Scott: Welcome to BiggerPockets Money Show, Show Number 21.
“I had all of these different things going on at the same time because I knew that I wanted to be in basically an indestructible financial position. Being unemployed for six months and being drowning in debt, I did not ever want to return to a point where I felt like I was in trouble. So I was trying to create an indestructible financial position and build up my wealth to a point where even if I lost my job, I’d be okay”
It’s time for a new American dream, one that doesn’t involve working in a cubicle for 40 years, barely scraping by. Whether you’re looking to get your financial house in order, invest the money you already have, or discover new paths for wealth’s creation, you’re in the right place. This show is for anyone who has money or wants more, this is the BiggerPockets Money podcast.
Scott: How’s it going, everybody? I’m Scott Trench and I’m here with my co-host, Miss Mindy Jensen. How are you doing today, Mindy?
Mindy: Scott, I am doing fantastic. We had a great weekend this weekend. The sun is shining bright and beautiful and I am just having a really great time. I am so excited to get to today’s guest today. His name is Tony Gayden and I first became aware of Tony through the BiggerPockets forums. As you know, I am in the forums all day, every day, chatting about real estate and personal finance.
I see the same people over and over again and Tony is a frequent contributor and he gives really good, sound advice, and that’s one of the things that really catches my eye is when I see somebody who is continually giving really great information. Because real estate really isn’t hard. But you don’t know what you don’t know so when you see somebody giving just like, embodying the whole BiggerPockets mentality of sharing and helping out without expecting anything in return, it makes an impression.
Scott: Yeah, this guy absolutely is just a fantastic human being. I love Tony. I love everything he stands for, everything he’s accomplished. How he’s accomplished it. What he’s planning to do. What he wants to do, how he’s helping other people. This is just absolutely incredible. This guy started with his journey at 476 pounds, working the overnight shift at Walmart making less than $20,000 a year and $50,000 in debt and guess what?
There’s no cheat codes. It’s just an incredible story of perseverance and consistency and fundamentally doing the right things day after day for a long time. And you’ll hear all about it, all about his journey, all the specifics, and where he is today and how great things are going for him over the course of the next hour and 15 minutes. A little bit of a longer show today.
Mindy: And towards the end, Scott, you made a very astute observation. Tony didn’t get any help with this. He didn’t luck into anything. In fact, no part of his story revolves around luck. Every bit of it revolves around doing the work. There’s no magic pill for losing weight. There’s no magic pill for getting out of debt. He shares how he didn’t use a magic pill for anything and he still did it.
Scott: Absolutely and I can’t claim the same for myself. I had a college education paid for. I didn’t have any debt. I got lucky in making a great connection with Josh and being introduced into this community and to a great career.
Yeah, it doesn’t detract from some of the things that the rest of us have achieved by having a little bit of luck along the way. But Tony is just hard work. And these opportunities that came to him were really just through sheer persistency over years and years and years and he just kind of bit by bit built his position from that. So really impressive.
Mindy: I love his story. I don’t even want to continue talking to you. I want to jump into his story.
Scott: Well let’s jump into it but first, let’s hear a quick word from today’s sponsor.
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All right, big thanks to today’s sponsor and with that, let’s bring in Tony. Tony, welcome to the BiggerPockets Money Show. How’s it going?
Tony: Absolutely great. How are you doing today, Scott and Mindy?
Scott: We are doing fantastic.
Mindy: I’m having an awesome day and I am super excited to talk to you, Tony.
Tony: I’m super excited to be here. You know, this is a dream come true for me.
Scott: I thought we could start from the beginning and can you tell us how you got to rock bottom? What was your life like before you kind of hit the age of around 26 or 27?
Tony: So the truth is, right, that I did not have what most people would consider to be a great life before I reached adulthood. In fact, in most of my adult life, it was pretty bad for me. But the thing is that before I even got interested in financial independence or real estate or anything, I was basically the epitome of just rock bottom. I was horribly overweight. I was broke and I was in terrible shape. And I was living shiftlessly.
I was just—I had nothing and I had to turn everything around so I had gotten to the point where I weighed 476 pounds, okay? Not only that but I was working in a retail job on the overnight shift, making less than $20,000 a year. I had dropped out of college. I was living off of credit cards, living way above my means. And you know, I was close to $50,000 in debt on top of that. So I had fallen completely off and given up on life and everything that life meant.
Scott: Well, let’s take a step back. How did you find yourself in this position? What was the childhood and early adulthood like where this built up because you didn’t get to be in this position overnight. And I think a lot of our users are finding themselves in positions where things aren’t going so well for them. Can you maybe relate a little bit of that for us?
Tony: Oh yeah. Of course. So you know, I grew up in a lower-middle income household. Both my parents, they worked nice working class households but we didn’t talk about money. At the same time, a lot of my family, we had bad eating habits and for me, food, it was my best friend. I fell in love with it. I remember being 14 years old and weighing over 300 pounds.
So as I grew up, I got up to the point where I was you know, up in my twenties. I moved out of my parents’ house and at that point it became even worse for me. So I didn’t want to continue in college. I didn’t know what my purpose was in life.
So I took a job and I just was working this job. I’d come home and I would eat bad. I wouldn’t do anything. I’d just sit around and play video games all day and I would think to myself, well you know, this is just the way it is. I’ve got to keep eating. I was addicted to food. I’m not even going to joke there. It was a drug to me. It wasn’t anything less than that.
Mindy: And that’s one of the really—oh, I’m addicted to heroin. I’m addicted to cocaine. You can cut heroin and cocaine out of your life and then never have that temptation again but you need food to survive. So while still consuming your drug of choice, how do you get over it while still doing it?
Tony: That was the hard part for me. And I didn’t think I could get over it. And I ignored the problem for a long time. I just absolutely ignored it. And what happened was one day I went to work—I worked in a big retail store and they had a large industrial scale there, right? And this scale could weigh up to a thousand pounds. So for some reason, my curiosity got to me and I hopped on this scale. I had to see, how much do I weigh?
I hadn’t weighed myself in ten plus years. They didn’t even have scales that could weigh over a certain amount. So I hopped on this scale and I saw that number, 476. And it was like my heart stopped. I felt horrible. I mean, I felt like I was just going to die. I didn’t know what to do. I was panicked. I would love to say that, yeah, I immediately started losing weight but the truth is, no, it didn’t work like that. I was panicked but it wasn’t enough to motivate me to really turn my life around, not for a few more months after that.
Scott: So what was that transition? What finally got you to the point where you were like, you know what, I’m going to make a change. I’m going to start working on this and making some improvements in my life. How did that come about a few months later?
Tony: So it was a few months later. It was around Christmastime, right? What I remember is we had taken some family photos and I couldn’t believe how I looked when I saw these photos. I looked so huge. And I said to myself, I’m going to make a New Year’s Resolution that I’m going to lose this weight and I’m going to stick with it this time. I tried a lot of times before but I thought, this time, it’s going to be the time.
