BiggerPockets Money Podcast

BiggerPockets Money Podcast 146: Saying Goodbye to Gambling & Finding Financial Freedom with Ambus Hunter

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Ambus Hunter grew up with a fair understanding of how money works. He received a partial scholarship to play drums in college, and graduated with a small amount of student loan debt.

His first job was with the Department of Defense, making a decent salary for someone who had just graduated from college. He started saving his money, like a good FI-devotee does, but his story takes a sharp left turn.

Ambus discovered gambling.

At first, he was winning. (That’s how it goes with gambling, right?) But then his “luck” changed. Because that’s also how it goes with gambling, right?

Ambus chased his losses, and ended up wiping out his entire savings account. That was when he knew he had to stop cold turkey.

He then threw everything he had into building his savings back up, taking on extra jobs, living with roommates, and cutting out everything unnecessary in his life.

In one short year, working nights and weekends, spending as little as possible, and throwing every dollar into his savings, he made it all back.

Now Ambus helps guide others on their own path to financial literacy through volunteering and through his own coaching programs.

Click here to listen on Apple Podcasts.

Listen to the Podcast Here

Read the Transcript Here

Mindy:
Welcome to the BiggerPockets Money podcast show number 146 where we interview Ambus Hunter IV and hear his journey about overcoming a gambling addiction and moving forward on the road to financial independence.

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Ambus:
The biggest thing I just want people to take from any interaction with me, believe in yourself, believe in a good plan, believe in time, believe in consistency. When you do these things, whether it’s money, fitness, career, relationships, whatever it is, you will win.

Mindy:
Hello, hello, hello, my name is Mindy Jensen and with me as always is my astounding cohost, Scott Trench.

Scott:
It’s just mind blowing how you come up with a new introduction every week, Mindy. Thank you for the great, the wonderful intro.

Mindy:
Well, if I didn't have such a great co-host, it would be very difficult. It was very easy. Scott and I are here to make financial independence less scary, less, just for somebody else. And show you that by following the proven path, you can put yourself on the road to early financial freedom and get money out of the way so you can live your best life.

Scott:
That's right, whether you want to retire early and travel the world, go on to make big time investments and assets like real estate, start your own business or recover from a gambling addiction, we'll help you build a position capable of launching yourself towards those dreams.

Mindy:
Scott, I am super excited to have Ambus on the show today because I have been following him on Twitter for several months. And just every time he tweets something, it’s intelligent, it’s well thought out, it is interesting and I learned some things from… I am older than everybody and I learned something from this kid. And he’s a really smart guy. And I’m very excited to have him on the show today.

Scott:
Yeah, me as well. I thought he had a really compelling story and a really well developed framework for attacking wealth creation. He’s gonna be very, very wealthy, very, very shortly. He already is pretty wealthy.

Mindy:
He's head and shoulders above people his age, people significantly older than him, he is still head and shoulders above them as well. He is going to be extremely wealthy very soon. He didn't let a problem, a downturn change his life. Actually he did, actually he let it change his life for the better. He didn't make a mistake and then wallow in it, he made a mistake, recognized the mistake, and then changed his life and is now helping others as well. Ambus Hunter IV, welcome to the BiggerPockets Money podcast. I'm so excited to have you today. I have been following you on Twitter for quite some time and you're just a really intelligent guy. And I love your money story because of the lessons that you've learned and I think a lot of people can learn from you as well. So let's just jump right into it. Where does your journey with money begin?

Ambus:
I was very fortunate to grow up with parents that taught me so many strong money lessons without being completely aggressive about it. And what I mean is, my parents, born in the 40s, in Erie, Pennsylvania, people of color in a city, Erie, Pennsylvania, it was not a thriving place to be and still isn’t. They didn’t get an opportunity to go to college and they really had to go about life the hard way. And through what they learned through life, they instilled in us, me and my siblings growing up, as far as saving for rainy days and not spending every dollar that you earn and investing for the future and investing in your education, investing in yourself and working hard but still enjoying life. They showed me that growing up. So for me as a young guy, a young child, I was seeing us go on vacation every single year, yet my parents really didn’t make a whole lot of money. It’s not till I got older that I started understanding, I’m like, we were able to do those things because of their strong one money mindset and their ability to believe, they believed in themselves and believed in what they could do if they stick to positive behaviors, financial hate behaviors over time and they still taught us how to enjoy yourself.
So seeing that as a young kid, okay, I don't have to make a whole lot of money to live a life of fulfillment and still have my bills being taken care of and still being able to save for the future. Seeing those things is really what became, I guess the foundation of my entire money philosophy. So of course growing up in high school, going away to college, getting my first job out of college, I carried those lessons with me. So that first job out of college I started working for the federal government Department of Defense. I immediately shifted into savings mode and shifted into paying back some loans. My dad had loaned me some money to get my first apartment. So I'm like paying him back. I have student loans that I'm partially paying back. Full disclosure, I was paying some of those back but the DoD also had a program where they would pay off some of those loans as well as one of the incentives for taking the job.

Scott:
Can I get a little bit more of a… How would you kind of give us a snapshot of your financial position when you started that job day one. What was your debt load and what was your, relatively your income? Those types of things and how were you saving?

Ambus:
Good question. Day one, starting with the federal government, I came in making, it was about $30,000 entry level. 38 grand at that time, I had-

Scott:
What year is this?

Ambus:
2009.

Scott:
2009.

Ambus:
2009. August of 2009. So I’m about, I had just turned 23. I had about 20, I had about 19,000 in student loans, which is a deal, that’s a steal compared to what some debt loads some students even have then or have now. Thankfully for me, just a little bit of a backtrack before I move forward, I had a tuition scholarship coming into Bowling Green State University where I went in Ohio, so BGSU in Ohio. So I had a tuition scholarship and also I had some music scholarships because I originally studied music.
A lot of my education was paid for through those scholarships, very fortunate to have that. The little bit that was left was about 19 K. So that was my debt load. I had zero in my bank account. That's why again, my father was able to float me the cash for first month's rent and the security deposit which I paid him back. That was day one working for the government. No money in the bank. We were all waiting for that first check because there was a few of us that got hired from my university. So we're waiting for that first check, getting ready to pay off those loans and that was the start of it.

Scott:
Any other debt besides the student loans or just that?

Ambus:
No, that was it. That was it. I had a paid off old Ford Explorer. So that was pretty much it at that time.

Scott:
So $38,000 is probably, seems like a ton coming out of college and all that kind of stuff. But what was your living situation like such that you were able to quickly repay your father for the security deposit and first month’s rent and keep maintaining your rent and lifestyle expenses after that?

Ambus:
Single guy, no kids. I had a two bedroom townhome so I was able to splurge a little bit. This is in Ohio, this is in Dayton, Ohio. My first townhome. That was about 700 bucks per month in rent.

Scott:
For a two bedroom, that’s so great.

Ambus:
Yeah, it was, it was. It probably still is, it probably isn’t too much more than that even to this day. It was housing associated with the military. Coming in as a DoD civilian that allowed me to have access to this additional housing. I took advantage of that. I’m trying to think, did I have anything else really going on? I had no car payments. I had no really expenses other than trying to pay my dad back and slowly paying off those loans in conjunction with the repayment program that the Air Force was giving me at that time.

Scott:
Awesome. So what comes next in your money story?

