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Graduating College on Track for Financial Independence with Cody Berman

The BiggerPockets Money Podcast
68 min read
Graduating College on Track for Financial Independence with Cody Berman

Cody Berman: Remember that name because this kid is going places. Currently traveling in Australia, Cody began his journey into personal finance and intentional living as a child, when his dad taught him about compound interest and the power of saving and investing. By age 14, he’d already saved up $15k, and by the time he reached college, he was diving into entrepreneurship, side hustles, and financial independence plans.

Today, Cody runs a company that manufactures disc golf discs and has afforded himself the freedom to travel with his girlfriend. With an ultimate strategy for complete financial independence in the works, he plans to reach a point where he is able to spend time as he wishes, pursuing his various interest and entrepreneurial pursuits.

If you’re looking to inspire yourself, your kids, or any ambitious young people you know to make the small changes that will dramatically affect the future, don’t miss this episode.

Click here to listen on iTunes.

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Read the Transcript Here

Scott: Welcome to BiggerPockets Money Podcast, Show Number 26.

“For all the odd jobs and things I worked through high school, I saved probably upwards of 95%. So at the end of high school, I probably was sitting on maybe $15,000. And during that time I had bought a car”.

It’s time for a new American dream, one that doesn’t involve working in a cubicle for 40 years, barely scraping by. Whether you’re looking to get your financial house in order, invest the money you already have, or discover new paths for wealth’s creation, you’re in the right place. This show is for anyone who has money or wants more, this is the BiggerPockets Money podcast.

Scott: How’s it going, everybody? I’m Scott Trench and I’m here with my co-host, Miss Mindy Jensen. How are you doing today, Mindy?

Mindy: Scott, I am doing fantastic today. It is a beautiful day to be alive. The sun is shining. We’ve had some rain lately but the sun is shining. My drive was super easy and we have a fantastic show today.

Scott: Awesome. Same here. It rained all day yesterday for us. We have a little party at my parents’ house for me and some friends. Apparently it’s going well in Denver.

Mindy: It’s beautiful in Denver. You’re really missing out. So Scott is travelling today. Today is an international episode. Today’s show is normally for our listeners but today’s show is not for our listeners. I mean, it doesn’t mean that we don’t want them to not listen, but today’s show is for your 12-year-old. Your 15-year-old. Your 20-year-old. The lessons that our guest shares today can literally change your child’s entire financial future.

Actually, today’s show could be kind of secondhandedly for our listeners. The ideas and concepts that Cody shares are great for older kids but they can also be incorporated into financial teachings you share with your younger kids.

Scott: Cody did a lot of things that I think set him up for a lot of options coming into life, starting at 14 or 10 years old, in probably elementary and middle school that kind of translated all through high school. And I think as a parent, this is the kind of story that you’d want your kid to hear about at some point in that phase that maybe they can begin to emulate some of these behaviors. Some of this mindset.

And then think about what you as a parent can do to instill that behavior in your kid. Because I think Cody’s parents probably did a couple of things here that gave him that great mindset.

Mindy: Yeah, I don’t think Cody’s parents did. I know Cody’s parents did several things. He talks about his dad’s 100% interest bank account program, which is pretty amazing. That’s actually something I’m going to talk to my husband about doing for our kids. Because it’s one thing to tell your kids, save money. But bank accounts are paying nothing right now.

If you can double their money, you know what—I don’t want to spoil this. Actually, his parents did a lot to help him. They instilled some pretty amazing values. The best thing that they instilled in them is hard work. He learned from an early age that you have to work hard to get rewards and he has done that his whole life.

Scott: Yeah, absolutely. Well, should we go ahead and bring Cody in?

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All right, big thanks to today’s sponsor, and with that, let’s bring in Cody.

Cody, welcome to the BiggerPockets Money Show. How’s it going?

Cody: It’s going great. Thanks for having me, guys.

Scott: Where are you right now?

Cody: Okay, so I’m in Brisbane, Australia. Been here since mid-January, and I’m actually leaving in three weeks so I’m kind of bummed out, going back to reality but it’s been great so far.

Scott: All right, let’s start off with a few quick highlights of your trip. What are some cool things that you’ve been doing down there?

Cody: Oh, man. So we just got back from an 11-day trip to Melbourne and Tasmania. We actually drove around the island of Tasmania for eight days and slept in the back of a Rav-4. Yeah, it’s living like a college student. That’s just one of the trips. That’s probably the most extreme camper type of trip we’ve done so far. We also went to Melbourne, Sydney. We also went to New Zealand for a week.

We’re going up to the Sunday Coast, which is like these beautiful, honeymoonish-looking islands. We’re actually going there next week. We’re leaving this Saturday. Yeah, we’ve just been popping all around. Also, we started off on the West Coast in Perth, so just been trying to see as much of this country as I can while I’m here.

Scott: How did you get into the position? What led up to you kind of having a six-month period here in Australia?

Cody: Okay, so I guess I met a really cool girl and now my girlfriend, and she wanted to study abroad, I wanted to study abroad, but she’s two years younger and the way the program worked out, she could only study abroad her second semester sophomore year. Since I was two years older, that would make it my second semester senior year.

So I was like, oh, I don’t really want to do that my last semester. So I was like, all right, I’m just going to graduate early. One, I’m not going to have to pay the university a boatload of money to go travel. I can do it on my dime and do it for as cheap as possible while still having fun. I’ll be able to go with my girlfriend. So I didn’t have to go alone. I don’t have to pay the university, so I’m just here on a working holiday visa, is what they call it.

Scott: Let’s bring this back to personal finance here. So the reason that you’re in this position is because you graduated early and you’re kind of about to start your career and I guess, journey here. Can you walk us through what seemed to be the starting point? What was the point in which you kind of began prepping yourself for college to kind of set yourself up to graduate early and may be in the financial position you are in today.

Cody: So I think I started at a really young age. My parents were always really into making me study and just work hard, get my schoolwork done, earn the things I had to do. Like we used to have to do—I don’t know if you’ve ever used Puzzlemania and Mathmania books—that might be within your age range. You’re only a few years older than me, but there’s these little books with like math problems and English problems, and I would used to have to do those. I’d have to finish a page to watch half an hour of TV when I was a kid. So I had this really good work ethic and at the same time, to go back to finance, my parents would always just save, save, save. They kind of pound that into my head and so, by the time I actually started earning money, I knew that to save this money, the power of compound interest is just insane.

So actually something my dad did for me up until age 10, because that’s when I wasn’t really getting any money at all, every contribution I’d make to my bank, he would match with 100% interest overnight. So I’d put like 50 bucks in from my grandma, and the next day, it would be 100. I was like, wow. That is the coolest thing ever. My money just doubled overnight. Super unrealistic interest rate in the real world but it definitely taught me the value of, if you put money away into an account that can gain interest for you and make money for you, that you can have a really powerful financial future.

Mindy: Okay, hang on. I gotta take notes because I’ve got small kids. I really like this idea. I haven’t done this, and really, what’s 50 dollars to me as the mom? And they’re not putting 50 dollars in. They’re only 8 and 11, but this is amazing. I like this tip a lot.

Cody: Yeah, I mean I’m no parent but it definitely worked from the child’s side of view, just to teach me about frugality and saving, how important it is. And he used to have me do like compound interest calculations where he’d be like, what’s two times two? What’s four times four? To show me how fast money can double and it was crazy to me.

Scott: So were there any rules on this? Would you have to keep it in there for a certain amount of time or you know, could you not spend it within a couple of weeks, because it seems like if you put the money in, it doubles overnight, you pull it out and you have twice as much to spend. There’s got to be some rules around that.

Mindy: Good point, Scott.

Cody: Actually, I think it was just more of a framework that he built so I mean, from age zero to ten, you’re not exactly going out and spending your own money. I kind of got that mindset ingrained to me that early. Like, I’ve had to ask my mom to go to the store to buy me a toy at Toys R Us, and at that age, she’d either say no or she’d buy it for me if she thought it was reasonable.

But I wasn’t really making too many purchases on my own, so I guess by the time I started earning money, which I started making $5.00 an hour at age 10, that’s when my dad stopped contributing to my  100% interest bank account. I started working at my uncle’s disc golf shop in the snack shack, just selling like chips and giving back lost discs. So yeah, that’s when I started my career.

Mindy: Well, that kind of parlayed itself into a career. Spoiler alert.

Cody: Yes.

Mindy: Cody has a lot to do with disc golf. But we’ll get to that in a minute.

Scott: Let’s fast forward here. At age 14, how much money were you kind of sitting on? What were your kind of financial choices looking like at that point?

Cody: I probably had maybe $2,000 to $3,000 by 14, just from working. I mean, I didn’t work that much but I worked a decent amount and all of my savings got doubled. My savings rate was probably literally 99%. I would loathe spending money because I would love seeing it double in the bank. It was like the coolest thing ever.

So when I started actually working, I got my first job as a host at a restaurant and I was making still pretty crappy money but I was putting everything away, still living with my parents, obviously. Well, I guess not obviously, some people have less fortunate situations at age 14, but I was living with my parents. I could save pretty much everything I made and for all the odd jobs and things I worked through high school, I saved probably upwards of 95%.

