BiggerPockets Money Podcast 212: Finance Friday: When Should You Pause Your Retirement Contributions?

BiggerPockets Money Podcast 212: Finance Friday: When Should You Pause Your Retirement Contributions?

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Starting a strong financial position in your youth is probably the most important thing you can do to hit financial independence. Sometimes that strong position includes maxing out retirement accounts, like Roth IRAs, 401(k)s, or even HSAs (health savings account), but sometimes, it doesn’t. Scott and Mindy talk to Kirsten about the potential option of pausing her retirement contributions to buy a duplex so she can house hack.

While this may seem counterintuitive, pausing retirement contributions isn’t always a bad thing. This is especially true if you’re trying to do something that will radically change your income or expenses, allowing you to invest more into retirement later on.

This episode runs through house hacking, retirement contributions, FHA rules for owner-occupied loans, how to graduate with no debt, and when the best time to have a “money date” is. It doesn’t matter if you’re in your early 20s or mid-40s, these principles are key to having a financially successful life.

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Listen to the Podcast Here

Read the Transcript Here

Mindy:
Welcome to the BiggerPockets Money podcast show number 212, finance Friday edition. Where we interview Kirsten and talk about aggressively pursuing financial independence.

Kirsten:
I agree with you. I was very in my head about the nuances. I don’t think that if I keep the HSA, I don’t keep the HSA contribution or contributing to my HSA, I don’t think that it’s going to ruin my financial future by any means. I think I am at that point where it’s just kind of little nuances of things I’m trying to decide on to get me to the place I want to be faster.

Mindy:
Hello. Hello. Hello. My name is Mindy Jensen, and with me as always is my even better than a unicorn co-host Scott Trench.

Scott:
I think there’s a couple of really inappropriate punny responses to that. But the silver lining is that you can hear them somewhere else. I don’t know. There’s some sort of pun there. We’ll figure it out next time.

Mindy:
Wow. Scott, I think this is the first time that you have not come up with an amazing pun. The mythical-

Scott:
The silver lining.

Mindy:
The silver lining. Or no.

Scott:
About unicorn and silver. Okay. All right. Moving on.

Mindy:
Are unicorns silver? Scott, you did not grow up as a little girl clearly playing with unicorns and Pegasus and rainbows. Anyway, Scott and I are here to make financial independence less scary, less just for somebody else. To introduce you to every money story, because we truly believe that financial independence is attainable for everyone no matter when or where you’re starting.

Scott:
That’s right. Whether you want to retire early and travel the world, go on to make big time investments in assets like real estate, start your own business or simply start playing to win, we’ll help you reach your financial goals and get money out of the way so you can launch yourself towards your dreams.

Mindy:
Okay. Don’t let that awful intro that I just did ruin this show for you. This is actually a really-

Scott:
And my great pun of course.

Mindy:
… great show. And Scott’s horrible pun. This is actually a really great show today. We’re talking to Kirsten and we’re talking about how to pursue financial independence aggressively. We are also going to talk a little bit about money dates. We’re going to talk a little bit about different levers you can pull to reach your financial independence sooner and how, when you’re starting off a little younger, you may have more options available than when you start off a little bit older.

Scott:
Yeah. I think Kirsten is in great shape. She’s got such a clean starting position in the sense that she’s got no debt, she’s got to some savings. Now, her challenge is, because she’s just getting started in her career she doesn’t have a huge income, even though she is able to save and have a couple of options. But she’s got to make concentrated resource allocation decisions. If you diversify when you’re just getting started at 22, 23, you guarantee yourself a mediocre return. I think the big theme for today was that I think she’s got an opportunity to play to win and figure out some ways to really drive her income over the next three to five years. Really drive incremental investment opportunities perhaps through house hacking and real estate, that might come at the expense of retirement contributions. I think we have a good discussion around that and a couple other nuances of her position that I think are really important.

Mindy:
It can be really easy to get tunnel vision and, “This is what I’m supposed to do, and therefore, that’s all I can do.” That is one of the reasons we have this show, is to show you the different options available. I am just as guilty as anybody else of not seeing other options. You invest in your retirement accounts and that’s all you should do. No, that’s not all you should do, but-

Scott:
That’s what you should do if you want to be totally passive and get a pretty good, totally passive long-term return. But it may not be what you should do if you’re ready to take on the world and want to go from 23 to 30. You got to do a completely different formula if you want to have a shot at achieving that goal, right?

Mindy:
Right. I’ve very thankful-

Scott:
That’s the fun part.

Mindy:
… for you. I’m very thankful for you, Scott, to bring up these ideas that the old and stodgy regime may not think about. My attorney makes me say the contents of this podcast are informational in nature and are not legal or tax advice. Neither Scott nor I, nor BiggerPockets, is engaged in the provision of legal, tax or any other advice. You should seek your own advice from professional advisors, including lawyers and accountants regarding the legal, tax and financial implications of any financial decision you contemplate. They make me say that before I could bring in our guests. Let’s bring in Kirsten. Kirsten is 23 years old and completely debt-free. Yay! She’s in a long-term relationship and they’ve started talking about getting married in the next few years. She’d like to become financially independent by age 30 and is looking for the steps she needs to take to accomplish this goal. Kirsten, welcome to the BiggerPockets Money podcast. I am so excited to talk to you today.

Kirsten:
Hi Mindy. Thank you so much for having me. I’m so excited to be here.

Mindy:
We were talking before we started recording, and you have been listening since about January, and you said something that just made my heart sing. You said, “I wish I would’ve known all of this before I graduated high school or college. My little brother is graduating college in December, and I want to share this with him.” I’m so excited that you’re sharing this and that’s such a gift to give you a little brother.

Kirsten:
Thank you. No, and he’s really enjoyed your podcast as well. I think I’ve definitely gotten him hooked.

Mindy:
Well, let’s give him a shout out. What’s his name?

Kirsten:
Jared.

Mindy:
Jared, thanks for listening.

Scott:
Yeah. Thanks for listening, Jared.

Mindy:
Okay. This isn’t the Jared show. This is the Kirsten show. Kirsten, tell me all your numbers. What is your income and debts? Debts, no debts. Debt-free. What is your income, expenses and investments?

