviewing. So, I never have told people my previous salary. It’s actually illegal to ask that in New York now, because it usually holds a lot of people back, women and people of color specifically, of which I am both. So, yeah. Just playing the game, not letting them set a base minimum based on your previous salary, turning around on them if you can. “What salary are you looking for?” “Well, what’s the range for the position?” That kind of thing.

Mindy: Yeah. I’ve definitely fallen victim to that, that question, “What salary are you looking for?” “Oh. I’m looking for this,” and they’re like, “Oh. We were going to pay you 10,000 more, but we’ll throw you a bone and go to your top level, which is still like 8,000 less than what we were going to pay.” Yeah. So, that’s great advice. Doing the research is definitely … and I’d heard of Glassdoor, but I hadn’t heard of PayScale. I didn’t know Indeed had that actual information on the sites, so that’s good to know.

Scott: Well, if I want to make $110,000 a year in digital advertising I believe, how does one get started in this career? Do you need a major with that, or is that-

A Purple Life: You don’t need a major. I went to liberal arts college, so we didn’t have anything like communications or advertising as major options. The one thing that seemed to be required across the board, if you want to start at ad agencies, is that you need an internship, and to need an internship you need to know somebody, which is extremely annoying. But my college had a pretty extensive alumni network that worked in ad agencies and marketing, and so I emailed all of them, and I followed up every week until most of them got back to me and agreed to have a quick 30 minute call where I can pick their brain. Thank you so much, blah, blah, blah. I was surprised that a lot of people are very willing to help. They’re very busy, so I do have to email them multiple times, but they’re willing to help. One of those people I emailed is actually the CEO of the first ad agency I ever worked at in New York, and she forwarded me to the HR department, and they got me into their internship program after I interviewed.

Scott: No, I just asked, because your trajectory and tripling your income in seven years is remarkable, and it seems like this is not a dead end career. This is a career that has a lot of upside, that has a lot of potential, and one that I haven’t heard of anyone on any of our previous shows going through to get to six figures so quickly. So, thank you for sharing all that.

A Purple Life: Of course.

Mindy: Okay. So, what’s going on in the future? What’s your next step?

A Purple Life: Next step is to try and to not rage quit. No. I’m kidding. The next step is to retire. September 25th is the plan.

Mindy: September 25th of this year?

A Purple Life: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Mindy: Oh. What does retirement look like? Sitting on the beach sipping Margaritas? Playing video games?

A Purple Life: For a little bit. Yes. I have promised to keep posting weekly on my blog for at least a year, so blogging will be a part of it. I’m taking a retirement and victory lap with my mom. So, I quit on the 25th, or rather the 25th is my last day. Then I fly to Long beach to celebrate at FinCon, aka my retirement party.

Mindy: Woohoo.

Scott: Fun.

A Purple Life: And then I’m flying from LAX to Australia, New Zealand for six weeks and just traveling around, seeing the Great Barrier Reef and all that wonderfulness before it’s gone. Then I am flying back to New York quick to say hi to my partner and then going to Argentina for a month. Then we’re at the end of the year. We’ll see what happens.

Scott: Awesome. What are the numbers that are associated with that retirement?

A Purple Life: ,So I currently, like I said, spend about 18,000 a year. I’m projecting that I’ll spend 20,000 retirement to give a little buffer there. We’ll see if that’s accurate, because there’s a lot of guesstimates. We are planning to move about every three months, after this whole retirement victory lap is over, between domestic US places and global places. So, as far out as we have planned, in February of 2021, I’m going to spend a month in Thailand, so that’ll help balance out my costs from when I’m going to Australia, New Zealand, and then also Argentina will help balance that out. But that’s the plan for now. We’re going to be vagabonds.

Scott: Awesome.

Mindy: You say we. Is that you and your mom or you and your partner?