So at the end of high school, I probably was sitting on maybe $15,000. And during that time, I had bought a car and I kind of wish I had bought a cheaper car at the time. My dad convinced me to get a little more expensive car, but that’s beside the point. So yeah, at the end of high school, I was definitely at an advantageous situation.

Scott: Awesome. So I assume that working at this job for this many hours per week that your grades really suffered during this period, right?

Cody: No. So kind of like I mentioned before, I just have a really good work ethic and if I got less than an A, it’s not like I got beaten or anything like that, but it was just like, just a bad luck for me to get poor grades. Me and my brother really had that ingrained in our head. Like you have to get good grades to succeed.

It’s really important for you to learn to educate yourself to become better. And so just throughout high school, I was always just aiming for the top, just shooting for the top. I’d always do like extra credit. I’d always go above and beyond. I did graduate with a pretty good GPA. I graduated sixth in my class.

Mindy: Oh, wow.

Cody: So I didn’t suffer too much from the sports and the work.

Scott: All right, so a couple of quick questions here. What advantages do you think that starting with $2,000-$3,000 at age 14 and then kind of building up maybe another $10,000-$12,000 throughout high school afforded you. I know you talked about a car. Can you tell us about that purchase and maybe some of the other advantages, how that impacted your life positively in high school?

Cody: Yeah, so I guess I’ll go back to the car, which is a mistake that I really wish I could take back. I’m basically crying, talking about it now. But in 2012, i bought a 2009 Volvo. Like S-40 with a sports package. It was just—I bought it for $12,000 and that was the deal because my dad knew the guy. He was like best friends from primary school or something and he sold it to me for 50% off. And that was the deal.

But I mean, if I could go back, I wish I had bought a $2,000 beater and just drove it until the end of high school. I’m just thinking about the compound returns from age 16 when I bought the car until 22 now and I’m like, aw, I could have like almost double the money with the stock market over the last six years.

Scott: So did you pay cash for this car?

Cody: Yes, I paid cash straight out of my bank account.

Scott: So that’s a huge advantage here. Because of the work ethic you put in starting at age 10 to 14 and then the increase there in high school, you were able to pay cash for a pretty cool car right there in high school. And you’re talking about a mistake you could have invested but still, that’s a really good situation. You’re driving up in a sporty Volvo.

Cody: It definitely was a cool car but at the time I thought it was the coolest thing ever, but then looking back after you got into this FI world, I’m like, aw man. All you think about is the compound interest.

Mindy: So I would like to say that you can’t go back and change times so stop beating yourself up over it. You’re still slightly ahead of the—I’m sorry, how old are you, Cody?

Cody: 22.

Mindy: 22. So I would venture a guess that you are slightly ahead of the average 22-year-old.

Scott: Let’s ask two more questions here about the high school space. So first off, what prevented your peers from doing this kind of similar thing? Most kids do not go through high school accumulating—playing three sports, getting good grades, graduating at the top ten of the class, and then accumulating close to $30,000 by the time they graduated high school from hard work.

Yeah, some of that was matched, especially in the early years by your parents for that bank account, but what was preventing the other students from kind of achieving this?

Cody: Okay, I think the thing just in society today is kind of the entitlement mindset and I’ve seen that a lot growing up. Like, in just primary school and middle school, high school, college, it’s like I should get a good grade. That’s what people are thinking.

I should do the minimal amount of work and receive an A and I don’t know when that started. I kind of noticed it and I know that a lot of the people in the generation above me had mentioned, they didn’t get trophies when they lost a soccer game when they were kids.

And now everybody’s a winner, you know? It’s kind of like this entitlement mindset where everybody wins, everybody deserves the best. So people don’t want to work for it. And I think that’s what I saw a lot. Like people would want to spend the minimal amount of time on their homework, even if it was something that maybe interested them. They just want to get it over with.

They don’t care about the learning aspect. They just want to do the homework, get the grade. And they are hoping that grade is a good grade but it doesn’t make too much sense if you’re not putting the effort in.   

Scott: And so you are thinking the difference that kind of separated you is that you put 100% into everything you were doing at this point—school, sports, work, and that was what kind of allowed you to make that distinguishment in all those areas. I assume you were a good athlete in addition to your grades and your finances here. You won the pull-up contest at Camp [Inaudible][14:15] of 2018. A little plug there for Cody.

Cody: Thanks, Scott. Yeah, so I guess the thing that set me up was just my parents, again, going back to you have to work hard to succeed in this world and that was just something that they really instilled into me. And I guess I just carried that through high school and through college.

Mindy: Everybody gets the same thing no matter what effort is put forth. Isn’t that called communism? And that doesn’t work. Or on the other side, oh why should I do anything? I get everything that everybody else gets no matter how little effort I put into there.

So, yeah, that entitlement mindset is a huge, huge thing. That is—I don’t even know how I want to say this. What prevented your peers from doing the same thing? Being entitled. Yeah. You’re not going to get anywhere when you feel like you are owed anything.

Scott: I think that it’s interesting that your work ethic though, we’re pointing out here, has contributed to excellence in multiple areas. It’s not like you’re a good athlete and that’s it. Or you have the grades. Or you work hard and save money. No, you’re excelling in all these different areas because of that.

You talked about some of the things that your parents have done here. So what kind of specific things do you remember that your parents were doing that might have contributed to this for you?

Cody: I think a thing that they kind taught me to do is goalsetting, so I’ve always been a goal-setter and I think that really helps you just accomplish goals. That’s nice. But if you set many checkpoints along the way, it just feels good accomplishing. Once you get rolling, it’s hard to stop the ball there once it starts rolling.

And if you set goals for yourself and you’re like, okay, I want to get—so back to sports—I want to get my 40-yard dash down to a 4.7 or I want to get an X grade on this. And just like working constantly towards a goal really helps you kind of shape the activities that you want to do to achieve that goal. I think that’s something that’s really, really helped me.

Scott: Awesome. So a couple things that you mentioned here as well—the goalsetting, you have the matching on the savings account, you have the just like general example, it sounds like, they set just kind of hard work and all these things seem to really have helped you a lot here. So I find it really interesting and very simple and straightforward.

Cody: Yeah, definitely. I don’t know—I’ll just hop into it now. Another thing that’s huge in high school was AP exams, and that’s something that people shy away from just because of the name. I think people are just like, aw, why would I want to go through that extra work? It doesn’t even matter anyways.

Because for some reason, they don’t teach you the incredible savings that AP and also CLEP exams—CLEP exams, I did not have the liberty of taking advantage of in high school because I learned about it a little too late after I started really getting into hacking the college game. But AP exams, for people who don’t know, is an Advanced Placement exam, and basically, it will be on a subject like Social Studies or Science or English. And you take the exam.

If you score, it’s usually a four or a five on a scale out of five—so zero to five. If you score a four or a five, you’re exempt from taking that class in college. So it counts as college credit. So if you’re going to a private university that costs $60,000 a year to go, and say you take four classes a semester, so you have eight classes for the year. Just some back of the envelope math. So each costs like around $7,000. You’re saving $7,000 by taking an AP exam.

And all it is just taking a different class. You’re taking AP Science instead of regular science in high school. It’s a crazy small choice that can make an enormous difference in your financial future. And then the CLEP exams—don’t ask me what it stands for. It’s CLEP exams. I totally forgot what it stands for, but it’s basically the same as AP, it’s just on a specific subject.

You actually don’t have to take a course. You don’t have to take a CLEP course. You could just say, oh, I’m really good at Calculus. I’m going to take the CLEP Calculus course. You can go onto the CLEP website, sign up—I think it’s maybe $200-$300 a course but it’s a lot better than $7,000. Or even a few grand at a public university.

And you can just get that general education requirement knocked out. I know people who have got two years ahead, just coming into college with 60 college credits out of 120 by taking AP and CLEP exams. It’s just absolutely insane.

Mindy: Okay. I’m just going to dive a little bit deeper into this because I have children and like we said earlier, this episode is for the older kids, the 12-year-old, the 15-year-old, the 20-year-old. Let’s pretend I’m in high school. When can you start taking AP classes?

Cody: So I think typically the first year is sophomore year. Anyway, at my high school. It depends on the high school. At my high school, it was pretty good at offering AP. If you’re at a really rural high school, they might have few Aps. You can take independent AP courses by yourself online. I know it’s a little hard to stay motivated when you don’t have a teacher, but you do have like an online guide. I had a few friends who did that.

But I’d say, you can start sophomore year. So if your kids wanted to start, you could just start prepping them. You could get them signed up sophomore year. They could take upwards of four or five AP classes in one semester. I mean, you could take 20 by the time you graduate. It’s pretty crazy. It’s almost  every subject.

Mindy: You could take 20 classes in high school that count for your high school diploma and also count for your college courses. And I’m assuming these are free because you’re taking them in high school. Like you don’t pay to go to high school. I’m sorry, a public high school.