So I made that New Year’s Resolution. It turned out I couldn’t wait until New Year’s. I was so motivated at that point. I hit the rock bottom. I couldn’t wait. So on the 26th of December, I just said, all right. I’m starting today. So I remember, it was December 26th. It was right after Christmas so I got my good Christmas dinner in.
And I said, starting today, I’m going to diet and exercise, etc. What I didn’t know was going to happen was it snowed. I didn’t have enough money at the time for a gym membership. I didn’t know anything except for the fact that here it was. I looked at the ground and it had like probably three or four inches of snow on it and I was so motivated, I remember going out in the snow and walking for 30 minutes.
My feet were freezing. It was so cold but I was like, nothing hurts worse than the way I had felt when I was that overweight. Nothing. So I could have walked for hours that day. I was motivated and that was the motivation that I used to push me to keep going.
Mindy: I think it’s important, when Scott first asked you, oh you started off at rock bottom—that sounds really awful. I was like, Scott, don’t say it like that. But you know—
Tony: But it’s true.
Mindy: But that’s true. You were down and down and down and you finally hit rock bottom at 476 pounds and said you know what? I’m done. I’m so over this. I think it’s a really important place to start, is what is your rock bottom? What is your lowest? And today is my rock bottom. However it is, I’m done. I’m fixing it. I’m going over. I’m changing my life. So you went on your walk for 30 minutes. What did you do the next day?
Tony: The very next day, I began planning. And you know, I looked at all the things that I had done wrong in the past. The reasons why all my former, previous diets had failed. And I put together a plan that I thought for sure would work. What the plan came down to was, I would exercise for a minimum of 30 minutes every day. But that could just be walking at first. I wasn’t in any good enough shape to do any jogging or any really intense exercise but I thought well, I was doing nothing before so doing this 30 minutes now, it’s more than nothing.
The second thing, I was like okay, they talk a lot about eating healthy, etc. What I wanted to do was, I wanted to make a diet that I knew I could stick to. So I planned it all out. Smaller portion sizes, lower calorie count, but it was all stuff that I enjoyed. So it was fruits and vegetables that I liked. I’m not going to sit here and eat, oh I have to eat this boiled chicken breast.
I was like no, I mean my problem was, I was eating too much. I could focus on those other things later after I lost the weight. So that’s what I thought. I was like, okay, so I’m going to put this plan together and then what I did was, I said to myself okay, what am I going to do when my friends or my family wanted to eat out and I decided I was going to take the hard route.
I was going to go and I was going to be like no, I just can’t do that. I’m going to eat as best I can but I’m not going to go out and eat every other day and I’m not going to enjoy your cake. And I know it might hurt your feelings but it’s just something that I have to do. I have to change my life or I’m not going to have a life to change.
Scott: So walk us through that first month. And by the way, when I started off, I got a little overexcited, I think. I think the reason is because I know some of the details of your story overall and I was so excited for, not the rock bottom part, but the build, this part that we’re getting to right now but I think it was a little overeager.
Tell us about rock bottom. No, no. I wanted to hear about this part here. So tell us about that first month though. You had this plan. What was that like? Were you able to stick with the plan and move forward for that first month? What were some of the challenges?
Tony: The first month was very hard and let me say, my mother’s birthday is on January 7th, right? So every year, I take her out to dinner for her birthday. And so here I was, I was taking her out to dinner and I was like, I was panicking because I didn’t know how I was going to be able to eat out at this restaurant and still maintain my diet.
So I looked up all the menu for, it was Red Lobster, and I looked up the entire menu. And they had calorie counts, everything, online. And I planned out my entire meal two days before I even took her out. And that’s how dedicated I was.
At the same time, I’m telling my family and friends what I’m doing and of course, they had all heard this before. So they were hopeful but they were skeptical at the same time. So they were like well, if this fails then we’ll still support you. And I’m like well, I almost felt like I was doing it out of spite then. I wanted to succeed out of spite.
Mindy: Hey, however you succeed.
Tony: Yeah so I mean, after I made it through the first—it was probably after three weeks, things started getting easier for me. I built a routine. I built a plan. And then all I had to do was stick with that plan in order to keep going.
Scott: I was just going to ask if you saw any results after these first three weeks?
Tony: So I didn’t have a scale that could weigh me at that heavy. That’s kind of the scary part, right? So I didn’t know if I was losing weight or not. I just knew that I felt like I was getting healthier. My clothes felt a little bit looser. My clothes were still very large and I still looked very much out of shape but I felt like I was making progress. So there was no real way that I could measure if I was losing weight or not.
And that didn’t actually come for about three months, right? And then that’s when I got online and I found a scale that could weigh up to, I think it was 400 pounds. And so I decided to buy the scale. It was quite expensive. I think it cost me over $100 for this scale but I was like, I have to know if I’m making any progress or not and this was after three months.
I knew my clothes felt a lot baggier but I had no clue what I weighed. So I bought the scale. I weighed myself and at the very first weigh-in, I remember I had dropped down and I was 375 pounds. So I had lost, in three months, over 100 pounds.
Scott: That’s incredible.
Mindy: Oh, my goodness. Did you have any doctor’s supervision or were you just like, I’m going to do this?
Tony: Now, I realize a lot of people, they suggest you get doctor’s supervision but I just went for it. I thought nothing was unhealthier than being just that overweight. So I just knew I had to do it.
Scott: How are you feeling at that point? Were you feeling better about everything as this was happening or was this a daily struggle that was really hard for you the whole time? You said it got easier after three weeks.
Tony: It did. It got a lot easier and as my clothes, they fit a lot looser, I just knew that I was getting healthier. I’d be outside walking and I could walk. I mean, it started off with just a nice, slow pace. Next thing I know, I’m speed walking, right? And when I was about 375, I was doing a light jog sometimes. I just wanted to go faster. I wanted to push it as far as I could. I wanted to do as much as I could. I didn’t want to slow down. I wasn’t satisfied with just walking. I wanted to run. I was doing this so that I could live my life and that’s what it was really all about.
So I started building things up. So after about three months, when I saw that progress on the scale, I was so motivated, I went out and got a gym membership. I didn’t have a lot of money at the time but I thought to myself, this is a small price to pay. I’ll go every single day. If a gym membership is $50 a month, it’s less than $2 a day for me going every single day and it gives me something to do. And I decided that I wanted to make this fitness a regular part of my life.
So I really got into it. I started lifting weights. I started doing everything at that point. I started really hitting it hard. And it wasn’t just 30 minutes a day anymore. I was going to the gym and working out for an hour and a half or two hours a day at that point. I mean, just the difference in—when you see progress, it motivates you. It really does.