Ambus:
I’m enjoying life for a couple of years. I’m taking trips, I’m paying the loans but I’m also enjoying myself as any 23-24 year old should. After a couple of years in the government, I took a very fun but life changing trip to Vegas. Me and my best friend, we went to Vegas. I think at that time we had had a couple of breakups. So me and my buddy, were like, you know what, we’re just going to go to Vegas and just ball out for about five days or four days, which was completely too much. You probably only need one or two days in Vegas. But anyway, so we go to Vegas and I lean into the whole Vegas scene. I’m doing the gambling. I had never gambled before really, prior before that point but I start getting into roulette and that was the beginning of the end, as far as I was concerned. I end up falling into throughout the course of that year, this would have been 2011, falling into a gambling habit.
I pick up this compulsive gambling addiction which originated from this guys trip to Vegas. This would have been May of that year. I’m immediately hooked because I’m an analytical thinker and I start devising and coming up with all of these betting strategies. If you know anything about James Bond, he was a gambler, he was a bit of an aggressive and addictive guy character in and of itself. So in my mind which is, it sounds even weird as I’m saying it, but in my mind I’m like I’m trying to tap into like this James Bond kind of mindset. I’m in the casinos, betting this money and this begins to be a roller coaster of a year of after I get back to Ohio, from Vegas, traveling to various casinos in the Midwest to continue to gamble because Ohio at that time didn’t really have casinos. I’m traveling to Indiana and Philly and other places in order to gamble.

Scott:
What year is this?

Ambus:
2011.

Scott:
2011. This is two years after graduation. How much wealth had you accumulated to this point?

Ambus:
At that point, I probably had maybe a good 10 to 15 in cash, 10 to 15,000 in cash. I probably had somewhere, maybe 20 or 30,000 in my retirement account at that particular time if I’m trying to guess.

Scott:
Okay, and how would you kind of describe the effect that your new pastime had on that financial position?

Ambus:
It was epic. I’m winning in all of these various casinos. By the way, I’m gambling also on personal trips, on business trips, it was bad. But I’m winning so I really don’t think anything is a problem. I’m winning, I could tell you, I could go on for 30 minutes and walk away with 3 to 400 bucks profit after 20, 30, 35 minutes and that’s all I would do. I wasn’t gambling for hours and hours and hours, I would just pop in, make my mark, I had in my head how much money I wanted to make and once I hit that mark, I would leave. So in my mind, I don’t have a problem, I’m good, it’s under control. Things didn’t really start taking a downward spin until I started losing. My strategies and all my betting strategies no longer worked. And basically statistically because I know you like the weeds of the money. I’m just going to put this out there, I would come up with betting strategies that would basically allow me to lose seven to eight times over the course of doubling my bets. So I had worked it out just based on table limits, I could afford to lose X amount of times before I hit the table limit and more than likely, statistically speaking, I’m going to win and therefore make all my money back. I’m doing that in conjunction with some other strategies.
Well, as they say, there’s a first time for everything. And after months of winning and winning and winning, I eventually… And I’ll never forget the night, I hope I never forget this night, I lost like that eighth time in a row. It was that immediate feeling of I wasn’t supposed to lose. This was supposed to continue to work and I lost like a good 2, 3000 just like that. What took my gambling addiction to the next level and this is typically, signs of a gambling addiction, you start trying to chase those losses. You start trying to rationalize, you just don’t stop, you just start saying, okay, I did that wrong but let me just tweak this or let me try again. Over the course of another couple of months, I kept trying to win back when I was at this point losing and losing and losing. Over time, I eventually just lost everything that I had gained that summer and burned through all of my savings in a matter of a couple of months.

Scott:
Describe your strategy for those, maybe not familiar. Basically in roulette, you would put money in black or red and then you would double it. If you lost you just put double or a little bit more than double that amount on the table for the next one. Is that right?

Ambus:
Yeah. So you can do black, red, you can do odds, evens, you can do… I’m trying to remember, 1 through 18 or 19 through 36 because the board itself has also numbers, 1 through 36, you have zero and double zero. I was doing a variety of things. I typically didn’t do colors like black or red. At that time I was probably doing thirds. So you could bet on the first third, the second third, the third third, the table was just cut up a few different ways. Sometimes I was doing various quadrants of the board. I was doing all sorts of stuff but generally speaking, yeah, at the end of the day, if I was to lose, however I lost, however I was betting, essentially you double that bet. And like I said, I knew how many times I could afford to double before you lose everything. Statistically, you’re talking seven rolls, you can lose in a row, statistically you’re more often than not going to win within those seven rolls but I just so happened to hit a string of not winning in that seventh or eighth roll.

Scott:
And the casino knows that that exists and they know that they can lose to somebody who’s going to do that 100 times because the doubling nature of that, when they eventually do lose, it’s going to be a big one for-

Ambus:
Absolutely.

Scott:
That’s why they have those table limits I believe.

Ambus:
Absolutely.

Scott:
It is to make sure that eventually that math works in their favor. Just wanted to talk about that because didn’t want people to go down the rabbit hole of thinking, “That makes a lot of sense. I should try that.”

Mindy:
No, no!

Ambus:
No.

Mindy:
You should not try that. No!

Ambus:
Do not try this. Do not try this. Unless you’re just talking a couple pennies or a couple bucks but I was walking in with thousands of dollars, putting thousands, caching with thousands of dollars because I know I could, that was kind of my limit, what I could afford to lose at that one table play. Yeah, do not do this.

Mindy:
Okay, so great. So what happened? You lose and it starts to change cycle. What happens to your wealth as you began losing?

Ambus:
As I’m starting to lose, which by the way, I don’t want to make it seem like, “Oh, I’m losing, I lost my money. Boom, I’m done.” No, this was a slow evolution of weeks, of by the way, me driving to the casino after work. This is how deep I was into it. I’m emotionally and mentally disconnected from the world. I would literally work and only be thinking about gambling, it was so… I was so consumed with it emotionally and mentally. And then after work, I would drive to the casino, go lose. It was a couple hours away, go lose and drive back and do it all over again. Many nights of not sleeping, many nights of not… I didn’t even know what day it was a lot of the times. And that’s what addiction and especially gambling addictions can do to you. You start becoming completely disconnected. So my wealth during that time, I’m just straight up losing it. I’m seeing my savings go down to zero.
What ended up being one of the cold splashes of water in the face was when I burned through all the money I had made from gambling and then once I started burning through my checking account and burning through my savings account and I’m looking at, I have no money left, that was one kind of a splash in the water where I’m like, I lost all this cash. Thankfully, it clipped enough for me to not dip into my retirement account since I’m federal that’s our TSP. I didn’t let it get to the point of where I’m now withdrawing cash out of my retirement. Thankfully, because I had a decent amount of presence to mind of recognizing I’ve kind of gone too far. I’ve lost my money, I can’t lose everything else that I’ve built at this point. That was one realization.
The second realization is I had not paid one of my credit card bills. I’m someone that has an outstanding credit history. When I’m deep into this gambling addiction, I’m receiving all these phone calls at work, I’m receiving all these phone calls, I don’t even answer them because I’m thinking they’re spam or whoever. And one day, I just think to answer one of these repeated phone calls I’m getting. It was my Walmart credit card, I can’t remember who owned it at the time, which bank owned it. Might have been Discover or whoever. They’re like, Mr. Hunter, you haven’t paid your credit card bill. I’m like, I didn’t? I hadn’t even realized weeks had gone by, my bills were due and I was completely so disconnected from the world that I completely blew off paying my bills.
It was actually that moment where I realized I had a problem. And I realized that, “No, I’m someone that has always stayed up on his money. Like I said, when my parents kind of taught me about saving up and your money, you pay your bills, you save money, you invest for the future, this gambling thing has taken me off that track. I’m losing sleep, I’m not focusing at work, my well-being is being crushed here. My mental state is being crushed here. Ambus, you got a problem.” So I realized that kind of hit pause on my activity and really at that point, I decided I needed to make a plan for myself and then start working the recovery.

Mindy:
I think it’s huge that you even recognized that you had a problem. I think a lot of people who do have an addiction problem like this will just “Oh, that’s not me. I can control it anytime.” What is phrase? “I can stop anytime I want.” How did you stop?