Cody: Yeah, so the courses are free, like an AP courses in high school are free. I think the AP exam, a lot of them are subsidized by the high school. I think I paid like $75.00 for each one of my AP exams. I took four. So, it wasn’t a big hit but I got exempt from all those in college. So that was just a huge savings for me. I was like more than a semester ahead coming into college.

Mindy: So every AP exam that you take, the $75.00 charge or whatever—I’m assuming you have to pass the exam but then that gets you out of a class in college. You don’t have to pay for it but you’d still get credit for it.

Cody: For example, I took AP English. That was one I took. AP English in high school. You take the test. The scale is from zero to five. If you get a four or five, it counts as college credit pretty much at every university. I’d say 99.9% of universities accept AP exams as credit, unless you’re at some crazy university that I have never heard of. But yeah, you just are complete, just checked off the checkbox that says General Education Requirement- English—done, when you’re in college. You don’t have to take it.

Mindy: Wow. I thought my big hack was going to a community college for this. But still, I mean I’m a little older than you. It was a couple of hundred dollars for the classes when I went to college, I believe before you were born.

Scott: I also had a number of AP classes in high school as well and they helped me avoid some of these classes in college. And instead of graduating early like Cody, I actually got a dual-major and double minor, partially because I had taken some of those AP classes that counted towards college credit. The one that I had wish I had done in high school but skipped on was the Foreign Language. Because if you get the Foreign Language, you actually can avoid a very lengthy amount of hours.

It was two semesters—I had to take two semesters of Spanish in college because I did not pass this AP exam in high school. So if I had just done that, I might have been able to skip this and not have to take it. And obviously, Spanish is a great language to study but it wasn’t really relevant to the career I was pursuing so it was a very large amount time I had to invest in the senior year of college.

But yeah, these AP exams, these AP classes were around when I was in high school ten years ago or so. But a couple of things to do here—you didn’t mention this but I bet you that you prepared in a lot of ways to take these classes in middle school, right? By taking kind of the advanced classes there, doing your homework, getting good grades so that you could place into these advanced classes in high school.

I think you can still take them if you are already in high school and moving on but it gets a lot easier if you can kind of keep your grades up and have these things in place prior to high school and work hard then so that the coursework is much easier and you’re able to get into those. Is that correct?

Cody: I totally agree. I mean, if you start taking those advanced classes earlier, I think the one they start branching out is like sixth grade, they start kind of tiering out the student learning levels. But it’s not like if your kid isn’t in an advanced class right now, they’re absolutely screwed for AP exams. You don’t have to have certain prerequisites.

Anybody can enroll in an AP course. You just have to have the grit and the determination to finish and work a little bit harder. Honestly, it’s not that much harder than the regular class. You’re just kind of learning more geared towards the test rather than just like learning random facts the teacher might want you to know about the subject.

Mindy: This is an amazing way to just skip some huge college debt. I mean, everybody talks about how difficult it is to pay for college. A couple of weeks ago, I think it was episode 22—we had Travis Hornsby on from The Student Loan Planner and he talked about how you can pay off or defer your student loans, your six-figure student loans.

Here’s a way to defer or just completely absolve yourself of some of these student loans just by bringing in some high school credit. I mean, what are you doing in high school? I would much rather have my kids not be working a job and instead working on not having to take these college classes. I mean, how soon did you get out of college? You were a semester early?

Cody: Yeah, so three and a half years.

Mindy: Okay.

Cody: I actually could have graduated in three years but I kind of wanted to live at college one more year. One more semester. Honestly, that’s the reason. I really liked the friend group I was with. We were living in an awesome house and yeah, I was like, I’ll just take another semester. The last semester at college, it was the most amazing feeling. I took classes that I actually wanted to learn.

And it sounds crazy. That’s not what college is. But a lot of the classes you take, it’s just classes you have to take for your major. I don’t know who set that up or why it’s like that, but you really don’t get to just pick and choose the exact classes you want. You have to take this class to get to this class, and it’s just all of these hoops and hurdles you have to jump through to get the degree. But the last semester, I really got to take the classes I wanted.

Scott: Awesome. One other point about these AP classes, by the way, is that these are often looked for by college admissions. They’re not looking to have you skip half a semester or whatever. They’re looking because they know you’re taking rigorous coursework and excelling in it and they can tell that by objective national standard on these test scores for these AP exams, to tell if you pass or not.

Can you quickly give us a—it sounds like this CLEP stuff is the exact same as AP except for it’s an online course you take outside the scope of your normal high school curriculum? It doesn’t count for high school credit or anything but it can be used to give you a college credit you could do in addition to your AP work, is that correct?

Cody: Yes, that is completely correct. So I wouldn’t say in addition in the terms of to supplement a class that’s not offered by AP but you wouldn’t take AP Calculus and then take the CLEP exam for Calculus. That’s redundant and you’d just be knocking out the same class.

But yeah, a CLEP exam is basically a self-study exam. I think there are online courses and stuff. I don’t know the specifics because I didn’t do it but I know that most high schools don’t offer CLEP courses but I’d say 90% of high schools do offer AP courses.

I think it’s honestly up to preference. I really don’t know if there’s an advantage to either. You can also do self-study AP exams so if my school didn’t offer AP English, for example, I could get the AP English book, take an online course, and take the AP English exam without taking the class in high school.

Mindy: Awesome.

Scott: So you made all these great choices—academics, sports, financial, all that kind of stuff. Let’s move onto the selection of your college and kind of how you financed that. So what were you looking for in a college?

Cody: So I was actually torn between—I knew I was going to study finance and economics so I was kind of geared towards that, and honestly, for a bad reason, I guess—after doing a lot of Google searches, I learned that you could make a lot of money in finance after four years with a college degree, and that’s kind of what drove me. Because I was kind of obsessed with money at that point. You guys know my upbringing and just the savings rate and everything like that. I’m going to earn so much more money. It’s going to be awesome.

So I started looking at schools for like finance and economics. I applied to a bunch of schools. I was down to two final schools. One was a state school. One is a private university. The private university actually got a half off academic scholarship, and it was still $30,000 per year. And I was like, that’s going to hurt.

So I ended up choosing the state university. Basically just from my frugal roots. I was like I don’t want to come out with student debt. My parents said they’ll help me as much as I can but I knew that they weren’t going to be able to take on a $30,000 a year bill. So I ended up going to a state university and paying only about $5,000 a year. So that worked out a lot better. I came out at the end of three and a half years with a little over $15,000 paid. No debt.

My parents paid most of it for me. I helped out when I could but that was just a choice that set me up for huge financial success because I remember that episode with Travis and student loan debt just cripples people, especially when people get up into the upwards hundreds of thousands. It takes years and years to pay back.

Mindy: Yeah, some of the comments that we got from that episode, one guy said that I knew a guy who was a veterinarian and he committed suicide because he had such crippling student loan debt and getting a 50% scholarship is awesome until you do the math and the 50% is still, what, six times as much as it would cost you to go to the state school. What do you think would be your level of education going to the private school versus going to the state school? I mean, did you get six times less of an education?

Cody: No, definitely not. So yeah, that is something I’d like to highlight. I mean, there are definitely advantages to private school but there are advantages to public schools or state schools as well. So private school is something I’ve noticed, especially in the business space, they do have a really tight network so you might have a company that literally recruits from X University.

Like say you go to Harvard. They might only recruit from Harvard and that’s just a thing that you can’t really work around. That’s very hard to break into a role that only recruits from certain colleges. But at a state university level, if you go to a state university, oftentimes they have a huge alumni network because a lot of people go to state schools because they are cheaper. So you have access to people that work at hundreds or thousands of companies within your industry.

So something I did was like, I’d reach out to people on LinkedIn when I was in college and I had an alumni at almost pretty much every major financial institution that I wanted to work at. So I always kind of got a foot in the door if I got the conversation rolling. That was a huge advantage of the state school and obviously the cost savings is the biggest advantage.

But state schools are not really as bad as it seems. It’s really all about all going back to that entitlement mindset. I think private schools might have smaller classrooms so they can kind of push you a little harder on an individual student level.

If you have 400 people in a lecture hall, the teacher isn’t going to point you out and say, hey, you should work a little harder. Because they don’t really know you. But if you’re already the type of person who has that hard-working mindset, I think you can really excel and learn a ton from a state university.

Mindy: Wow, you mentioned using LinkedIn. Did you just randomly—I don’t use LinkedIn very much. Did you just randomly send notes to people?

Cody: Yeah, so this was something that was actually baffling to me. I first joined this thing called The Finance Society when I got into school and the senior that ran it, he was a social whiz, kind of. He was going into investment banking and he was teaching us all the tips and tricks like how to talk, how to eat, how to connect with people in a business sense.

So he was like, reach out to three people on LinkedIn every single day and just send them a message saying you’re interested in what they’re doing in their company and try to set up a phone call. He was like, 90% of the people won’t even answer you, but the 10% that will, will just help you tremendously in your road to success or lending a career down the road.