Kirsten:
I currently make $55,000 a year. I work in HR for an oil and gas company. I guess we can just start with my expenses. Car insurance is about $70 a month. I spend about $150 on gas. My cell phone bill is $50. My apartment rent is $890. These are all monthly, by the way. Utilities, around 110 to 120. Life insurance is $25. I wanted to talk to you all more about that too if you think I should have life insurance at this age or not. Food, I spend about $200 on groceries. I have budgeted $150 for eating out. I don’t always use that much entertainment. I give myself $100 kind of splurge fund. Then I have $150 of kind of miscellaneous stuff, gifts, car washes. I don’t know. Things that just kind of come up. Then I tithe $300 a month. That totals $2,200 a month in expenses.

Scott:
All right. That’s a savings of about $1,000 a month after tax that you’re seeing?

Kirsten:
Yes.

Scott:
Okay, great. What do you do with that $1,000? What do you invest in?

Kirsten:
I currently have a Roth 401(k) through my place of employment and I have about $15,000 in there currently. They match 6% of my salary. I also have a Health Savings Account that currently has $3,000 in it, and my employer contributes $1,500 a year. Then I’m on track to max it out this year for the first time, which is really exciting. Then I have an emergency fund of about six months worth of expenses, so $10,000. Then I have a couple of sinking funds for vacation and Christmas presents and different things like that. Then right now, the rest of my savings, I’ve just kind of been putting in to my high yield savings account. I have about $3,000 in there right now. Potentially saving for a house hack.

Mindy:
What part of the world do you live in?

Kirsten:
I live in Fort Worth, Texas.

Mindy:
Okay. That market’s heating up, isn’t it?

Kirsten:
It is. That’s why kind of said tentatively house hack because it’s a little bit intimidating for a first time home buyer.

Scott:
All right. The goal is to retire by 30 or to have the option to do that. It sounds like based on that goal, you’re willing to go pretty aggressive in pursuit of that. Is that right?

Kirsten:
Yes.

Scott:
Based on what you told me, we can talk about things like life insurance and a couple of things in your budget. But I think you run what seems like a really tight ship there with the biggest expenses that are variable being your charitable giving and your gas. I don’t know how changeable those are with that. I mean, we can talk about that, but I think the place to start would be with the house hacking side and then your career and the prospects you see over the next couple of years with what you’re doing in the HR work with that. Do you have a preference on where we with those types of things or what are you thinking?

Kirsten:
No. I’m ready to just dive in. We can start with my job. I recently got a raise at the beginning of this year in January and promoted within HR. It’s a pretty small company, so there’s not really a ton of room as far as promotional growth in terms of title, but that doesn’t really matter very much to me. But there is a lot of room for growth in terms of salary increase, I guess, because we are an HR department of two. There’s just my boss and myself. I’m learning a lot just because I’m getting to do everything. With only two people, I’m learning benefits, payroll, all of the things. I definitely see room for more growth salary wise in the future.

Scott:
Where do you think you’ll be sitting in three to five years if you continue on the current track with that?

Kirsten:
I could see myself in the 70 to $80,000 a year range in five years.

Scott:
Okay. Fair enough. I think that’s pretty good, but do you feel like that’s the track that you’re kind of set on or do you think you would want to switch at some point to another line of work like operations or sales or something like that at all? Or is that something that you think is pretty good well set up and you’re good to go there for the next couple of years?

Kirsten:
I’m definitely open to other opportunities and other job prospects. I’m relatively new, like I said, to HR. Just within the last six months or so. So definitely open to exploring other options. Especially real estate and that kind of realm, I’ve really, really enjoyed listening to BiggerPockets and the real estate podcast and all of that. I could see myself jumping in as an agent or something in the future.

Mindy:
I got to talk about this, Scott. Sorry. Okay. Yes. Get your real estate license right now. One of the things that I wished that I would’ve done is gotten a real estate license much sooner. I’ve been licensed for seven or eight years now, and it takes a while to start up your real estate agency business. It takes a while to get your license. You’re in Texas. They have the most stringent requirements for getting your license. I think it’s 180 hours of coursework, so start on that. Last year was my biggest year and I, in November made as much selling real estate as I did all of 2020 working at BiggerPockets. It was a little too much for me. I also have children and other obligations outside of work and all these things, so it was really, really kind of hectic. But if you can sell one house a month, commission is about two and a half to 3%. Whether a house is 300,000, that’s $9,000 extra commission in your pocket. Yeah, there’s expenses and blah, blah, blah.
You have to pay taxes on that and all of that, but that can be really lucrative. If you’re interested in that, look into what it takes to get your real estate license, because you are young, you don’t have children right now. I’m going to make generalizations. But when you’re young, you have a lot of energy. It’s okay to be go, go, go. You don’t have kids that you’re putting in daycare so that you can go sell a house or leaving with your husband so that you can go sell a house. You could just go ahead and do that. Right now, you start building up your book of business. You start selling onesy, twosys, it doesn’t really matter. You can throw that money into your HSA or throw that money into your 401(k), or just put it away in your after tax savings accounts and investments. But I think that real estate agency is an incredibly lucrative side hustle. If you’re already in interested in real estate, it’s just kind of the next step, if you want to sell properties to other people.
I really like selling properties to other people. I wouldn’t recommend just getting a license so you can save commission when you buy or sell one house every six years. I don’t think it’s worth it then.

Scott:
I agree with Mindy in principle. I’m not sure if real estate agent is the specific one. It’s a very specific career trajectory. But I will say kind of just looking at where you’re at and all the options you have with all of this stuff, right now, it looks like you’re making about 35, 40,000 a year. Is that right in base?

Kirsten:
Yeah, after taxes.

Scott:
Yeah. You expect that to double over the next three to five years. Or I guess you said, what was the pre-tax?

Kirsten:
Pre-tax, 55,000.

