BiggerPockets Money Podcast 229: The 6 Money Mistakes High School/College Students MUST Avoid

BiggerPockets Money Podcast 229: The 6 Money Mistakes High School/College Students MUST Avoid

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Most college students know next to nothing about money. Even worse, many of them sign on to expensive student loans with almost no plan on how they’re going to pay it back. While this is the average, some people, like Nathan Kennedy, host of The New Money Podcast, did things differently.

Although he overspent a bit going out in college, Nathan graduated with a degree and $40,000 in cash, a MASSIVE amount for any college student. Through applying for grants, working at on-campus jobs, and collecting tip money as a bartender, Nathan was able to graduate in a solid position, allowing him to invest heavily in the stock market during the 2020 crash.

Now, Nathan teaches others how they can strengthen their financial position through hard work, planning, and constant content consumption. If you have children who are in high school, college, or are newly graduated, send them this episode so they can have a leg up on future finances!

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Listen to the Podcast Here

Read the Transcript Here

Mindy:
Welcome to the BiggerPockets Money podcast, show number 229, where we interview Nathan Kennedy from The New Money Podcast, and get some advice for our younger listeners to help put them on the right path financially, straight out of high school or college.

Nathan:
I always talk about in content that, yes, you’re young and you’ve got a lot of time. But that’s all the more reason to get started now, because it’ll be easier along the way, versus backloading it and then having to, I don’t know, invest $5,000 a month just to make retirement. There’s a lot of scenarios where that happens.

Mindy:
Hello, hello, hello, my name is Mindy Jensen and with me as always, is my high flying co-host, Scott Trench.

Scott:
Thank you as always for piloting these intros, Mindy, always a new one every week. I’ll do better next time.

Mindy:
Usually you’re pretty good. 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 financial freedom is attainable for everyone, no matter when or where or how young 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 maximize your potential in your early 20s, we’ll help you reach your financial goals and get money out of the way so you can launch yourself towards those dreams.

Mindy:
Scott, I am so excited to talk to Nathan today. He is a recent college grad. He has learned some lessons from his financial missteps and his financial experiences in high school and college. He’s here today to share those with our younger listeners.
So moms and dads, if you have kids who are in high school or college, this is a great episode to encourage them to listen to or to listen to with them. Because we’re talking about things that you can do now, before you get into big bad habits financially, that will help secure your financial future.

Scott:
Absolutely. I really enjoyed talking to Nathan. I think my big theme from the episode really got going in the second half of the episode as well, where we start talking about what Nathan is doing on a day-to-day and week-to-week basis to just crush it. The way he sets goals, the way he works it out, the way he listens and self-educates, the way he saves and automates that, the way he constructs his vision for his life, prioritizes his family, all that kind of stuff. These are the habits I think that he’s forming in his early 20s that are going to propel him rapidly toward financial independence.
I think that if you can attempt to emulate that in the first year or two out of college, for those listening, that is just going to set your whole life on a completely different trajectory than I think the normal in America.

Mindy:
I could not agree more. Nathan Kennedy, welcome to the BiggerPockets Money podcast. I’m so excited to talk to you today.

Nathan:
I’m even more excited, guys. Thank you so much for having me on.

Mindy:
Today, we are talking about things that our younger listeners can do to set themselves up for financial brilliance, or at least not financial devastation. So this episode is really aimed at our younger listeners. If you’re coming out of high school, coming out of college, this is right up your alley. And mom and dad, this is a great episode to listen to when you are driving with your kids in the car and have a great discussion about this.
Let’s jump right into it, Nathan, let’s learn a little bit about you. Where did you start?

Nathan:
Well, honestly, firstly guys, thank you so much for having me on. From a very young age, I don’t want to do the full life story thing, but money was always a topic that my mom wasn’t afraid to speak about. That’s served me pretty well through my life, just having an awareness of it, and knowing the value of a dollar.
But in terms of financial literacy, it took me a while to actually figure out that I was not where I would like to be. I think fast forward to university, I’m going out, I’m spending money a little bit recklessly. But I’m ignorant to the fact that I think that I’m good with money just because my parents would talk about it with me. I’m aware of it, a more humble background. But I actually didn’t know the fundamentals. I wasn’t making a budget. I wasn’t doing anything like that.
And so what happened for me that was my aha moment was on a whim, I just was like, “How much money did I spend just going out one semester?” And added it up and I think it was $2,500. I was floored, absolutely taken aback, just was like, “This is not cool. I am not who I say I am,” kind of moment.
I really had to humble myself, and I just dove into every financial literacy content podcast, books, audiobooks, blogs, blogs were huge, Mister Money Mustache, all that kind of stuff, really just dove right in and never turned back. I just fell in love with it.
So much so that a few years later, I started the podcast. And now I talk about it. That’s pretty much where I am now.

Mindy:
I want to go back just a moment. You said you spent money recklessly. I typed it out. “I spent money recklessly in university, but I thought I was good with money.” I think that’s really important to focus on for a minute. Because if you think you’re good with money, you might just put your guard down, relax a little bit. And then, “I’m good with money, I can buy one extra beer, or I can go out to dinner tonight because I’m not paying attention to it but I know I’m good with money. I’ll be okay.” And that’s a really important point. If you don’t pay attention to it, it can get away from you rather quickly.
And you said you spent $2,500. That, in the context of my not being a college student current spending, I’m like, “So what?” But then I’m thinking back when I was in college, boy, $2,500 would have gone really far.

Nathan:
Absolutely. So it was one of those things where that’s what most people, a lot of people who have a problem don’t know that they have a problem. It’s part of it. And so to actually see the numbers and the math behind it was huge.
I always talk about in content that, yes, you’re young and you’ve got a lot of time. But that’s all the more reason to get started now, because it’ll be easier along the way, versus backloading it and then having to, I don’t know, invest $5,000 a month just to make retirement. There’s a lot of scenarios where that happens.

Mindy:
Oh, preach, preach. What was that study, I always quote this study. I’m pretty sure it’s a valid study, not like that 95% of all small businesses fail in the first three years. And then every time I say that, somebody else sends me a note. “That’s not true.” It’s close to true. It’s not like I’m saying 95 and it’s actually only 3% of small businesses, it’s really close to true.
But there was a study done, if you invested $1,000 a month from the time you were 22 to the time you’re 30, and then stopped and never invested any more money ever again, you would have more money than if you invested $2,000 a month from the time you were 30 to the time that you’re 65.