So that’s what I did. I was reaching out to two to three people pretty much every single day and I had an Excel document of over 500 contacts that I had contacted, over my college career, from companies that I was interested in and just like getting these phone calls and kind of getting your foot in the door.

I mean, talking to these people on the phone makes you a lot more presentable on interviews. You can actually talk. You don’t just freeze up. You’re actually conversational. You can talk about the markets. You can talk about whatever the job might be, like whatever might be specific to the job.

One word of caution is, don’t reach out to people and say hey, can I have an internship? Because they’re just going to say who the heck is this guy asking me for an internship? You just want to say something like hey, I notice you work at X company. I’m really interested in that field. Could you tell me more about what you do and how you got there?

Also, another word to the wise is aim for people who are younger so on LinkedIn, you can tell people’s age usually just by their picture. If you’re reaching out to a 50 or 60-year-old managing director, chances are, they’re not going to answer you and they’re not going to have time for a phone call. If you’re reaching out to someone like me or someone in their early twenties, they’re probably going to pick up the phone.

They had just gotten their Analyst Associate role and they’d be more than happy to have a conversation with a college student. And you can just get your foot in the day so they can push your resume to HR and say hey, this awesome kid just reached out to me so I’d definitely aim for younger, but if you can get a conversation with those—then you can leverage conversations with the higher-ups.

Scott: Yeah, so you’re reaching out to two to three—this is a great tip, by the way, and this might not even be a tip just for college students. This might be for everyone in their careers at all times. You know, like just keep reaching out to people and getting to know people and seeing how you can learn from them. People love talking about what they do, right? And how to do it.

You said that reach out to two to three people a day. Would you have one call a week, then? Or how many people were responding to you? Did you see an improvement in that success rate above 90% not responding over time or how did that work?

Cody: Over time, definitely. Sophomore year, people did not care at all that I was reaching out to them. They’re like, who is this guy? I’m just going to click delete. So I maybe had like one or two phone calls a week but I was peddling pretty hard. I guess as my career advanced, my resume got stronger and I had internships and a lot of experience. I started getting like maybe a 40% call setup rate my senior year and junior year. So it definitely got better as time went on.

Scott: Awesome. What were your—I’m sorry to abruptly transition here but what were your extracurriculars while you were doing this? You mentioned The Finance Society here. What else were you doing in college besides that?

Cody: Yeah, so Finance Society, I only did for maybe the first two years. It was kind of like the level intro stuff. And I kind of stopped attending meetings after the first two years. The most instrumental thing in my college learning, though, is this thing called the Minutemen Fixed Income Fund. So we actually traded corporate credit on the school’s endowment money.

And so I was looking at bonds, mostly junk bonds because they actually move more than the really stable blue chip credit. Like a Disney bond is not going to move many points in the day but we were looking at high yield bonds. It’s basically like equity analysis, like you’re evaluating stock, finding free cash flow, finding intrinsic value, except you’re taking it one step farther because you’re looking at debt and cash flow and just a different part of the cap structure.

But it’s basically the same exponential modeling and save stock. So I think I learned more in that fund, which probably took up 20 hours a week than I did in all of my college classes.

Mindy: What is this fund called? The Minuteman what? You said that really fast.

Cody: The Minutemen Fixed Income.

Mindy: And this is a mutual fund?

Cody: No, it was—the school I went to, its endowment fund.

Mindy: Oh, okay.

Cody: Not the full endowment. We got a piece of the endowment to manage, which was awesome because it was real money so we had to be good. It wasn’t like anybody could join this group. I had to go through like a pretty extensive process to get in and then just worked my butt off over the next two years after I got in. I got in after my first semester sophomore year.

And then I guess, to add on, I was also a part of the investment club. So that kind of sprung my financial interest. I guess investment club, so that’s where I first did a soft pitch competition. So that kind of sprung my interest into looking into companies.

I was like, finance is pretty cool. And that catapulted me into the Fixed Income Fund. So those were the two most influential extracurriculars I was a part of. I guess fun extracurriculars, I played intramural basketball, flag football. So I was still doing fun stuff. I’m not just this finance nerd in these weird clubs. I’m a normal guy.

Scott: Yeah, I was going to say, these clubs seem to have nothing to do with the concept of financial independence at all, right?

Cody: Oh, no.

Scott: Just kidding. That was a bad joke.

Mindy: You love those.

Cody: You’re totally right. I appreciate that, Scott. I like those jokes on the show. I remember actually talking to you about this at Camp FI. Very different being smart financially from a corporate perspective and being smart financially from a personal perspective. They are two completely different animals. And that’s something I’ve noticed. I have friends who have spent $10,000 in a day because that’s what they got for their signing bonus. I’m just like, aw.

Scott: So why do you think that is? Why do you think these people in your clubs here—these are people who are interested in finance who theoretically understand finance, who are managing maybe millions of dollars for this endowment fund, I imagine. Why are they not interested in learning about their personal finances?

Cody: I think the idea—

Scott: Why did you become interested in it versus them, I guess?

Cody: Okay, so I’ll tackle your first question first. Why aren’t they interested? I think just the mindset in finance, especially, is just money hungry, power crazy. That’s like the typical Wall Street investment banker mindset. Sorry to any Wall Street investment banker listening to this. I’ve had a lot of conversations with them and I had like a lot of interviews and that’s just the mindset and vibe you get from those offices. People are just out to make more money, make more money, make more money.

And so they’re not really worried about their expenses. They don’t care about how much they spend because they can always make more money. That’s the mindset. It doesn’t matter. I’ll make $500,000 next year. I can spend $500,000 this year. It’s just this crazy mindset that just perpetuates and when you’re forty years old, and you’re in $500,000 worth of debt because you have three houses and beyond, you’re like, oh wow. I really wish I could have turned back the clock.

Mindy: And started when you were 10?

Cody: Yeah, and started when you were 10.

Scott: So why do you think you were different? Why do you think you were so interested in finance and all of this coming in? What was the difference where you discovered maybe another way to approach money?

Cody: Yeah, so I kind of did have that money-hungry thing. I told you that’s why I chose finance going into college. And I really thought, I was like, aw, I can’t wait to be an investment banker. I’m going to make so much money. It’s going to be awesome.

But I still have those roots of savings. I was like, I’m going to make $100,000 plus straight out of college and I’m going to save it all. I’m going to be rich. And yeah, so I guess that was the difference. It was just that foundation that my parents had laid for me, that savings mindset. I did think that I was just going to keep making money, making money, making money, but I also thought I was going to save it. And I always kind of had this financial independence thought in my head.

I never really had a framework to it. Or to put words to it. I didn’t really know the concept. I didn’t know anything about the Four Percent Rule. I didn’t know anything about Roth Conversion Ladders and all of these crazy tips and tricks you hear in the financial independence community, but after I got introduced at age 19, actually, I was fortunate—my mom told me because I always kind of had an entrepreneurial spirit to me. She said, you should read this book. It was The Four-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferris.

And I was like, okay. Gave it a read and I was just hooked. I was like, this is the coolest thing ever. You can earn—you can earn income working, you can set these passive income streams that pay you for your life? I was like, that’s the coolest thing ever. So I just started like brainstorming right away and I did have two failed businesses, Scott. I know you have the Trench’s Tees, I think you mentioned?

I also had a failed clothing company just because I didn’t really put any effort into it. And I also had a tutoring company I tried to start and I was like going to be the head of it and hire all these tutors. That didn’t work at all just because I didn’t put the effort in.

We’ll jump back to this a little after I talk about more college stuff. But I finally did have some successful ventures after reading about Tim Ferris and The Four-Hour Work Week. So that kind of just jumpstarted my financial independence journey.

Mindy: Did you work during college?

Cody: Yeah so actually, this was the best job ever. I got really lucky when I got this job. I was like, I’m not smarter than the rest. I’m not better. I just got lucky that I got this teacher’s assistant job. I had a senior who was working in Operation Information Management, so basically, just to sum it up, that is a course about Microsoft Office, so Excel, PowerPoint, Access.

And she was graduating. She knew me from my hometown so I hadn’t talked to her for like two or three years. She was like, hey, do you want this job? You’re a pretty smart kid. And I was like, oh, all right. Cool. Took the job and it was like the best job I could ever ask for. So not only did I learn to become like an Excel guru, not to toot my own horn but I am really good at Excel because I spent probably thousands on it and teaching a course on it. I independently taught like a 30-person course on Excel.

But I also had lab hours and what lab hours were, I monitored the lab. So I’d sit in a lab for 20 hours a week and do my homework and maybe answer questions for 20 hours. And get paid, $13.00 an hour the whole time. So I was making like $400 every other week doing lab hours.

Mindy: Homework.

Scott: Homework.

Cody: Yeah. So that was huge.

Scott: There were a lot of jobs like this at my school as well and a big regret of mine is that I didn’t take one and do exactly that. It’s boomed to your grades and your finances and it’s just all during the day. It doesn’t impact your social life. It’s great.