Ambus:
I want to be very transparent about this, it was cold turkey in thought. It was not cold turkey and actual implementation. I did tell myself, I’m done gambling. I’m done and I did stop for a while. I created a plan, a financial plan based on the money I was making at that time, which at that time, it’s been a couple years since I walked into the government. So at that time, I was probably making… I had a couple promotion so I was probably making maybe 48 maybe 58k at that particular time. I created a plan based on what I was making and taking on extra jobs and cutting every single little thing out of my spending that was not, I was not absolutely obligated to pay money on.
For me to stop and what I was thinking for, what I was thinking about when I made the decision to stop, it was kind of… Again that analytical brain is starting to kick in, I need to make this math makes sense. Not only is this destroying my life, which I recognized, I’m also looking at the numbers. I need to put the money back that I’ve lost. That’s really what I was focused on at that time. I’ve made a mistake, I’ve lost X amount of money, let me figure out the numbers, let me get my spreadsheets and start calculating and crunching, what is it going to take for me to act like this mistake never happened. That was my thought process.
I stopped with that in mind and it made analytical sense, mathematical sense for me to stop and just start working my plan but again, as far as being transparent, I had a couple slip ups in the months following. On some business trips that had casinos nearby and I was like, let me just test it out, let me just play a little bit and see if my luck has ever changed back to the good luck I used to have. I found out very quickly, no, I still had bad luck. I did test it out in my journey to stop gambling for good, a couple months after losing everything and I was still losing. That kind of reaffirmed to me, “Oh, yeah, you tested it Ambus. Your luck still, it still sucks, it’s still trash. Stick to the plan Ambus, stick to what you were doing.”

Scott:
I’m glad you lost a few more times.

Mindy:
Yeah, exactly.

Scott:
In the nicest way possible.

Ambus:
In hindsight you’re right because I think if I had won, if I was to fresh off that addiction to have the strong mindset to allow myself to win and be okay with that and go back to the plan, I totally… Had I won, I totally would have started gambling again. I totally would have thought everything was good. You’re right. It took me having a couple of more run-ins with reality, that Ambus come up with a plan, you have a good plan, stick to the plan, trust the plan, give it time and enough time, you will recoup what you’ve lost and then some. I just had to trust that and I’m glad I did.

Mindy:
So a moment ago, you said that you went through and you cut everything that you weren’t obligated to spend money on. Let’s look at that. What did you cut out? What are you obligated to spend money on and what did you cut out? How did you feel about cutting that stuff out?

Ambus:
At that time, I had a bunch of the things you need. You got your rent, you got your utilities of course and there's nothing you can do about those. I was in a lease. I didn't go as far as trying to get out of my lease or change places where I was going to live. I'm like, "No, I'm going to keep where I'm living. I got to have heat on in my house. I got to eat." So those things, of course, stayed. But I had cable, I had internet, these are not crazy expenses but I'm looking at, "Okay, how can I either reduce or do I even need to have these things at all."
Those are just two examples, for example, the cable, I cut cable. I grew up with cable. I was born in the 80s, grew up in the 90s so I grew up with the Nickelodeon’s and the TGIFs and all… I loved TV growing up. So for me having cable was just kind of, that’s all I knew. So when I’m going through this addiction recovery period, I’m just going to cut the cable for one, which saved me and I still don’t have cable to this day because of that. To this day I don’t have it because once I got rid of it, I was like, “Oh, this isn’t changing my happiness or changing how I live. So why am I continuing to have this thing that I don’t really care about this much these days?” So I cut that.
I reduced my phone bill. I actually cut… If I remember correctly, now it’s been nine years. I cut off my home… This is extreme, I’m not telling people to do this. I cut off my home internet and I just tethered internet from my cell phone. I did that for home internet to save. I completely redid my grocery budget, which did, later down the line, teach me more about consistency and what I’m eating. So now I do stick to, I eat pretty much the same meals every day. That’s a different combo for a different day. But like my five to six meals a day are pretty standard, which makes my budget pretty standard. I learned that through that addiction recovery process. Dining out, eating out, dating because I was single at the time, I stopped all of that.
I just stopped doing everything that I didn’t absolutely have to do. I knew it wasn’t going to last forever so as far as how I felt about it, I was okay with that because I knew this is just for a small period of time. This is just for me to work the plan. I’m going to sacrifice for this year and I can do whatever I want. But I needed to sacrifice for the year.
That was my mindset at the time, like, no, I’m going to do what I have to do to get back to where I was because I kind of felt like… With the gambling, I kind of felt like I had let myself down in some ways. Like I had allowed myself to slip into this addiction and addiction is horrible, addiction can hit anybody at any time. My awareness of that is stronger now than what it was but at the time, I was taking it so personal like, “Ambus, how could you let yourself become addicted to a gambling?” A part of me was thinking, I need to go through this sacrifice. I had a little bit of a shame which is not healthy to have but I had some of that shame. I had some of that, I was embarrassed, I had some of that disappointment. To me, it kind of felt like stick to the plan because I have to do this for myself. That was just my mindset at that time.

Scott:
It sounds like… Most of the time when we hear stories of this level of intensity, it’s because of a burning desire to achieve financial freedom or get ahead in those types of things. But this doesn’t sound like that. This sounds like it was, you said maybe you were ashamed of how you felt with the gambling addiction or allowing that to happen and you’d lost that. It was really just to recover what you had lost from the gambling addiction and get back on track. Was there any education, self education around personal finance or financial freedom or concepts around that in terms of building wealth that informed this process or was it really just strictly that being the primary motivator?

Ambus:
All of it, all of it. I think I had some informal education from my parents on money. Kind of their money stories and what worked well for them. I was fortunate enough to have some great mentors in my life that I picked up within the government that had taught me about investing, what to do with your TSP. Every time you get a raise, you should be putting more and more into your investments. Some of these little nuggets of information that I definitely had in the back of my mind. I didn’t have any formal or direct education on necessarily budgeting or cutting expenses. I started just doing what felt right to me what made sense to me. I don’t even think I was really doing a whole lot of googling. Was Google even really a thing back then? I can’t remember. What were the big search engines?

Scott:
[crosstalk 00:27:34]Dogpile.

Ambus:
What was it?

Scott:
Dogpile.

Ambus:
Dogpile? I remember Ask Jeeves and some other stuff. I don’t know. I might have searched some stuff of like, okay, what’s the quickest way I can start stacking some cash but nothing really comes to mind. I think for me it was more of I knew numbers and I knew my numbers and I just started doing math of what do I need to cut? What do I need to earn? Let me get a couple extra jobs. Let me start stacking this money on top of my government money and the maths just made sense to me and I just followed that, to be honest with you.

Mindy:
I think there’s a lot of parallels between accruing debt and having a gambling addiction, or losing money through gambling. Because there’s shame in both of them, feeling shameful. I’m not trying to shame you. I think that somebody listening to this is like, “Oh, I don’t have a gambling problem.” But are you in debt? Do you have an issue with that? There’s a lot of things that you can… A lot of parallels you could draw. You said that you learned a lot from your parents, I kind of want to have Ambus Hunter the third on. Did you ever tell your parents about your gambling problems?