Scott:
55. Okay. That’s pretty good, but you think it’s only going to go up to 70 or 80 over the next three to five years, right? That’s good. That’s not bad money. But if you’re thinking about trying to hit the moving target of retiring at 30 and if you want to have a family and those kinds of things, then you’re going to need to cover more than $2,200 a month in expenses at that point. I think that you’re going to need to do more than just earn that salary. That could be a series of house hacks. That would be one way to generate a lot of wealth, potentially over the next 6, 7, 8 years. In combination, if you can find a way to drive a lot more earned income, that would be also effective. That’s where something like becoming an agent or getting into some sort of sales or some sort of opportunity that maybe if it’s there’s equity at a startup in a similar HR capacity or something like that, those would all be good options to be thinking about and keeping on your radar.
Not that you have a bad situation right now, it’s just not going to scale into tremendous income over the next couple of years. You’re not quite giving up a ton yet by thinking about these options as you would be, if, for example, you were 10 years into an HR career with that. That’s, I think the theme to think about with this is, you’ve got a great job, you’re doing really well. No problems. Just, you could potentially, if you set things up, maybe you’re selling three houses, four houses, five houses a month like some agents. That would be theoretically possible for you in a way that could dramatically change your trajectory over the next couple of years. If you’re willing to hustle, getting that license in the nights and evenings and weekends, we’ll give you a lot of options. If nothing else, a good thing about the real estate agent license is, if you’re just going to buy a house hack, you can often get about two and a half to 3% of the commission as the buyer agent.
If you’re putting down three and a half percent on a house hack, and you get two and a half percent back as a commission, that’s a pretty good reward for that study. Even if you never sell another house to another individual with that if you can do that and you’re willing to do that work. I like the suggestion, but I think the theme is the key thing. If you don’t like the agent, there’s probably other opportunities that are similar in nature to that suggestion.

Kirsten:
No, I appreciate that. I hadn’t considered the real estate agent in terms of helping me with my house hacks and stuff in the future. That’s a really good point. I’m really excited to look into that more.

Scott:
Yeah. That’s a good option for you because of the circumstance you have right now, and it seems like the willingness to hustle and do a couple of extra things on the side with that. As far as the rest of it, I think you’re in a really good spot. You have an emergency fund set up, you have the 401(k) or the Roth 401(k), you have the HSA. Love that your maxing out the HSA. That’s really long-term planning there because you’re probably not expected to use that for a long time in some of those things. I think that’s great. Then you’re saving about $1,000 a month, which is going into that savings account, which is starting at three. A house hack is probably about a year, maybe year and a half away at that rate without additional income. Is that right?

Kirsten:
Yes. Then also, I didn’t mention this in my W2 income, but I also do Instacart on the side just to earn some extra cash. It doesn’t earn a whole lot. I probably make, I’d say two to $300 a month. But that all goes into that house fund as well.

Scott:
Perfect. You’re just doing everything you can to accelerate that first house hack. What do house hacks look like in your area? What are the options that are available to you?

Kirsten:
I think I could get a duplex for around the mid 200s if I looked around quite a bit.

Scott:
That’s awesome. What would the rents be?

Kirsten:
I’m thinking I could rent it out for about $1,200 a month. I don’t think I would be living for free, but I would reduce my housing expense significantly.

Scott:
You mean each unit would rent for 1,200?

Kirsten:
Right. Living in it, I wouldn’t be able to rent for free. But if I had rented out both sides, then I’d be making a really good profit.

Scott:
I mean, that’s a great foundational strategy right there. That seems really repeatable. My first duplex in 2014, I purchased for 240 and rented out one side for 1150 and kind of in almost a very similar situation to what you’re describing there. That was a huge mover for me with that. I think that’s exactly the right … Not exactly. That’s the exact approach I would take and didn’t take personally seven years ago to get my journey kicked off. I was making $48,000 a year and saving around the same way that you are with this kind of stuff. I got my agent license around that time as well. Perhaps this is the Scott’s story show with some of those things. But that is how I approached the situation, kind of in a very similar set of circumstances to what you’re describing here a few years ago.

Kirsten:
Awesome. I did have a question. Right now, I have a Roth IRA set up. I think I have $100 in it just because I wanted to go through the process of setting it up. But I am saving around $1,000 a month. Should I be trying to max out my Roth IRA as well or just try and get this house hack first and then worry about maxing out all of the other accounts?

Scott:
What are you going to invest in the Roth?

Kirsten:
Currently, I think it’s VTSAX.

Scott:
I like the house hack fund. Now, some folks will debate, and I’m interested to see if we get a discussion going in the Facebook group on this one, but you can put the money into the Roth and then you can take out the contributions, but not the gains tax-free. Some folks I think would argue that you should put the money into the Roth and just max it out because why not? You can just pull it out, especially for a first time home purchase with that. I think there’s something to that. But I also think that it’s just a little more complexity than is necessary. I don’t think you’re making a mistake either way with that. But I think for simplicity, if you’re super set on doing a house hack, I think you just set it in a savings account for the house hack and go ahead with it in a high yield savings account and you’re going to save yourself a little bit of trouble from the administrative side without really much in the way of gains.
If you’re really set on doing the mathematically optimal thing there, you could put it into the Roth dot the i’s and cross the t’s. Let it go and then withdraw everything but the gains. The gains may even be allowed if you’re investing in a house hack with that. But you’re going to be risking your down payment effectively inside of a index fund. Which is not … Why bother? The house hack is going to produce a 200% ROI or something like that. Imagine you put down 10,000 on a $250,000 home with about three and a half percent. I’m probably doing the math slightly incorrectly there. Then if that home appreciates 3%, it’s going to go up 7,500. That’s a 75% ROI. Especially since you’re going to get portion of the commission back, so you’re saving money on closing cost if you’re an agent. Then instead of paying 875 in rent, you’re going to pay $300 in rent because you got to the rent coming in from the other side. That’s going to be $500 a month. That’s 6,000 a year.
That’s 13,750 in return on your 10,500 so far. You’re paying down the mortgage at the same time. That’s assuming average appreciation about three, three and a half percent. I think that that return is just not possible inside of the Roth IRA in normal circumstances and in average conditions. I like that approach, and why complicate the methodology of moving towards it with that?

Kirsten:
Right. Okay. Awesome. Thank you so much. I was just kind of playing around with that in my head, just because I was really excited about maxing out the HSA account this year. That obviously has different benefits than the Roth IRA. But I know in a previous podcast, you all had kind of mentioned that in the future, there might not be Roth options. That kind of scared me a little bit into thinking maybe I need to be maxing that out now while I can and it’s still available.

Scott:
Well, let me ask you about the HSA. Why max the HSA at the expense of delaying the house hack? That’s three months delay to your house hack. Do we think that’s a good approach with that, even though we love the HSA, Mindy and I? Mindy, what do you think?