Cody: Yeah, I mean, again—I was saving 95% of my income. I did help somewhat pay for school but what were my expenses? I had—luckily my first two years, I had my dining paid for by my parents, which wasn’t too expensive. And I actually—the scholarships I got, which I’ll talk about in a minute, helped out with that. They actually helped pay for food but my real expenses were alcohol, which is like a $12.00 handle a week.

Scott: Nice. What was the handle of choice?

Cody: Rubinoff.

Scott: Ah, there you go.

Mindy: What’s Rubinoff?

Scott: Only after 21, of course, right?

Cody: Only after 21, yes. I strategically came into college at age 21.

Mindy: Nice. Good job. Okay, so how does somebody find these jobs? These “jobs”, because you’re not really working. But you are getting paid for it. I mean, I’m not saying that you’re slacking but if there’s nobody asking you questions, what are you supposed to do? Hound people and say hey, can I help you with anything? Do you have any questions? They’re like, no, go away. I’m just doing my homework. So how do you find those?

Cody: So, I guess I didn’t really know the concept until I got the job but then I was like, wow, there’s a lot of these jobs. So like the engineering and tax space, there’s the same lab positions. We just basically sit in the computer lab and monitor the lab. They just want to make sure people aren’t like defacing the properties, stealing computers, stuff like that.

And I’m pretty sure most universities that I’ve ever been to have a computer lab or some kind of library lab or something like that, but my best word of advice is just, get a job, somewhat related to your major. So Microsoft is huge in finance, so I was really fortunate to get that. But even if not, just get one of those lab type jobs or library office job and you will definitely have time to do your homework.

What not to do is to get a like cafeteria or café job at your university because no networking opportunities, you get paid terribly, and you can’t do your homework at all. So that’s my biggest word of advice. I mean, obviously if you can’t find any other jobs and you need money, then sure. Do that. But there are definitely those jobs where you can do your homework and get paid and it’s awesome. 

Scott: I think it’s just about keeping your eyes open and looking for them, right? And saying yes to opportunities that go down that rabbit hole. I mean, I didn’t look for them until it was too late. You start a semester ahead of time and you might get it for the semester.

Cody: Exactly. Yes. And I got it my first semester sophomore year so it wasn’t like I just hopped in, obviously. If I hadn’t taken the course, I probably shouldn’t be a teacher’s assistant anyway. But yeah, so I mean it did take a little bit and I had to network a little bit. I had that friend from high school but I also just had to interview for the position.

So just a little reminder, leveraging myself and having the exposure because I was talking to those finance professionals, so I had interview practice. I practice talking on the phone so that helped a lot. So just kind of setting yourself up in those opportunities. I know, Scott, you like create your own luck and I like that, too.

Mindy: Yeah, last week’s episode, Debbie said you find what you’re looking for. And if you’re not looking for this job, you’re not going to find it.

Cody: Exactly. You’ve just got to look. I mean, you really just gotta look and the opportunities will start to present themselves. Just put yourself out there.

Scott: All right, so how are you able to apply to so many different scholarships and set yourself up to get these kinds of options going to college?

Cody: Yeah, so I guess one thing I did was what I like to call templifying everything. So with scholarships, I’d say the 80-20 Rule. 80% of the scholarships, you can use the same five of six essays, give or take a few tweaks to apply. So I mean, I probably applied to 100, maybe a little more than 100 scholarships over my four years of college. And some of them, if you get in early—so I was applying in high school as well. I should mention, take a step back. If your kid’s in high school or you’re a high schooler listening to this, start applying now. Even junior year in high school, you could start locking in four-year scholarships for college. It is absolutely insane.

So I have two favorite scholarship sites. One is Scholly and the other one is—it’s Scholly.com. That one is $2.99 per month but I can guarantee you that you will make your money back, not tenfold—a thousand-fold or even more. I mean, just earning one $500 scholarship, you’re going to pay that back.

Scott: Is that $299 a month or $2.99?

Cody: No, sorry. $2.99 per month.

Mindy: Oh, my God. That’s even better.

Cody: Oh no, I would never ever tell someone to sign up for a potential scholarship site for $299 a month.

Scott: I don’t know, I think a lot of people are thinking that that’s even worthwhile at $299 a month.

Cody: No, $2.99 a month. And they are just—from my perspective, they have the best matchmaking—your skillset and your background to scholarships that I’ve ever seen. So you type in all your criteria, you type in your major, your ethnicity, I don’t know, your gender. Like everything. Every little thing. Your heritage. Where you grew up.

Every little thing could factor into the scholarships. You guys could get the Colorado scholarship. And there’s just all these little scholarships for just every different little niche. And there could maybe be only five people applying to scholarships. So it’s really worth just checking out every one. So that’s Scholly.com.

Scholarships.com is also pretty good. That one is free but it’s not as good matchmaking. Again, I think you do get what you pay for, even though it’s $2.99 a month. It’s a little better matchmaking so I did find a lot more personalized and specific scholarships to my skillset and my background on Scholly. So that was huge.

So even applying to one, just like set a reminder on your phone or apply to one every day or every other day. And if you already have these five or six templates set up with these like general questions, like why do you want to pursue X major? What’s your biggest goal in life? Tell me about your biggest failure. What did you learn from it? Those are like the generic scholarship questions you hear about all the time.

And you can set up these templates and maybe make a few tweaks to them. Maybe 20-30 minutes to make a tweak to X scholarship and you could probably do one of these every day or every other day. And by the end of your scholarship hunting period, you’ve applied to 50 or 100 scholarships and you’re bound to get at least one. I mean, if you don’t get one, that’s just really, really unfortunate. And you’re probably doing something wrong.

But the barriers to entry are not too high on some of these scholarships. I mean, there’s honestly ten or less of people that are applying to some of these local community scholarships. You might not even know they exist unless you start looking. The same thing can be said for internships. So I did the exact same thing with what’s called the cover letter. I’m sure people are familiar with what a resume is. It’s usually a one-page piece of paper just detailing your work experience, what your skills are, stuff like that.

A cover letter is expressing your interest in X company. So I want to work for Google, say. Okay, tell them why you want to work for Google, why you could be an asset for their company. And it’s basically the same thing for the scholarship. You write four, five, or six cover letters detailed to different companies within your specific subset.

So like I had a cover letter for wealth management positions. I had a cover letter for investment banking positions. I had a cover letter for analyst positions. And they were all slightly different but you make it a little personalized, maybe you include the person’s name that you reached out to in LinkedIn, going back to the networking thing. Oh, I talked to Scott on the phone. I met him on LinkedIn. And they’re like, oh, he knows Scott.

And then the HR recruiter brings it to Scott’s desk and Scott’s like yeah, this kid’s awesome. It’s just getting your foot in the door that way. And if you have these templates set up, you can kind of mass apply to internships. Same thing with scholarships. It’s just a huge advantage. I really think maybe in some specific cases, it’s quality over quantity.

If there’s one company you want to work for, then don’t do a mass cover letter. Make a really personalized cover letter talking about really fine-grain specifics of why you want to work for that company. But I really think it’s quantity over quality with these types of things, with scholarships and especially internships in the early years. Because you don’t know what you want to do. You just want to get your foot in the door.

as always. It is a beautiful day. We’ve had a lot of rain here in Denver in the last couple of days, last couple of weeks, really. Lots of hail. And today is a beautiful sunny day. I got to record a podcast today. I love today’s guest. Erin Lowry, who I have known for five years and just discovered 25 minutes ago that her last name is not pronounced Low-ry. It’s pronounced Lowry.

Erin Lowry is here today with us to talk about money and relationships. I think this is really important to talk about because money is the number one thing couples fight about. The number one cause of divorce. I actually shouldn’t say that, I don’t know if it’s the number one cause of divorce. I do know it’s the number one cause of fights in relationships.

Making sure you’re on the same page as your spouse or significant other financially is so important to your happiness, to your life, and when you’re sitting there fighting with your significant other, your whole life just kind of sucks. It kind of just drains on you. So I think this is a really, really, really great show today.

Mindy: I have a comment about this. So I didn’t apply for scholarships and internships but I did apply for a lot of jobs once. I decided I was done with my current job. I wanted a new one. My tip is re-read right before you send it. This was back in the day, fax machines, but re-read the whole thing before you send it because I sent a note to XYZ Company professing my profound desire for ABC Company.

So I’m like, oh, I’m not going to get that job. I already had said it. You can’t like suck it back in. I didn’t even follow up because I knew they weren’t going to call me. So just one last time, right before you send it, make sure the e-mail address that you’re sending it to, [email protected] is also with the letter that says, I want to work at XYZ Company.

Cody: Yeah, so I guess just another little actionable tip that people want to use. So all the parts that I changed, I keep in capital letters and red font. So until all of the red font and capital letters are gone, I do not send it. Because that is all the company names, all the specifics about the company.

I’ll have like several signs that says in capital letters like, do not send this out unless this is specific to X Company. So every time I redo one, it’s not like I already have Google in there and then I’m applying to Facebook. And then I just have to look for Google in the document—I have a template that’s all bold, highlighted red text that says make sure you change this.

Mindy: Nice. Yeah, that’s a great tip.