When you see that kind of progress, it motivates you to want to push harder. You know, I was like, I can do this. I finally knew that this is possible, that I was not going to fail this time and that I was going to reach my goal. And that’s exactly what I did.
Scott: So what did the end of the year look like?
Tony: Really, it started before the end of the year. About September, the weight loss, it started hitting other aspects of my life. It started pushing me to, hey, I’ve got to get out of this dead end job. Hey, I’ve got to learn about finances. I’ve got to bring myself up above the level where I was before. And so what I did was, I started applying at other jobs. I started applying all over the place. I just had this boost of confidence, and this confidence was telling me hey, you’re better than this job. You’re better than working retail on the overnight shift. You’re the kind of person who is capable of doing anything you want to do.
So I started applying for jobs. I applied and I finally got this great job as a cable splicing technician for AT&T. And it was a decent, middle income job and the funny thing I remember about this job was, because we had to climb ladders, there was a weight requirement. You had to weigh below 275 pounds. So I pushed really hard and the day that we had the weigh-in for the job, I weighed in, and this was in September—I weighed in at 270 pounds. So I was just five pounds, but if I hadn’t lose that weight, I never would have gotten that job.
And that job took me out of the retail and it changed my life. I tell everyone to this day that when I got that job, that was when I really started changing my life. The honest truth is, that’s my favorite job ever. It might not have been that great of a job and it wasn’t that great of a pay, looking back, but that was the job that changed my life and that’s why I loved it so much.
Scott: Do you mind sharing what company you were working at and what you were making before and after this transition? So I worked at Walmart full-time on the overnight shift. I made a little less than $20,000 a year. And I was living pretty low income. I lived in town in what some people consider a pretty bad neighborhood. I just was skating along and I didn’t have anything going on. That’s the truth.
So basically, when I got this job, it was my first real taste of what it was like to be middle class. I had never experienced it before and the truth is that it made things worse for me. So I would love to say that I instantly became this great saver and I saved all my money. The opposite is true. Suddenly, I found myself able to get credit cards, able to borrow this money and I found myself sinking into this debt.
I was like oh well, I’ve got this $50,000 a year job so I can buy furniture now. Or oh, I got this $50,000 a year job so let me just put this on the credit card and that on the credit card. It really began making things worse for me but that’s not even half of the story. Okay so, when you said I hit rock bottom before, that was the point in my physical fitness where I hit rock bottom.
So the point where I hear rock bottom in my finances is about to come up. So this wonderful job that I finally got that brought me into the middle class, the truth is that I didn’t even know what was going on but that was right back in 2008, right? And there was a little thing called the recession going on. So I’m in my twenties. I didn’t really watch the news. I had no clue what was going on but one day, they called us into the office and they said, you guys are all being laid off as part of a group of 12,000 people across the entire country who are going to be laid off. And you’re going to lose this job.
So I’m pretty resourceful. I figured, no big deal. I started applying immediately for other jobs and it surprised me when I wasn’t able to find one. Where are the jobs at? All of a sudden, I looked around and there weren’t any jobs anywhere. They all were just—I mean it was like everybody was looking for a job at the same time and the few jobs that there were available, everybody was fighting for. So after 60 days, all of a sudden, I found myself unemployed after the first time in my adult life.
And so I was like, okay, well maybe I’ll find a job in the next few weeks before, and I didn’t. After about two weeks, all of a sudden, I realized if I don’t apply for unemployment right now, I am going to drown. I started getting my credit card statements. I started getting all these bills in the mail and I was like, I don’t have any money to pay these. I had just a little 401K. I cashed it out just so I could pay my bills. So I put in for unemployment and I kept looking. I’m going to find a job sooner or later.
Well, sooner or later turned into nearly six months. So I was unemployed for six months all the way up until mid-2009. And it was about the lowest I had ever been in my life. Meanwhile, I am still able to stay in physical shape. I’m not the most happy person at this point, right? I didn’t give up my gym membership. I remember that.
I was like, you know what? I can’t let myself slide backwards. I can’t let myself gain that weight back and let the stress of this situation force me back into where I was before. I still had kept the weight off. I even pushed even lower. I got down to about 225 and even though I wasn’t employed, I knew that it was very important for my future that I stay healthy and that I keep this weight off. So yeah.
Finally, one day, I get a phone call and for a while, I had been wanting to work in law enforcement. So I had applied. I got a few different law enforcement jobs on top of everything else including applying to get my old job at Walmart back, which they did not hire me. But finally, one day, they called me—the state of Kansas called me to work at a prison as a correctional officer.
Now, back before, I would have never took this job—but here they were and they were like, we’re going to pay you $26,000 a year. And I’m like, man, this is barely a step above Walmart. But it was a job and I knew that I needed to take it. I needed to take it because sitting at home on unemployment was like death to me. It was worse than death. It was awful. I just felt like I was shiftless and purposeless and nothing was ever going to happen.
So just getting back out there, getting back in the workforce was super important. And you know, the fact that it was in law enforcement, the career that I had really wanted to do, I decided hey, I’m going for it. So I hopped into this job. Fortunately, there was a ton of overtime because if it wasn’t for that, I would have still not been able to pay my bills.
Mindy: I think it’s important to highlight the fact and congratulate you on the fact that you know what, this isn’t my dream salary but I need to do something. I had a job loss and I’ve been on unemployment and it does not make you feel proud to cash that check. When you go and cash it, you’re like well, I’ve got to go and pay rent so I’m going to, but it’s not something that makes your heart sing.
I have a cousin who wants to live in his little city and he had a job and he was great and then he lost his job. And he was like, well, there are other jobs out there but I don’t want to move. Oh, I’m sorry, are you financially independent? Do you get this option? You need to work and pay your bills unless you have money to pay your bills outside of working, I think you do need to contribute to society and don’t live off the land or whatever. So good for you for taking the $26,000 a year job. It’s not amazing but now you can eat.
Scott: It’s amazing but what Tony is also showing here is hey, by taking this job, he was able to find opportunity and opportunity is not going to flow to you while you’re sitting at home collecting unemployment. It’s going to flow to you when you’re working hard and kicking butt at your profession. And that’s where he’s saying hey, I was able to get this overtime and make things go from there.
So it sounds like, when did this journey start? Was this 2006 that you started with the weight loss?
Tony: Yeah, it was December 2006.
Scott: Okay. So 2007 floats around, you get the new job in 2007 and then in 2008, midway through that year, late in that year, you get laid off. Then you’re six months on unemployment in 2009, and your health is really, really continuing to be good. You’re 225 but you’re very frustrated professionally. You’ve got no purpose. And then you get this job at the prison and that starts to provide some benefits even though that wasn’t exactly what you wanted. Is that a fair kind of summary of where we’re at up to this point?