A Purple Life: Great question. Little bit of both, mostly me and my partner. He’s currently on a sabbatical, so we’re trying to figure out what his next step is. Hopefully a remote job, but if not, it’ll be more like me shuttling back and forth between different locations, and seeing him, and staying in our new apartment, wherever that may be. So, it’s a little up in the air, but we know that we’re at least leaving this specific apartment at the end of July. I actually just booked a place in a different neighborhood in Seattle for us to live for the month of August, so the nomad life begins.

Scott: Awesome.

Mindy: That’s really exciting. Like we said way back on I think it was episode 11, what’s the worst that could happen? The worst that could happen is your portfolio decreases enough that you have to go back and get a job. So, your worst case scenario is everybody else’s everyday life. What a hardship. Internet retirement police, if they come after you, because you decided to go back to work, back off, IRP. Back off. She can do what she wants. It’s her life. She’s living her best life.

Scott: for those listening, the internet retirement police are a make fun of name for all those people who say, “They’re not retired. This isn’t allowed. This isn’t correct. The $18,000 …” No. Purple is retiring, and she did it starting from $35,000 a year in Manhattan and made conscious choices over the last seven years, I guess through through eight years, to put herself in that position at 30 years old?

A Purple Life: Yup.

Scott: There you go.

Mindy: I am not 30.

Scott: I’ll be 30 next year when you retire too.

Mindy: I am not 30 and did not retire when I was 30. I was a stay at home mom for a while, but I’m working now because I choose to, and the internet retirement police are welcome to email me at [email protected] I would love to delete your emails. You know what? This is my best life. I get to teach people about money in real estate all day long, and it is fantastic. I just got the best letter from this woman who said that listening to other people being frugal weirdos is so helpful to her to get over the-

Scott: Frugal weirdos?

Mindy: Yeah. She’s like, “Yeah. We never spent any money. We didn’t have a nice car, and we had a really crappy car, and I don’t want to spend money on a car, because it’s not important to me.” Then don’t. You have my permission to not spend money on anything that you don’t want to spend money on. It’s your money. Personal finance is personal. You get to make the choices that work best for you. We’re just encouraging you to see another side of it. Look, you can make $106,000 a year and then spend every single dime, but there’s another way to do it. You can earn $106,000 a year and spend $18,000 a year feeling not deprived, doing everything you want to do, and then you get to retire slightly ahead of schedule. What is this, 35 years ahead of schedule?

A Purple Life: Just a little bit. Yeah.

Mindy: I think that’s pretty good.

A Purple Life: It’s not bad.

Mindy: Not bad. I think that’s pretty flipping amazing. We need to have your mom on too.

A Purple Life: Oh, goodness. She’d freak out. I’ll ask her if you want.

Mindy: Yes, please. Okay, Purple. Is there anything else you’d like to talk about before we move on to the famous four?

A Purple Life: I’d love to talk about the wonders and possible downsides of remote work, which I’ve been doing for the last three years, and which my partner has done for eight.

Mindy: Oh. Oh. I didn’t know you were working remotely. Okay. Yeah. No. That’s great. I have some to share, because my husband worked remote for a long time. Well, how did you get your remote job?

A Purple Life: So, I actually did not know when I applied that it was remote and since have encouraged HR to make that very prominent in the job postings, because it’s obviously a huge benefit.

Mindy: Well, not only is it a huge benefit, but some people would find it to be a detractor. I know some people just aren’t comfortable working from home. They can’t function working from home. They don’t actually do any work from home. So, yeah. I can’t believe they wouldn’t put that in there.

Scott: Well, and you applied for the position and moved to Seattle for the job to find out that it was remote? Is that what I’m hearing?

A Purple Life: Oh, no. That was a separate job. That was the job right before this one.

Scott: Okay. Good. Yeah. I was like, wait a second. That’s a huge part of the story.

A Purple Life: That would [crosstalk 00:48:34] pretty funny.

Scott: Okay. Nevermind.

A Purple Life: I’m moving back.

Scott: Okay, fair enough. Well, tell us about work or about how you’re making it work?