Scott: I use this all the time in my work for what I do professionally. And one thing I’ll say is that if you have a typo in the meat of this letter that’s the part you’re not editing, it also gets sent out to everyone that you sent these things to. So make sure that you have a very professional template before you go in and double and triple and quadruple check that before you start blasting these out. I had a couple of embarrassing ones.

Cody: Oh, man. A great tool for that—I don’t know if you guys use it or if your listeners use it, is Grammarly. And it’s just a Chrome extension and it checks your grammar and syntax and everything for you. So if you screw up a word or you forget a comma, it will tell you and you can fix it. So it’s pretty awesome.

Mindy: Yes. I was going to bring that up because we use that at BiggerPockets and it’s amazing. I like to think that I’m pretty spot on but I get fat-finger typing and you hit the wrong subject-verb agreement—it’s really a great extension.

Cody: It’s awesome. And I guess I just want to touch on one last thing with like the interviews—not so much scholarships, because it’s not as much face-to-face. But with like an interview, it wasn’t full-time or internships but this was something that I kind of started to think about once I’m in the Minutemen Fixed Income Fund, you have to interview into it like I said before.

So once I got to the senior level, I started interviewing people. It was weird being on the side of the table at such a young age, because you only know being the interviewee side of the table.

But something that I like urge people to think about is think like an employer when you’re at an interview. So if you just go in and you’re pretty bland and you’re like, I kind of want to work for you guys. I’m pretty average. Then you’re not going to be remembered. They’re not going to remember your name. They’re not going to leave a memory in that employer’s mind.

But if you’re thinking like an employer, like I need to do something that really stands out, so for example, I can’t speak to every major but I would bring a binded report in, like a 20-page laminated report of a company I covered. And right off the bat, this kid’s legit, like nobody else is doing that.

So it sets me apart right away. And just thinking like an employer and having that mindset, it just made you seem a lot more legit and made you seem a lot more professional than the competition. You stand out right away.

Scott: Awesome. I think it’s a great tip.

Mindy: That is a wonderful tip. Okay, so we’ve heard a lot about your successes. Let’s hear about your failures. These failed clothing company business. I don’t even know how you could fail at that because everybody wears clothes. Oh wait, you didn’t put any effort into it. Are you a millennial and you’re just entitled? I started this company. I made a website. Come to me. If you build it, they will come, right? Why didn’t that work out?

Cody: So I did start social media. I had like an Instagram, Twitter, I had the whole shebang. I also started a website. It wasn’t a great website. I didn’t put too much effort into it. But I don’t want to spoil my idea, in case I do it later on—I won’t tell you the name of the company or exactly what—it’s a specialty clothing company.

But I was just way over my head and I was like, all right, I really don’t know what I’m doing here and like, getting manufactured t-shirts from this warehouse in China and getting like specific customizations and stuff. I’m like, I’m in way over my head. I kind of just dropped the whole idea and said, all right, this adventure is not for me. 

So it was a lack of effort but also just kind of jumping in over my head. Honestly, maybe if I had stuck with it and didn’t give up on myself, it could have been successful. Who knows. I can’t turn back time like you said, Mindy, but yeah, it did fail.

Scott: Also, another problem with this is this is an entrepreneurial venture, I assume, that needed some capital to get going, right? You probably needed like a couple of thousands, maybe a couple of hundred, maybe to a couple thousand. And that is very scary to a college student to kind of put up that kind of money to start something, right? So I assume that your next venture here was probably something that was much less capital-intensive. Is that correct, with the tutoring?

Cody: The tutoring was actually before. I set them up in the wrong order. The tutoring was first. That was zero capital. That was like no capital intensity at all. I actually started—I didn’t start a website. I didn’t have a social media or anything. I just kind of like wrote a Word document of my business plan and started to advertise on Craigslist. And what do you know? Nobody contacted me. I was going to start by myself, build it up, and then hire tutors. It didn’t work like that at all.

I did some tutoring back in high school so I was like, I’ve got the expertise. These people are going to hire me. Like, I had my resume attached to it with the tutoring thing. I was like, oh yeah, this is going to be a goldmine. Nobody reached out to me.

It was a total lack of effort. I mean, I could have built a successful tutoring platform if I had wanted to but I think that was more of just a kind of giving up. That was freshman year, so I was kind of just testing out college, you know, hanging out, probably drinking a few too many nights.

Scott: All right, so let’s move onto one that did work. When did you start the one that did work and what is that business?

Cody: Okay, so I started Arsenal Discs June of 2016. Like I told you before, I worked in a disc golf store—

Scott Wait. What year of college was that for you?

Cody: Junior year of college. So yeah, junior year of college, I already had this disc golf background. Like I said, I worked at the disc golf snack shack at my uncle’s disc golf course, which was conveniently just right across the street. So I had been playing since I was about seven or eight years old. I was super into the sport, for people who don’t know, disc golf is just like ball golf except you’re throwing plastic disc into what’s called a pin.

It’s like a metal basket with chains. You throw the disc in. There’s drivers, mid-ranges, putters. The whole thing. It’s basically the same as golf except instead of hitting a club—swinging a club and hitting a ball into a hole, you’re throwing a disc, a piece of plastic into a chain or a basket.

So just a quick background, because I know a lot of people are like, what’s disc golf? So yeah, long story short, into disc golf. Really into the community. I had a lot of friends in this disc golfing community. I knew everyone that came to play so I was like, I want to start a disc golf business. Because the market was kind of unsaturated.

There wasn’t too many competitors. There was maybe eight or ten major players and there was almost eight or ten major players in the manufacturing market. There was probably two or three million global players. So this was a pretty good market. Even with a 1% market share, I could start making some money. I just started growing a business, having fun with this, so yeah.

I reached out to my mechanical engineer friend—this is a friend from high school who was just like super into creating, because I don’t have any of the expertise. I don’t know how to create a CAD file. I don’t know how to run flow tests on all of these crazy programs. But he was into that. He was like all right, I’ll work with you. I want to create these discs.

So we started looking at competitors’ discs, what made them successful, what made them not, and we just kind of started the drawing board. He started creating these CAD files, which is Computer Automated Design or Drawing—don’t ask me. I’m not an engineer. You engineers will probably make fun of me or correct me if you’re listening to this episode, but yeah, he was making the CAD drawings. We’d do wind tunnel tests. We’d do flow tests. These are all like on the computer.

And then we’d get them prototyped in China. We’d get them shipped back over to us for a very cheap cost. And if we like the design, we would keep it. If not, we’d send it back. And after we got five disc designs that we liked, we went and bought what are called molds. So this was a capital-intensive project. Mold is basically a big, steel block. And then in the middle of the steel block is the shape of the disc. So think of it as like a Frisbee except it’s a little more compact with a bevel rim.

So basically, the block is the middle, it’s the shape of the disc. It fills up a top plastic. It cools off, opens up, the disc pops out. That’s what a mold is. So we bought the molds. We bought five molds. It was a little over $12,000. We went half and half. I had been making a lot of money in college doing—I think it was almost $400 every other week, I was doing the tutoring.

I was also doing alcohol sampling on the weekends. That does not sound as good as it actually was. It’s not me tasting alcohol. It’s me standing in the liquor store saying, hey, do you want to try this alcohol? And yeah, exactly. Not as glorious as it sounds. I was also doing side jobs. I was like raking, shoveling. I mean, I was just crazy about making money in college. So I had quite a stockpile.

Scott: I mean, the only expense was just a $12.00 handle of booze, right?

Cody: Exactly. I mean honestly, pretty much my only expense was eating out which was going to Applebee’s once a month. So my expenses were less than $100.00 a month and I was bringing in probably $3000, maybe a little higher than $3000 a month. So I mean, my savings rate was pretty huge and so by the time we started the company, I probably had $15,000-$20,000 saved up. So I had the capital to build that mold.

But that’s not where this story ends. I mean, there’s a lot more, getting into marketing, advertising, getting the online store setup. Going through all the legality, like getting the design patents and all of that stuff. It’s a big process when you’re actually manufacturing a product from scratch. At the end of the day, when we got all the manufacturing done, developed the prototyping, it was about $35,000 down in the hole, I guess.

So this is split between me and my partner, so it was $17,500 each. We did take a small personal loan from a family—unfortunately, with interest. I didn’t want to just completely deplete my savings, so I had something left over but like in case my car broke down, you never know. I just like having a little bit of cash just sitting around.

So we did take a small family loan that we did pay back with interest unfortunately. But yeah, that was quite a capital-intensive project. I mean, we were really, really into it. I still am super into it but as of this point, we had probably done $25,000 in sales, so about $15,000 still in the red but I think probably this year, we’ll break even. And then after that, we’ll just be smooth sailing, fun, and profits.

Scott: Awesome. This is what I wish I would have done differently in college. I think I had a great time. I made some great friends. I got good grades, got a good job afterwards but there’s no reason why I couldn’t have found a little bit more time to try my hand at a couple of businesses like you did in college. There’s no risk—I mean, yours was a big risk.