Tony: Yeah, a very good summary. And I wanted to make a career out of law enforcement. I wanted to not just law enforcement, but I wanted to shoot up to the highest levels. And my thought was, becoming a federal agent, that was my dream. I wanted to do it. I figured that I was physically capable. I figured that I was mentally capable. And I decided to start pushing towards that.
So I was lacking the experience, so what I did was, I started off at the state prison. I applied to work at the federal prison and one day, it took 11 months but they called me up and they were like hey, we have a job. I’m waiting for the interview and they saw that I had that experience and they hired me. And then about two years later—I worked there for two years. I get a call for a uniformed federal law enforcement officer position in Arizona.
And so I had never lived anywhere outside of Kansas City. I’m originally from Kansas City. So I didn’t even hesitate though. I said yes. I accepted the job. I was 31 years old and I packed up everything I had and moved across country. And this was the first time ever. And it was scary. I’m not going to joke there. It’s scary moving. You’re being away from family, being away from friends. But it opened up opportunities to me that I didn’t even believe were possible.
It really changed things in me because I wasn’t trying to live up to other people’s expectations anymore. I was living life for myself and for my purpose and it allowed me to do things the way I wanted to do. And I decided when I moved to Arizona that I wanted to get into financial shape. I wanted to be in the best financial condition ever. But I had no clue how to.
One of my coworkers, actually, he was on the same path I was. And he lent me a book that I’m sure a lot of people on your podcast know about and it was called The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey. Now, I didn’t know anything about Dave Ramsey at that point. I didn’t read financial blogs or anything. So I picked up this book with an open mind and I read it cover to cover and I remembered, I read it in like a day. And it made sense, the way he writes is really simple.
I absolutely loved it and I was like, you know what? I’ve got to do this. This is what I was looking for, basically a roadmap to tell me how to get out of debt, a roadmap to tell me how to start building wealth, and a roadmap to finally start getting to where I want to be in life instead of just drowning in this debt. It was back in 2012.
I remember that because I spent the entire next year and I followed the plan exactly. The baby steps, the emergency fund, everything. And after I read that book though, it opened my mind to the possibilities and what I really wanted to do was start to learn more.
Scott: So when you were talking about your weight loss, you knew the moment you stepped onto that scale for the first time, 476, you knew you had a number from which to work from, right?
So I’m curious to know if you had a similar type of experience with your money after you read The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey and started taking the baby steps. Did you know what your net worth was, how much debt you had, how much progress you made in that first year? That kind of stuff?
Tony: Yes, I tore apart my finances, just like he said to do. I wanted to create a budget and you can’t create a budget unless you know how much money you’re spending. So I printed off all of my bank statements and I started categorizing everything. I saw that I was basically wasting tons of money on things that didn’t make any sense.
I saw that I was over $50,000 in debt. I saw that I had all these student loans that were not going anywhere and I said, I can knock this out. I can do this. I’m going to knock these bills out one at a time, start through the smallest and going up to the largest and that’s exactly what I did.
I remember I had three different credit cards and the first one only had a little under $1000 balance on it but I knocked that one out and I just remember being so happy. Oh, I knocked one of these credit cards. It’s gone. So I knocked out the credit cards first. I had a little bit of furniture that I had bought that I still owed money on. I knocked that out. I paid off my car payment and then I was like okay, all I’ve got left are these student loans.
So a lot of people will just be like, oh well, student loans, no big deal. It’s low interest rate. You can spread it over long-term and I was like, no. I’m going to knock these student loans out, too. So I really started putting every penny I had into paying those student loans off. And it was a little over a year.
And for the first time in my life, I was absolutely debt-free. It was an amazing feeling. I remember the student loan company actually sent me a letter to say hey, your debt is paid off. And I still have that letter somewhere. I don’t know what I did with it. I was so proud. I was like, I’m free.
Mindy: So you paid off $50,000 in debt in, did you say a little over a year? What was your salary at this time?
Tony: I had started working for this uniformed law enforcement agency and my pay when I started had been a little over $40,000 a year. That was in 2011 but by the time I hit 2012, I was hitting about $60,000 a year with overtime. So basically, it might have been more than that. It might have been $70,000 with overtime.
But I was saving, using more than probably 60% of what I made just to pay off those debts. And not only that but I had a car that I sold. I sold things. Everything that I read in the book he said to do, I did, in order to pay off debt. I cashed out a 401K. I had a Roth IRA at that point. I completely cashed it out to pay off these debts. I was like, I don’t need any of that. I need my debt paid off. So I did it.
And after that, I found myself wondering what now? And Dave Ramsey, he said start putting your 15% into your retirement, and that’s what I did at first but it wasn’t very satisfying.
Mindy: No, that’s not a satisfying contribution when you’re first starting but it gets really great when it’s had time to grow. I really enjoy putting money into my 401K now because I can see that it grows. It does grow.
I have a couple of comments. First of all, we never said congratulations on losing 265 pounds because that’s enormous. That’s a real accomplishment. If you’re not watching this on video, go to YouTube and check out the video and look at what he looks like now. Tony, you said you weighed in today before the show—how much do you weigh?
Tony: So I weighed 211 pounds this morning when I went to the gym. This is probably the lowest I’ve ever been in my adult life and I feel absolutely wonderful. I can’t even say that it was easy but this is what people don’t tell you. Losing weight, it’s not the hard part. The truly hard part is keeping it off and it requires a change of mindset. It requires that you dedicate time to it every day, that you continue to watch what you’re eating years later.
And you will fall off track from time to time. I mean, you will go up a little bit sometimes and then go down sometimes, but overall, if you’re good 95% of the time, you’re going to keep that weight off. It’s truly a lifestyle change. The same thing that I used to help me lose weight is what I used to help get back in financial condition.
I figured out what worked for me. I figured out what I had to do personally, what worked best for my situation and then I implemented it. Then after I got to where I wanted to be where I was out of debt, then I started tweaking the plan so that I could get better results.
Mindy: Yeah, and there’s such a correlation with the success you found with weight loss and getting out of debt with some of the other stories that we’ve heard, both the Frugal Woods and the Waffles on Wednesday and every other guest we’ve had, has said once we discovered this debt-free thing, once we discovered this, I jumped in with both feet and I cut out everything.
Again, here’s an example of first you decide, oh, this is amazing. I can totally do this. I’m going to go whole-hog and look at what you’ve got. I mean, 11 years later, I’m sorry, I’m not making these comments—my mom’s from the South and some of these colloquialisms are just around weight. I’m not saying you’re a hog.
Tony: No, no worries.
Mindy: You know, you go in whole-hog and you lost 265 pounds. That’s an enormous accomplishment. You paid off $50,000 in debt, making $60,000-$70,000 a year. That’s ridiculous. That’s like paying everything and not spending any money at all.