Ambus:
That is such a good question. Part of… One of the signs if you have a gambling addiction is a lot of lying. You avoid telling the truth, you avoid disclosing. So when I’m going through this period of time there wasn’t one person in this world that knew what I was going through but even he didn’t really truly understand. It was my best friend, the same guy I went to Vegas with. My buddy Anthony, he knew I was going to the casino, he knew I had lost the money and since he’s known me since college, he was just kind of like, wow. Again, he knew me to be very much on my stuff. He was just always shocked that this even happened to me in the first place but he was the only person that was even aware of what had happened and what I was trying to do to recover.
I didn’t I didn’t tell my family. I didn’t share it with anybody. I kept it internal and it was just this internal battle I was facing which in hindsight, I’m happy I did but I’m also like, maybe I should have told a couple extra people because I probably needed a support system. But at that time, I had so much shame. I had so much embarrassment. I was like, I don’t want to tell anybody because at that point, I had kind of built… It’s weird to even think about Facebook and social media a decade ago. I’ve been on Facebook since 2005. 2004, 2005. In 2011 when I’m going through this gambling crisis, I had at this point built somewhat of a reputation as someone who knows about money. I was helping people with money based on my experiences, positive experiences, up until that point. So I wasn’t trying to tell anybody that Ambus of all people lost his money through gambling. No, I didn’t want to tell anybody. I wasn’t being rude. I wasn’t being authentic.
So I didn’t tell my family, I didn’t tell my parents. It honestly wasn’t until I started blogging two years ago that I even came out with this story. Because I kind of figured, if I’m gonna be financial coaching, if I’m going to be blogging and talking about money, I don’t think I can do that without really giving people the dirty details of how I got to this point. Why I believe in what I believe in. What has kind of created my philosophy with time and consistency and discipline and money and in money and kind of overcoming financial challenges because like you said, whether it’s a gambling addiction, whether it’s debt, whether it’s any challenge, it’s probably a lot of the similar parallels and steps that you’re still going to have to go through. The mental shifts that you’re going to have to make. The belief in oneself that you’re going to have to buy into this stuff. All of these things, whether it’s debt, gambling, whatever, are parallels.
So when I started coming out with my website and started talking about money, I was like, Oh, crap, I’m gonna have to tell people I did this thing way back when in 2011. I didn’t even tell my parents, I just kind of put it on the website, wrote it in my story, made a couple blog posts about it, kind of told my parents about the website and my family bought the website and I know they I know they’ve read it. They’ve never came to me and said anything. It’s kind of one of those silent recognitions that like, “Oh, we had no idea you were going through this. Wow. Okay.” And I think it’s brought us closer. So to this day, I’ve never directly really told them about what was going on. To be honest it involves a lot of lies because there was a whole bunch of stuff I was probably lying to them about at that time. Because I wasn’t being honest about the crisis I was going through.

Mindy:
Yeah. There’s our parallels again with being in debt. Nobody just walks up to their best friends like, “Hey, I’m $50,000 in debt. How about you?” Because nobody talks about money. Okay, so we’ve gotten to the point where you’ve recognized that you need to stop gambling, you tested the waters and discovered, yep, I still need to stop gambling. You’ve gone and you mentioned you got a couple of extra jobs and you were working your day job and doing other things. What do you look like after that? You’re working two jobs. What are these other extra jobs?

Ambus:
I had two of the most fun part time jobs you could ever imagine. And if I ever find myself in a similar position, I’m probably going to do these same couple jobs. So one of the jobs I had was… Have you ever been to a bar or club and you see individuals passing out free shots? You ever seen anything like that?

Mindy:
It’s been a long time since I’ve been to a club but yes.

Ambus:
Especially in a pandemic. It’s been a while for all of us. So years ago, I was in a Texas Roadhouse and there were these two young ladies passing out free shots. I shoot my shot a lot. I just ask questions and if people tell me no, they tell me no, I’m like, whatever. I go up to them and I’m just kind of like, do you ever hire men? Because I just never seen a man do that particular job. It was typically young women, in the college bars and stuff that I went to that were in these environments, passing out free shots. So I’m like, do you ever hire men to do this job? I’m just curious. And they said, yeah, we do on occasion. And they send in my info and I took my picture to their boss and all of a sudden I had an interview, to interview for this job to be a brand ambassador for these various liquor companies.
So that was one of my part time jobs. I was a brand ambassador for Absolut Vodka, Captain Morgan, Bacardi. Think of any liquor company, I was probably working on their behalf at one point. I would get paid to go to bars and go to clubs and just talk and schmooze around with people, hand out free liquor. We take pictures together, we smile, we laugh, I give them a T-shirt. It was like a whole thing. So this is what I was getting paid to do. That was one of my part time, nighttime jobs. So much fun.
The other job was mystery shopping. I worked for three… I believe it was three or four different mystery shopping companies and they would send me off to McDonald's, Five Guys, Firestone, I've done some mall gigs, it was all sorts of stuff. Food, clothing, Abercrombie and Fitch, I would get sent there too. All sorts of places. And I would have an inspection list or maybe certain things I had to test the people working there, I had to ask them certain questions or buy certain things and just see how people reacted and I would go report that back to the company. So that was one of my part time jobs.
So the way it worked out for me and it was perfect, I could do that mystery shopping job basically, whenever I want. It was just a system, I would go in and just… I would just take certain assignments. I could work my full time job, traditional nine to five for the government and then after work, I would work four or five different inspection gigs. Then I would come home and write my reports. And on the weekends, I would work those bar gigs. So it was kind of like a schedule of working nine to five for my full time gig, doing mystery shopping after work every day and on the weekends, weekdays I would do mystery shopping and then weekend nights, I was in the bars handing out free liquor. So that was around the clock, my money flow.

Scott:
And so what happened to your financial position as you did this and how long did you sustain that?

Ambus:
This was all part of my plan. So again that recovery plan included, like I mentioned, cutting expenses but also saving my government money but adding on this additional money as well. So over the course of the year, I was able to not only, replace the money that I lost through gambling but I had saved something like well over 20 grand within that year from first losing my money. Which for me, I was like, it was kind of like, huh, I created a plan. It was an aggressive plan. Other than me working in the bars, it was no fun. Let me tell you that. I had no social life other than working the bars. But I stuck to this plan. I trusted the time. And I fixed my mistake financially.
And then some, whoa, this is a way I could just live. Not that aggressive way of working all these jobs but the mindset of coming up with a plan sticking to the plan, trusting time and just let it take care of itself. So that was really what reinforced that philosophy with me. So as I’m seeing my financial picture change and I’m seeing the savings stack up, which is reinforcing in itself, it’s not like I just woke up one day and had $20,000 cash. It was week after week, month after month, I’m seeing my savings increase over time, which is motivating. So I’m getting more and more motivated. Now coinciding to answer your question, to coinciding around that time, I ended up taking a job with the Department of Navy and leaving Ohio. So I ended up moving to Maryland around that same period of time.

Scott:
What year is this?

Ambus:
2012. Almost a clean year after first losing my money, I end up taking a job and moving to Maryland. So I had to drop you know some of those part time jobs. So as far as how long did I continue to do that, that really just lasted a little bit before the gambling adventures and then pretty much up until the time I moved to Maryland, fall of 2012. But the lessons were there.

Scott:
This is in Annapolis, Maryland?

Ambus:
I moved… No, you might be thinking of the Naval Academy in Annapolis, I moved to Southern Maryland. So Patuxent River Naval Station in the bottom crevice of the state of Maryland.

Scott:
Oh, nice. The crevice of my home state. I love it. Can you kind of give us what you think the big points of the picture are for your financial journey following that move to Maryland? It sounds like you kind of came out of that with 20-ish thousand dollars in savings and a new job and in command of the financial position at this point. What are the next kind of big milestones as you see your financial journey?