Let’s be clear. $35,000 invested in this business between two people that are college students, taking a little debt from the family. That’s a big, big risk. But you know, the other things you tried were not that capital-intensive and didn’t require that much money. And you can do that in college and fit that in with your schedule, even when you’re working a couple of jobs, making $3,000 a month and I assume getting good grades and prepping yourself for the job market.

And this is what I think is a real power that is really being squandered by a lot of people that are in college, including myself when I was there. It was something that you could have done without too much impact on the college experience and whatever else you’re trying to do to prepare yourself for the workforce.

Cody: And I totally agree and people commend me like oh wow, you’re awesome. You started a company. But if I could turn back time, I would have done it with a lot less capital. I don’t know if you guys—you guys definitely know Alan Donegan from the popup business school. After hearing him and talking to him, there’s so many ways I could have done this for less money, but I didn’t know. I mean, I was 19 at the time. I thought this is going to be the best thing ever.

I was definitely like financially savvy and frugal but I thought this was like an absolutely no-fail venture. I mean, luckily, I did have some failed ventures. I picked up a lot of skills during my failures. I know—I think it was Jamila Souffrant that coined “failing forward”. I really like that concept. I learned so much from my failures, just like setting up websites. So by the time I started this company, I was like, I kind of know what I’m doing a little bit.

But I think if I could turn back time, I would have maybe looked for like an equity split with like one of the bigger companies and tried to manufacture just through them and be like, listen, we have an awesome new concept. Well like, you had 50% profit-share. As long as you give us the facility, you’d let us like use your molds. Because you can make tweaks to it.

That’s probably something I would have pursued now. Maybe it would have been a $2000-$3000 investment instead of $35,000 but like you said, Mindy, no turning back time. No regrets. I did learn—I mean, the information I’ve learned from starting that business is just like insane.

It’s so much more than I’ve learned in college, just jumping into the real world and starting a real business. You learn so much and I really urge anyone who has like any inkling of starting anything to just start. And even if you fail miserably, you learn so much along the way.

Mindy: Yes. Yes. Yes. You mentioned Alan Donegan’s episode—I believe he was on Episode 17 and he just dropped so much knowledge on how to start a business super inexpensively. Like you said, you learn so much from doing it. BiggerPockets is generally a real estate website and people keep saying, how do I get started? How do I get started? Just start.

You will learn so much more even if you lose money on your first deal. You will learn so much more than you can possibly learn from just reading books or listening to podcasts. I mean, those are very helpful to get you enough knowledge to get started.

But then jump in with both feet. See what happens. I mean, obviously don’t jump in with both feet and take out a $50 million dollar loan that you can’t ever pay back. But there’s a lot of ways to start for a lot less money.

Cody: There really is. It was mind-boggling when I was listening to it. I think I heard it on yours—you guys’ podcast. I listen to him on the Choose FI podcast. Just some of the stories that people have in starting businesses is like, wow. I never even thought of that. Like the person who opened a restaurant and a café that closed at 4:00PM or something. I was like, that is the most genius idea ever.

Mindy: Brilliant.

Cody: People don’t think outside the box. Myself included. I could have done it for way cheaper. I mean, luckily it’s working out and it is successful and it could have failed miserably and we’d just have to suck it up and pay back and eat our loss but there’s just so many ways to do it better.

Scott: All right, so let’s move on to less a little bit here. So you graduated early from college in three and half semesters, right? Did you have a job lined up and kind of what’s your plan kind of coming out of this trip to Australia that we started with?

Cody: Sure. So it was very—I’ll hop back a little bit to sophomore year. This is kind of where it all changed. Like I said, I got the FI bug. I really wanted to do investment banking because you can really make some insane money. You can make $125,000 easy, out of a four-year degree. That’s just like unheard of money.

And I was like, that is the best thing ever. But I didn’t know that you worked 90-100 hours a week and you didn’t have Saturdays to hang out with your friends or your girlfriend or your family. You literally work 90-100 hours a week and I was like, that is not going for me.

Actually, after reading about passive income and all these other routes, I actually chose a less stressful job. I found a finance job that actually compensates for overtime, which is pretty rare in the finance space. It’s pretty awesome. So definitely a better work-life balance. They actually respect you and don’t treat you like a pawn. They treat you like a person. Which is also pretty abnormal in the finance space.

I know Scott, you worked for the worst company in America, I’ve heard you say. So you know how it is to just be treated like absolute dirt. They don’t care about you. You’re just another pawn. So yeah, I worked a private equity gig after my sophomore year and I was just really high intensity. I kind of realized that I did not want to do that. And then, going into junior year, that’s kind of where I found FI sophomore year.

Junior year, I’ve got this better work-life internship. It was doing commercial real estate, so kind of BiggerPockets-esque. But at the end of the internship, they gave me the full-time offer for next year. So I had, going into senior year of college at the end of August, I had a full-time offer. So I knew I was set even before I planned like leaving for Australia. Which was huge. Like I don’t have to look for a job. I’m just kind of hanging out.

Scott: Awesome. What’s kind of your plan now? You’re going to start this job, I assume, in a couple of months, and begin your journey to FI? Is that correct?

Cody: So yeah, I start two and a half weeks after I get back, so I get back from Australia June 26th and then I start working July 9th. So disclaimer—I’m probably only going to work there for like a year. It is just so hard—just being exposed to this community and listening to the absolutely incredible stories of people, branching out and just doing amazing things,

I cannot sit at a desk from 9:00 to 5:00. I’m really just going to go out there. I already have this disc golf business going. I really think that’s going to start picking up soon—we just moved to another manufacturing facility. So things are going awesome. It’s just I really want to do stuff that I enjoy.

And a thing that I, I guess a beef I had with the Financial Independence community is work hard for 10-15 years as hard as you can, just making that much money as you possibly can, and if you’re not enjoying life in those 15 years, I don’t see the point. I’m really about do what I want, when I want to do it, type of mindset.

So that’s kind of what I’m about. I really think I might only last like a year just to say I did it and just to say I didn’t whimp out and then kind of go off and do my own entrepreneurial stuff. So that’s my game plan. Long story short. 

Scott: Awesome, yeah. I will warn you, I had kind of a similar mindset but then I discovered a job I really loved.

Cody: Exactly. It was totally different.

Scott: That may be something that you’ll find is that if you kind of approach life with this mindset where you’re going through it, and hey, I’m going to be able to do what I want. I’m going to work towards FI. Well, options begin expanding very rapidly for you, very quickly within that first year. You’re going to only tolerate a position that you love pretty soon thereafter, I would suspect. So I think you’re going to have a lot of good options coming.

Cody: I totally agree. Just from hearing what you guys say, BiggerPockets seem like an awesome place to work. And you guys have a blast and it’s like fun in the office. But I mean, my office is pretty cool and my boss is a really awesome guy. It’s just like, I don’t love it, you know? I love doing the disc golf company. I love writing and teaching people about personal finance.

I like helping my family and friends set up their Vanguard accounts. That’s cool to me. I kind of think that’s like why I’m going to branch out because I really want—I really like having that sense of fulfillment and feeling like I’m making an impact on the world.

But if you love your job, I mean, by all means just do it as long as you can. I just don’t like the people who work 10-15 years in a job they loathe just to hit that FI number and then they expect themselves to magically be happy.

Mindy: Yeah, no you are not going to magically be happy if you are sitting there at a job that you absolutely hate.

Cody: Exactly.

Mindy: Even if you do, you slug it out through this horrible job, you get to FI, your life doesn’t automatically change. Like whatever you were doing before retirement is what you’re going to be doing after retirement. So if you slug it out at work, you go home, and you watch TV or you read a book or you just go to bed, that’s what you’re going to do even more of after you hit FI. So you need to have a plan for financial independence not just be working towards it and then stop.

Cody: Exactly. I’m totally in agreeance. You really need to retire to something or else you’re going to be miserable once you hit FI.

Mindy: Yes. Unless you really like watching TV. There’s not that many good shows.

Cody: There’s not that many good shows.

Mindy: All right. Now, it’s time for the Famous Four. These are the same four questions that we ask every guest. There’s actually five because we don’t know how to count. The first question is, what is your favorite finance book?

Cody: I’m going to have to go with The Four-Hour Work Week just because that kind of jumpstarted my FI mindset and just the idea that you could make passive income and you didn’t have to trade your time for your money. That was just a breakthrough moment in my FI journey. You don’t have to trade your time for money. You can just set up these passive vehicles.

Mindy: That’s a really powerful statement.

Scott: Yeah, that was definitely one of the most powerful ones for me as well. So if you haven’t, go check it out. It’s a stable, I think, of this mindset It goes along with Rich Dad, Poor Dad and all of these other books. Talk about how to accumulate wealth and separate your time from your money.

Cody: Definitely.

Scott: All right, so what was your biggest money mistake that you’ve made?

Cody: So I kind of already covered this but it’s definitely the car. If I can go back in time, I would have literally bought a $1500 beater that barely made it to school every day. And just invested the rest. I would have had like $30,000 by now.