Scott: The incredible thing is we aren’t even done yet. You have a journey left about how you built wealth after you paid off all your debt that you’re going to share, right?
Tony: Yeah, it’s a crazy story when you think about it. You know, it seems like I get knocked down and I come up and you know, I tell everybody, I have to work twice as hard to get half as far as most other people but I will keep pushing no matter what happens.
So after I had finally gotten out of debt and I started really getting into investing, here I was with this 401K—we call it the TSP and I thought to myself, okay, now what? This isn’t very exciting. So I started reading other books. I started looking for other pieces that could lead me in the path that I wanted to go because I wanted to be more than just an average. I wanted to be far above average. I wanted to reach a level of wealth. I wanted to reach a level of financial independence that the normal person will never see.
And so I started buying just tons of books and one of those books, it was suggested to me by the very same person who, my coworker who let me borrow his copy of The Total Money Makeover, was Rich Dad, Poor Dad. So that really, really opened my eyes, the way that money was created, the way the wealth was created. And it opened my eyes to real estate. And I had never truly considered real estate before that. When I read that book, all of a sudden, it enlightened me.
And so I knew I had to learn everything possible about it. And I had to do it because that was the best way for someone to make wealth and long-term wealth and it excited me. It excited me for the first time about truly building this wealth and I was like, hey, I can do this. I can do this. So I started looking for more information about real estate and that’s actually how I came across BiggerPockets. I was searching online for more information about real estate and I came across the BiggerPockets blog and this was back in 2014. And on the webpage, I said, oh look. They have forums. I can ask people questions. It made me excited. I got on there and I started asking questions and you know, everybody was very friendly and started answering my questions. And I just decided to just jump in.
At this point, on top of the 15% that I was putting into my retirement, I was saving. I was saving a ton of money because I knew I’m going to buy real estate. I’m going to buy a property and I need the money to do it. I didn’t really know that much about it back then but I did know that I was going to need a 25% down payment because I wanted to buy a multi-family and that’s why I started saving and really just putting it into a savings account and the rest is history. And that’s how I got into real estate.
Scott: Can we go just a little bit into that history and hear about the first purchase? How much did you save and where was that purchase?
Tony: So at the time, I lived in Arizona. I lived in a very small town and it was called Wilcox. And it’s about 85 miles to the east of Tucson. I knew that I didn’t want to invest in real estate there, so not knowing what I was doing, I was like oh, I can’t invest here but Phoenix is in Arizona and they have a great real estate market so I started looking at every piece of real estate I could and the more I read the articles, they kept saying you can get these multi-families, four-unit, with just regular financing.
So I was like okay. I’m going to buy a four-unit. I had never been a landlord before, never done it, and I was like yeah, I can do that. Didn’t know anything about long-distance investing but I had read Rich Dad, Poor Dad, and that was what Robery Kiyosaki did. He said he didn’t manage his own properties and he invested far away. I thought well, I can do that, so I went out to Phoenix and I remember going there every weekend for a month or two and looking at real estate and I would write down every property that I was interested in seeing.
And they were usually two to four units and finally I found this great property and I thought oh yeah, I’m going to buy it. And I got this thing inspected. And it was a disaster. It was the worst probably shape of anything. It had termite damage and it needed a new roof. One of the tenants, the water wasn’t working. They had just put these tenants in probably two days before I got it under contract and I chickened out. I was like oh my goodness, I’m going to lose all of my money. So I backed out after this horrible inspection. I was like, no, I can’t do this.
Well, my friend who had lent me Rich Dad, Poor Dad, he came up to me and he gave me a little tough loving. He was like, you’re a coward. He said that to me. He said, you’re a coward. Now, I don’t like being called a coward. And I was like I’m going to prove you wrong. So I got back out there and I started looking for properties again. I found this property in Phoenix and it was everything I wanted. It was four units, fully occupied. It had a recent remodel and was right in the price range I was looking for.
So I went and got it under contract sight unseen. That’s how—I didn’t even go look at it. I had never seen it before and I was like, I’ll be okay. I wanted this and I knew that I would go look at it during the inspection and everything and if it didn’t work out, I could back out again. But I didn’t intend on backing out. So I had to jump through quite a few hoops but I ended up closing on that property and that was my very first real estate purchase.
The funny thing is, I was still renting an apartment when I bought it. So here I was renting an apartment and I had bought this place and it was $179,000. I had to put $45,000 down and then on top of that, I had to pay all the closing costs. So it was over $50,000 that I needed. So even saving as much as I did, I only had about $30,000.
So at that point in time, I got a little braver and I wasn’t as scared of debt anymore so I decided I was going to borrow against my retirement, my TSP, which is a 401K equivalent and I was going to take out a loan so that I could pay the rest of the costs for that down payment. That’s how much I believed in it and I had done the numbers.
I don’t know if there was a BiggerPockets calculator back then or not but I didn’t have it so I created this cool Excel spreadsheet and I was like, hey, this is the repair costs. This is the property management costs. I found a great property manager, I met him on BiggerPockets and it turned out this guy is amazing. He saved my butt because he was so good. I’d love to give him a shout-out if that’s okay. He’s a member of BiggerPockets.
Tony: His name is Dick Rosen and he is just a great property manager. He held my hand even though I didn’t know what I was doing.
Mindy: I want to go back and touch on a couple of things. First of all, your first property, you did not chicken out. You took the information that became available to you and made an informed decision to say this isn’t the property for me. So that’s not a chicken out. But I’m glad you did because then your friend was like, no, you’ve got to do this.
Then you found a property that you were looking for, you found what you wanted. You decided that—you ran the numbers. That’s the point that I wanted to make. You ran the numbers and decided that it worked for you. And this BiggerPockets website that you keep talking about sounds really awesome.
Is that www.BiggerPockets.com/calc for the calculators where you can it to run these numbers and see if it’s going to make sense, because not every property makes sense as a rental. Not every property makes sense as a flip. And there are some properties that don’t make sense at any price. So good for you for running your numbers and figuring out that it works and then finding somebody to manage your property for you.
Tony: Oh yeah, it worked out great and I love you guys and honest truth is that without BiggerPockets, I wouldn’t be nearly to the point where I’m at right now because it opened up a lot of the information I needed. It helped me just not in real estate either. I listened to all of the BiggerPockets Money podcast. I love everything about BiggerPockets.
It’s just me spending most of my day browsing the web forums, reading the articles, listening to your podcasts, watching your videos on YouTube. It’s kind of ridiculous but you know, I’m a huge fan and I thank you for just getting me the information I needed to get where I want to be.
Mindy: That’s awesome.