Mindy:
Well, I am frantically typing in the Mad Fientist HSA article to see what he calls it. The HSA, the ultimate retirement account. I think that first of all, we should link to this article. If you haven’t read it yet, Kirsten, I’ll send it to you. It’s a great argument for the maxing out the HSA, because that may not always be available to her as well. The HSA versus the Roth. They’re both great accounts. I support them both. That if you have all the money in the world, max them both out. But HSA over the Roth right now, because the HSA will allow her to take out money sooner than the Roth would for random onesy, twosy expenses. She can just say, “Hey, here’s all of my receipts. I’m a little short this month. I’m going to take out $100.” Or, “Hey, I had this really big expense. I’m going to take out $1,000.” Because it’s invested and it’s growing exponentially, she can take out money from the HSA for her qualified medical expenses at any time.
With the Roth IRA, she can only take them out for school and the purchase of a house, and I think health expenses. Correct me if I’m wrong. I think there’s just those three big ones. It’s not as accessible. But now I’m thinking, max them both out. But with the house hack as your kind of immediate goal, I would say, I like the HSA option to max it. What is the max? Isn’t that 3,200 for this year, if you’re single?

Scott:
I think it’s 36.

Kirsten:
36.

Mindy:
3,600. Okay. You’re almost there. You already have 3,000 in it from this year?

Kirsten:
Right. Well, and that’s a part of it is from last year. The 3,000 is just what I have in the account right now. I was also going to bring up that my employer puts in $1,500 a year, whether I put in any money or not. Even if I didn’t contribute to my HSA and didn’t max it out, I would still be having money put in there every paycheck.

Scott:
Here’s what I’m thinking though. Kirsten, you’re planning to win. You’ve got a great situation. You have no debt. You have $10,000 emergency reserve, and you are willing to crush extra work to get to your goal of retiring by 30 early. The problem I have with the HSA, the Roth, the 401(k), any retirement account, in your situation and for a brief window of time only, is that you’re guaranteeing yourself a mediocre return. That’s the whole reason we invest in VTSAX regardless of which account, is because it’s going to produce an average return over the long run with that. But you’re willing to house hack and you know that mathematically, odds are you can always get crushed. The market can always go down. You can always lose with this stuff. But the odds are that on average, most of the time, that house hack move is going to produce a completely different profile of return that’s going to accelerate your wealth compared to VTSAX in normal circumstances.
Look, I’m caveating that a lot with the normal circumstances thing, but if you want to retire by 30, you’re going to have to make some big moves. The earlier you can do that, the more opportunity you’re going to have compounding in front of you. That 3,000 in the HSA is going to slow you down by three, four or five months in terms of feeling uncomfortable with that purchase. I like potentially, even though I would go in exactly the order you’re going in, take the match, then the HSA, then max the Roth, then so on and so forth, if you have an abundance of cash. But in your case, you don’t. You’ve got a lot of energy, time, hustle, commitment, intelligence, all that stuff going for you with this. What I did personally is I didn’t contribute to any of those things and I just put it all into the house hack fund, and that got me going within a year into that first house hack. That completely changed my life and trajectory.
Nowadays, years later, I earn enough income and have low enough expenses still that I’m able to go through that whole list and then have still some leftover. But that is just not a luxury you’re going to have for the next couple of years. You will have it eventually. I am pretty confident based on where you’re going with all this stuff. But I think in the meantime, you got to make some trade offs. I like for the next year or two, potentially going towards the house hack fund. Let’s put this as a strategy together. Let’s say that you in the next year can come up with 15 grand in addition to your three grand. That’s 18,000. You put down 10 on a house hack and you’re leftover with eight plus your emergency fund of 10. That’s still a reasonably responsible position, even though you might like to have a little bit more reserved for the house hack depending on that kind of stuff. But that would be the earliest you could maybe reasonably get there, is when you have about 18,000 or so in your house fund. Or 15 or something like that.
Maybe a little earlier depending on how uncomfortable you’re willing to get with that. But that would be, that from there now, all of a sudden you’re going to start saving after you get things set up another 500, $600 a month on top of what you’re currently doing. Then you can build the next fund for the next house hack which you can purchase 12 to 24 months later, depending on your comfort level and timeline. From there, you’re going to be in a really nice position where you have a rental property, a second house hack, probably your income’s going up at your job to a certain extent, you’re selling houses left and right with Mindy’s agent suggestion. Which I don’t know about that one. But even if you don’t have any extra income from the Instacart or the agent side hustle or anything, probably your income is going to go up a little bit at the job or the next couple of years. You could be sitting in a situation where now you’re saving two, $3,000 a month and you can go through that list and begin maxing them out.
You’re just delaying that by two, three years, not because you’re buying a boat or doing something irresponsible for not investing, but because you made a hard resource allocation choice of choosing to go after the higher probability bet a little sooner than the formulaic retirement account approach in the early stages. I’m not saying I’m against the retirement accounts. I just think that in your situation, the way you’re set up, that it might be good to forego them temporarily to get into that house hack and then go back to it with that. I get beat up sometimes for saying that, but I think there’s a time and a place to skip the retirement accounts and you might you be in there in that place. Mindy, what do you think?

Mindy:
I think that I will allow you to make this suggestion, and I will encourage Kirsten to run the numbers and look at it from a bunch of different angles. I mean, that’s why this episode exists, to suggest different things. Because it is really easy to get tunnel vision, and I’ve got it. I love the Roth. I love the HSA. But I’m also in a different place in my life and a different financial position than you are. I have to remember that this actually might be a really great suggestion from Scott. But you have to be comfortable with it. If you are comfortable with foregoing the HSA contributions or reducing them significantly, I would allow you to consider that. I’m not going to say, “No, no, no, what a terrible idea?” I ran some very rough numbers. A $250,000 purchase is going to be $8,750 down payment on the three and a half percent down plan, plus about $2,000 in closing costs, two to 3,000. Right there is your entire emergency fund, which I would not suggest you dump into a house hack. But you do have the $3,000 in the savings account.
Like Scott said, if you can start cranking out this money, generate the income with the house hack, that could be a really … I mean, you’re getting rid of your rent at 875. If you could completely cover your mortgage, that would be huge. You could probably do more than that if you’re willing to live like Scott did, where you rent out one half of the duplex, you rent out a bedroom in your unit. I don’t know. Do you have roommates right now?

Kirsten:
I don’t. No, I live in a one bedroom.