Nathan:
It’s insane.

Mindy:
35 years of twice as much money isn’t the same amount, is less than eight years of half as much money. And that’s just a mind blowing comment, but math doesn’t lie.

Nathan:
It doesn’t lie, numbers don’t lie.

Mindy:
So when you’re in high school, when you’re in college, now is the time to make really smart money decisions. They can affect you decades down the road or four decades down the road. I love this. I love this.
So let’s look at where you were financially when you graduated from high school, and then where you were financially when you graduated from college.

Nathan:
I maybe had $1,000 going into college, everything was bursaries and student loans. That’s how I was funded. Ontario, I’m from Canada, so Ontario’s student loan program is actually pretty solid. About half of the funding that I got were bursaries, which I didn’t have to pay back and half were loans.
And so what I would do is, I would live off that and then I would work a lot in the summer. Another thing that also maybe made me think that I was better was I was a really good saver. When I would work at an internship or whatever, I would just save all my money. And then I would just live off it during the semester or whatever. I came in, just did that for my years in university.
And then really, what was the turning point was I started to work a lot more, hustle a lot more in my later years to sustain my savings and maybe grow and started investing and things like that. I did have a good amount of debt coming out of school, but I was able to pay off a good amount right away and then feel like I’m in a pretty good position coming out of school, too.

Mindy:
Let’s talk actual numbers. Oh, sorry, Scott. Let’s talk actual numbers.

Scott:
Go ahead, Mindy.

Mindy:
What sort of debt did you have when you graduated college? And how much did you pay off and how did you pay that off quickly?

Nathan:
So essentially, when I came out of school I had $36,000 worth of student debt, but I also had around $40,000 saved up, with the intention of paying a good amount down, and then stretching out a later amount. But then COVID happened, I was also thinking about rental properties. There’s all these things that were going down.
And what ended up happening is, I put around I think it was $20,000 right as the moratorium period ends. So you get six months worth of a interest grace free period for your student loans on the federal portion. The provincial portion is occurring, but it’s minimal. That’s just an aside.
So when that moratorium period ended, I put down 20 Gs, was like that leaves me with around 16. I’ll just spread it out, pay it down, the interest rate is prime, it’s around 2%. It’s not too devastating.
But what the Canadian government did is they actually paused federal loan interest on that portion. And because 99% of my student loans were federal, I was just like, all right, well, I’ll make my payments, but I’m not going to go over and above because it’s 0%. And really padded my investments, and they’re doing pretty well right now. That’s where I stand today.

Scott:
So what year did you graduate from college?

Nathan:
2020, last year, so I’d graduated into the pandemic.

Mindy:
Welcome to the world.

Scott:
And so what has been your trajectory since graduating college with this?

Nathan:
I got a job right out of school. I work for a Fortune 500 company, and I’m in a leadership program there, which is great. I think my portfolio now is around 50,000, 60,000 in ETFs, between work stuff and just my own personal tax advantaged accounts.
I’ve got around $25,000 cash, because I’m looking into potentially going all in with a podcast, maybe a little bit of a padded emergency fund there. That’s pretty much where I’m at. I think I have around $11,000 outstanding on my student loans, and then no credit card debt or any other kind of debt, car debt, nothing like that.

Scott:
And this has all been accumulated from savings at work for the most part, and just applying it to investments and I guess a market that has probably done pretty well, since you started investing seriously. You probably started right around that dip in March or April of last year.

Nathan:
I’ve been investing probably since 2017. But you’re right, it’s just been rosy. There was a bleak two months there. That’s the only bleak two months of my entire investing career, if you want to call it that. So it’s one of those things where I’ve just been lucky, started in a bull market. I think a lot of investors have. But I just continued to invest for the long term. That’s what we always talk about. I just continue to do that.

Mindy:
It also sounds like you worked throughout college, summers, and I’m assuming winter break. Did you have a job during the school as well?

Nathan:
I bartended a lot through school, through the summer. That was my go-to. I think really the tips and the money and the people and the whole vibe was what I loved. I really thought that, I got a lot of what I put into it. So if I’d work long hours, if I give great customer service, it would directly correlate to how much money I walked away with tips, et cetera.
But parlaying that, I also would do on campus jobs. I think I researched every bursary, every scholarship, while you’re in school. A lot of people think scholarships are before school, there’s so many scholarships that you can apply for while you’re studying. I just applied to every single one I can, and I was able to land a few there, some bursaries as well.
And it’s remarkable, and I can’t necessarily speak for the States, but at least in Canada, and I’d imagine the States as well, there’s so much money up for grabs, there’s so much money out there. And so working as hard as I could while also finding, call it easier opportunities to apply to, under applied to scholarships, bursaries, et cetera, I was able to really fund my education and come out of school pretty okay.

Mindy:
I’ve got about 17 points to make on all that you just threw at us. So, first of all, I’m not familiar with the term bursary. Can you share what that is? Is that a Canadian thing?

Nathan:
It’s like a scholarship. It’s essentially money that they give you, you don’t have to paid back.

Mindy:
I think we call that a grant here.

Nathan:
Grant. Same thing.

Mindy:
Would you that’s a grant?

Nathan:
Literally the exact same thing.

Mindy:
Most of our listeners are in America. I just want to translate Canadian English into American English for those listening. I’ve also never heard that term before. So that’s interesting.
You started off saying you were a bartender. To everybody listening, if you have the opportunity to be either a bartender or a waitress or a cocktail waitress, take that opportunity, because you make so much money. So much money. Oh my goodness, I used to easily clear $100 on a weeknight being a waitress. And then on the weekends, I would bring home $200 a night.
Of course, I was working Friday and Saturday night. I wanted $400 plus one more shift is $500. I could make so much money. And if I’m working at the bar, I’m not out spending money at the bar. I watched the bartenders, I was a waitress and I was making $200. But the bartenders are making $300 and $400. You don’t have to work at a student bar.

Nathan:
It’s crazy.