A Purple Life: So, I never realized that this was actually a real option. I didn’t know anyone that worked remotely, besides my partner, and he was part of basically a remote company. So I thought if it’s a remote company, cool, but otherwise, this isn’t really possible, especially in marketing. But that is not the case, and my company actually tries to cater to both the people that can and are more productive working from home and those that are not. So, we actually do have a coworking space downtown that you can go to if you want to, and some people choose to everyday, because that’s more motivational for them.

A Purple Life: Me, on the other hand, I have always found the open office, glass wall, weird spaces that ad agencies seem to think are so cool to be really distracting. I just want to get my work done, put my head down, and crank it out, and so I usually would have headphones in. They’re like, “Oh, no. Purple, why aren’t you hanging out with us?” I’m like, “Because I’m trying to get my work done. People are laughing, and talking, and all this stuff. Also, just being around that many people, I’m a serious introvert, so it would just be so draining to be smiling all the time. I am happy, but if I have to actively be smiling and looking excited, it was so tiring.

A Purple Life: So, when I first started working remotely, I was like, “This is sensational. Not only do I save commute time and time trying to look professional, quote unquote, packing my lunch every day, everything, I also just get way more done, because I don’t have any distractions. I can literally turn off my email and no one can pop by my cubicle to ask me just one quick thing, and it’s amazing. So, my productivity has gone through the roof. My stress levels have plummeted. My energy has increased just a little bit, because my job, I still am required to work late often, but it’s so much better working late when my partner’s in the background making dinner, instead of me being in an empty office, feeling like I’ve chosen career over my loved ones or whatever, my crises that I had in New York. So, yeah. I absolutely love it. I would caution that people should definitely think if it’s right for them, because I know it’s not for everyone, as you made that point.

Mindy: Yeah. My husband had to shut everything out, and that was kind of difficult for me to learn actually, because he started working from home right when our first baby was born. So, now I’m at home, and he’s at home, and I’m like, “Hey, can you just do this?” And he’s like, “No. I’m working.” “I’m like, “But you’re right here.” He’s like, “No. I’m working.” I was the stay at home mom. However your experience is, in my relationship, I was the stay at home mom. That was my job, to take care of the baby, because his job was to work for a company that paid him actual dollars.

Mindy: This isn’t a slam on stay at home moms or like any of that. I’m just saying that’s how our situation shook out. So, I’m like, “Hey, I want to take a shower.” He’s like, “I’m working.” So, it was very difficult for me to figure that out. Once we got through that … I mean that was a rough couple of months, like, “Why can’t you help?” He’s like, “Because I’m working.” It makes sense when you say it like that, but … So, that’s a good point.

Mindy: Then, also, there are just some people who can’t get stuff done. There are people … I know he used to work with a guy who said, “I’m not going to work from home, because I can’t. I can’t get anything done. I’m going to go paint the house, or do laundry, or make dinner, or whatever it is, and I’m not going to focus on my work.” Being aware of that is very, very helpful. Look into yourself. Are you really going to get work done? If you’re not, then a coworking option, a coworking space might be the best option for you.

A Purple Life: I completely agree. It’s not for everyone, but it’s definitely for me, and I’m never going back.

Mindy: It’s definitely for me too. I’m in the office a couple of … I get the best of both worlds. I’m in the office for a couple of days a week, and I’m at home a couple of days a week. It’s nice, because I do live 40 minutes from work, so driving all the way in can be, frankly, to me it’s an awesome experience because I go in early and I don’t have a lot of traffic, and I don’t have children in the backseat fighting, and I can listen to podcasts or music. So, it works out for me. I like to get to see people, and I also like to get stuff done.

A Purple Life: Makes sense.

Scott: I work in the office full time. That’s the nature of the job though. But, yeah. I love that you’ve been able to find that work remote and make it work for you. But only eight more months of even that.

A Purple Life: Exactly. Countdown is real.