Scott: It’s just incredible. One other detail that I want to point out here is you borrowed against your TSP to help supplement your down payment here as far as your 401K retirement plan. It’s kind of a similar type of thing. And a lot of people try to do that but the difference between you and a lot of people who are trying to do that is you were already saving at an extraordinary rate. And all this did was help you speed up your purchase by a few months. You would have been in the position to buy that property three, four, five, six months down the road.
That’s a dangerous, dangerous strategy for someone that does not have their financial house in order. It helped you achieve your goal a little faster for someone that was in your position. So I think that’s just like an observation I wanted to make about, you had put in all this work ahead of time to be in such a really strong financial position to get into that.
And then the last part that I’m really looking forward to here is can you give us like a small couple bit of highlights of what your career has been like in the time since you bought that property, both professionally and your portfolio?
Tony: Of course, of course. So you know, I kept pushing forward and like I said before, my goal was to become this federal agent so back in 2015, I had been in Arizona for about four years, I get a phone call and I kept applying—I didn’t think that it would ever happen but I kept applying. I get a phone call and they ask me to come in and go to this interview.
I go in for this interview and I nailed it. They thought I was a great candidate and they wanted me on the job and I passed the interview. All I had to do was get through the next step, so it took a few months but I finally got the final firm offer. And hired me as an agent with the Department of Homeland Security in Omaha, Nebraska. The reason that was important was because I’m originally from Kansas City and it allowed me to get almost back home. So I’d be a two and a half hour drive to my home. I’d be able to see my family more often and you know, really be in a place, in a job in a position that I’d always dreamed of.
So before I did this, I started following some of the other advice that I had read on BiggerPockets so I moved out of the little small town. I actually moved to Tucson and I had read about something called house-hacking. And I was like, house-hacking? What’s this? So this was only a few months after I had bought my first property. So they were like you can buy this property with an FHA loan at 3.5% down if you move into one of the units.
I was like, that sounds really cool. 3.5% down, I’d get another fourplex. So I looked all over Tucson and I found this fourplex there and first thing was that I asked my real estate agent in Phoenix, do you know a good realtor in Tucson, right? And she was like, I know a great realtor in Tucson. He’s also a real estate investor and he buys small multi-family, that’s his specialty. And I’m going to hook you up with him.
So she gave me his number because she knew that I was really serious about getting this property. So I tell him, hey, I’m serious. I give him the pre-qualification letter for the FHA loan and I tell him, you see anything in my price range, bring it to me and I will buy it. So he calls me up on the phone one day while I’m at work and he’s like, yeah, here’s this property. It’s in Tucson. It’s about one mile from downtown. It’s a fourplex. All the utilities are separate. The rents are, I think it was $600 a month per unit, and it’s $152,000, which was just in the price range I was looking at. And he was like, but we have to act fast.
And I was like, well I’m not even going to look at it. I haven’t even seen any pictures. I offered them full price right now because it was such a good deal. And so I signed all of the paperwork electronically over my phone. I hadn’t even seen the property. I didn’t know. It could have been falling apart but I was so wanting it so bad, I didn’t realize he had brought me a pocket listing. And it wasn’t even listed yet. He brought it to me first because he knew I was serious. And that was the kind of reputation I had built up that quickly.
Mindy: I want to jump in really quick and ask you to clarify what a pocket listing is because a lot of our real estate listeners will know but some people may not know what a pocket listing is.
Tony: So a pocket listing is when a realtor might have a listing, right? And they want to market it to someone who they know is a serious buyer before they put it out to the general public, just for speed’s sake. They know they have a serious person who was willing to buy, rather than putting it out there on the MLS and then going through a whole bunch of offers and you know, time-consuming, etc.
But if they have someone who they know is going to buy and they know who is willing to pay the full price, they’ll just offer it straight to them immediately. And so he was already working with me and he knew it was right in my price range, he offered it to me first. And so, the very day that it was offered to me, I put in that full price offer and I was able to get it.
Mindy: And I think that’s important, too, that you put in the full price offer. So what I see a lot, I’m in the forums all day long. That’s my job. So I’m right there with you. I see you all the time. And one of the things that I see is people will say, this doesn’t fit the 70% Rule. And the 70% Rule is after repairs, you should offer 70% of the price of the house. And I’m sorry, if you’re listing a house for $100,000, you’re not going to accept an offer for $70,000. Especially in this market.
So not trying to get a steal of a deal, just hey, any deal is a good deal. Sometimes, it’s priced right and you should go for that. Knowing what the market is, knowing what your prices are, it’s so important. And jumping in and taking advantage of a pocket listing at full price is like a dream client for the agent and a dream deal for you. You’re not fighting with anybody to get this property.
Tony: Yeah, and in terms of finances, it really ended up being a great deal because I ended up living for free. I mean, absolutely, on top of living for free, I was actually getting paid to live there. My mortgage payment on that place is a little over $1,000 a month but with three tenants, I was bringing in $1800 a month. So it was paying my entire mortgage and all of my utilities and you know, so I might have had a couple hundred dollars on top of that, minus repairs and maintenance, etc.
But it allowed me to save even more money and get me in an even better financial position. So by the time I was getting ready to move to Omaha, I already had enough money saved up at that point to buy another property. But I didn’t because I didn’t know the Omaha market and I didn’t want to take that risk until I had a good enough time to learn it.
Mindy: So before you moved to Omaha, what does your portfolio look like? You have the two fourplexes in Arizona?
Tony: Yeah, that’s right. I have a fourplex in Phoenix and I have a fourplex in Tucson. And I lived in the one that’s in Tucson and I had just never have lived in the one that’s in Phoenix but it’s a non-owner occupied one and also at that point, I still invested in my TSP and then I also had a Roth IRA which I had cashed out earlier but I had started putting money back into it. Then on top of that I was like, I’m kind of interested in stocks and so I opened up a brokerage account on top of that. And then of course I had six months’ worth of emergency reserves in cash, just like Dave Ramsey said to do in his book.
So I had all of these different things going on at the same time because I knew that I wanted to be in a basically indestructible financial position. Being unemployed for six months and being drowning in debt, I did not ever want to return to a point where I felt like I was in trouble. So I was trying to create an indestructible financial position and build up my wealth to a point where even if I had lost my job, I’d be okay.
Scott: Can you repeat what year this was when you moved back to Omaha?
Tony: I had never lived in Omaha before, but it was like back to the Midwest. But it was 2015.
Scott: What was your journey like from 2015 to the present?
Tony: So my pay increased a lot. Part of it is I am a workaholic and I will work a ton of overtime. The other thing is that I love my job so I volunteer for everything. So every time there was an opportunity to come up to travel or go somewhere, I would do it. And you know, the new job allows me to travel a lot and I was able to increase my income probably $30,000 a year just from working a whole lot extra. But then once you include the rental real estate income, all of a sudden, I’m making over $150,000 a year. This was coming from a guy making $20,000 a year.