Mindy:
You can go off campus and work at a real bar. Sorry, apologies to all of you who have student bars, but students aren’t rich. So they don’t have tons of money to tip. But employed people are rich or they want to appear rich, so they will tip better. So yes, yes, yes. Learn how to make drinks. It is such a good skill to have.

Nathan:
It’s so fun too.

Mindy:
It’s fun. It’s hard to be in a bad mood when you’re waiting tables on people that are happy all over the place. So second, I just learned, I was today years old when I learned that you could still apply for scholarships while you’re in college. I didn’t know that. That’s awesome.
There was an article 1,000 years ago, this woman sat her daughter down and said, “I don’t have any money for college. So if you want to go to college, you have to apply for grants and scholarships,” and things like that. And she applied, and she got something like $300,000 in scholarships. She didn’t even apply for student loans. She got all this money simply because she applied. And in many cases, she’s the only applicant.
Oh, what was the episode with Zach Gautier, was it episode 41? Or was that Kyle Mast? I usually have these right on the tip of my tongue. 64, maybe it was 64. Anyway, our episode with, sorry while I find this, people.

Nathan:
Take your time. It’s all good.

Mindy:
You can listen to me fart around, 64. Episode 64 was Zach Gautier, he has 900,000 ways to pay for college. And one of them is applying for scholarships. But there are so many ways to fund college outside of student loans. If you take your junior and senior year of high school, and sit down and apply for everything, write a really great letter, that you tailor to every single application. It’s a process. It’s not just send it out to everybody, it’s a process.
But write the letter, get great letters of recommendation from people who know how to write a great letter, ask everybody to write you a letter of recommendation, so that you can have them at the ready and submit them. But there’s so much money available, if you just put in the time to find it.

Nathan:
It’s crazy.

Mindy:
And talk to your high school, talk to the colleges and talk to everybody. Sometimes if you work at the college, you can get discounted tuition, and the grants and the scholarships that are out there. And then you can do it in the middle of school too. I didn’t even know that. I’m so excited.

Nathan:
Something you said that’s so crucial is, every single student that’s listening, reach out to your financial department because they will help you, they want you to win. They have an interest in your success. They want to make sure that you’re getting everything you can.
I had connections with several of them. They knew me on a first name basis. Like “Nate, we don’t have anything for you this month, check back next month,” no joke. And so you don’t have to just do it yourself. Definitely you can find a ton online, but these are professionals that want to see you win. Reach out to them and most college and university, even community colleges have some sort of department that specializes in student funding and things like that. And so leverage the heck out of them, because that is what they are there for.

Mindy:
I love it.

Scott:
So besides from getting these great jobs and these scholarships or bursaries, if that’s the plural of those, did you make any mistakes? Or were you successful? Do you think you navigated it all pretty perfectly?

Mindy:
No, he was perfect.

Nathan:
Perfect. No mistakes. No, you know what, I think really the biggest thing was, spending, it was the spending. I’m not a very detail oriented person. I really have to work hard to front load and set up systems, but detail orientation is a struggle of mine, honestly. And so obviously budgeting requires being in the weeds a little bit.
So that was tough, when I even first started getting into this. Even today, I really do have more of a flexible approach, just because I have that in mind. But I would struggle to stay on budget for certain categories, maybe if it was food, eating out, still, stuff like that.
In general, I feel like my spending is very much under control. But I’d say that’s probably the biggest struggle that I have. Maybe if I set up a regular cadence of checking in with my budget of, let’s call it every week, it would be every other week or something like that. So definitely there was trips and falls along the way. It wasn’t as smooth as maybe I’m making it sound.
But I think that’s been one thing that, just in my life in general is making sure that I’m nailed on the smaller details, but still keeping in mind who I am, my personality and things like that. And trying to set up a system around that as well.

Mindy:
I really like what you said, you set up a regular cadence of checking in on your finances. That is so crucial, especially when you’re starting, because it’s the little things that add up so quickly.

Nathan:
Absolutely. Absolutely. And so I’d slip through the cracks sometimes. And so does part of me think I could have been way further along if I were to be a little bit more nailed on that stuff early on? Of course, but I can’t beat myself up over that and nobody can. And so that’s one thing though.
But I always think, I always tell people too is, I honestly think if I can, I don’t like little small details, but if I’m able to make it work and do that, I think so many other people can as well.

Mindy:
So let’s talk about some of those flexible jobs that you had on campus.

Nathan:
So my school had what’s called a work study program. So essentially, I think the Ontario government would give a boatload of money to the school. It’s intended for students to work for it. I had a job at our local gym. It was not a very hard job, I’ll be honest, you just walk around the gym, and you make sure that weights are put away and you make sure that people are behaving, but you’re really not doing all that much more than that. You’re just like a supervisor. And so I did that for I think three years.
It was awesome, because I like to work out a lot, I would work out in the morning, and then I’d do a shift and then it’s on campus. I’d just got to class afterward. I think that’s money, if you can find a shift on campus. If it’s not there, if it’s at a local restaurant, you work at the Starbucks or you work at the McDonald’s that’s on campus, or whatever it is. It’s just so convenient for your life. And you can just go to work and then go to school and then go to work or whatever it is. That was the only job really I had.

Scott:
Were you able to do homework at that job? Or was it demanding your full attention while [crosstalk 00:22:33]?

Nathan:
You couldn’t have your phone. That’s the one thing. So keep that in mind, but they were really strict. You couldn’t do anything but that. So you weren’t upstairs doing homework, things like that. There would be times where I’m like, “Shoot, I need to be studying. I got a midterm after this.” But no, that was the one thing that you couldn’t do, you had to be fully engaged on walking around.

Mindy:
Still, you’re getting your steps in. I’m sure you can, as you’re putting the weights away, let me just lift-

Nathan:
Get a little pump?

Mindy:
Put them down, get yourself a little workout as you go through. Here, let me show you the proper stance for that, and then do your 10 squats.
My husband got a job at the computer lab. And we’re older, this was a long time ago. But there was not a lot to be done. Sometimes the printer would jam or somebody would need help with a program. But for the most part, he just sat there and he didn’t make a lot of money, but he was getting paid while he was able to work on his homework.

Nathan:
That’s awesome. And if you can find something like that where it’s cool, it’s permissible to do that, then do that. Because then you’re killing two birds with one stone.