Ambus:
Absolutely. At that point, I’m high flying. And at this point, I had clean given up gambling, so I had beat my gambling addiction. I felt like I could emotionally move forward. So I no longer had that shame, that embarrassment. It was like, whew, I could breathe, like, okay, I did it. Which changed my life. So moving forward, once I moved to Maryland, I started thinking, okay, I’m moving to a higher cost of living area. Coming from Ohio, it’s way more expensive to live in Maryland. I’m making more money but I kind of like this idea of keeping my expenses stabilized.
So that was kind of the next transition for me. How can I keep my expenses the same or lower if I can than what I was paying in Ohio. What I did was what a lot of people do in Maryland, if you’re familiar… I don’t know if you’re familiar with this, a lot of people get roommates. So the first place I started living when I moved to Maryland was a house, it was a house owned by this couple. They lived there, there were a couple of extra people renting rooms in the house and some people living in the basement. I want to say there was a total of six people living in this house that I moved into and I rented this little room. My whole thing was, I’m making more money because I’m taking this promotion to come to Maryland but I want to save as much on these expenses as much as I can and I’m just going to sacrifice again. And I’m going into this, let me sacrifice for a period of time to reap the rewards down the road. So that’s the shift I was in.
So I lived in this house with six other people for about a year and a half. At this time, I started my jazz trio and I think I mentioned, I’m a musician at heart. So I originally went to school for music and I had played in various bands in Ohio but now that I’m living in Maryland, I’m like, I want to see if I can find some musicians. So I do find some musicians, I started a jazz trio and started immediately performing around Maryland, D.C. and Virginia. I’m making more with the government, I’m now saving a bunch on rent, I have this extra income because I got this variable income coming in with the music thing, I’m high flying. Things are going well.
And I pretty much did that same life for about five years. And what I mean by that same five life, I moved a couple times in between there but I always lived with multiple people to keep my expenses, my all-inclusive expenses as low as possible while I’m continuing to grow in my government career, making more money and while I’m playing 50 to 70 gigs a year with my jazz trio and all of that extra money. And by the way, all of the additional tax deductions that comes when you have a nice little Schedule C business as well.
So all of this financially is putting me in the position where I have tens of thousands of dollars saved but also I’m aggressively investing at that time. Because again, I’m still single, no kids, I’m taking trips here and there but I really had no other concrete obligations. So I’m saving aggressively, I’m investing aggressively and expenses stabilized. You can do that math, that was just a fantastic financial situation to be in which… Just a little bit of a fast forward, I’m reaping the rewards of now. And by now, I mean is this house that I’m in, I was able to put a significant down payment down on my house because I went through that period of about five years, living with multiple people, saving all of that money, investing a lot of it as well. But here I am able to do pretty much what I want to do with my money.

Mindy:
So you’ve used the word sacrifice a couple of times. I sacrificed this so that I could move forward, I sacrificed so I could move forward. What did you give up by doing this for five years? Did you feel like you were missing out on anything because you are focusing on this? Because we have a lot of people who are new to the FI movement and think, oh, I couldn’t do that. That’s too much of a sacrifice. So I could… How do I convince my wife to do this? Or I’m going to give up everything and there’s different levels, you can cut something and then come back and say, oh, you know what, that’s too much. Liz Frugalwoods was talking about all the things that she cut out when she first discovered financial independence. And then after a month, she’s like, okay, I need some of this stuff back. But not all of it, like most of it she left out and doesn’t feel at all bad about. So did you feel like you missed out on anything? And how did you compensate for that?

Ambus:
I remember the day I kind of posted on Facebook that I was going to live with people. And I remember the number one comment I received was, mostly from my friends back in Ohio because you didn’t really need to do this in Ohio because cost of living was so much cheaper but a lot of my friends could not believe I was willing to sacrifice my space. It was my space. It was in some ways, my peace of mind. In some ways and some nights it was my sleep because I’m living with all of these people and one house in particular I remember living in was the lady that lived upstairs, she worked nights. So she’s waking up at like 10, 11 o’clock p.m. to get ready to go to work. So as I’m trying to go to sleep, she’s up bopping around up above my head. I had a lot of restless nights.
So as far as what I sacrificed, really during that time, it was somewhat my peace. And I don’t even think that’s necessarily a good thing as far as well-being because I’m huge into well-being. I’m huge into feeling good about the place you live in. However I was willing to do that at that point in time because I knew it wasn’t going to last forever. And I was just thinking, if I can just make it through this and I can just get through these periods of being able to always have to throw on clothes when I go into the kitchen or the fact that there’s people that live above me or I can’t control when they have people over and I really want the house to be quiet. A lot of that is just peace of mind stuff, emotional wear and tear that can happen when you’re living with for three, four, five, six people that you really don’t even know.
Focusing that I need to stick to the plan, it’s not going to last forever, there’s going to come a time when I’m going to appreciate and be thankful that I just dealt with this for a period of time, that honestly was the biggest sacrifice. I didn’t really feel too many financial like I was missing out on something because for one, the nature of having a jazz trio and performing out is that I’m still able to be social, for example. So a lot of people would say, well, I’m not able to… I don’t want to cut all these things because I still want to be able to go have fun with my friends or do whatever the case may be.
Fortunately for me, I’m performing multiple times a night. So I’m out and about with people multiple times a night. I’m getting free meals, I’m getting free drinks from people. I had my dose of the social aspect. So I didn’t really feel like I was missing out on that. I didn’t really feel like I had cut anything else out of my life that I really wish I would have had, honestly it was just focus on the time, stick to the plan and this will work out and then it will be done. And it is done. I live by myself. It’s great. No, there’s no one above me.

Scott:
So you said you’d just continue for five years. When did you kind of begin? What did that look like when you started realizing the benefits of that and what is your position now?

Ambus:
The reason why it actually ended is actually because my relationship at the time was… My girlfriend was actually moving to Maryland. So it really became… Our long distance relationship was no longer going to be long distance, it was now going to be within the same state. So really what pulled me out of that living arrangement in Southern Maryland was just like, okay, I’m just going to go move for the sake of this relationship.
And I think it really hit me how much buying power and the strength of my financial situation once I kind of had a good reason to move out of Southern Maryland and then moving up to where I now live Baltimore County, I have options. I don’t need to continue to live with a bunch of people anymore. I had been doing that for so long just because it was working and kind of just looking around like, okay, I have great options, I can kind of do what I want. I started renting for a year and then eventually buying my house. Like I said, that was just kind of the mindset shift to get pulled out of that way of thinking. That okay, the sacrifice is over.
So even when I say I sacrificed for five years, it’s not like I went into it with that number in mind, necessarily, it was more of let’s do this and see how long it continues to work. And I mean, I think like anybody else, once you’re saving money and investing money at such a high rate, even that can become addicting, even that can become motivating, so you continue to keep wanting to do it.
But I think after I kind of got out of that and realized okay, I can kind of let the foot off, take the foot off the gas a little bit and use some of this money that I have accumulated so I can get a little bit of a better place and I can go back to taking whatever trip I want. Which is as far as the position I’m in now, that’s where I’m at right now. So of course, not in a pandemic, I travel when I want and I invest my time whenever I want, in whatever way I want because I am not solely motivated and don’t have to be solely motivated by money. And one way I do that, for example, I volunteer a lot. I give my time a lot. That’s one of the ways in which I do that.

Scott:
I think the journey in finance for a lot of people is very difficult to get out of debt, it's very difficult to get a little ahead. In order to do that really early in life, you have to kind of… Every person who's gone on to build a significant net worth by the age of 30, who hasn't inherited it or anything like that, has done something like what you're describing. What I call a grind, you grounded out for five years and accumulated and came out the other side with hundreds of thousands of dollars in net worth it sounds like.
And once you're in that position, it's like you're going up a hill and it's all downhill from there because the nature of compounding is now starting to work for you. You're not getting no tailwind because you have no wealth or worse, having something working against you in the form of compound interest, like if you're in credit cards or still in debt. So it sounds to me like that's what really happened here is at a certain point, you emerge on the other side, and you're like, ah, my wealth is just gonna continue to grow automatically now on a consistent basis even if I begin lightening up a little bit and get what I want out of my lifestyle.