Scott: At Walmart on the overnight shift.
Tony: I still to this day, I live far below my means. I have to. So I moved here to Omaha and a person making that much money, usually a normal person would go out and they’d buy an expensive house at the very top of their budget but I bought a house here a year after I got here and I was like okay, I’m going to buy a decent house in a nice neighborhood but it’s going to be a live-in flip.
And at first, it was going to be a live-in flip. Now, I’m going to call it a live-in BRRRR. Because I haven’t heard two people say that before. It’s going to become a rental after I move out but I’m going to refinance it and put some good tenants in here after I’m done here. But I decided to live in housing—even though it’s a single-family house, it’s far below what I can afford.
So when I bought it, it was $125,000 but I came through and I already remodeled the bathroom, changed out all of the piping. I’ve done a whole lot of work. I still have a ton of work to do but by the time I’m done, it should be worth a little over $200,000.
Mindy: Wow, nice.
Tony: Yeah, so I looked at it as an investment. That’s the way you should look at everything in your life. I had to change the way I looked at everything. It’s not so much about trying to impress people or trying to live at the top of what you can afford. It’s about trying to one, invest, and make wealth for yourself. It’s about living below your means. I consider it temporary sacrifice so that I can have a wonderful future.
And so, sometimes it’s difficult. Sometimes I feel like I’m living too much below my means. But it’s been working so far and it’s really changed everything for me. So when I started, I had negative net worth. And I’ve already gotten my net worth over half a million dollars. And that’s since 2012. It’s not where I want to be. I want to go a lot further than that. obviously, I want to be a millionaire. That’s my first real goal. I want to be a millionaire.
Scott: Wait, that’s your first real goal?
Tony: You have to have big goals.
Mindy: I don’t know, 276 pounds lost is a pretty big goal to me.
Tony: Well you know what, the weight loss and the way I go about doing things in life is all based on that weight loss. The weight loss was the catalyst that fed everything. I started pushing for reaching my goals. I started working harder and harder. There’s no such thing. I can outwork anyone. Everyone else, they only push so hard. I wanted to push—I had to because I was behind. Everyone else, they grew up since their teenage years, learning about money, and that’s what I felt.
Here I was, I was starting my financial journey at 31 years old, you know? So I was like, I’m behind. I have to get ahead or I’m not going to make it. And that was the same with the weight loss. I didn’t start losing weight and getting into shape until I was 27. Meanwhile, there’s people who have been physically fit since they were 10 years old.
So I’m over a decade behind considering in my mind, no matter what I’m doing, I’ll always start at a position of disadvantage and I have to push harder because I’m starting at that position of disadvantage.
Mindy: I think that’s important to look at it and say, I am starting at a position of disadvantage but I’m not letting that stop me. I weighed 476 pounds. It’s real easy to just say, I’m never going to lose that weight and be done. It’s so easy to say I’m $50,000 in debt. There’s no way I can pay that off. I’m not even going to try.
Scott: I think most people would say that it is fair to say that you’re starting from a position of disadvantage if you weighed 476 pounds, worked for $20,000 a year overnight job at Walmart, and you’re $50,000 in debt. That’s a fair assessment of disadvantage. And what’s incredible about your story here is that I don’t really see the point in this where you got lucky.
Tony: Oh no.
Scott: Where did you get lucky, because a lot of people that are wealthy was like, yeah, I got lucky or whatever. But I don’t see that in this. At no point here were you like, I hit the homerun on this property purchase or I hit the homerun on this job. It was like no, I worked really hard. I lost 150 pounds and then I got a job where the weight requirement was 275 pounds and I was just under that.
And then I got laid off within six months along with 12,000 other people who didn’t deserve to get laid off. And then I had to start over again working at $26,000 a year and then I worked my way up from there by making overtime pay. Where’s the luck? Where did you get lucky?
Tony: I consider myself extremely lucky. I think that the right things that needed to happen to me in order for me to make those decisions that I made, they happened. They might have been negative things but if it wasn’t for the fact that I lost my job, I would have never gotten down the path of financial freedom.
If it wasn’t for the fact that I weighed 476, I wouldn’t be in the greatest shape of my life right now. I would have just been content with being just average, you know? Or I would have been just skating along. I’m maybe 20 pounds overweight. But I tell everyone that because I was faced with these challenges, I am where I am right now and I’m grateful for every experience that I’ve had, even the bad ones.
Mindy: Yes. And that was a good observation, Scott, because there are a lot of people whose stories involve luck. My story involves a fair amount of luck. I mean, there was a lot of preparation but there was also a hefty amount of luck thrown into there, too. So good job, Scott.
Scott: Well I think we should probably move onto our Famous Four here unless you have any other points that you want to share with us before we move onto our last few questions, here, Tony.
Tony: No, I just want to tell everyone that basically, if there’s any problem in your life, if there’s anything that you want to get through, you just have to keep trying. You have to keep pushing towards your goal. You have to. It’s 100% necessary that the main thing is, you can’t give up.
Mindy: Don’t give up. That’s a great piece of advice. You look at your life, you didn’t give up and now look at where you are. This is awesome.
Okay. What is your favorite finance book? And I’m sure that I already know the answer to this question.
Tony: Well, you do, you do. But I’m going to throw a little twist on it for you. Back in 2012, while I was working through, trying to build goals for my life, I wanted to learn Spanish. So I decided okay, well I loved this book, The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey, right? But I want to learn Spanish so I’m going to use it to help me learn the language. So I bought La Transformacion Totale de Su Dinero. The audio.
And I have listened to this, probably I don’t know, 30 times. And I absolutely love it. It combines helping me learn Spanish and learning about money. Even though I don’t follow everything that Dave Ramsey says anymore, because it was the catalyst that helped me learn about money, I consider it necessary reading or listening for everyone.
Scott: Can you read that title one more time for the Show Notes?
Tony: Yeah. It’s La Transformacion Totale de Su Dinero.
Scott: Okay, great. That will be in the Show Notes.
Mindy: Along with the English version if you choose to listen in English.
Tony: Then there’s actually a second book as well. I fell in love with this book and this is a lot more recently. I realized when I was reading it, it was describing everything that I had already been doing and that would be Grant Cardone’s The Ten X Rule. And so basically, what he’s saying in the book is, for success, you have to give ten times the amount of effort that’s what you originally thought was necessary in order to accomplish any goal. Looking back on not just my financial story but my weight loss story, absolutely 100% true. I recommend that book for anyone who is trying to reach the next level.
Scott: What’s the Spanish language title?
Tony: I don’t have a Spanish language version of that book yet. But maybe soon, maybe soon.
Mindy: Diez X’s? How do you say it? Diez Equis?
Tony: Regla Diez Equis.
Mindy: Obviously, Spanish is my first language.