Mindy:
A little bit of think outside the box-ness is so beneficial and can just really propel you. He didn’t have to go to work and then come home and study, which is very different than your bartending gig. You’re probably not going to be able to sit there and study unless there’s a big snowstorm. In which case, you don’t want to do that anyway, because you just would rather be home than sitting around.
But there was not a lot of times to study when I was waiting tables, but that’s okay too. I made a lot more money. I think my husband was $5 an hour or something at the computer lab. Again, that was a while ago. Early ’90s.

Nathan:
That’s easy money though. That’s easy money.

Mindy:
It’s very easy money. What were some mistakes that you were making while you were in university? And what were some of the mistakes that you saw your friends making?

Nathan:
I think, like I said, the biggest mistake was even just, I don’t necessarily want to say it’s a mistake to go out and spend money and enjoy yourself, because you’re young, and that’s what those years are for. But I think there’s definitely a way to have the best of both worlds, where you’re making sure that you’re allocating money and you’re being responsible.
Because I still had fun. I still went out, I still had the whole student experience, but I was definitely more calculated about it. So that was the first half of university, that I was just mindless… I was doing reckless…
To me, the reason I say that is because I would go to the ATM with my credit card and take out money. That is a whack load of fees, plus cash advance, plus just a disaster, it’s the last thing you should do financially is to do something like that. And so that’s what I’m talking about when I just wouldn’t really care.
And so that was the biggest thing for me. That’s why I always talk about it so much. You can have an even better time and save 75% of the money you would have otherwise spent. I think in terms of maybe stuff that I saw, maybe reasons why I started the podcast is because no student is talking about money. Or rather, they’re joking around about how little they know. I would find that so much in conversation. It’d be like, how do I money? Ha ha. It’s very accepted. We all don’t know what we’re doing. I would be like, dang, I don’t like that, I want to do something about that.
But I found that I would devour financial content and things like that. But I totally was like, this just doesn’t land for a lot of folks that are around my age, because you could just fall asleep if you’re not completely invested in it. So that’s why I started the podcast is because I’m very candid on my podcast, I’m just me, just talking about the concepts.
I’d like to think that it lands a lot better, because I always say, it sounds like me and you are just having a drink together. I’m just telling you like it is or whatever the case is. That sits a lot better. It’s more relatable for folks, versus listening to an audiobook, that to me is the most fascinating thing in the world, but maybe to most 20 somethings, it would probably put them to sleep.

Mindy:
And you said you had the best of both worlds. You would work and you would be conscious of your money and you would still go out and have a good time. It isn’t black and white. It isn’t, you can either have a good time or save your money. You can do a little bit of both.
What are some free things you can do? You can go on a picnic or go on a hike or go on a bike ride or do things outdoors where there’s not a lot of money being spent or any money being spent. You can pregame it at home, buy a six pack for your house and then still go out and have one drink at $5 instead of five drinks at $5.

Nathan:
Absolutely.

Mindy:
And I don’t want to just surround it on drinking, but let’s be honest.

Nathan:
That’s what it is.

Mindy:
Scott, did you ever have alcohol in college?

Scott:
Never. I thought about money in terms of the amount of cases of Natural Light it would purchase.

Mindy:
The craft beer lover in me cringes, but my dad drinks that.

Nathan:
You got to be economical, like you said, little tactics like that where you go to a house party a little bit more often or you pregame at home more. It’s funny, it’s like joking around, but you’re dead serious. If you just go straight out, you’re going to spend much more money, splitting an Uber, little things like that. They really, really add up.

Mindy:
They do. Splitting an Uber, you should have a bicycle at college. If you’re going away to college, you should have a bicycle, or maybe a car if it’s convenient to park it. Or maybe just walk everywhere, because it’s a college town. It’s not that big.

Nathan:
True, transit systems.

Mindy:
I forgot about those.

Nathan:
A lot of universities subsidize the transit pass for a lot of students. That’s all I did. I would ride the bus a ton. I got a car in my last year. But for most of university, that’s what I would do. And it’s usually really reliable.

Scott:
Going out to your postgraduate life here, now that you’re graduated with this, you have an interesting I think philosophy with money, or at least that’s what your thing says to me here is, one you’re saving a ton. So you must be earning a pretty good income and saving a huge chunk of that income right now.
And you’re applying that money in what seems to be all stocks, and then a cash emergency fund on top of that. Can you talk about your philosophy with money as it stands after college graduation and why you’re thinking that way?

Nathan:
Absolutely. I think with what I’m doing now, initially, I was saving a lot of cash because I was looking to get into a property. That’s still the goal over the next maybe two to three years. But right now, this whole social media thing, the podcast, it’s like a business and it’s a budding business. And now I’m starting to generate income and I’m really starting to really invest in myself in that. I want to have a good amount of cash. I’ve started to reallocate a little bit more of my savings towards that.
But as it pertains to my investments, yes, it’s 100% stocks, mostly ETFs, some individual stocks. That’s just long-term money for decades down the road. The whole compound interest over the long term, similar to the example we talked about. I’m just a big index fund guy, an exchange traded fund guy. That’s why my money is where it is.
Why is my money in more balanced portfolio of maybe 50/50 bonds or things like that, I just think given my time horizon, I’m quite young, I’ve got a lot of time to ride out the volatility, and just go after the appreciation of the equity. That’s why my allocation is as aggressive as it is. And then the cash is just on hand for maybe just a rainy day with the business or something like that.

Scott:
How old are you?

Nathan:
24.

Scott:
What I want to point out is that, I believe that people in their early 20s who accumulate $25,000, $50,000 in cash the way you have, with your thought approach, I just want to completely agree with your approach and how you’re thinking about this. Because the ROI on that 25 grand is going to be infinitely higher, I think, in a risk adjusted sense, if you bet on yourself, if you pursue a house hack, if you take a chance on a side hustle. And then betting on yourself, the first point being launching a business or doing that kind of stuff, you’re going to either learn so much more, or have a shot at having 100% ownership of that type of business, not having to go out and raise capital and all that good stuff.
If you start a business idea or whatever, do it completely your way, that’s just such a much better use of money, I think, than putting it into the index fund, or into a retirement account, in my opinion. I just wanted to commend that approach, and the way you’re thinking about it, because I think that’s absolutely right.
And that is very specific to I think a certain situation in life where that applies. I think if you’re 10 years into a career and have a family and all that kind of stuff, maybe it’s a little different of a choice, and your time horizon is different. But at this point, I think it’s the logical approach.
I think it can be hard to articulate or hard to define exactly why it’s the right approach for a lot of folks. But I think more and more people should consider that, how do I get off to the races in the first year or two out of college, and build up a huge chunk of cash, and then use that to exploit the opportunities that are coming around?