Mindy:
Okay. Something else to think about is Airbnb that other side and generate more income, and that should have an influence … The idea of Airbnb should have an influence on what property you buy. You don’t want to buy a property a mile away, but it’s $5,000 less and a slightly different location could generate a lot more interest on the Airbnb front. If that’s something that you’re considering if you are at all interested in the Airbnb idea, keep that in mind when you’re looking. But I really do love the idea of getting your real estate license and starting to generate some income from sales or learning the market. I just really like being real estate agent.

Scott:
Yeah. I was a little more aggressive than what I’m discussing as well here. I’m sorry for bringing in my personal situation. It’s just it so closely resembles it, that’s why I’m doing that. But I bought my first place and I had, I think $18,000 and I put 15,000. No, I had $22,000 and I put $15,000 down and was left with eight. That was inclusive of my emergency reserve. I was much more aggressive than what I’m describing here from a cash position with that. I don’t know if that’s right or wrong. Maybe I took a big risk, maybe I didn’t. But I also still saving 1,000, $2,000 a month. You could be in position to buy it sooner than what we’re discussing here if you wanted to get aggressive with those types of things. I wouldn’t say you’re wildly irresponsible based on the way you conduct your finances with this and the debt-free position with that. You might consider building a little bit more of an emergency reserve with that, but if you really want to get aggressive, you could try to get that agent license.
Then basically simultaneously with the completion of that, be ready to buy that first place. You probably would have another 3, 4, $5,000 at that point. Maybe that’s like, you don’t have to go that quickly, but that would be an option available to you, maybe, that could really accelerate that. Then you have a lot of your cash back because you’re putting down eight. Let’s say this, you have 13,000 in cash right now. You put down $8,000 and you get 6,000 or $7,000 in commission back as the buyer agent with that. Now you’re left with $10,000 after you buy your place. That’s an interesting spot to be in that’s not too bad.

Mindy:
Yeah. I definitely want to encourage you to start looking at the market now. I think it is a … We’re in a weird market, but it’s definitely time to start looking and considering. I don’t know that you need to talk to an agent right now. You can look on Zillow and Trulia and the online portals where you can see what’s up coming on the market. But when you are comfortable with a property that’s being listed or you’re comfortable in the price range, or you’re comfortable with the payments, talk to a lender, find an agent who’s going to work for your best interests and consider the idea of maybe buying a house soon. When is your lease up?

Kirsten:
I have another year. It’ll be up in June of 2022.

Mindy:
Okay. Do you have a break lease fee in your lease?

Kirsten:
I do. I don’t know the exact amount. I guess that’s also my question to you. If I get an FHA loan or something, and I’m able to do this house hack, and I know that I need to live in there for the first year, does it matter that I still have the apartment if I’m not living there or if I can sublease the apartment?

Scott:
I don’t think that should matter too much to you. You can talk to your lender about that to see if there’s any got yous in there. But I think the way I would pop out of thinking about the rent there and say, “Hey, if I got to break the lease for 500 bucks or even 2,000 bucks.” Or whatever it is. That’s in the context of a $250,000 decision. That’s less than 1% of the stakes of the purchase of the new property. I would just kind of try to think about, how do I create a flexible environment? By accelerating that even by a few months, I’m probably better off, even if I do have to pay month to month or sublease, or a least break fee with that. I would think about it as a part of the closing costs of your house hack and not really as a blocker to the transaction. Because it’s a different magnitude of decision I think.

Kirsten:
No, I like that way of thinking about it.

Scott:
It’s big dollars. Of course, that’s not to dismiss that it’s a big dollars. It’s more than your monthly spending probably to do that, but it’s trivial in the context of the move you’re contemplating making with the overall house hack.

Mindy:
Yeah. I brought that up because I am knee deep in the lease renewals for BiggerPockets. That is a clause that we are adding, and I’m just wanting to more plant a seed, Hey, this is a thing that you need to consider. Not, don’t break your lease because it’s going to cost $2,000 if it works out. Then if you do decide to break your lease, if you are going to buy a property, just give your landlord a lot of notice as much as you can and be open to having them come in and be able to rent it out and make it a smooth transition for them.

Scott:
I have a spreadsheet that I built a while back that kind of compares these. You can use the BiggerPockets calculators as well. But in our file place, biggerpockets.com/fileplace, there’s a spreadsheet that’s called house hack verse by verse rent. We’ll link to it in the show notes here, but you can download that and fill around with numbers if you want to kind of think through the math and kind of see, “Okay, like this is going to make me this much next year. I’m worried about this lease break fee.” Or whatever it is. That will help you, I think kind of put those numbers into perspective within that spreadsheet. I’ll send you that following the show and then we’ll link to it in the show notes for anyone else who’s interested.

Kirsten:
That’d be great. Thank you.

Mindy:
Show notes can be found at biggerpockets.com/moneyshow212.

Scott:
Kirsten, this is a really impressive financial position that you’ve built here. I mean, you’re in really good shape and we’re debating not how to fix problems, but how aggressive you should go with your investments because you have all these options in front of you and because you’ve set yourself up so well with this. Just a quick question for some people who might be wondering, how are you debt-free? It sounds like you graduated a year or two ago. How did you graduate debt-free from there? Where’d you go?

Kirsten:
I went to a public university at University of North Texas and was able to get a full tuition scholarship, which was awesome. I also took a lot of dual credit and AP classes, which I know that you all have talked about a couple of times. I definitely highly recommend as well, just because that’s an awesome way to save on college costs. But I think my biggest savings or way I was able to not take out student loans in college was that I worked for housing at my university. There’s a lot of avenues that you can go and working for housing. I think a lot of people just assume that you can just do the resident assistant, which is kind of the person, I guess, kind of the mom that like, “You’re being too loud.” Or knock on your door and make sure you’re following all the rules and stuff. That doesn’t appeal to a lot of people, and it didn’t really appeal to me at first either. I ended up working for the housing association.
I was basically an event planner at my university for the people who lived in the residence halls. I would come up with all these community building activities and stuff for people to make friends and get to know each other. Especially that first couple of months of college when it’s kind of awkward. I was able to do that. Then they paid for my housing because I lived in one of the dorms, and then they also gave me a food plan. What my scholarship didn’t cover was all my living expenses, and my job covered all of my living expenses, which was really cool.

Mindy:
Wow.

Scott:
That’s awesome.

Mindy:
How many hours were you working a week as the event planner in the housing department?