Scott: All right, what was your biggest money mistake? Well, let’s put it this way. Since you started your journey to financial independence, what was your biggest mistake from that point?
Tony: Okay, so my biggest mistake and since I started my journey to financial independence, has been that I didn’t realize and this is part of anybody’s journey, is that I didn’t realize that debt isn’t this horrible, bad thing necessarily, and that you can use debt in a positive way.
At first, when I started my financial journey, I was debt averse. I didn’t want any sort of debt. I was trying to pay for everything with cash. I was like, I’m going to buy my properties cash only just like I had read, but you know, it took me reading a few other books to really open my eyes to okay, there is debt that’s not bad for you that you can use to your advantage. And you know, as long as you’re not pushing yourself out in a bad way, it can work out quite well.
Scott: I love it.
Mindy: That’s a great point. I think when it comes to debt, you just have to be comfortable with it. Some people are comfortable with no debt. And they’re not comfortable with any amount other than zero. And that’s okay. That’s not bad. That’s just their preference. I like a lot of debt. When it comes to buying houses. I guess I should clarify. When it comes to buying houses, I don’t want to sink all my money into my house. I want to have that payment instead.
Tony: Yeah, and to this day, I don’t have any credit card debt. I do use the credit card like I used it recently on a rehab that I did but I paid all of that down. So you know, I don’t like to have any debt and if I try to pay for anything with cash aside from real estate.
Mindy: Yeah, I like to pay for everything with a credit card and then pay that off because I like to get the points so I can go travel.
Scott: Me too.
Mindy: Okay, what is your best piece of advice for people who are just starting out?
Tony: You have to be consistent. Whatever it is that you’re doing, if you’re trying to reach your financial goals, you have to be consistent. You have to keep doing whatever it is that you’re doing. You can’t push hard for a week or two and then stop and then expect to reach your goals. You have to keep going over the long-term.
And what it might mean is you’re not pushing quite as hard as—imagine going to the gym and you know, I see this at the gym all the time. There’s someone there and they’re working out super hard. They’re just getting back into it and they’re killing themselves just working hard, right? But two weeks later, they burn out and they don’t go to the gym and you’ll see them maybe once a week there because they’re not consistent in what they’re doing.
So that goes over to your money, too. I consistently believe in, you’ve got to consistently save your money. You’ve got to consistently invest your money. When you’re working on losing weight, you have to consistently exercise. You have to be consistent with your diet. It’s all about consistency and it’s about doing something over a long period of time and you will get results if you’re consistent over a long period of time.
Scott: That’s fantastic. I think that’s a great piece of advice. This is the toughest question of our Famous Four. What is your favorite joke to tell at parties?
Tony: So I had to look one up for the show. “Never lend money to a friend. It’s dangerous. It could damage his memory”.
Scott: Fantastic. And completely on topic too. On the Money Show. Thank you.
Mindy: Tony, where can people find more about you?
Tony: The best place to find out more about me is on BiggerPockets. I’m on there pretty much every day. But when I’m not on BiggerPockets, you can look me up on Facebook under North Omaha Investments or under Tony Gayden or you can send me an e-mail. My e-mail address is [email protected].
Mindy: Great, and we will put all of that in the Show Notes so people can link and send you notes. Beware, you will get a lot of e-mails.
Tony: Awesome. I can’t wait. I love talking to people.
Mindy: Well your wish is about to come true.
Tony: All right.
Mindy: Tony, thank you so much for taking the time out of your day to chat with us. I will be in your neck of the woods but you will not—where are you going?
Tony: Tomorrow, I am going to China. Beijing. And yeah, I’m going there for work. My job, they allow me to travel a lot. I’m going to Beijing. Last year, I went to Palau, Morocco. I’ve been to Kenya, South Africa, Ethiopia, Turkey. I travel all over the world. Last year, I was out of town for more than four months just for my job.
It’s a pretty exciting job. I get to meet a lot of new people, see different cultures. I love my job. I couldn’t really see myself ever retiring early. I know a lot of people on your show talk about trying to retire early and leave the workforce. I love my job and this is my dream come true working here.
Mindy: I don’t know, Scott. It sounds like you got lucky with this job.
Scott: Yeah, well after—yeah, after eight years of putting himself in position.
Tony: I did. I really did.
Scott: Fantastic. This has been incredible. Thank you so much for sharing your story and taking some time out today. We appreciate it.
Tony: Thanks a lot, Scott and Mindy.
Mindy: Okay, bye, Tony.
Scott: All right, that was Tony Gayden with absolutely incredible wall-to-wall story from rock bottom to “overnight success” over the last 10 to 13 years, or 10 to 12 years.
Mindy: He actually had kind of like a rock bottom, get up a little bit, hit rock bottom again, get up a little bit, hit rock bottom. I was thinking of the song from probably before you were born, Chumbawumba. “I get knocked down but I get up again, you’re never going to get me down. I get knocked down…That is Tony to a T. He does not let anything keep him down. And did you see his smile the whole time he was telling his story? He’s the kind of person you just know he’s happy all the time.
Scott: Just happy all the time. He was rightfully so. Excited to share his story because it is an incredible story and he should be proud of what he’s accomplished. Tony, I hope you are proud of what you’ve accomplished. It’s absolutely fantastic.
It should be an inspiration to everyone listening to this podcast as something that hey, if Tony can do it, starting from those positions of extraordinary disadvantage in this journey, you can do it, too. This is something that is a willpower and effort and long-term fundamental approach that is really repeatable by anyone who is willing to put in the effort and the drive and the time.
Mindy: Yep, put in the effort and the drive and the time. Tony should be absolutely proud of this because he did it. Nobody helped him. In fact, you could say that life tried to throw all sorts of obstacles at him but he is like nope, not today, sucker. It’s my time and I’m going to do this. And I’m so happy that he told his story. I love his story.
Now, Scott, I think we should very awkwardly transition into asking our readers what they want from us.
Scott: Oh yeah, so if you’re listening to this podcast, we’ve heard some feedback and we’re trying—we’re working on procuring some stories of some families that have made a transition from just kind of scraping by, paycheck to paycheck, to really moving on towards financial independence. So we’re working on that.
What is another topic that you’d want to hear from? What’s another type of issue surrounding the concept of movement from—he went from rock bottom all the way towards fat FIRE, getting beyond just basic financial independence. What’s a topic that you want us to talk about or go over with the guests on the show?
If you could submit ideas to [email protected] and [email protected] along with your favorite joke, that would be very helpful to us in putting together future shows so that we know that we’re able to continue providing you, the listeners, with the topics and content that you want to hear more of.
Mindy: I could not have said it better myself. Okay. Scott, we’ve already gone pretty long on this show so I am going to say, from Episode 21 of the BiggerPockets Money Show, this is Mindy Jensen, over and out.