Nathan:
That’s 300% right. I’d like to say, when we spoke, Scott, when I had the chance to speak with you on the podcast, that’s one thing I really took away is, you got a bet on yourself, man. You really do. When you’re young, if you’ve got something and you think you have a shot, take the shot, because you’ve got time to see it through and no matter what, you’re going to learn something from it. And so super, super inspirational from that point of view.
And so that’s definitely it. To me, it’s money that I’m going to invest or going to have to go through, if I decide to leave my job in a few months, or whatever it is, and I want to just, boom, give it a year, go all in, whatever, I’m able to do that. You know what I mean? So that’s where my head is at right now.

Scott:
I think we have a dramatically improved world. I’ll go that far if more people did exactly what you’re doing with this. You don’t have to take the option. You can get the promotion at work and they can keep you, but to have the option I think is what compounds the probability of you maximizing your potential. That’s fundamentally what you’re doing with this.
Let me ask another question. How often do you work out?

Nathan:
Six days a week.

Scott:
Awesome. How long do you work out for each of those?

Nathan:
Depends, but maybe on average 40, 45 minutes.

Scott:
love it. How much do you read?

Nathan:
I’m a big audiobook guy.

Mindy:
That counts.

Scott:
Or listen.

Nathan:
Honestly probably I listen to around for our 4.5 hours between reading and audiobooks per week.

Scott:
Awesome. And how much other self-education do you do?

Nathan:
That’s probably the biggest one, but I would say a lot of articles, a lot of research, a lot of online stuff. But most of the education comes from either podcasts or audiobooks or reading. But I’m like a self-improvement junkie, I live off that stuff, just as much as personal finance. I think personal finance is here and then the self-improvement stuff is right there too.

Scott:
Four hours a week, if each audiobook is an average eight hours, that’s 25 books per year, is the pace that you’re going at, just in the audiobooks, the four, five hours front with that. So you’re working out six days a week, you’re reading 20 to 30 book equivalents a year with audio, with this kind of stuff, you’ve saved up $25,000 to $50,000. And you’ve already accumulated a $50,000 portfolio one year after graduation.
This is the path. I don’t know what is going to happen. Here’s the mistake you can make in your situation, is modeling it out and believing the model, because it will just not come true. You’re just setting up so many synergistic things together, that they will compound if you play your cards right and are reasonably opportunistic to go your way, in excess of whatever financial model.
If you’re listening to this like, “I’m doing all that,” you have to then bet on yourself with this kind of stuff. Your mental models, you think about like, “Hey, I’m competing in the business world with somebody with 10 years of experience.” Well, 10 years of experience is great. But I’ll take the guy who’s read 25 books by different authors on that topic all day, over the guy with 10 years of experience on that. There’s things experience can’t teach and there’s things that books can’t teach. So there’s puts and takes.
But one is, anyways, I just can’t commend you enough. I knew that after talking to you, you didn’t set us up with that information ahead of time. But I could tell, coming into the call, that those other pieces were in place, in addition to the finances, which I think is really cool.

Nathan:
I really appreciate it, Scott. That’s very incredibly humbling coming from you, in terms of the best way possible. That’s just crazy, that you’ve just spoken me in that light. Thank you for that.

Scott:
I think it’s just fact.

Nathan:
It is crazy though, I literally didn’t think about it like that until you said it like that. And you’re right. I try to focus on the inputs as much as I can, in terms of, let me hit it week after week. But I haven’t like you said thought, I don’t have a crazy goal in mind in terms of let me read 30, 40 books, even though that is a really great goal.
But I think when you set up the inputs, and you set up the leads rather, to really set yourself up there, when you were saying it, I was like, I guess.

Scott:
Reading 30 books is kind of silly. I’m just being completionist, [crosstalk 00:37:38], but self-educating the equivalent of 20, 30 books on whatever it is, either interesting…. Well, let me ask you this, are you reading just in time learning? Or are you just consuming out of habit as part of it? But are you also selecting materials that are relevant to what you’re working on?

Nathan:
It’s probably 90% stuff that’s relevant to where I’m trying to go with my life. And then I’d say there’s a small percentage, maybe some sports stuff, in terms of podcasts, I listen to just purely entertainment. But most of it is for some sort of end purpose.

Scott:
Awesome. Now, are you doing any type of goal setting on top of this?

Nathan:
So in my room, I have this big, white, it’s a roll out whiteboards thing, it’s actually pretty cool. I don’t know if anybody’s interested, it’s on Amazon, it’s one of those. But I write out my goals for the month, for the quarter and for the year, and then I just have it. And to me, I love just visually seeing it every morning. It becomes one of those things that’s just in the background, but I try to look at it and I have a little checklist at the top.
And to me, it’s just inspiring to see some of the numbers or some of the legs that I want to hit over the next few months and years. I don’t do anything further than… This is from Brandon Turner, the vivid vision, when he told me about that, well, he didn’t tell me, he told everybody, but when I heard about that, I went and read that book, and that was crazy. I have a little three year vision at the bottom, and then everything that ladders up. And that’s where my planning is and stuff like that.
And the one thing that I’ve learned is that you’re not going to nail every single one, you’re going to miss sometimes. And so navigating that, and being kind to myself for maybe not hitting some sort of figure or number that I hoped for, for the quarter, it’s all good. We’ll just get after it next quarter kind of thing.
But just having that process has been really helpful over this past… I think that started about a year ago.

Scott:
Love it. What else are you doing that you think is, if you sit back and zoom out and peer at your life as a third-party observer, what else are you doing that you think is conducive to success? You have goal setting, we have six days a week working out, we have 25 book equivalency here, we’ve got a huge savings rate, we’ve got an entrepreneurial venture on the side, what else?