Kirsten:
They were awesome about knowing that we are students first. I did not work more than 20 hours a week doing all of this event planning. It was super fun too, so it didn’t even feel like work when I was working. That was awesome. Some of my friends were housing ambassadors. When prospective students came to the university and wanted to see what hall they were going to live in the next year, they would take them on tours of the hall and show them all the cool perks of where they’re going to live. They got free housing and a food stipend and all of that. Some of my friends were facility assistants, so they would go in and change people’s light bulbs, help them loft their beds. Kind of minor maintenance tasks that needed to be done in and around the halls. They got free housing and food and all of that as well. You don’t have to just be a resident assistant, you can also do a ton of other jobs within housing.

Scott:
This is awesome. What a great tip and trick. I just want to point out another great thing about your attitude with this, is like, “It wasn’t more than 20 hours a week.” 20 hours a week, even approaching 20 hours a week is a lot, even while you’re a full-time student with that kind of stuff and something that I think a lot of people would balk at. You’re just kind of talking about it as a privilege to not have to work that much with that to cover college costs. That’s a fantastic outlook and I think sheds more light on why you’re in such a strong position right now.

Kirsten:
Thank you.

Mindy:
Okay. I’m going to take a moment to request everybody listening, similar to Kirsten, do you have a way you significantly reduced or completely wiped out your college expenses? Please let us know. I’m going to post something in the Facebook group, a little question up at the top. How did you get your college expenses down? This is reminding me of Julien from rich & REGULAR. He would take classes for $25 a semester. When he said that, I was like, “Do you mean $25 a credit hour?” He’s like, “No, I mean, $25 a semester.” I’m like, “You give them a $20 bill and a $5 bill and they let you take all the courses?” Because he worked at the university. If you want to go to college, if you didn’t get the full ride scholarship that Kirsten got, I didn’t, look at ways to reduce your expenses by working there. What are different ways to work there? You can work in the computer lab. My husband did that for $5 an hour. Maybe that’s not the best choice. Well, he would not have been a very good event planner.
He’s a darling person, but getting people together isn’t his thing. But there were probably other things that he could’ve done that would have reduced his expenses for college. If you’ve got some great tips, I would love to know about them. Please share with us in our Facebook group, which is facebook.com/groups/bpmoney. Okay. Sorry about that. Back in the beginning of the show, you asked about life insurance. Let’s talk about life insurance because you are young, you don’t have any children, you’re not married essentially, and I can’t figure out a nice way to say this, nobody depends on you. Meaning you’re not supporting anybody.

Scott:
Well, is that true? Does no one depend on you and do you expect to take care of somebody in a future state like parents or siblings or anything like that in the event that you were to die? Which is the point of often life insurance with this, or becomes disabled.

Kirsten:
Yes. That’s actually why I did get the life insurance at first, is one of my younger brothers has autism. Later in life, that’s just something I’ve kind of planned for, is helping to provide for him in different avenues. I pay $25 a month for a life insurance plan and it’s, I think $500,000 if something was to happen to me. That would pretty much just all go towards my younger brother.

Mindy:
Do your parents have life insurance plans or other ways to provide for him as well?

Kirsten:
They do, yes. That’s kind of why I was thinking that maybe I don’t need the life insurance policy right now. Just at some point when he is in my care.

Scott:
That’s just a fantastic reason to have this challenge. You’re awesome. Okay. Let’s think about this from a planning perspective. I would talk with your parents. I think you should sit down with your parents and say like, “What is the needs here? Let’s have the cold, hard facts of the finances and how this will go over the course of the next 20, 30, 40, 50 years with that. Are we in good shape?” I think that $25 a month for this purpose is a phenomenal way to spend your money. If after discussing that with your parents, you all agree that it is worthwhile and would provide some sort of comfort or care for your brother, that would be needed in that event. But if your parents say, “No, no, we got this. That’s unnecessary.” Then I think you can kill it with that. But I don’t think you’ve got a super high stakes decision here and I think …
No, you have a super high stakes decision in a general sense, but it’s not going to kill your budget from a high stakes perspective. It’s not going to delay your dreams for your life materially, given the expense with these types of things. It could make a huge difference depending on how that outcome for discussion with your parents goes.

Mindy:
Yeah. I agree with that. I mean, when it comes down to it, it’s $300 a year. In that context, I would just continue to pay it. But yeah, I would also make sure that they have … Ask them. That’s a good piece of advice, Scott.

Scott:
I think that’s exactly the right way to think about insurance and the right tool pending the conversation you have. Because I believe that if you house hack a few times and keep going with what you’re doing, you’re going to be pretty wealthy by the time you’re 30, 35, 40. Maybe retired by 30 with your stated goal here. At that point, you won’t need the life insurance policy because you can just designate your estate to go towards the beneficiaries, whether that’s your brother, or your future children, or a combination of those types of things. But you can use the term policy to ensure the amount that you think is appropriate until your net worth reaches the stage where you feel like, “Okay, the point of having insurance is to make sure that my heirs and beneficiaries are taken care of.” If you reach a million or plus net worth over the course of the next 10, 15 years, then your estate covers that purpose and there’s no need for the term insurance policy anymore. I like that a lot.
I think that that would be the framework I would use to think about it. I think you have a discussion with your parents to figure that out.

Kirsten:
Thank you. I appreciate that. I’m glad that my head was going the right direction because that’s exactly the way I was thinking about it with … It’s a term policy. Once I reach a specific net worth, then I won’t need that anymore. That kind of thing. I’m glad I was in the right mindset.

Scott:
Yeah. You got it. That’s awesome.

Mindy:
You’re in the right mindset.

Scott:
That’s not-

Mindy:
You mindset is amazing.

Scott:
We’re debating real nuanced things here with this kind of stuff, because you’ve clearly done your homework to set yourself up for this position. This is great. Then we had one more topic, I think, to cover. Is that right?

Mindy:
Yes. Speaking of discussions, let’s talk about you and your partner and any money discussions that you’ve had. Since you have your head so firmly focused on financial independence, what does he think? Have you had this conversation with him? Is he kind of like you anyway? Is it kind of unnecessary to have the conversation?