Ambus:
It’s those positive behaviors, which is what, when I’m coaching people, that’s what I try to instill in them. It’s all about those positive behaviors and once you commit to the positive behaviors and you commit to the fact that this is a long game, which is one of the best things I learned from gambling. The quick money, I had to get myself out of the mindset of just looking for quick cash. Which is what gambling provides, it provides you that quick gratification. Like I said, I could walk in and out with 300 bucks in my pocket in 30 minutes, 20, 30 minutes.
Once I kind of got myself out of that mindset and started saying, okay, what I really need to do is focus on the positive behaviors. Once you set it, you almost stop thinking about it. So there became a point in my financial journey, I'm not actively thinking about the fact that I'm investing 20 and 30% of my income, which is what I'm doing now, I'm investing 30% of my income. It's just happening, it's just happening in the background, I now have the systems in place. It's just going. I don't wake up thinking about that number. I even just had to think of it just now to tell you what it was.
So I think once you get to a place where you put those processes in place and like you said, it’s rolling, it starts flying, after a few years, you’re like, whoa, I don’t have to be as aggressive as I once was 1, 3, 5, 8, 10 years ago. It’s now doing the work for me and I can just enjoy life. I just don’t disturb those behaviors, I just continue to live in that same way. And it just takes care of itself.

Scott:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Mindy:
When you don’t get used to having the money coming in, off the top you take 20, 30% and you do with it, whatever you do with it. When you don’t have that money coming in, you don’t miss it. When you start a new job and you have that… You’ve you’ve started a new job with a raise, take all that extra raise and just automatically invest it.

Scott:
So Ambus, I think this has been fantastic. You’ve shared a lot of, a really powerful journey with us You seem like you’re in a really good spot with your financial journey right now. And it seems like you’re in a position of power when it comes to dictating what lifestyle you want and you seem happy with it. Any kind of other last advice or thoughts before we move into the financial scan?

Mindy:
Absolutely. I really can’t, emphasize this enough that what helped me and what I truly believe in and this is something that I help clients with on a regular basis is that you have to believe in yourself. Whether you are trying to overcome a gambling addiction or if you’re trying to get over debt or really any type of financial challenge you have, it’s always going to come down to, do you believe in yourself, like number one. And if you don’t have that belief in yourself and belief that you possess the tools to get over that hump, whatever that hump is, you’re kind of like dead as soon as you start. And I hate to say it and I’m typically very blunt with my clients in that regard, that that is where it starts.
And once you have that initial and foundational belief in yourself, you come up with a plan. And once you come up with that plan and you believe in that plan and you trust that time in enough time, you will get to that finish line. I mean, once you do that, this stuff really just takes care of itself. And that has influenced my money mindset, that’s influenced my belief in health and wellness. Years ago, I used to work as a personal fitness trainer. Health and wellness is something I’m extremely passionate about.
And there’s so many parallels in between those two worlds. Finance and fitness. It always comes down to, do you believe you can accomplish your goal? Do you believe you can hit whatever result you want? And then you have to reverse engineer that and start figuring out, okay, what type of behaviors do I need on a year, on an annual and a monthly and a daily basis? And what type of thoughts and feelings do I need to start forming in my mind. It’s all the same. So that is the biggest thing I just want people to take from any interaction with me. Believe in yourself. Believe in a good plan. Believe in time believe in consistency. When you do these things, whether it’s money, fitness, career, relationships, whatever it is, you will win. And I truly believe that.

Scott:
Awesome.

Mindy:
I truly believe it too. We have 146 episodes of people who have followed pretty much the same path. Spend less than you earn, invest wisely with people who understand what they’re doing or in low-cost index funds, real estate, your own company and here’s where we are now. I’m in a better place, I’m in a much better place. I’m financially independent. I’m retired. It’s not rocket science but it is effort and you have to be willing to put in the effort in order to get there.

Scott:
I’m happy you said that. I wish it was harder than that. Sometimes I think about it and I’m like, I go over my story, I listen to other people’s story and I’m like, it always comes down to the same things. I wish it was more than that. Sometimes even as I’m blogging, I’m like, what can we talk about, as bloggers or YouTubers or podcasters or coaches, whatever realm that you’re in? What can we talk about that actually hasn’t been talked about before at some point because these things have been talked about for decades and decades and decades, it continues to work and it’s like, yeah, just follow it. It works. Trust it. Give it enough time.

Mindy:
It works. Trust it. That’s a good quote. Okay, I think that’s a good place to end your story but we’re not quite done yet. We have two more segments to go. First up is the financial scan. We want to know where you are investing. You’ve mentioned the word investing several times so we want to know where you’re planting your money so that it grows for retirement.

Ambus:
Absolutely. I gotta say, I just love the stock market. I just love it. And to be honest with you, sometimes I think about it, I’m like, maybe this is just like a carryover from my gambling days. It still gives me that thrill but this is way better. This is way safer. This actually has historical evidence in performance that I could actually say, okay, there’s reasons for me to believe in this. So that’s where my money is. And the vast majority of my money is in index funds so I do believe in index funds. That’s where my TSP retirement is. I got the mid-cap and small to mid-cap index funds. I do have… Outside of the government, I do have a separate Roth IRA that has mutual funds and individual stocks and I have another cash account but I call that my play account where I just have individual stocks.
But all with the idea of long term investing. So I’m not into day trading or swing trading or any of that. I do believe in picking quality companies, household name companies that I support as a consumer and that I have faith in that we’ll be around for the next 10, 20, 30, 40 on and on amount of years. So that’s where I like to place my money. So probably 75% index funds and then the other 20 to 25%, I had to form my individual stocks.

Scott:
Awesome. What about your cash position? How much cash do you keep on hand? [crosstalk 00:58:02]actual spending. You don’t have to give me the specific number.

Ambus:
As a federal employee that has seen multiple threats of furlough and shutdowns and we’ve had a couple furloughs, we’ve had a couple of shutdowns, I personally believe as a federal employee, I like the 12 month emergency fund. I’m a 10 to 12 months emergency fund kind of guy. I think this is personal as well in the sense that my home, I love my home, it was built in 1946. It’s a renovated old home and with renovated old homes, looks pretty on the inside but every once in a while you’ll have something go wrong that’s super expensive. So as someone that has an old home, I need to have a little bit of cash on hand to do to deal with those things.
I drive an older car, I have an older Acura. Sometimes you got to repair that. But I just think in general, I like the comfort of knowing I could lose my job today and I do not have to go work in a bar or mystery shop or do anything else for money if I really don’t want to for the next year minimum just on what I have in the bank account. I just think that’s a great way to live. Personally, I sleep very good knowing that.

Scott:
Awesome.

Mindy:
I love that. I love that because, you don’t know. And my husband worked for the government and those furloughs are kind of scary and I… That sounds so snotty. I don’t like to be so snotty but we weren’t scared because we knew that we were spending significantly less than we made. But he worked with a lot of people who were freaking out. Every time there was a furlough, they’re just positively scared because they don’t know where their next paycheck is going to come from. They are paycheck to paycheck and if you spend every dime that’s coming in, it doesn’t matter how much you’re making, you’re still paycheck to paycheck. And they absolutely were with nothing saved. And that was kind of scary. I love that you have 10 months in your emergency fund, it has to be for you. Personal finance is personal and you have to do what’s personally best for you.

Scott:
Money is not the most important thing in life, unless you’re broke, living paycheck to paycheck, heavily in debt, whatever, in which case, it’s the most important thing in your life.

Mindy:
And then you get furloughed.

Scott:
For Ambus it’s not the most important thing in his life anymore because he’s got this huge… Well it’s not the most important thing his life because he’s got this huge pile and the 12 month in emergency reserve is in complete command.