Mindy: Do you plan on doing any sort of work after you have retired, like maybe take on a contract here or there, or have you not thought about that yet?

A Purple Life: I’ve thought about it. I’m not planning to, but given that I am trying to retire with such an aggressive timeline, I am open to it. I’ve run the models, where if I can drop my spending to 16,500 by living in Thailand for a few extra months or going to Mexico and hanging out on a beach for a little while and then not have a spending ceiling at all, aka I can spend a little more in upmarket years, I would have survived the last I think that it’s 150 years of investment data, including the Great Depression. So if I’m able to do that, it will all work out, but if I need to, if things are going really poorly, if sequence of returns is just smacking me over the head, I’m open to making some more money, but it’s more out of necessity, though I may change my mind after I have a couple of years of chilling and recovering from this almost decade of working really hard.

Mindy: Did you just say you ran this model over against 150 years of investing data? You really do like research and spreadsheets.

A Purple Life: I do. I can’t take full credit for that though, because that’s just cFIREsim, which is absolutely amazing. If you guys haven’t checked it out inside of FIRECalc.

Mindy: Yeah. Where’s this?

A Purple Life: cFIREsim.com.

Mindy: C, S-E-E?

A Purple Life: C, the letter, FireSim.com. I can send it to you guys.

Mindy: Okay. We’ll put a link to that. Yes. That’d be great. Okay. Purple, it’s that time. Are you ready for the famous four?

A Purple Life: I’m ready.

Mindy: These are the same four questions we ask of all of our guests. Number one, what is your favorite finance book?

A Purple Life: Definitely Your Money Or Your Life by Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez, because I read it when I first started getting into FIRE, and it completely blew my mind in that thinking of money as the time that you’re giving up for that money. I couldn’t even believe it. It made me realize that money is way more precious, because it’s not about these pieces of paper. It’s literally than my life that I’m giving away.

Mindy: Yeah. That that book was like … Now,, 20 or 40 years after it’s been released, you’re like, well, of course, but at the time that was like, oh my God, you’re so right. Excellent book.

Scott: Love it. Great book. What was your biggest money mistake?

A Purple Life: Oof. Listening to other people about what my life should be, specifically my second year in New York. I was living in a really crappy apartment with less than ideal roommates. I was not very happy, and so people were like, “Oh/ you need a pick me up. You should buy this purse subscription. You should buy these high heels. You should fly business class. I was like, “Yeah, I guess I should do that. That might make me happy.” So, I did all of that.

A Purple Life: I, over Thanksgiving, decided to go visit a friend in New Mexico. I was like, “Oh, but I also have a friend in Chicago, so I should stop there. Also, I should buy all of these flights for business class. I bought a business class flight to London for a weekend. Like I went wild and I did all of that and realized, why am I doing this? I’m not more happy, and I have less money. Why am I listening to these people telling me what my Manhattan city lifestyle should be? So, I think that’s my biggest money mistake. It might not be the one that cost me the most money, but it was definitely a big mistake that derailed me a little bit and made me not listen to myself, which I should have.

Scott: No. That’s a unique piece of advice that we haven’t gotten an answer to that question and a great one. So, I think it’s a great mistake, if that’s the way to put it.

Mindy: And now you’re back on track. Would you be where you are if you hadn’t made those mistakes? Would you be as appreciative of where you are?

A Purple Life: Probably not. I think you got to try out different avenues to realize they’re not for you.

Mindy: I think you’re so right. What is your best piece of advice for people who are just starting out?

A Purple Life: Don’t be afraid to be weird. Figure out what you want, what you don’t want, and live intentionally. Do exactly that. For example, I don’t really like concerts, but I love flying first class, so I got into travel rewards to make the latter possible. If a friend says they want to go to a concert, I’m like, “I’m good, but do you want to go to this free Zumba class tomorrow?”, And it’s just not being afraid to say exactly what you want to do.

Mindy: That’s-

Scott: Awesome.