Scott: I think it’s great. We commonly hear this—this is the opportunity cost that really kills people.

Cody: It is, it is.

Scott: Actually the more I think about, it the drove a wedge into not taking more entrepreneurial shot maybe sooner. Maybe that way like Cody did with his disc golf company. That’s one of the big advantages that you kind of have going into the world is you have an expectation of solid sales every year from this side hustle you have, right?

Cody: A few things—just my age. Obviously, it’s not a fact that everyone can use to their advantage so I have the freedom to fail. At this point, I’m not used to eating fancy food. I’m not used to drinking expense alcohol. I’m using like a lifting like a college kid—I shared a six-bedroom house of eight guys. Paying like $350 a month for rent. So I mean, I’m not living this lavish lifestyle and it’s hard on me for kind of maintain that styles.

Honestly, if all else, if I’m on the road and don’t have a job and living in a cardboard box, my mom would probably take me back in. So at this age, I just have the freedom to fail, which is huge. And if you can take advantage of that earlier, like you said, just jump into entrepreneur, just try your hand at whatever, you can get a huge headstart on the competition.

Scott: That’s great. I don’t think it would come to a cardboard box for you. Hopefully not.

Mindy: I bet your mom would take you back. I hope so. Okay, so what is your best piece of advice for people who are just starting out.

Cody: Oh man, I wish I could rewind my sentences from the last answer. I think honestly for anybody at any age, I mean even if you’re 60 years old and you have a few more years to retire, just start a side hustle. Start a side business. Anything. There are so many ways to make extra money nowadays with the internet and just online. You can learn so much. You can learn almost anything on YouTube and Google.

If you don’t know how to build a website, you can learn in 24 hours just by YouTube and Google. You can build yourself a decent website. So just jumping in and making the leap to—not from a financial standpoint. Don’t jump in with your 401K and make the leap. But jump in emotionally and don’t be afraid to fail because you are going to learn mounds more from your failures than you are from your successes.

From your successes, you’re like, oh, this works. But from your failure, it’s to learn what works and doesn’t work and then you’ll learn how to change that, how to make it better. You’ll just become a better person over and over and over again as you fail. The failures can be tiny.

Like a little change today. You can make—or just pick a step toward an entrepreneurial adventure today. And even if it doesn’t work out, you’re going to learn something along the way. That’s my biggest advice. Just do it.

Scott: I think that’s great advice. Everyone can try something and if you’re not sure where to start, go back and listen to the Alan Donegan podcast. I think that was Episode Number—

Mindy: Alan was Episode 17 so you can find that at BiggerPockets.com/MoneyShow17. And in two weeks, we have Nick Loper from Side Hustle Nation, will be our guest. And we’re going to cover the concept of side hustles, who it’s good for. Everybody. Spoiler Alert.

Scott: And note that Cody’s side hustle here is disc golf, something that he has been a part of since he was 10 years old. Right? In some capacity or another. Or maybe earlier, when you first started playing. And there’s some synergy there that probably give you a little bit of an opportunity or incentive or desire to be successful. And there’s particular ones. So I think that’s something to point out, that you use a synergy that was unique to your situation.

Cody: Exactly. I think another point is that my synergies are different from my business partner, James’, energies. Be careful with the engineer. So I’m good at marketing and finance but I mean, I’m terrible at engineering. But like, synergizing together we kind of are the perfect crew for a disc golf company. Because I can handle the finances. He doesn’t know—he would have no clue of what you said earlier.

I mean, sorry James. Sorry if you’re listening but I mean, he wouldn’t know exactly what to expect for profit margins, selling at wholesale prices, and like I kind of do know that background and I knew how to model and I knew how to tell if we were going to be profitable and just combining those and synthesizing our talents made us successful. 

Mindy: You don’t have to be the best at everything. If things that you aren’t good at, just find somebody who is, and connect with them.

Cody: Exactly.

Scott: Love it. All right, so the toughest question if the Famous Four here and it sounds like you had plenty of opportunities to tell these but what is your favorite joke to tell at all those parties you’ve been at?

Cody: All right, Scott, so I think you will appreciate this one. So why can’t you run through a campground.

Scott: I don’t know. Why?

Cody: You can only ran—because it’s past tents.

Scott: That joke was in tents.

Mindy: That joke was awful.

Cody: Sorry, Mind, I know you don’t like those but I had to give one for Scott.

Mindy: That’s okay, this isn’t just the Mindy Show. It’s also the Scott Show.

Okay, Cody, where can people find out more about you?

Cody: So on my blog, Fly to FI, I pretty much log about personal finance, lifestyle and life optimization. It’s kind of learn as you go type-of-thing. So I’m young. I can fail. Like I said before. So I kind of just try my had at different ventures. Different investment strategies. This side hustle and kind of just document my job here. So if people want to check me out, probably I’ll reach back out to you within 24 hours. I’m pretty good at responding. If you just hit up the contact form on FLY2FI.com.

Scott: A quick plug is that I do have the Ultimate College Guide post on my sent—that will cover pretty much anything that I missed or that people would like to hear about. I mean, we can only cover so much in the conversation on this podcast but it’s a pretty extensive document just showing pretty much and every tip and trick I use, all the scholarship websites, all the internship tricks, all the LinkedIn tricks like a template, e-mail, just a bunch of helpful stuff. People want to show their kid or whatever, I think that would be an awesome resource.

Mindy: And I will put that in the Show Notes. The show notes for this episode can be found at www.BiggerPockets.com/MoneyShow26. Awesome.

Scott: Awesome.

Mindy: Well Cody, thank you so much for getting up at the crack of dawn to come talk to us.

Cody: No problem. It’s been a blast.

Mindy: All the way from halfway across the world.

Cody: Yes.

Mindy: We really appreciate your time. Thank you so much. In the states in a couple of weeks?

Cody: Yeah, I’ll see you guys at FinCon. That will be fun.

Mindy: Oh, you’ll be at FinCon, too? Fantastic. Then we’ll see you in September.

Cody: Awesome.

Mindy: Have a good day.

Cody: You, too.

Scott: See you later. Thanks for coming.

Mindy: Wow, Scott, mic dropped. I loved Cody. He is so forward thinking and is just an absolutely example of how to plan for your future and how small tweaks now—or even some bigger tweaks can yield huge results down the road.

Scott: Yeah, I think it’s a fantastic story. I mean, just a lot of good example in there. Cody is obviously not missing out on what you traditionally think of as a great college experience, great high school experience. I mean, excellence in a lot of different areas. It sounds like a lot of fun. He’s going on a trip of a lifetime for six and a half months, seven months or so, right? Almost.

And then he’s going to start a great job and he’s got a bunch of different options here that he can pursue. A great mindset of hey, I’m going to keep my expenses low and the see what happens. I just think it’s going to be so excited to watch his career and the things that he goes on and does outside of college over the next couple of years. I’m very excited to see that and follow his journey.

Mindy: Yeah, it’s amazing—what small changes now and a huge mindset shift, can just change your life without changing your life. I mean, he’s not missing out on anything. Like you said, it doesn’t change his life to drive a crappy car or live with a bunch of roommates.

Or you know, do all these things, but it changes his life down the road when he’s able to retire when he is 24 or whatever ridiculous timeframe for himself. And he’s going to do it, too. He is just said, I’m going to do it. That’s like written in stone. This is how it happens. It’s like it just falls into place but it doesn’t because he puts the hard work into it.

Scott: Yeah, I mean 10 years is smart decisions before this that have gotten him to this point and that’s where the options are kind of—that’s why the options are materializing for hi now.

Mindy: Wow. Such a great show. So I hope you enjoyed it as much as we did. Scott, do you have anything else to add before we are out of here? This show ran really long because Cody just kept knocking it out.

Scott: Nope. Again, I think this was just a great show for you to listen to and then to think who this plot could apply for. Again, in high school, middle system that will make it hard for me thinking about how to start themselves up for a life of options.

Mindy: And then if you have little kids, think of how you can help them start learning about money, so learning about hard work, because throughout Cody’s whole story, it was just—hard work got me here. Hard work got me here where I could make connections with got me here. It’s just over and over, thick I think a quiet room. And when he didn’t do the hard work, he didn’t have a success.

Scott: Smart hard work.

Mindy: Smart hard work will get you every time. Okay. From Episode 26 of the BiggerPockets Money podcast, this is Mindy Jensen. Over and out.

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In This Episode We Cover:

  • How Cody ended up in Australia
  • How he learned about compound interest from his dad
  • His strategy of working on the side, allowing him to save about $15k by age 14
  • Buying a car in high school out of his savings
  • The entitlement mindset
  • The AP courses he took during high school
  • State vs. private universities
  • Reaching out two to three people a day
  • Having a minimum fixed income fund
  • “Template-fying” everything
  • Extracurricular activities Cody is a part of
  • Finding jobs during college
  • Businesses that failed and succeeded
  • How self-education helped him
  • And SO much more!

Links from the Show

Books Mentioned in this Show

Tweetable Topics:

  • “You don’t have to trade time for money.” (Tweet This!)

Connect with Cody

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