Kirsten:
He is an accountant, so I think he definitely has a pretty good head on his shoulders when it comes to money and thinking about money and personal finance and stuff like that. We have had some conversations already, but in terms of financial independence, we haven’t had very many. I’ve talked about BiggerPockets a lot and sometimes he’ll be in the car when some of your podcasts are playing. That’s always, I found a great way to kind of bring up money conversations. Is I’ll very strategically make sure it’s on some kind of part of something that I want to talk about and like, “What did you think about that?” I think you had someone else on that kind of talked about trapping their significant other in the car to talk about money and I kind of played off of that one. That was really great advice. I appreciated that little tidbit. But I think that we’ve had some good conversations about money. He does have student loan debt that I didn’t have.
That’s definitely something we’ve kind of talked about going forward, like how to tackle that because it’s $40,000. A pretty significant amount that I don’t think he’d be able to finish paying off before we would get married in the timeline that we’ve talked about. I guess my question to you all is, how do you go about having money conversations when your finances aren’t combined yet and probably won’t be combined until you are married?

Mindy:
Well, first of all, I wholeheartedly agree that your finances should not be combined until you are married or at the very least living together. But then that’s another conversation. How do you go about having the conversation? I would say listen to episode 157 of the BiggerPockets Money podcast, where Scott and I talk about having money dates. Trap them in the car and listen to it then and see what he says. I have to go back and look and see which episode that was that was trapping people in the car or trapping her spouse in the car to talk about money. But you can’t just get out. I mean, he’s not going to get out of the car when you’re driving 55 miles an hour down the road. However, in that conversation, we start off by just framing it. What do you want in five years, in 10 years? If you’re talking about getting married, do you want to combine your finances? Is that something that either of you have very strong feelings about? I had very strong feelings about no prenup.
When my husband, my then boyfriend, brought it up, he was like, “We should get a prenup.” I’m like, “How dare you suggest that we are ever going to get a divorce?” That’s not the right way to frame the prenup. Erin Lowe … Lowry, I always pronounce the name wrong. Erin Lowry said in one of the episodes that she’s been on in the past, you already have a prenup. It’s the divorce laws of your state. If you don’t want those to dictate how your assets are divided should you separate, then you need to have one that divides it. Now it doesn’t sound like the two of you are coming from vastly different financial situations, which was also the similar case with me and my husband. You have 15, 25, 35, $40,000 in assets. He has 35, $40,000 in debt. Does he own a car? I’m sorry. Does he own a house or …

Scott:
Mindy, I just want to say I agree with what you’re saying. It’s not that big stakes to us from our seat with that kind of stuff, but that’s a big difference at 23.

Mindy:
Yeah, that is true.

Scott:
… with that. I think that is an important thing to discuss with those types of things with that. That’s years of difference in your savings rate with that. I don’t think it’s bad. It doesn’t say anything bad about anybody or anything like that, but I think you’re right to discuss it and think about it and have those conversations.

Mindy:
Yeah. No, I’m not saying you shouldn’t have the conversation. I’m saying that it’s not like one of you has a million dollar net worth and the other one is $50,000 in debt or $100,000 in debt. Those are very different places. But Scott’s right, this is still your life savings right here. What is his plan for paying off his debt? Does he want to pay off his debt? Does he care about it? Does it bother him at all? Does it bother you with his debt repayment or the amount of debt that he has? There’s a lot of things, but this is also kind of getting into the weeds. The first general idea is, “Hey, we should talk about our finances. I’d like you to know about my financial situation and I’d like you to know about mine. Let’s sit down. Let’s gather up all of our things and sit down and have a conversation and see where it goes.” Does he have credit card debt? I was reading a book once where this woman said that she hid $40,000 in credit card debt from her husband.
Don’t start a marriage with somebody hiding $40,000 in credit card debt. Get it all out there. That should be the underlying theme of the whole first money conversation, money date, is, “This is my honest financial position right now.” It’s no judgment. It’s just, “Here’s where I’m at. Let’s formulate a plan to get to the place that we want to be. Here’s where I’m at and here’s where I want to be. I want to have a million dollars seven years from now.” I think that’s doable. Especially the way you’re going.

Scott:
Well, I think, it’s [inaudible 00:53:17] have to think in a geometric curve and the compounding nature of things. It is certainly possible, but you’re going to have to take some risks. You’re going to have to figure out a way to drive that income up and do something more than do a tax advantage retirement account contribution with that. But yeah, I think you’re going to be doing just fine.

Mindy:
Yeah. Well, and if you don’t hit a million by 30, you hit it by 31, you’re still light years ahead of people who aren’t even going to hit it when they’re 65.

Scott:
Well, I think we’ve covered a lot here. What else can we talk about today that would be helpful for you?

Kirsten:
I think you all covered all of my questions really. I mean, I agree with you. I was very in my head about the nuances. I don’t think that if I keep the HSA, I don’t keep the HSA contribution or contributing to my HSA, I don’t think that it’s going to ruin my financial future by any means. I think I am at that point where it’s just kind of little nuances of things I’m trying to decide on to get me to the place I want to be faster. I really appreciate all of your advice and insight on talking about money with my partner, with, I don’t know, all of these retirement account questions that I had and expenses. I really appreciate you all taking the time to talk to me today.

Scott:
Yeah. Well, we really appreciate you listening, putting yourself in such a good position with this and giving us such good nuanced, advanced level things to debate and discuss with this. This is awesome.

Mindy:
Okay. Kirsten, thank you for joining us today. This was so much fun. I’m super excited for all of your opportunities because there’s just really, the world is wide open to you and you’re killing it. You’re you’re doing everything right. Jared, if you’re listening to this, listen to your big sister. Do all the things that she says and be just like her. Okay. Kirsten, do you have a joke to tell at parties?

Kirsten:
I do. Why are Teddy bears never hungry?

Mindy:
I don’t know.

Kirsten:
Because they’re always stuffed.

Scott:
That’s awesome.

Mindy:
I love it. I love it. Okay. You can find Kirsten in our Facebook group. Can they find you? Are you in our Facebook group?

Kirsten:
I am, yes.

Mindy:
Yes. Okay, perfect. We are going to ask a couple of questions from the show, tips for paying for college outside of the scholarship. HSA or Roth, which one would you max first, and get some advice from our listeners as well. But Kirsten, thank you so much for your time today. This was a lot of fun.

Kirsten:
Thank you all. I really appreciate you all having me on.

Scott:
Yeah. This was a great episode. Thank you for coming on and thank you for listening and sharing the show with, what sounds like your brother and your boyfriend. As I mentioned at the beginning, we’ll probably owe you a beer for all the referrals to BP Money.