Mindy: … so good, because so many people are so afraid of what other people are going to think of them. Coco Chanel, I think this is my second favorite quote. Coco Chanel said, “I don’t care what you think about me. I don’t think about you at all.” All these people that are judging you for not doing this or that, you don’t think about them.

A Purple Life: And they’ll judge you regardless,, even if you’re trying to please them, so you might as well do what you want.

Mindy: Boom.

Scott: All right, time for the last question of the famous four. What is your favorite joke to tell at free Zumba parties?

Mindy: Well, we’re too busy dancing to be dancing to tell jokes. So, I know it’s usually to tell at parties, and I had a hard time with this, because I don’t usually tell jokes at parties, because I have a pretty dark sense of humor. But I saw this one online the other day and it made me laugh out loud. So, it’s older people like to tease me at weddings saying you’ll be next, but they stopped after I started doing the same to them at funerals. Double meaning, because my partner and I aren’t getting married, so I was like, “That’s a great comeback.”

Scott: Yeah. Love it.

Mindy: That’s fantastic. So, Purple, where can people find out more about you?

A Purple Life: You can find me at my website, APurpleLife.com. It has all the links to my social media and how to contact me over email. Hit me up.

Mindy: She’s very good at responding. Remember how she said she would go and remind people over and over again when she was trying to get that internship? The reason she’s here is because she is much better at correspondence than I am. I mean, I wanted to tell you story.

A Purple Life: I’m very persistent.

Mindy: No. I wanted to tell your stories. There’s a lot of stories I want to tell, and I’m very, very glad that we were able to get you on. Thank you so much for your time today. This was a lot of fun.

A Purple Life: I had a great time. Thanks for having me.

Mindy: Thank you for sharing your story, and we’ll talk soon.

Scott: Yeah. This was great.

A Purple Life: All right, sounds good.

Mindy: Okay. Scott, what did you think of Purple’s story?

Scott: I thought it was great. I mean she’s very well organized. You can tell that her dedication to spreadsheets and optimization is a key player both probably getting to some of her career’s success, certainly leading to her improved ability to spend very little and enjoy life, and she knows what she wants, and that’s a winning formula, so good for her.

Mindy: Don’t forget her love of research. That is very key to her income success I think. It’s not only knowing what her position is worth, but knowing that she doesn’t want to settle for something less.

Scott: Absolutely. Yeah. The research is on every front, just like the other stuff, researching her job, researching her spending, where to go and live that has the best opportunities for her for all those things. You could tell the research is going in for where she’s going to live in retirement, whether it’s Thailand, or Australia, or New Zealand, and how that impacts your choices. So, she really knows what she’s doing. That researcH has probably taken her countless hours, but it’s saved her 35 years.

Mindy: Oh, my goodness. That’s like the best sound bite I’ve ever heard, Scott.

Scott: Yeah. So, maybe SHE should put a couple of hundred hours, maybe a thousand hours, or I don’t know how much over the course of the last couple of years IN optimizing all these fronts, 35 years of her life back.

Mindy: Yeah. You know what? That’s a good trade off. Okay. From episode 110 of the BiggerPockets Money Podcast, I am Mindy Jensen, and he is Scott Trench. We will see you later.


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In This Episode We Cover:

  • Purple’s journey with money
  • Her mom’s gift
  • Deciding to seek financial independence
  • Convincing your partner to pursue FIRE
  • Purple’s net worth
  • Tips for people who are looking for a new job and better income
  • The importance of research
  • Purple’s plan in the future
  • What her retirement looks like
  • Possible downsides of remote work
  • And SO much more!

Links from the Show

Books Mentioned in this Show:

Tweetable Topic:

  • “Money is way more precious because it is not about pieces of paper, it is literally my life that I am giving away.” (Tweet This!)
  • “Don’t be afraid to be weird, figure out what you want and what you don’t want, and live intentionally.” (Tweet This!)

Connect with Purple

Note By BiggerPockets: These are opinions written by the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions of BiggerPockets.