Ambus:
The pile on top of so… And I know I see this on Twitter all the time, the people that would say, oh, you should only keep one week of emergency fund money because you should be investing every single dollar, no. That works for you fine but for me, I’m already investing aggressively. Like I said, I got 30% of my income going to these investments. I’m not worried about trying to optimize this cash I got sitting in my bank account. I’m fine with that. I’ll take on that risk. We can call it whatever we want.
But Mindy to your point, I have worked with government employees when we’ve gone through these furloughs that yeah. I remember 2013 we were getting furloughed for two weeks and the people freaking out. And that was an interesting sight for me to see individuals that have been working for the government 10, 15, 20 years, talking about we can’t afford to not have this one paycheck come in. I said, no, you’re not going to catch me ever saying that because I’ve been working too long to say one paycheck is going to threaten my way of living. And actually I took a trip. We got furloughed for two weeks, we had two weeks off. I took a trip. I’m serious. I took a trip. I went somewhere because I’m like, I don’t want to go use this free time that I got, I mean, whatever.
But I was in the financial position to do so. And I don’t think it’s really a lot of work to get in that financial position to do so. I think it just takes being intentional with the money you have coming in, and keeping that, the way we live, keeping those expenses at a reasonable amount and being productive with the money.

Scott:
I think that’s I think that’s awesome. I think… Look, I keep a big emergency reserve, about a year of expenses as well. Sure that’s inefficient. What does it do? It allows me a couple of things. Peace of mind and it allows me to be very aggressive in my investing allocation which sounds like what you’re doing. So I share that philosophy. I think it’s… I think there’s a big return on that year long investment because I don’t have to have a more stable, less volatile portfolio. I can invest for optimal long term returns [crosstalk 01:02:44]

Ambus:
And don’t you sleep good?

Scott:
I sleep real good. All right.

Mindy:
I think now it’s time to move to the famous four. Ambus, these are the same four questions we ask of all of our guests. Are you ready?

Ambus:
I am ready.

Mindy:
What is your favorite finance book?

Ambus:
Can I break the rules? I have two.

Mindy:
That’s okay.

Ambus:
I have to share two.

Mindy:
That’s fine.

Ambus:
Can I share two?

Mindy:
100%

Ambus:
When I came into the government, I have this copy, it's called Common Sense. Common Sense, by Art Williams, A Simple Plan for Financial Independence. When I was in my second year of working for the federal government, someone that worked in my office, she was a bit of a mentor and she would always take the new young employees underneath her wing. She brought me this copy of this book. She took a copy, she scanned-in every single page of this book that was written, I think originally published in the 80s. And she was like Ambus, I think as a new government employee, early in your career, you should read this book and just start implementing everything that's in this book. It'll really set you up down the line.
This was really one of my first actual personal finance books and it was given to me by a mentor early in my career. But I’m just going to read you like this table of contents. Look at this, Get Started Now. So this chapter is about, not waiting to get started with, in preparing your financial future. Pay Yourself First. Use Time & Consistency. Those are my two favorite words, time and consistency. That is a chapter by itself. Establish An Emergency Fund, we talked about that. Buy The Right Life Insurance, Minimize Taxes With An IRA, Bypass The Middleman, Invest With Professional Management, Start A Family Tradition, Develop A Winning Attitude.
So this book, and it’s kind of a dry, straight to the point type of financial book but this is what I was reading coming into my government career and I think even though this was written before I was born, everything that’s in that book is still completely relevant today. Of course, the interest rates and all that stuff has changed but the content, the point, the mindset is all there. So that was my first and still my favorite.
My second favorite-

Scott:
I’ve never heard of it.

Ambus:
Never heard of it?

Scott:
I never heard of it before today, I’ll need to go check it out.

Mindy:
Yeah, I’ve never heard of that one either.

Ambus:
Please do, please do. I don’t think… To be honest with you, I haven’t seen it since so I’m not sure if it’s still in production, if they have other versions. But yeah, so that was the first. My second favorite is called The Financial Well Being Book and this is written by Chris Budd. This is a book I heard about on a podcast, a couple years back. And it’s about how money, which is what I believe in, it’s how money influences and is a part of all the different areas of your well being. So it’s not a money optimization book, it’s about how does money influence your career and your relationships and spirituality. All these different areas of well being and how the two are kind of integrated into each other. So I think it’s overall, it’s a financial well being book but it’s also just about overall well being which is what I live and believe in every single day.

Scott:
Awesome.

Mindy:
Yeah, I haven’t heard of that book either.

Scott:
I’ll have to check out both of this. What was your biggest money mistake? Maybe besides the gamble since we covered that one.

Ambus:
Yeah. And I used to think gambling was a huge mistake until I started truly owning that story. And realizing how much it can help and bring people forward. So I now actually no longer even look at that as a mistake, I look that look at that as, one of the most important moments of my life that has transitioned me for the better. I will honestly say my biggest money mistake and there’s been quite a few. I mean, I’ve leased car. All the traditional money was [inaudible 01:06:58]. But I’ve leased a car which I think was great by the way, that’s another story. I invested in a company that went bankrupt, that sucked.
But honestly, I think the biggest mistake is I bought shares of Apple about five years ago. I want to say these shares at that time, they were right around 100 bucks per share. So pre, the most recent split in September of 2020. So they were about 100 bucks per share. I held on to the shares for about a year or so and then I sold them at a good gain but now in September of 2020 when that stock price has shot beyond 200, beyond 300, beyond 400 to the point where they had to split their shares even more, I’ve ran the math of all the shares I had many, many, many, many years ago, what they would have been worth now and I try not to think of it because I’m like, that was just a huge… That was a mistake. That was a mistake and not holding a quality company for the long term.
I don’t remember what I was thinking or why I decided to sell them but… And I’m once again an Apple investor. So I got back in. But the point is, as someone that has Apple products all over his house, I had no business selling anything of Apple, I put so much money into Apple, I should have been holding those shares until I die. So I think that was a huge mistake. I missed out on a lot of money.

Mindy:
I made a quote-

Ambus:
I love that that’s the mistake you come up with. That’s an awesome mistake. I think it’s great. Yeah. I think it’s great that you articulate that as your biggest money mistake. That’s very wise, I think. Yeah.

Mindy:
Yeah, a couple of things there. You don’t consider gambling to be your biggest money mistake which is wonderful. You have an article on your site called How Gambling Away My Savings Strengthened My Relationship With Money. And this article is fabulous. This article is like, you know what, I could have just done a dumb thing and recovered and moved on but instead, I learned… What do you have? Five things in here, five different lessons, six lessons. Maybe I didn’t read it all the way through. I did. Six lessons of what happened when I did such a dumb thing but that’s not my biggest mistake. My biggest mistake is to not hold forever… I’m going to quote Warren Buffett, my best friend, he says my favorite holding period is forever. And-

Ambus:
There you go.

Mindy:
He just, he doesn’t sell very frequently. He is also a fellow Apple shareholder. I guess we could all three be best friends.

Ambus:
There you go.

Mindy:
[crosstalk 01:09:40]circle.

Ambus:
There you go. The gambling thing and I mentioned before, once I decided to share people that story and share that side of me and I started receiving comments from people that had been, either been through a gambling issue themselves or they knew friends or family that had been through gambling issues and they started writing me to say, that article that you just quoted, hey, I didn’t know you went through this and I have a friend who went through this. I’ve sent this to my friend.
Once I started seeing that, oh my gosh, that period I went through has the power to help people. It has the power to positively influence people and transcend people and give people comfort that we are all doing these things behind the profiles. They could only see the Facebook profile that allowed them to see and here I was in the background, being ridiculous with my money, it gave them comfort that we all make mistakes. We all do these things but you can learn from it and you can grow from it and you can overcome it. Once I started seeing that I’m like, oh, yeah, no, I love that that happened to me. So I actually love that piece of, that piece of my story.