Nathan:
Family, man. Family, family, family, making time for it. I don’t do any work on Saturday, half of Sunday. I just relax with my family and my girlfriend. That has just been money in terms of just feeling refreshed and things like that. And it’s something that I had a really serious conversation with my girlfriend about is because I’m very darty. I’ve always got these thoughts coming in and out of my head or let me go do this or that or this or that.

Mindy:
Did you think darty? Because it sounded like dirty.

Nathan:
No darty-

Mindy:
D-A-R-T-Y.

Nathan:
Yes. Not dirty, not dirty.

Mindy:
I just want to clarify for people who didn’t quite get-

Nathan:
Darty. I’ve got all these ambitions and things that are coming all over the place. But that would lead to burnout, all the time throughout school even, there was times, I guess I could talk about this too. There would be some summers where I’d be working literally between internships, and bartending and whatever, 85, 90 hours a week just grinding. Obviously not sustainable.
And so I remember talking with her, and then we set that up, “Hey, let’s just take one day where we just don’t do anything,” you’re not on your phone, whatever. And it’s just been amazing. And so now I really look forward to that. It’s a nice break from everything, work and the podcast and life and even working out. I just chill, just take a full day.
And it really helps me out from a sustainability perspective to just be recharged, to go after the week, the next week.

Mindy:
That is yet another really important point to hammer home. Because especially during COVID, when people were working from home, it’s so easy to be like, “I just got to finish up this one thing,” and after dinner, go back to your computer because it’s already there. And it’s so easy to work a whole lot more than 40 hours a week.
And when you’re not working, you’re thinking about it or you’ve got your phone up, and you’ve got Slack open, just in case somebody reaches out because they need something. They can wait till tomorrow. Unless you’re a doctor, in which case don’t take my advice. But unless there’s life threatening things going on, they can wait till later and taking a moment away from your phone. What’s the worst that happens when you don’t have your phone next to you? You missed somebody’s Facebook updates. Who cares?

Nathan:
Whatever. Not a big deal.

Mindy:
You missed somebody tweeting something funny. Well, you can go back and read it later. You can laugh, ha ha ha, lol, you can post that any time. It’s very rarely something life threatening that you’re going to miss.
Now, of course, if somebody is in the hospital, maybe keep your phone with you, but don’t look at it all the time. But it’s so easy to be glued to your phone all the time.

Nathan:
It never stops, but there’s part of it, where it’s just like there’s always going to be things in your brain and businesses never stop kind of thing, whatever. But realistically, you’re right, you take yourself out even if it was five, 10 seconds, nothing’s going to happen. Oh, it’s a minute, an hour, a day, the world’s not going to go up in flames just because you don’t look at your phone.
And it’s so funny, because I tell myself that rationally, but sometimes I’ll catch myself on my phone, I’m like, “Just put it away, just relax, man.”

Scott:
Nathan, I think that some folks listening will find, this I think is what a lot of people should aspire to in their early 20s, is something like the schedule and the habits that you set yourself to, with that. That’s conducive to success. Unfortunately, we’re only getting the top half here. But I imagine you’re looking very strong and buff with the six days a week with all this kind of stuff. But every part of your life is going together with what you’re doing with all this kind of stuff.
What is the one thing that you think you should start with? Someone else is like, “Hey, right now I’m drained from my work, I don’t have goals. Last thing I want to do after a long day of work is go listen to an audiobook on success or some crap like that. I don’t know what a vision board is. That sounds cheesy. I don’t know. I’m not going to work out six times a week. God knows I can only find time for two workouts a week maybe with that kind of stuff.”
So I’m putting myself in the shoes of somebody like that, they’re like, “There’s no way I can replicate what Nathan’s doing.” What’s the one first step that you think someone should take to begin going down that path, and maybe having more of the habits that you’ve built for yourself fall in line?

Nathan:
I honestly think just consuming content. I think that is just such an easy thing to start doing is, just consuming content around some of these strategies. There’s so many beautiful, awesome, fantastic, interesting, engaging content creators on YouTube, shows like this, where you can just listen to and just be on your way to work or whatever. And if it’s boring to you, then go find another one. Because I guarantee you, there’s so many out there on so many different topics that you’ll find one that you like and it’ll teach you a lot. And it’s like a easier stepping stone.
Now, obviously, eventually, you’re going to have to take action, you’re going to have to go out and start building the budget, you’re going to have to go sign up for the gym membership and actually go, you’re going to have to take the action. But I think if you can just start watching content. I used to always say, there’s this one thing that you could do is measure your wants and needs or this or that. I’d always give a more action oriented one.
But I think literally, and I’ve told this to people and seen it through, where like I just started watching YouTube videos of this guy, Ali Abdul. And then he talked about this productivity thing that I started doing. And then it led to this and it led to that.
I think there’s so many awesome creators out there, that it literally takes zero effort to watch and maybe learn from and that’ll be a great stepping stone to you taking that first step, that action in whatever area of your life you’re trying to improve.

Scott:
I couldn’t agree more. I think that if you have to figure out one first step to begin moving towards some of these things, it’s listen to audio content. And yes, we’re a podcast and no, that’s not self-serving. But that’s what I did, you are the average of the five people you associate with most closely. And so if you spend most of your time that you’re spending intently listening or attempting to learn in the car, for example, or at the gym, or whatever it is, listening to people who are talking about how to improve yourself with that kind of stuff, that’s going to be your normal world. Nathan’s normal world is listening to successful people talk about what they’re doing to improve bit by bit, day by day, 1% better every day kind of thing. And so he’s getting better 1% with that kind of stuff.
I think that’s what you have to do. I think that’s the best first step, I would completely agree. And then everything else begins to fall into place. You’re right, why don’t I have time for a workout this week? This dude is doing a bunch of workouts, why can’t I do that? I don’t have a vision board. But am I where this person is and wants to be? I don’t know. Those are the types of questions that you begin asking as you start consuming that type of content. I think it’s a great place to start.