Kirsten:
Yes.

Mindy:
Yeah. The next time you’re in Denver, hit us up.

Kirsten:
Absolutely. Thank you all so much.

Mindy:
Okay. We’ll talk to you soon. Okay, Scott, that was Kirsten. I want to say thank you for your brilliant idea of potentially stopping the contributions to the retirement accounts at her age. There is a bit of a teeter-totter you have to think about in weighing the pros and cons of getting the contributions to the retirement accounts and allowing them to grow so that when you are 65 you have income. Versus having a house hack now, which may require a reduction or a complete stop of contributing to the retirement accounts, but will accelerate and provide income in a shorter timeframe. It can be difficult to get over the old advice, the past advice of, you should max out your 401(k). You should max out your IRA. You should max out your HSA. Do all these things. There’s other options and that’s what we’re here for. Thank you, Scott, for showing your perfect example of that. You’re a shining example of how that works.

Scott:
Yeah. Well, I think, and this is not a new stance I’ve had with this. This is fundamentally how I think more people should approach life. Really, especially early out of college. If you have that position where you have limited debt and you have the means, I think that taking a couple of big moves, like a house hack in particular can really change the directory of the rest of your life in a way that … I’m not missing the $10,000 or $11,000 I might’ve put in my Roth IRA at 22, 23. Even though it would be great to have that compounding there, instead of that, I got my first duplex and that has appreciated considerably, produced cashflow, reduced my rent. It’s just been a complete life-changing, life altering path with that. But one piece of the pie that I didn’t consider when I was starting out was, I bought a duplex. Because I got rental income from the duplex on my tax return, I was making $48,000 a year when I bought my first duplex. But the next time I needed to qualify for financing, I had years of rental history.
My income had climbed to let’s call it 70 or 80 from my job over the next two, three years. I had 20, $30,000 in rent coming in. Plus, the next property I was considering was also going to get rent and I was able to use three quarters of that rent to help me qualify for the loan. That’s incredibly powerful. That takes my purchasing power from $70,000 where it would have been, to, what is that, 100, $140,000, $150,000 annually? In a way that I wouldn’t have had if I had been renting the whole time or I bought a house to live in with that. I just think it’s a really powerful first move. We talked about house hacking ad nauseam around this, but I think that it’s better than retirement accounts for certain folks who might be in situations like Kirsten’s, who are getting started and want to play to win and get aggressive. You’ve got to make a choice. You cannot max out the 401(k), the Roth IRA, the HSA, your emergency reserve and house hack at the same time.
You have to make a resource allocation decision at some point. What are you going to do? To me, I think I made my stance clear on that one, I think.

Mindy:
Yes, you have made your stance clear on that. It’s not just you that feels this way. Craig Curelop, and I’m trying to remember what episode he was on … He was on episode 35 and then he came back again with his house hacking book. He’s a great example of how this does actually work in real life. I mean, Scott, you are too, but it’s not just you. It happens over and over again. I know a lot of people who are in this same position who have had success financially by foregoing the contributions to the retirement accounts in favor of the house hack and generating the income, and moving every few years while you’re young and it’s no big deal to uproot your life like that.

Scott:
I think Craig joined BiggerPockets, house hacked, lived behind a curtain in the living room to rent out the bedroom in his unit of the house hack. Did it three more times, then paid off all his student loan debt. Graduated from BiggerPockets, he called it, and retired from work. Became an agent and sold a bajillion dollars in real estate. Now, he splits his time between Maui and Denver at the age of ripe old age of 28. Good Lord, that guy. Congratulations, Craig, wherever you are. I hope you hear this. But yeah, I think that’s a great example of this put to great effect and that compounding nature of the gains you can get from starting with that house hack. He had to make resource allocation decisions around his retirement accounts and whether or not to pay off his student loan debt, for example. It’s hard to argue that he made the wrong choice in those resource allocation decisions.
We all made fun of him for sleeping behind the curtain, but I think he’s having the last laugh on the … We teased him gently for sleeping behind the curtain. Some of us. But I think he’s having the last laugh now cruising the world right now. It’s just phenomenal to see.

Mindy:
Yeah. He’s definitely having the last laugh, and some of us were so gentle with our teasing. But Craig, it was all in good fun. Did you say Craig’s a real estate agent, and didn’t I suggest to Kirsten that she get her license?

Scott:
Craig got his real estate agent license around there as well.

Mindy:
Look at that.

Scott:
Yeah. I think there’s a little bit of a formula here maybe to repeat if you’re really trying to really go after it and make some sacrifices for the first couple of years of your 20s. You might have a shot at being in a pretty good position. You can repeat it at other points in your life, but it seems a little easier in your early 20s with that.

Mindy:
Yeah. There’s just a lot of opportunities when you are settled with debt. Earlier in the show I asked if you would contribute to the HSA or the rough IRA first? Which one would you max up first? We’re going to ask that question in the Facebook group. You can jump on over to facebook.com/groups/bpmoney. I also asked how you paid for college or how you reduced your college expenses that wasn’t a scholarship? Just like Kirsten worked for the housing department at school and Julien from rich & REGULAR worked in the … Oh my goodness, it’s been too long since we spoke to … Was he in the admissions’ office? He works for the … It was his full-time job, but he was able to get his degree for $25 a semester, which is ridiculous. But good for him. I mean, that’s awesome if there are ways that you can reduce your college expenses.
How many people do we talk to who started off saddled with debt and now they’re in their mid 30s, late 30s, they just finally paid off all their student loan debt and now they can get started or they feel that now they can get started? If you have suggestions for that, please hop on over to the Facebook group and give us your ideas. Scott, we have gotten pretty long this week. Why don’t we get out of here?

Scott:
Let’s do it.

Mindy:
From episode 212 of the BiggerPockets Money podcast, he is Scott Trench and I am Mindy Jensen saying chop, chop lollipop.

 

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In This Episode We Cover

  • How to aggressively invest so you can retire young 
  • The importance of side-income and why you should have multiple streams of income
  • Roth IRAs, 401(k)s, and HSAs (health savings accounts) 
  • Graduating from college debt-free
  • Whether or not life insurance is necessary for young people
  • Having “money talks” and “money dateswith your partner
  • House hacking and using real estate to catapult your wealth
  • And So Much More!

Links from the Show