Mindy:
Yay. Gambling addiction. Yay, learning from gambling addiction. Okay, what is your best piece of advice for people who are just starting out?

Ambus:
I’d say, I’m a firm believer that you have to really know thyself. I believe in the know thyself principle. And by that I mean, figure out what gives you energy in life, figure out your values in life, figure out your motivations in life and allow that to dictate the different behaviors that you should be doing in your life. And what I mean is, we all have like these inherent, I call them money-love languages. Whether it’s power, status, love, which is like giving security or autonomy, freedom, whatever it is that motivates you, use that to align your behaviors in that way and then start.
So for me, I like to give so I work as a nonprofit volunteer financial coach. I give my time to educate people on money. That’s one of my money-love languages. Autonomy, I’m really big into freedom. Money gives me freedom. I can do what I want, when I want. I could quit my job today, if I really wanted to. These things are important to me. So as far as the financial advice, once you start figuring out what motivates you because we’re all different, once you figure that out, you can then start aligning your thoughts, your feelings, your behaviors in a way that will help you to achieve and satisfy those values. Satisfy those desired results and satisfy those money-love languages. So figure that out. Know thyself. You got to figure that stuff about yourself and then get on the ball.

Mindy:
Perfect.

Scott:
What is your favorite joke to tell at parties? Or clubs when handing out shots?

Ambus:
When I was in the bar handing out free shots, did I have any jokes? It’s funny you say that. I came across two good jokes. I have to share these jokes with you. If it’s not funny, that’s okay. That’s okay. But I need to share it. One of them is how do you measure how heavy a red pepper is? How do you measure how heavy a red pepper is?

Mindy:
I don’t know. On a scale.

Scott:
I don’t know.

Ambus:
You ready?

Mindy:
Yes.

Ambus:
Give it away, give it away, give it away, now. Did you get it? Red Hot Chili Peppers, red pepper, Red Hot Chili Peppers, give it away. Give it away, give it away, give it away now. Yeah.

Scott:
I love it.

Ambus:
I used to love the Red Hot Chili Peppers growing up.

Scott:
Me too.

Ambus:
So that’s one. Here’s another one for you and it’s a bit more relevant to what we’re going through right now. Why couldn’t COVID get a drink at the bar? Why couldn’t COVID get a drink at the bar?

Mindy:
Why?

Ambus:
No guesses?

Scott:
Something about Corona.

Ambus:
That could have been good.

Mindy:
They were at a Corona.

Ambus:
That could have been good. Because COVID [crosstalk 01:14:18].
Because COVID-19, you get it? COVID-19.

Scott:
I see.

Ambus:
Although, I guess it isn’t in Canada.

Scott:
These are awesome.

Ambus:
At 19 in America, can’t get a drink at a bar at 19.

Mindy:
I like that one. Okay Ambus, where can people find out more about you? Oh, and give your Twitter handle and then I’ll pitch you.

Ambus:
I’m at Twitter @AmbusVHunter. I’m pretty sure if you just search for Ambus you will find me. Not too many Ambuses in the world other than me and my father. That’s Twitter. I’m on Instagram @ambushunter and I blog over at ambushunter.com. So I do blogging, I do financial coaching, all of that good information can be found on ambushunter.com.

Mindy:
You know what I follow… I first met Ambus on Twitter and I follow him on Twitter and he always has something intelligent and good to say. So if you’re not following him on Twitter now, go do it right this minute. Okay, Ambus, thank you so much. This was fabulous. I really enjoyed hearing your story. And I think that there’s a lot of things that people can take out of your story and lessons to learn, even if they don’t have the issue with gambling. There’s just a lot of correlations with money issues in general that can be helped by this story. So I really appreciate your time today.

Ambus:
Oh, it was a pleasure. Like I said, you all have had some fantastic guests on this show. So keep doing what you’re doing. I love it. I love supporting it. It’s been a pleasure to sit in this hot seat that’s so many great and profound others that came before me was able to do this. So this has been great. I appreciate your time.

Mindy:
Okay, well you have a good day.

Scott:
I thank you very much. Great episode. Yes.

Mindy:
I’m sorry, Scott. Go ahead.

Scott:
I was just gonna say thank you so much. I really enjoyed getting to know you and your story. Thank you. It’s awesome.

Ambus:
Thank you. I appreciate you both.

Mindy:
Okay. We’ll talk to you soon.

Ambus:
Take care.

Mindy:
Okay, Scott, that was Ambus Hunter IV, what did you think?

Scott:
I thought Ambus brought a really powerful story. And once again, we hear a story of someone who get themselves into a little bit of a rut. We heard from Shannon Gauthier a few weeks ago, we heard from Ambus today, getting into a little bit of a rut and then really going all out to grind it out and dig themselves out of that hole and put themselves in a position where they can be begin attacking wealth creation more intentionally. And he is reaping the rewards of that grind and the lessons he’s learned. And I think really building a wonderful lifestyle for himself where he’s in complete command and sleeps very well at night.

Mindy:
Right? That article that I just mentioned How Gambling Away My Savings Strengthened My Relationship With Money, lesson number six, Consistency and Time Are The Keys to Success. That’s really it. I mean you have to do the work. There’s no easy button, I want to get one of those easy buttons so I could put a little cross around it and an X through it and it’d be like there’s no easy button. There’s no easy button on the road to financial independence. You have to do the work. Nobody’s going to do it for you. But if you do the work, if you do the work consistently, if you make your plan and stick with it, you’re going to reap the rewards.

Scott:
Yep. And that there’s no luck involved. It’s not really a luck thing. It’s like him becoming wealthy wasn’t an inevitable consequence of the plan you put in motion. Just as it is an inevitable consequence of what Shannon is doing.

Mindy:
100% agree with that. I want to send a shout out to Jake who has paid off almost $100,000 of debt this year. He says this year has been very amazing and very challenging. He still tracks his expenses as he continues to build the muscle of financial awareness and he had a question about life insurance. I hope he listens to Episode 139, where we brought in Joe Saul-Sehy to talk about the mechanics of life insurance and how that works. But Jake, congratulations on paying off almost $100,000 in debt. Great job. And frankly, I would love to know how you did it. So I’m going to reach out to him and maybe he’ll come on and share his story. Where did he share his story Scott?

Scott:
In our Facebook group BiggerPockets Money.

Mindy:
BiggerPockets Money Facebook group is facebook.com/groups/BPMoney. If you’re not a member yet, come join us and chat about money with fellow money nerds and frugal weirdos just like you.

Scott:
That’s right. Yeah, I have a lot of fun there and we see this kind of stuff all the time. With people paying off huge chunks of debt or reaching crazy net worth milestones or solving interesting little problems that are kind of unique to their situation and getting crowd sourced feedback there. So really fun and my feed is now dominated with these Facebook post. I couldn’t be more happy.

Mindy:
Yep, exactly same, same. Okay, so ask Scott a question, ask me a question, ask questions of anybody in the group. It is a guilt free, no judgment zone. So if you have a question, ask somebody who will understand what you’re going through. Should we get out of here, Scott?

Scott:
Let’s do it.

Mindy:
From Episode 146 of the BiggerPockets Money podcast, he is Scott Trench, I am Mindy Jensen and if you want bigger money, you’ll need bigger pockets. Thanks to Matt for suggesting that because I need help.

Scott:
That was a great outro.

Mindy:
That was a good one.

Scott:
Thank you Matt and Mindy.

Mindy:
Mindy just read it. That was thanks to Matt. Okay, we’ll see you soon.

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The BiggerPockets Money Podcast is for anyone who has money… or want to have more! Join BiggerPockets Community Manager and Podcast Director Mindy Jensen and CEO Scott Trench weekly for the BiggerP...
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