Nathan:
Absolutely. Literally, that’s what I did, no joke. I think the first thing I did was finance podcast, I literally searched up and this podcast, and you guys can go listen to it. Optimal Finance Daily. It’s a fantastic podcast. It narrates bloggers like Mr. Money Mustache, Financial Samurai, all those guys. Kumiko, thebudgetmom.com. That was my jam. I just started listening to it. I’m like, “Holy… what’s FIRE? What’s this? What’s that?”
That was the first step for me and it led to where I am and hopefully, some other place down the road. But we’ll see.

Mindy:
What I like so much about Optimal Finance Daily is you can hear the voice that the author writes in. So there are some people who find Mr. Money Mustache to be fascinating, and they want more content from him. There are other people who think that the tone of his voice is a little too harsh. It’s okay if he doesn’t speak to you. There’s somebody who does. There is content out there that makes sense to you, that speaks the language you understand and that will help you further yourself down the path to better finances. Even if you don’t want financial independence, just having better finances in general. There is a voice for everyone.
I was just at a conference last week for podcasters. And one of the questions came up in our Stacking Benjamins meetup that happened before the show. They said, “Are there too many financial podcasts out there?” And Joe said, “No.” Dave Ramsey gets a million listens a day or an episode and everybody else combined gets another million listens per episode. So, there’s 300 million people in America, that’s 2 million people that are listening, and there’s probably a lot of overlap between Dave and the other podcasters, nobody’s listening. And you need to listen to this and your life is so much better when you don’t have to worry about money.
That doesn’t mean that you’re going to listen, and then everything’s going to be fixed the next day. But everybody in this space is giving you steps to take, everybody has a different first step. But there’s steps to take to get you to financial intelligence and financial consciousness. And when you start being conscious about it, then you can really take some big action.
Regarding the vision board, the first time I heard of the concept of vision board, I’m like, yes, Scott called it cheesy. I’m like, that’s cheesy. What am I going to do? But do you know who has a vision board? Tiffany Aliche. She’s got a billion of them. And does anybody crush it harder than Tiffany? No.
Scott doesn’t do an actual vision board. But he sits down with a piece of paper every morning and writes out his goals, and then keeps them in a binder and just adds it to the next. So he can go back and see all the goals for… How long have you been doing that, Scott? Seven years?

Scott:
The last quarter, I’ve been doing it weekly, but it’s not been working as well. I’m going to go back to doing it daily. But I have probably done that 1,000 to 1,500 times over the last seven, eight years.

Nathan:
That’s incredible.

Mindy:
Do you still have all of your papers?

Scott:
A lot of trees. I have almost all of it.

Mindy:
It’s fascinating to go back in time and see where you were at, oh, look at the progress I’ve made. Or, hey, there’s something that is not getting done. I’m still not making progress on this. That’s where you focus.

Scott:
Sometimes I have this little thought of, old Scott one day might like looking at this. I might put a little extra effort into today’s, because from 50 years from now, “What did I do back in the day?”

Mindy:
Knowing Scott that I know right now, old Scott will love looking at this stuff.

Nathan:
That’s awesome. That’s really awesome.

Scott:
But I think it’s a tool to move you towards the goals and it sounds like you do goals every day as well.

Nathan:
Pretty much. Or I review them or I look at them. I don’t think I write them out every day. That’s really cool. Maybe I should, but I think just having it constantly there in front of you, or having some thought process around it.
I guess I should say, mine’s just words. I don’t draw out, I don’t have pictures and stuff like that. But if that’s what gets it going for you, then do it, whatever it is. Whatever it takes for you to stay on path and grow and improve and all that, then do it. It’s going to be different for everyone.

Mindy:
Yes. And maybe daily isn’t what you want to do. Maybe weekly is better. Whatever works for you is the only thing that has to work. I think that’s awesome. Scott, I’m going to ask you yet again for the link to your goal page, which is very simple. You can set it up, take Scott’s and set it up however you want. But it’s really, really great. So that’ll be found in the show notes which are at biggerpockets.com/moneyshow229.
We need to get to the famous four, Nathan. Are you ready for that?

Nathan:
I’m ready. I’m ready.

Mindy:
Step number one. What is your favorite finance book?

Nathan:
It is The Wealthy Barber by Dave Shelton. Man, I love that book. I think he has a remake of it as well. But it’s just a really easy read, it’s a storytelling, just solid. And it teaches on pretty much every financial concept there is. I really, really love that book.

Mindy:
Have we had that recommendation before, Scott?

Scott:
I don’t know. Maybe once before. I don’t know. But I’ve read that book and I think it’s an easy, quick, relatable read, it’ll be really easy to digest. I think it’s got a lot of good fundamentals in it. You have to read it to find out who the main character is.
What was your biggest money mistake?

Nathan:
I guess I would say it was going a little bit too hard in one of my years in university, but hey, it turned me who I am today. So it’s all good.

Scott:
So you have no money mistakes?

Nathan:
No, you know what-

Scott:
I spent frivolously in college a few times. Love it.

Nathan:
I guess I could also think of, I would say, crypto. No, no, I know, but crypto 2017, put way too much money into it, and then lost it all and then sold. That was probably a pretty big mistake. And it taught me the fundamentals of buying and holding. Now, crypto is a whole different space and we could get into that, but that was definitely one where I was like, “Wow, that is a how to not invest kind of thing.”

Mindy:
And people right now who are into, what is it, GameStop and AMC theaters and whatever they’re doing right now, you can make money investing and you can lose money investing and you have a better chance of losing it if you’re just following the trend and not doing your own research or not investing intelligently.

Nathan:
Exactly, 100%.

Mindy:
What is your best piece of advice for people who are just starting out?

Nathan:
I would say the content, just start watching content, consuming content. I hate to beat a dead horse, but that is just the single easiest, most conducive thing I think that somebody can do. Literally, as soon as you finish this, if you’re listening to this right now, you are doing that right now. So you don’t even need to do anything, you’re already doing it right now.
But to continue to do that, continue to surround yourself with that, and it’ll definitely make you more likely to take that action that’ll actually end up leading you down the right path.

Mindy:
I love it.

Scott:
Love it. I do want to acknowledge that while I think I’m wired the same way as you in a lot of ways with this consuming content side of things, for those who can’t tell, I think that we listed six things there, all of which are things that you want to do. Set goals, consume content, work out, save, budget, be disciplined, have a cadence, all that kind of stuff.
But I think everybody’s going to have a different starting point. And so if yours is not in the consumption of content, start with another one. Maybe working out triggers all the other good habits, because while you’re working out is when you’re going to listen to whatever it is. But figure out what that first trigger is, and maybe start with just consuming more content in a general sense. Although we’re probably preaching to the choir on that one.
What is your favorite joke to tell at parties?

Nathan:
I knew this was coming. I honestly don’t even know. A knock knock joke. This was one where I literally sat with for so long. I was so stressed. I was like I’m just going to tell them I don’t have anything. I really don’t. Knock knock joke.

Mindy:
I got to. The sun doesn’t have to go to college, because it’s already got 28 million degrees.

Nathan:
There you go. There you go. She just saved me.

Mindy:
Isn’t that horrible?

Scott:
That’s a fantastic joke.

Mindy:
No, it’s not.

Nathan:
Because it’s Scott’s joke, right?

Mindy:
No, I looked up college student puns.

Scott:
Unknown always means me. Where can people find out more about you?

Nathan:
I’m at the New Money Pod on Instagram and Tiktok. Shoot me an Instagram DM, I respond to every single one. Apple Podcasts, Spotify, all podcast places at The New Money Podcast. But reach out, I’d love to chat with you guys. Thank you so much for listening to me babble on here. I really, really appreciate it.

Mindy:
Nathan, this was wonderful. Thank you so much for joining us today. I have a feeling that a lot of people who are listening are going to then bring their high school and college kids over and say, “Hey, we have to listen to this together.” And that’s what I wanted. So I’m so excited. Thank you so much for your time today.

Nathan:
Amazing. Thank you so much. Appreciate you, Scott, Mindy, thank you.

Mindy:
We’ll talk to you soon. That was Nathan Kennedy. Scott, I think you could sum up this whole show by saying Nathan is conscious about what he’s doing. He’s not letting life just drag him by and going with the flow. He wants something. So he has made conscious choices to help him get there. He’s conscious about his goals. He’s conscious about his spending. He’s conscious about what he wants out of life. I think that this is such an inspiring show.

Scott:
I thought it was awesome. I think that this is the kind of person who’s going to be a leader of industry or a thought leader or already is in a lot of ways, but was going to just have a killer career with a lot of this stuff, or have some sort of enormous impact on the community with this. I’m really excited to see where it goes.
I love talking to that. I love seeing folks trying to do everything in their power to maximize potential and I’m just so optimistic about his future here.

Mindy:
I am too. I am so excited for what he’s got. In a couple of years, he’s going to call back and be like, “I’m killing everything in life. I’m totally crushing it. I’m the best ever.” Except he won’t say that because he’s humble too.
I have a request of our listeners today. I want to tell your story. And somebody posted, “Millennials, quit whining. I paid off $150,000 in student loans and own a $400,000 home because I saved, it’s not that hard. I make coffee at home, I bus instead of Uber. I shop the sales. I had my parents pay off my loans and buy me a house because I’m daddy’s special boy. I got Hulu with ads.”
It’s supposed to be funny, but in the comments, I said what kind of stories do you want to hear? And he said, “Personally, I would love to hear more stories about people with salary ranges in the $40,000 to $75,000. The park ranger episode was a lot more relatable.” “Same for me,” as Matt said below, “$40,000 to $75,000 salary, someone that is making their way through the confusing and sometimes misleading financial world. Small business owners that haven’t hit it big yet with variable income. I want to hear someone fumble through life and 180 degree shift from 30 to 40 income to high income at the age of 27 to 35, maybe not FIRE, but learning how to grow.”
So if this is you, I want to help you tell your story to our listeners who will get so much value out of it. Please email me [email protected] or fill out the form at biggerpockets.com/guest and choose The Money Show. Go into details when you are filling out the form, so I know what your story is about. Because we want to tell the stories that you want to hear.

Scott:
I just want to echo that, Mindy. Because I think a lot of people we hear are like, “No, I need to get through this next inflection point before I’m ready to come on the BiggerPockets Money show,” or whatever that is, and I just want to get that out of people’s heads, no, the best stories, Everybody’s got a great story. The best story is everyone’s story. But part of that best cadre, I don’t know if I’m pronouncing that right, some of the best stories are folks that have fumbled a few times, that have had challenges in the past that they’ve overcome, and then gotten good with money and begun to get on the right track and build wealth for their family and that kind of stuff.
And so we want to hear more of that. There’s no, you’re not ready or there’s a milestone or checklist that we want you to have completed before coming on the show. No, your story could be helping somebody right now who’s struggling through something that you’ve already gone through or overcome. And we want to hear that on the show. I think we want to make sure that everyone’s clear on that, please come on the show if you’ve got something that you can share that’s about something you’ve overcome, even if you’re not all the way towards your money goal quite yet.
No one’s all the way toward their money goal, except for maybe, what was his name?

Mindy:
Steve Adcock.

Scott:
Yes, yes. So maybe Steve Adcock has already completed his money goal, that guy, but most of us haven’t. Most folks have not completed that their journey and are still a work in progress with that kind of stuff, but there’s still powerful lessons to be learned. So if you have an income, especially under that $75,000 mark there, we want to hear your story and how you’re moving towards financial independence or building wealth, because that will help a lot of people.

Mindy:
Yes. And if you have a type of story that you would like to hear that you haven’t heard, please email me, [email protected], so I can ask for guests like that too. To be a guest on the finance review, which we release on Fridays, you can go to biggerpockets.com/financereview to apply there.
We normally don’t ask you very much, but I think we’ve asked enough today, Scott. Should we get out of here?

Scott:
Let’s do it.

Mindy:
From episode 229 of the BiggerPockets Money podcast, he is Scott Trench and I am Mindy Jensen, saying fly high, sugar pie.

 

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In This Episode We Cover

  • The importance of tracking your expenses and budgeting properly 
  • Vision boards, daily logs, and other ways to plan for your success 
  • Pursuing grants and scholarships WHILE school is in session
  • Becoming a constant content consumer 
  • Money mistakes that many college students make (and how to avoid them)
  • Making time for health, fitness, and no-phone relaxation 
  • And So Much More!

Links from the Show

Books Mentioned from the Show

Connect with Nathan: