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Financial Freedom Through Small Life Changes and a Modest Real Estate Portfolio

The BiggerPockets Money Podcast
56 min read
Financial Freedom Through Small Life Changes and a Modest Real Estate Portfolio

Today we sit down with Mr. and Mrs. Planting our Pennies, or Mr. and Mrs. PoP for short. Mr. PoP never wanted to be anchored to an inflexible job. Mrs. PoP never wanted to be financially insecure.

A reward trip to Hawaii after a good sales year at his job led Mr. PoP to the internet where he found Early Retirement Extreme and Mr. Money Mustache. Mrs. PoP ran the numbers and discovered that their target number for a mini-retirement really wasn’t that hard to reach. A few more calculations showed her they could work slightly longer and quit working their traditional jobs forever.

This episode truly showcases that anyone can achieve financial freedom. Small tweaks to your spending can yield huge rewards fairly quickly.

Wondering if you can reach financial freedom? This episode will show you how.

Click here to listen on iTunes.

Listen to the Podcast Here

Read the Transcript Here

 Welcome to the BiggerPockets Money Podcast show number 32.

Where we interview Mr. and Mrs. Planting Our Pennies.

I ran a spreadsheet and I was like wait a second baby, if we keep doing this for I don’t know three or four more years it couldn’t be just boat for a couple of years we could be like on a boat forever. What do you think?

Yes, that was a pretty easy sell so.


Basically we picked it up rapidly. We did the 4% rule. You know we became part of that fi community when we hit that $300,000 back in I don’t know 2013- 2014 somewhere.

Probably 2014, yes.

A long time ago and basically we’re set for life now.

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 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. I’m here with my cohost Ms. Mindy Jensen. How are you doing today Mindy?

Mindy: Scott, I am having just another fantastic day. How are you doing today?

Scott: I’m doing great this was a very fun interview with Mr. and Mrs. PoP, short for Planting Our Pennies.

Mindy: Yes, I have known the PoPs for about five years. As always I met them at FinCon, the financial conference that we attend every year and I just really love their down-to-earth nature.

Scott: Yes, I thought they had a fantastic approach to this and we’re both kind of starting very kind of ordinary position you know and change their ways to pursue financial independence aggressively.

Mindy: Yes and what I like is I like how she said, “I never wanted to be financially insecure.” He said, “I never wanted to have this traditional work till your 80 job.” Those are kind of contradictory. If you don’t want to be financially insecure then you need to have a job forever and I like how they found a way to make it work.

Scott: Yes, I mean it was just like a fantastic, I think largely repeatable approach to financial independence one where Mr. PoP was not exactly having a superstar career going into 2008- 2009 and he was able then to kind of jumpstart things and make them work. I mean he was saying he couldn’t get a job at JCPenney, but he could you know he was able to launch into a sales career and begin to build from there in I really impressive way.

Mindy: Yes, I’m not going to give it away, but listen to what his paycheck was.

Scott: Yes.

Mindy: At one point he got a paycheck that was let’s just say not small.

Scott: It was more than his annual salary the year before.

Mindy: Yes. For one paycheck.

Scott: Yes.

Mindy: That’s amazing and yes like you said this is relatable to anybody can do this and that’s what they said over and over again. Anybody can do this. There is not a big secret to this. It is not rocket science.

Scott: Yes, love it well should we go ahead and introduce them and bring them in?

Mindy: We should, but first we should hear from today’s sponsor.

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Mindy: Okay huge thanks to today sponsor. Let’s bring in Mr. and Mrs. Planting Our Pennies. Mr. and Mrs. Planting Our Pennies welcome to the BiggerPockets Money podcast. How’s it going?

Mrs. PoP: Good thanks for having us.

Mr. PoP: Hey how are you doing guys? It’s an honor to be here.

Mindy: Oh it’s I’m so excited to talk to you guys today.

Scott: Yes, likewise. Where do you kind of consider the beginning of your journey with money in general?

Mrs. PoP: Well I would say we both grew up very differently with money and kind of wanted different things out of money. I always wanted financial security and Mr. PoP over here was much more about flexible work environments and jobs.

Mr. PoP: Yes so from like day one, my first job was at Blockbuster and as soon as I figured I could get out of working I thought that would be absolutely fantastic. I’ve been always wanting freedom. That’s been the kind of guiding path for me.

Scott: You didn’t see a lot of long-term job stability a Blockbuster?

Mr. PoP: No, I was not smart to see Netflix coming down the path, but I knew. I mean the people, the people that I looked up to most even at that age they were all entrepreneurs, solo-preneurs, real estate developers, and people like that. You know they weren’t grinding away the 9-to-5 and so I just didn’t have the kind of role model that had that kind of job and I never really desired it.

Scott: Okay so what were the kind of resources you were starting your career with then when you had that first job at Blockbuster? Were you starting from scratch? Did you save up when you were a kid or through college or what was kind of your starting position there?

Mrs. PoP: Wells so Blockbuster was when Mr. PoP was in a high school. I kind of consider our joint starting together and we got married in 2009 so we also live in South West Florida so I don’t know if you remember anything about 2008 – 2009 in Southwest Florida, but you know real estate was crashing, great recession, a financial apocalypse. It was looking a little bit grim. I had a good solid job with a small company that was local. Mr. PoP didn’t have a job, but we still, we got married. We bought a house and got a cat kind of all within the span of about four months.

Mr. PoP: It was a good four months.

Mrs. PoP: It was a good four months. Yes, but at that point we basically had one good job between us and a net worth of about $50,000 to our names.

Mr. PoP: Yes, it’s not like we started off from a great place. Like my wife said I didn’t have a job when we got married. My first job was working for minimum wage. My second job after that, after I got married was selling phones in a kiosk because I was annoying guys and say hey kid you want a case for your iPhone? Totally me so it’s not like I had great work prospects. I graduated college with a philosophy degree so we really did start from just about Ground Zero, but I think we kind of knew, we always knew kind of where we wanted to end up.

Mindy: Let me correct you in your story. You started with $50,000 in net worth. That’s a little bit more than most people start with. Being positive even a dollar is a lot more than some people start with so.

Mr. PoP: Yes.

Mindy: You are still pretty well off even if you were the annoying sales phone guy.

Mrs. PoP: Yes, we were a couple years out of college at that point and we before the great recession hit we had both had decent jobs for a couple of years and even though we weren’t married we were living on separate coasts in Florida we were both saving up money because we knew we probably wanted to buy a house together. That was kind of.

Mr. PoP: Yes, I mean savings really was critical so even before we were married I had a job working in a retail setting for Apple computer back then, $40,000 per year and I was still trying to save you know a hundred dollars a month, $200 a month, $300 a month so to the marriage I think I brought maybe $10 – $20,000 and Bridget bought a little bit more than that.

Mrs. PoP: Yes, I got a really big bonus payout from a job that I quit right before the – right before Lehman Brothers fell. I quit my job in the finance industry.

Mr. PoP: A good time to go out, yes.

Mrs. PoP: Got a really big bonus payout check and then quit my job and I’ve never gotten a bonus payout check that big. Again, but that was really kind of the start of our nest egg, but before that I was working like 80 hour weeks so I kind of feel like I earned that money too.

Mr. PoP: Yes, seriously. Yes.

Scott: Well got you so then so that’s how you got kind of got into that position of having about $50 K and it sounds like this point where you have that $50 K is kind of where you consider you’re starting, the start of your journey in earnest is that correct?

Mrs. PoP: Yes, I think we kind of joke about it, but it’s because it’s when we became a team. We officially kind of joined together and then it was the two of us so.

Scott: Yes, and it happened really quickly too because right around that time we started thinking okay what do we want the future to look like and then we kind of stumbled across the Fi community.

Mrs. PoP: Yes, we got married on a boat, a catamaran.

Mr. PoP: We did.

Mrs. PoP: The idea of kind of sailing away into the sunset has kind of been part of our I don’t know.

Mr. PoP: Part of our vision since day one.

Mrs. PoP: Yes, marital DNA since day one, no. Yes.

Mindy: You said that you stumbled across Fi, how did you do that?

Mr. PoP: Yes, this whole thing is my fault actually as it turns out so.

Mrs. PoP: It is.

Mr. PoP: One of the jobs that I had after the cell phone kiosk I got picked up by a technology company into their sales department. If you’re good at it and I was good at it you go on these pretty cool trips so they would send you to Hawaii if you had a good year. Hanging on Hawaii, not working for a couple of days, had the email turned off. I thought boy how can I make this happen more frequently?

How can I really make this happen you know for months at a time? How do I get that kind of flexibility and I remember I had a Blackberry back then and I was actually on the North Shore of Hawaii surfing around with my Blackberry. I found two sites, Early-Retirement Extreme, Jacob Lund Fisker’s site and then also Mr. Money Mustache. I think that would’ve been 20 – early 2012.

Mrs. PoP: Yes, that was 2012 so I met up with him on the beach a little while later and he was like how would you feel if we started saving 50% of our income. I was like say what?

Mr. PoP: No, no it wasn’t say what. It was you’re absolutely nuts. There’s no way we’re ever going to be able to do that. That’s what it was.

Scott: Well I mean it’s kind of fitting, the Early Retirement Extreme Mr. Money Mustache personas I guess to be discovering them on your Blackberry in 2012 so kudos to you.

Mr. PoP: Seriously I was hanging on to that thing because I was too cheap to buy a new phone and I think I had some kind of discounted plan, but I was they were going to pry it from my cold dead hands.

Mrs. PoP: Yes, from the days when he was selling cell phones his plan was actually really cheap.

Mr. PoP: Yes that’s right yes yes.

Mrs. PoP: We had kept it. We had kept it on the hopes that they didn’t notice he wasn’t still selling cell phones.

Mr. PoP: They didn’t. It was nice. They kept me on.

Scott: What was that conversation like and then what were the changes that you made following that to begin kind of moving more aggressively towards this.

Mindy: Did you tell her that you wanted to save 50% of your income because then you don’t want to work anymore and you just want to hang out in Hawaii beaches.

Scott: Kind of yes.

Mrs. PoP: Well I would say not quite. Originally he was like how about just getting a boat and sailing away for a few years. I was like okay. I’m the numbers person. I’m like okay. We need to have enough money to buy the boat. We need to have enough money to fund our 401(k)s and our IRAs when we’re gone because you know we can’t let savings lie just because we’re on vacation.

Mindy: I love that the best.

Mr. PoP: She goes into like dream crushing mode. She’s like, “No, no, no, no, no you don’t understand we got all of these expenses.

Mrs. PoP: We need to have living expenses. We need to have all these things so this is the number and I don’t know. It was like a couple hundred thousand dollars or something like that.

Mr. PoP: Yes.

Mrs. PoP: Yes.

Mindy: I think it was probably $300,000, but that was super valuable because after you have a goal like that okay when I have $300,000 you can kind of start backing out of it. Okay what do we have to make per year? What does our savings rate have to look like? How do we construct this life so we can actually accomplish that goal?

That was our initial goal sailboat sabbatical for a couple of years and that kind of stuff. I think the actions that we immediately tried to take I was already, I was in a good company and sales is really really lucrative. It is a grind, but anybody out there who had graduated with a humanities degree like me I heavily recommend sales. I know it’s difficult. I know that it’s not for everybody. I’m an introverted philosophy major. If I can be successful in sales and get to Fi through it anybody can. The world needs good salespeople so that’s something I did. I got better at my job. I increase my earnings power and we kind of our expenses just around where they were.

Mrs. PoP: Yes, yes, yes we always kind of aim to spend in the $50,000 range and that was from when we first got married. That was within our budget then and we just never really increased it that much. We sometimes change what we spent on. I started bike commuting different items like that, but we didn’t really increase the core expenses.

Mr. PoP: I think that one of the early things that we did that still pays dividends is we never linked spending money with happiness. As soon you link spending money with happiness you are going straight downhill and it’s not going to end up well, but if you never make that link in your mind you’re going to be in a better spot I think for the rest of your life. I think that’s a big trick for us.

Mindy: That’s really brilliant. Okay so let’s go back to this introverted philosophy major.

Mr. PoP: Yes, sure.

Mindy: Successful salesperson.

Mr. PoP: Sure.

Mindy: Do you have any tips for people who want to become a successful salesperson? Is there a book that you read or a lake course that you took or did you just say I’m going to do it because I don’t want to work forever.

Mr. PoP: I mean it’s practice. The nice thing about sales, it’s a meritocracy. It really really is and it’s very very easy to get your foot in the door so initially I had up to no sales experience. This was in 2008 or nine when nobody was hiring. I got rejected for folding shirts at JCPenney.

I got rejected for absolutely everything. The only people who were hiring was basically the cell phone job and they were like yes, we need people to you know be in our stores and push our product and this is your these are your metrics. Unless we hit these five metrics we’re going to take away I think I could lose three quarters of the money that I made that month unless I hit five different metrics, which I don’t remember anymore. It’s a grind. It’s metrics driven, but it is incredibly lucrative and it will teach you how to be really tough in your career.

Scott: Were they Blackberry cases are iPhone cases?

Mr. PoP: Yes, so that was totally one of them. I had to do the cases, the screen protectors, the insurance plans. I mean everything, data plans back then, but what happened was I was working a Saturday night shift that I didn’t want to be there for and a recruiter came in from a technology company essentially. He said, “Oh I’m looking for a Blackberry.” He was looking for people who would be good salespeople for the technology company. He eventually brought me on, big long process through recruiting to get in to this technology company, but it was because I had had success at this lower level, at the retail level they were able to give me a shot essentially.

From there you know after you’re inside technology sales kind of the world is your oyster. You can be, you know you can handle existing accounts. You can be a business developer. You can jump to even larger, more complicated sales and it was just been a fantastic thing for me so I highly recommend it. It breaks my heart for somebody to say I have an English degree and I’ll never be able to catch Fi because I have to work at Starbucks. It’s absolutely heartbreaking because if you have the skills to you know memorized Shakespeare, you know all those neurolinguistic connections, you have the skills to be successful in high dollar sales.

Scott: One thing that I find interesting about sales is it seems like the opportunity become good at sales almost in a way is exempt like people that have a good career, $50,000 – $60,000 – $70,000 a year as an analyst or something like that or you know marketing, those types of careers. It’s really tough to go in and then go into sales where your income could be way less.

Mr. PoP: Yes.

Scott: Or way greater, but for you you know you start you’re selling cell phones so of course an opportunity to make more sales income is going to be an obvious advantage. Do you see any merit to that thought process that I’m going through here and how would you kind of?

Mr. PoP: Yes.

Scott: Encourage someone who’s trying to move faster and looking to expand their income who’s already making a middle to upper middle class income?

Mrs. PoP: I look at it from my perspective. We had my income and everything that Mr. PoP made was gravy. Like we could live off of mine and everything that he made was gravy so he could just go out and be risky with his career and do whatever it took.

Mr. PoP: I think that the person, the advice that I would give the person making $50,000, I mean look I’m not an expert on marketing. I’m not an expert in very many things, but really if they did want to get into sales, they’re essentially scared of losing what they have.

Scott: Got you.

Mr. PoP: A $50,000 job is a $50,000 job. That’s a great thing, but basically you can’t let that fear hold you back. Sales is lumpy return. I definitely had some months and quarters where I made absolutely nothing, but I remember the first paycheck that I got, the first December after working a full year for this job. Just $35,000.

Mindy: What?

Mr. PoP: That’s what I made the entire last year.

Mindy: You got one paycheck for $35,000? How do I stop being a salesperson?

Mrs. PoP: It was pretty sweet.

Mr. PoP: Yes. Here’s the thing. I mean it was a grind guys, but look our Fi path wouldn’t have been possible without that so I’m a big fan.

Scott: Well and let’s point out though that Mrs. PoP you’re kind of supporting this to a degree in the sense that you know Mr. PoP you could go ahead and play to win. I used this phrase last week to describe an investing approach, but basically you had no downside. You could have made nothing and you guys would’ve gotten by or you could have made a ton. You know the base salary wasn’t really that important. It was the maximum, highest odds potential that you could achieve through your career.

Mr. PoP: It’s a critical point for us because yes, Mrs. PoP has been bringing in I think. In sales I topped out of about $115, $115 I made that for a number of years. Mrs. PoP was making I think $90 for a number of years so we had that baseline salary, but I think it’s important because there’s a bunch of people out there that can’t be computer coders, that aren’t going to be data scientists are good with words essentially. I’m still in favor of that career path and honestly guys my base salary it was still $45,000 a year when I started. I think it was up to 65 when I left so again it’s a tough mentally tough sort of career, but man for getting the Fi if you don’t have the ability to become an engineer, computer coder, I’m a big fan of it.

Scott: No, I had a very similar experience with.

Mr. PoP: Really.

Scott: My transition here at BiggerPockets. I was working as a financial analyst making less than $50,000 a year and then I took a slight pay cut to come to BiggerPockets, but there was an opportunity to sell and make that extra income in that.

Mindy: Yes.

Scott: That really was a big catalyst in my income front to get me to do that and it was because I could live completely off the base salary and then everything else was.

Mr. PoP: Yes.

Scott: Bonus on top of that.

Mr. PoP: Yes, the entrepreneurship thing, it was always super super attractive to me. I think that if I had seen an opportunity for it, I think I would’ve jumped, but yes really similar. It is a meritocracy. You eat what you kill. It’s very exciting for that reason.

Scott: Mrs. PoP what was going on in your career during this period?

Mrs. PoP: My career has actually been really boring by comparison except for that big bonus payout I took in 2008 before jumping ship. I’ve been with the same small company, small privately held company for coming up on ten years so I’ve been in more or less the same role. My income has gone up a little bit. It’s been steady and I’ve really like I said, I’m the financial security one. It’s been more than enough for me. I really enjoy the work. It’s intellectually challenging so even though I’ve interviewed other places and kind of looked at moving on, I haven’t yet so.

Mr. PoP: I think personality wise and talents wise, I think Mrs. PoP falls more into the computer scientists, data scientists, computer coder, engineer type of mind. The super super calm in the Fi sphere.

Mrs. PoP: It’s probably fair.

Scott: Awesome.

Mr. PoP: It sounds like you started with around this $50K in net worth. How are you investing this income as it was going up and coming into your lives?

Mrs. PoP: We started with a real estate and the main reason we started with real estate is because it was dirt cheap where we lived when we got married.

Mr. PoP: Yes.

Mrs. PoP: We bought our house that was $131,000. We’re a couple miles from the beach in a non-HOA community, smallest house in the nicest neighborhood. It’s really lovely I swear. Then we brought a rental duplex and after that the next year we bought a saltwater lot, but by then prices had started to get to what we thought were expensive and so we kind of transitioned to paying off debt from real estate and then investing more in index funds.

Mr. PoP: Yes, I think that we’re pretty we try to be opportunistic and we try to be able to have the ability to kind of look at different investments and kind of say okay which one are we going to go with now? You know we definitely looked at real estate as cheap back then. It was 2008 – 2009. It was a great opportunity back then, but we pretty rapidly switched into just super for not long. You know Vanguard 401(k)s.

Mrs. PoP: Yes.

Mindy: Okay. I like that you said opportunistic and I think that one of the keys that I get throughout all of the interviews that we have done is that people take advantage of what is presented to them and I don’t think that opportunistic is really the right word. It has kind of negative connotations, but you’re taking advantage of what was there. There were people who were leaving real estate in droves in 2008 and 2009, which is why you were able to get such smoking hot deals. Can we talk about those deals for a little bit?

Mrs. PoP: Of course.

Mr. PoP: Yes, sure.

Mindy: Okay first of all what is a saltwater lot? I live in landlocked Colorado and I haven’t heard this term.

Mr. PoP: Let us tell you. Yes.

Mrs. PoP: So okay.

Mindy: This sounds like it’s got a good story.

Mrs. PoP: Saltwater lot basically our lot it’s an empty residential lot. It used to be part of a lot that had a tear down house on it so its own residential, its own single family, but what’s cool about this lot is if you are a boater then it is a 10 minute commute to open water. That’s really big deal because for people that live on canals and stuff, you can have an hour or more commute. To get out to where you want to go fishing and spend your day. This one is unique because it’s near town. It’s not far away, but it still got a very short boater’s commute, which is why we think long-term it’s going to be a very good investment.

Mr. PoP: One of the things that we like about that investment is because of different regulations and zoning laws. In Florida, you’re not allowed to create anymore essentially waterfront lots. There’s no more of them and we think that you know that one is going to still appreciate for a while yet the area that it’s in isn’t particularly Populated let. Now there still are a couple of other empty lots, but as those lots get you know soaked up by this great gray wave of retirees coming down to Florida you know it will continue to increase in value. We like the demographics of it. We understand the demographics of that area and we also understand some of the laws that kind of make that a valuable sort of property.

Scott: Do people drive their boats to your lot and then put them in the water there and you charge them to do that? Is that how you’re generating cash flow or is this more of a speculative, this piece of land is going to be valuable for the reasons you just stated.

Mrs. PoP: Yes it’s pure speculation.

Mr. PoP: Yes.

Mrs. PoP: We don’t have anything where you can put your boat in. You can take from the gulf and get it to our lot, but you couldn’t put your boat in at our lot unless it was small like a kayak that you could.

Mr. PoP: Yes, you basically. It’s on a canal so you tie the boat up where the lot is.

Scott: I see.

Mindy: Okay, I was going to ask how do you access the water. It is technically a waterfront lot and that it has.

Mr. PoP: Yes.

Mindy: Boating access.

Mr. PoP: Yes.

Mindy: Okay so what did you pay for this saltwater lot?

Mrs. PoP: About $80 grand.

Mr. PoP: Yes.

Mindy: What do you think it’s currently valued at?

Mrs. PoP: Our guess is right now probably a little under two.

Mindy: Okay.

Mrs. PoP: There have been some that sold in that range and right now some are asking closer to three and they’re not getting it so there are lots that don’t turn over very often, but when they do four-story McMansions go up so.

Mr. PoP: Yes.

Mrs. PoP: People are kind of willing to pay a little bit of money for them.

Mr. PoP: Yes and the reason why we bought that at the same time, that was after we bought our first duplex so we had a little more money to invest. We thought well we could either buy another duplex or we can buy the saltwater lot and we kind of went back and forth. I was pretty sick of mowing the lawn at the duplex at that point.

Mrs. PoP: We were also pooped.

Mr. PoP: Yes.

Mrs. PoP: Of remodeling.

Mr. PoP: We did a little bit of remodeling with the duplex. We said well let’s just do the lot. I don’t know. It’s probably not going to be as good of an investment as the duplex. We thought it was going to be better, but honestly a couple of reasons, a couple of things have happened with the local economy and the local school. The college has expanded really really rapidly near our duplex so rents are strong and the valuations on that have went up faster than we expected.

Scott: Let’s talk about those, that primary residence and duplex then. How did you get into those two properties?

Mrs. PoP: Our house, Mr PoP, he went and he vacationed in Mexico because like we said freedom, and he really enjoys freedom so he went on a couple month vacation in Mexico and he was like keep looking for houses while I’m gone and let me know if you find anything. About a week before I was supposed to fly down there for us to elope because that’s where we eloped. I went to see two houses with a realtor that we knew and trusted. One was on the beach which was thought where we thought we wanted to end up because that you know the cachet it sounds nice right.

I live on the beach even though it wasn’t beachfront it was still on the island they call the beach. Then I saw this other one that’s a couple miles inland and didn’t expect to like it, but fell in love. Fell in love with the neighborhood. Fell in love with the size of the house. It’s small, but none too small. It had a Lakeview out the back. The only downside was that it had a pool and we didn’t really want a pool so.

Mr. PoP: Yes it is so the criteria for that house I mean smallest house, nicest neighborhood we could afford. We really took that to heart. I think it’s 1100 square feet, single car garage. That’s why I’m doomed to ever having a second car or anything like that, but it has been a really good house for us.

When you buy a small house like that, the rest of your expenses tend to be lower as well. If you do rehab it, it’s going to be less square footage to rehab. Your heating bills are is going to be lower. Your cooling bills are always going to be lower and you can’t fit that much stuff in a smaller house. It was a good decision for us and the location was really good.

Scott: Awesome I think those are all really good points like you have a nice big house, you have to fill it with nice big things and.

Mr. PoP: Yes.

Mrs. PoP: Yes.

Mr. PoP: Pretty much so that’s been a good, that’s been a good choice for us.

Mrs. PoP: Yes and we’ve really, we’ve done remodeling, but we haven’t really expanded the footprint.

Mr. PoP: Yes. Yes.

Scott: This was not really an investment. This was an affordable way to live in a nice house, but not something intended to produce investment income for your portfolio.

Mrs. PoP: Yes, initially when we had gone house shopping the first one we put an offer in was a triplex. We didn’t end up getting it. It was going to be about a mile away from our house where it ended up so we knew the town, we knew the general area. The triplex was similar to, I call it similar to what we ended up with. It sold for in the 170s range and that was above what we thought our price point was, but it was a very similar size house on top, 1100 square feet with two units on the bottom. One was a studio and one was a 1 – 1. We didn’t end up getting that, but we did end up with an 1100 square foot on a lake. The other one was on a lake too and we ended up with two rental units in our duplex so.

Mr. PoP: Yes.

Mrs. PoP: Together we bought.

Mr. PoP: Pretty close.

Mrs. PoP: The duplex.

Mr. PoP: Yes.

Mrs. PoP: And our house for about $181 which is about $10 grand more than what we would’ve gotten, but we spread the purchases over about a year and half which gave us more stability in getting into them and feeling comfortable with them financially and we also don’t have to live on top of our renters.

Mr. PoP: Yes, I mean it all kind of fits together because by minimizing our housing expenses then we’re basically putting that money into different kinds of investments. One hand definitely shakes the other.

Mindy: Okay so you said that the triplex was going to be $171. How much did you pay for your primary residence and how much was your duplex?

Mrs. PoP: Yes so our primary residence was $131 and Our duplex was $50,000.

Mr. PoP: Yes. Yes, nice.

Mrs. PoP: In hindsight we should have done everything we could to buy like as many of those as we could, but we didn’t.

Mr. PoP: Yes, it was weird we were against basically. We were leveraged as far as we were comfortable with.

Mrs. PoP: Yes.

Mr. PoP: I think we did a good thing there, but after having an experience like that it kind of turns you into a vulture investor because you’re like I made little bit of money back then, but man if this thing happens again. If you know the world stop spinning again I will just be able to make a killing this time. It kind of changes your investing mindset.

Mindy: Yes so I want to go back and just repeat what you said. You are leveraged as far as you were comfortable with.

Mr. PoP: Yes.

Mindy: There are so many stories that I hear about people especially from this timeframe who lost everything because they were leveraged to the hilt and then when it came time to pay their mortgages. They couldn’t do it because they had nothing in. You know there was no breathing room so when they needed breathing room they just choked.

Mrs. PoP: Yes.

Mr. PoP: Yes.

Mrs. PoP: I think living where we lived, we saw it firsthand you know.

Mr. PoP: It was absolutely brutal.

Mrs. PoP: It was brutal.

Mindy: Yes.

Mr. PoP: I mean you would see at the end of every single month there would be huge, basically everybody’s belongings would be on the street corner because people were getting evicted. People were having to move out of the rental unit because the actual owner was getting evicted. People lost their jobs. Anybody in the construction industry, everything just stopped. It was very very impactful to us and so when I say we were leveraged as far as we thought we wanted to be at what we were comfortable with we paid off the $50K loan within 18 months.

Mrs. PoP: Yes, 18 to 24 months something like that. I mean there were so many foreclosures that banks weren’t securing them properly. There were squatters. I mean realtors weren’t even meeting you out at these properties.

Mr. PoP: Our realtor was like okay you guys just go ahead and check out the house. That backdoor’s probably broken into by this point and let me know if you’re interested in putting in an offer. That’s what we did. We would just like I would yell, “Hey Taxman. Anybody home?” To make sure there was no squatters in the place before going in. Like it was really really. It was like that.

Mrs. PoP: Seeing all of that firsthand we never wanted to over extend.

Mr. PoP: Yes.

Mindy: What sort of leverage did you have? Did you put 20% down on your house or did you put more than 20% down on your primary residence?

Mrs. PoP: We put 20% down on our house and then in order to get the duplex we actually, traditional financing wasn’t moving fast enough at that point. We were very lucky that Mr. PoP’s parents had enough money that they could loan us $50,000. They loaned us $50,000. We actually drew up a note. It had a balloon payment, and interest due every six months.

It was a fair interest rate. It was about the same as what we were paying on our primary mortgage at the time, 5% and after we bought the duplex in order to get the lot about a year later we did a cash out refi on the duplex. We pulled out another about $40,000 and used additional cash that we accumulated to get the lot. At Our maximum debt we had our mortgage.

We had a $50,000 loan to Mr. PoP’s parents and we had about a $40,000 home equity line of credit against the duplex. That for us was a lot of debt. It was over $200,000 worth of debt and so at that point, at that high point that was around when we really started working together financially and that was around when that Hawaii trip was. Within a year and a half from that Hawaii trip we had paid off the HELOC that was our first priority because it had the highest interest rate. The second priority was the loan to his parents because owing family is hard even though they never held it over us and we just didn’t want it to be weird at all so we paid it off as soon as we could.

Mr. PoP: Yes, I don’t regret borrowing money from family and we did pay them a fair interest rate . You know a guaranteed five and half percent back in 2012. Things were still pretty shaky back then. Nobody knew which way the market was going or anything so it worked out for both parties. I’m glad I did it and I’m glad I paid it off rapidly.

Scott: How did you get a HELOC on the property if it already had this debt against it?

Mrs. PoP: The $50,000 note, dollar note wasn’t recorded against the land technically it was just a personal note.

Mindy: Oh nice.

Mrs. PoP: Yes.

Mr. PoP: Yes.

Mrs. PoP: That was how we were able to get the HELOC against the duplex in order to get enough cash to buy the lot.

Mindy: Okay so is that does that encompass all of your real estate holdings? Is that your real estate portfolio?

Mr. PoP: Yes, that’s it.

Mindy: Okay.

Mr. PoP: Yes, that’s it. we haven’t bought anything since 2011.

Mrs. PoP: 2012, the lot. No you’re right 2011. Oh man.

Mr. PoP: 2011 in southwest Florida. It has just been on a very very fast trajectory. I love the demographics of the area, but we’ve been you know concentrating basically on our jobs and just socking it away into the market.

Mindy: Okay so I heard Mrs. PoP say index funds. Do you have any individual stocks or is it all in index funds?

Mrs. PoP: We have three shares of Berkshire Hathaway.

Mr. PoP: Yes.

Mrs. PoP: That is more than enough to enable us to go to the annual meeting every year, which is something we’ve been doing for several years now and really enjoy.

Mr. PoP: Yes.

Mrs. PoP: That’s the only individual stock we hold. Other than that it’s just index funds.

Mr. PoP: That probably says a lot about our investing styles and how we pursue the whole Fi thing guys. I mean we just have made things as boring as possible. If things are simple then it’s much easier to achieve. We don’t try to over complicate it.

That means we have you know frees up headspace for other stuff like reading books and listening to music and traveling around. I mean you really do have a limited amount of headspace. I was listening to Jay O’Collins on your show and he said that investing was one of the few things that where you don’t work as hard the results are better. It’s probably the only thing in the world that I think that’s the case so when I see something like that I’ll definitely take the easy path on that.

Scott: I think it’s a great philosophy and I think that what it does is it allows you particular Mr. PoP to spend your time at work maximizing your income and focus most of your professional effort there where they actually can produce big results for you in terms of sales. Is that fair?

Mr. PoP: Yes, that’s 100% like when I was a sales dog it’s an all encompassing sort of role. You are in it to win it. You know the rewards are going to be outsized if you really nail it so yes it does definitely pay to spend that extra time and energy on your job in that case.

Mindy: Okay so would you like to correct Scott. He said this gives you more time to focus on your work.

Mrs. PoP: Oh well.

Mr. PoP: What’s that oh no?

Mindy: No, would you like to correct Scott?

Mr. PoP: Oh he’s a great guy. What?

Mindy: No, no, he just said that you can now focus more on your work. What have you been doing lately?

Mrs. PoP: You don’t have work anymore dummy.

Mr. PoP: Oh yes, I quit a month ago.

Scott: I see where this is going.

Mr. PoP: We didn’t cover that. Yes, I don’t work anymore.

Mrs. PoP: Mr. Pop quit his job about a month ago and he’s very happy.

Mr. PoP: Yes, I quit my job about a month ago.

Mrs. PoP: He’s very relaxed.

Mindy: Yay.

Mr. PoP: Yes.

Mindy: Yes, Scott. Scott said that leaves you more time to focus on work. I’m like no. He doesn’t have a job.

Scott: Well so does that mean that you hit your $300,000 savings number?

Mrs. PoP: We actually hit that.

Mr. PoP: Yes.

Mrs. PoP: About 2014 and at that point I of course I’m the numbers geek. I ran a spreadsheet and I was like wait a second baby if we keep doing this for I don’t know three or four more your years it could be just boat for a couple years. We could be like on a boat forever what do you think?

Mr. PoP: Yes, that was a pretty easy sell.

Mrs. PoP: Yes.

Mr. PoP: Basically we figured out pretty rapidly. We did the 4% rule. You know we became part of that Fi community. We hit that $300,000 back in I don’t know 2013 – 2014.

Mrs. PoP: Probably 2014, yes.

Mr. PoP: A long time ago and basically we’re set for life now. It’s not that we’re never going to work again. I am going to continue to build stuff and some of it is going to make money, but I just don’t have to be a slave to my job the way it was.

Scott: That’s awesome congratulations.

Mrs. PoP: Did you hear that they said they’re set for life.

Scott: Oh yes.

Mr. PoP: Well thank you. Oh set for life. Set for life.

Scott: What a plug.

Mr. PoP: That’s good book.

Scott: Okay so you bought these three piece of real estate, but then seems like really your journey was more influenced by just career, savings, and investing in index funds to kind of finish it out for the last five – six years.

Mr. PoP: Oh we’ve seen good appreciation so the duplex we bought for $50. It’s probably up around anywhere from $2 – $225 now.

Scott: Oh wow.

Mr. PoP: The lot is up to maybe I don’t know.

Mrs. PoP: High hundreds.

Mrs. PoP: High hundreds yes.

Mrs. PoP: Yes.

Mr. PoP: The house itself I mean we count all this in the net worth. We bought the house for $140 or something like that.

Mrs. PoP: $131. Yes.

Mr. PoP: $131. It’s probably up to $300 now so you know that’s a significant portion of our net worth, but above and beyond that you know it’s like I tell everybody it’s about your savings right. It’s about your savings right point-blank. It’s not about the amount of money you make. It’s about that savings rate so.

Mindy: Okay so let’s look at your housing costs right now. You have a fairly low mortgage so I am assuming you also have a low mortgage payment. What does your duplex bring in versus what are you spending for? Do you have any mortgage on the duplex anymore?

Mrs. PoP: No, no we don’t have any mortgage on the duplex.

Mindy: Okay so does the duplex rent cover your own mortgage?

Mrs. PoP: Actually yes I never looked at it that way.

Mr. PoP: Yes.

Mrs. PoP: It does. Yes, okay.

Mindy: Then so then that’s like that’s kind of a wash.

Scott: Yes, it’s great.

Mindy: Then you’re just working to pay your bills.

Mr. PoP: Yes, I mean it. Here’s the thing. I mean I’m there’s a bunch of different ways to do this math and God knows we have a monster spreadsheet that nobody wants to get into.

Mrs. PoP: I can share it with you, Mindy.

Mr. PoP: That we can.

Mrs. PoP: If you want sometimes.

Mr. PoP: Yes, it’s a really cool spreadsheet, but there’s so many different ways to calculate what is pretty simple, just the 4% rule. Bottom line you know our assets are such that we’re living off of about 4% and that’s what it is so yes.

Mindy: You know I’m glad you said that because it is so simple. You look at this 4% rule or the Trinity study, which is basically the same thing.

Mr. PoP: Yes.

Mindy: It’s not that hard. You think you need $10 million to retire and you might if you spend I don’t know do the math really quick, Mrs. PoP.

Mrs. PoP: $400,000 a year.

Mindy: If you spend $400,000 a year then you do need $10 million to retire, but that’s also I mean if you’re spending $400,000 lets sure hope that you’re making more than $400,000 so it’s still achievable no matter how much you’re spending. You just need to multiply it by 25 times.

Mr. PoP: The other thing is I can probably have a lot more fun on a hundred thousand dollars per year than they are at $400,000 per year. I bet.

Scott: Did you, I assume that since you guys are spreadsheet folks did you like model this out a few years ago and were you able to beat your forecast in terms of reaching your $300,000 number and then Fi.

Mrs. PoP: Yes so I modeled it out and basically we beat it on several different measures. We beat it on income. We beat it on market returns because market returns have been higher and we beat it on real estate returns although those aren’t really part of our kind of cash flowy model that I have for our early retirement spreadsheet, but when we started beating it by so much on income we kind of lose in pursestrings a little bit and we did two big spend items the last few years of our financial journey that if we were like strictly racing to the finish line we wouldn’t have. We did a giant home remodel where we modernized our 1985 house and made it look not so 1985. We spent about $30 grand doing that and Mr. PoP got the car of his dreams a little more than a year ago. That was also in the same order of magnitude there.

Mr. PoP: Yes, that was like $40,000. I think, yes go ahead.

Mindy: What kind of car is your car of dreams?

Mr. PoP: It’s the official car of the frugal Fi community. It’s an Acura SNX.

Scott: Oh my gosh.

Mr. PoP: From 1982.

Mrs. PoP: It’s in 1992 Honda. It’s totally frugal.

Mr. PoP: Everybody that I tell will be like I drive I ‘92 Honda why?

Scott: Mindy also has one of these.

Mindy: I have a ‘91 Honda.

Mr. PoP: I’ve heard. I’ve heard. Yes ‘91 Honda. Yes.

Mindy: I took a picture of the dashboard for somebody. I was playing a joke on someone and they’re like oh that’s so cool. You have a tape deck in your car. I’m like yes it’s not a frugal car.

Mr. PoP: Yes, yes. It’s funny. I think that so part of the psychology something you mentioned Scott that I want to go back to. Part of the psychology of this is this is a marathon.

It’s not a sprint right and there’s going to be times where you don’t achieve your goals. A little bit of luck at our back and some hard work and we hit a bunch of our metrics early, but it’s we didn’t always hit all of our metrics earlier. We did have some setbacks and stuff like that. It’s really really important especially when you’re starting out to not judge yourself harshly about that because nobody’s perfect and you’re going to have to be in this thing for a while so when somebody is like, “Hey how do I get started with this? Do I need a budget? Do I need this? Do I need that?”

The first thing I tell them is don’t put a budget in place until you just track your spends, track your expenses for a number of months. Just track it. Don’t judge yourself. Don’t judge your significant other. Just figure out what you’re spending because combined with the goal in your head that you have.

You know get in a boat, never work again, whatever it might be. Your spending is going to lower automatically so I say don’t put a budget together right away. Just figure out how much you spend and you start to adjust your spending to get to your goals fairly quickly so be prepared with the for what happens when you don’t hit all of your numbers.

Scott: I think that’s fantastic advice and I think, but I was kind of getting that with asking you guys about your forecast. Whether you beat it or not is yes there’s challenges and setbacks on there, but it also seems that a remarkable number of people set these plans to move towards Fi and then once they get up – once you see people starting to hit that 30% – 40% – 50% savings rate. There seems to be a tendency to far exceed the expectations that you model out because people begin getting lucky. They can take an entrepreneurial challenge or in your case go get that job that might pay a lot of money. It might pay nothing.

Mr. PoP: Yes. Yes.

Scott: It works out or an investment might take off in a way that was unexpected. It seems like that’s like what you guys did is you guys put in your model. You modeled out conservatively and then you were able to have luck and opportunity present themselves in such a way to accelerate your progress far faster than you planned.

Mrs. PoP: It also allowed us to not feel the need to blow it out of the water. We had the model and even under the model we were working like four – fourish more years. That’s not that long. Like it’s just not. Four years versus 40 I’m sorry it’s just not that long.

Mr. PoP: Yes.

Mrs. PoP: When we had this conservative model when Mr. PoP was like well do I need to go management track? Management track at his company it was terrible. It was so stressful I didn’t want him there. He didn’t want to be there and so yes he could have made 50 or 60 grand more a year if he had gone to management track, but together we looked at it and said we don’t need that. It’s going to max cut a year off of this. It’s not worth it to have three miserable years.

Mr. PoP: Yes.

Mrs. PoP: Versus we know what we’re doing now can keep us pretty happy.

Mr. PoP: Yes.

Mrs. PoP: It’s only four years.

Mr. PoP: It’s weird because the 30% – 40% – 50% savings rate Scott like it’s beneficial immediately like even if you are not in the place of quitting your job. Just having the extra money in your back pocket and knowing that if you lose one income who cares. If you lose two incomes who cares because you can survive for however long on what you have. It starts paying dividends really really quickly.

Scott: Oh I love it. That’s like my kind of the way I think about money or at least especially starting out is in terms of this runway of how long you can last without money and the goal is to get it infinite right before just Fi.

Mr. PoP: Oh yes. Yes.

Scott: When you get to that savings rate and especially the way you guys were doing it I mean that was just the amount of time you could survive without an income just probably skyrocketed over every month so.

Mr. PoP: Yes. Yes.

Mrs. PoP: Yes.

Mr. PoP: No, you’re right.

Mindy: Where are you headed? Mrs. PoP used to work, do you have an end timeframe? You have like a quitting date or I mean not everybody hates their job. I really like mine. I’m not quitting anytime soon.

Mrs. PoP: I like my job, but I am not averse to making demands for more flexibility. As you Mindy know I made a kind of demand to my boss this spring where I said I’m going to work remote in Colorado this summer. How do you feel about that? It wasn’t really a question so don’t get too surprised if I start doing a lot more of that or just ask to move to a consulting world because if they want to throw some money at me to work for them a couple of days a month, 10 days a month, I’m cool with that.

Mr. PoP: Yes, I think that look work is I think work is part of human nature. If you have what it takes to put together you know one point however many million dollars you’re probably not the kind of person who’s just going to do nothing for the rest of their life and there are some really good office jobs out there. There’s some really good super flexible jobs out there, entrepreneurial stuff and there’s all kinds of interesting things to do you know Fi or Fu. It just means that you don’t have to do any one thing.

Scott: Love it and that benefit as you were mentioning that comes immediately after you make these changes and start saving money right because that flex—up the option to ask for those things comes up like.

Mr. PoP: Yes.

Scott: Suppose the things are really bad and really inflexible for you could have made that demand and then gone to the next job.

Mr. PoP: Yes.

Mrs. PoP: Totally.

Scott: At a slightly lower rate and gotten that benefit even sooner, but I mean.

Mr. PoP: At some point I did do that so in my career I started on sales and I didn’t stay there. I did it for four years and then I jumped into sales training. Basically, it was the same pay for a much much better job. I didn’t have to keep chasing the dollar signs all the way up. I could basically kind I don’t know. It wasn’t like I was taking time off my job, but certainly moving into something that was much more relaxing because I already had you know a lot of money at my back.

Scott: Love it. Anything else that we should be asking you about prior to moving into the Famous Four?

Mr. PoP: I don’t think. No you guys covered it. Nailed it.

Mindy: Okay.

Scott: Awesome.

Hey everybody I’m really sorry to interrupt the podcast, but I have news that I cannot wait to share. We have just added a significant amount of perks to our Pro membership. We’ve negotiated discounts for a variety of services including various discounts on closing costs from several lenders, monthly savings on land lording tools and even a discount for converting your retirement account to a way to fund your real estate investments check out these perks at BiggerPockets.com/Perks/Pro and we’re not done. We’re negotiating even more discounts to make the Pro membership even more valuable to you.

Well this is new Famous Four. These are the same four questions that we ask every single guest.  There’s actually five.

Mr. PoP: Okay.

Mindy: Because that’s how you make a Famous Four. The first question is what is your favorite finance book?

Mrs. PoP: We’ve got to do a little bit of a shout out to Mr. PoP’s mom. On the blog we call her Mama PoP.

Scott: Yes.

Mrs. PoP: She is our lovely mother-in-law, but in our junior year of college we had been dating for like a month or two at that point and I see Mr. PoP sitting there on his bed reading Millionaire Next Door. I’m like what’s that? He’s like it’s actually a really good book. You should read it after me and I did and.

Mr. PoP: This is what dating was like for us by the way. Hey do you want to.

Mrs. PoP: This is our first date.

Mr. PoP: You should check out this book.

Scott: I can relate.

Mrs. PoP: I can relate.

Mr. PoP: Yes, yes seriously. Shout out to mom hi mom. Thanks for everything, but yes she gave me that book millionaire next door and it’s almost it’s like a quaint book now because there’s such better stuff out there around Fi. It was the first book to show that regular people could save large sums of money and I think wealth didn’t look like what people thought it looked like right.

The millionaires that were described in that book, they were people who drove older cars. They were people who were wearing you know regular clothes. They were people who you know you didn’t have to be a famous actor. You didn’t have to be a famous athlete or you know personality or whatever. You could do this. Anybody could do this and I think that was something that I really took to heart.

Mrs. PoP: Yes.

Mindy: That’s a great book.

Mr. PoP: Yes, it really is.

Scott: Yes with data-driven approach and a lot of great anecdotes with I don’t know, a lot of at that time surprising findings. I guess they’re not surprising to us.

Mr. PoP: Yes in the Fi community now a days, but.

Mindy: Now that you’ve got the book.

Mindy: 20 years later.

Mr. PoP: 20 years later yes. I think that his daughter is coming out with another one. I think that he passed away five or six years ago, but I think his daughter is still publishing content in that vein. I think she’s coming out with a new one soon. I could be wrong though.

Mindy: Ooh that would be interesting.

Scott: Awesome.

Mr. PoP: Yes, it will be.

Scott: Alright what was your biggest money mistake?

Mr. PoP: Cars. Any one of the cars that I have owned would qualify as my biggest money mistake taken as a body of work they are incredibly destructive to wealth. I mean it’s just there is no.

Mrs. PoP: He does love them though.

Mr. PoP: I absolutely love them. Yes, there’s no cheap way to own the kind of cars that I like and that’s kind of one of those things that I probably will continue to bring in money to pursue my passions and I think the vehicles are going to be one of the passions, but yes, that’s probably mine.

Scott: It sounds like you made your recent purchase from a position of financial strength there so.

Mr. PoP: I totally did yes. It was really really difficult because drawing out $40,000 to spend on what’s probably going to be a depreciating asset. That’s everything that we did not do. Yes, Mindy is shaking her head because owns the same kind of car.

Mindy: You know what’s going on. That’s just that one car.

Mr. PoP: Yes yes okay. It was really really tough for me to do and what I thought was actually about my great uncle who always wanted a Mercedes Gullwing the one they had back in the ‘50s. He basically put that purchase off and put that purchase off and put that purchase off until he was actually too old to get in one. That’s finally why he didn’t buy it. I thought man, he regretted that until the day that he passed away. I’m not going to let that happen to me so so yes. I got it. Certainly no no regrets.

Mrs. PoP: Yes.

Scott: I’m not a car person. I’m a bike person so I get the difference between like a good bike and a not so good bike.

Mr. PoP: Yes.

Scott: It’s very different in rideability.

Mr. PoP: Yes.

Scott: What is so great about an NSX that makes it so popular amongst I don’t know at least the people that I associate with.

Mindy: They’re so beautiful.

Mr. PoP: I was going to say there’s one in the parking lot. You can go in a ride in it. Yes, Scott. It’s a car.

Mindy: Yes, I drove mine in today.

Mr. PoP: It’s a car that Honda created to beat Ferrari to beat Lamborghini to beat companies like that and he did. For a company like Honda that everybody thinks of as oh he make your nice reliable civics to kind of upend the automotive world. It was really really impressive. The engineering, way ahead of its time.

There are some really famous phrase personalities that are associated with it and for me what finally did it was the group of people that owned them tend to be really really down to earth cool people. I looked at the Porsche forums and it was weird. I looked at a lot of different cars, but I kind of fit into into the group too and I think it’s part of what did it for me.

Mindy: I think it’s all a bunch of people my age who saw them in high school and is like I want to own that so bad.

Mr. PoP: Yes.

Mindy: Yes. They started off at like $60,000 so you could get into the supercar at like an almost normal price. I’ll take you for a drive. You’ll figure it out.

Mr. PoP: Yes.

Mrs. PoP: It also helps that for non-drivers at low RPM Scott they drive like a Civic. I drive more like a granny in the low RPMs and they are not very hard to drive at all.

Scott: Oh so I would enjoy it.

Mrs. PoP: Yes.

Mr. PoP: Absolutely. Oh good good. Have Mindy take you for a ride.

Mindy: Can you drive a stick?

Scott: No.

Mindy: Okay then I will be the driver.

Scott: I’m a millennial I don’t drive stick.

Mr. PoP: You could probably learn.

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

Mrs. PoP: I would say find the partner who and this is a little hard to say as opposed to spell out. Find someone who complements you and doesn’t complement you. Complements like flattery that’s awesome. What you really want is someone who is complementary who fills in your gaps. Who is good where you’re not. Whose strengths are your weaknesses. That I think is that’s the best part about our partnership. He’s good when I’m not.

Mr. PoP: Yes, and vice versa. I think for me so for people who don’t have the engineering type of mind. They’re not going to become computer coders. I mentioned this earlier sales. It was absolutely a lifesaver for me and I think just again when you’re starting out just track your income. Don’t beat yourself up if you blow a budget or something like that. This is a marathon so just concentrate on the tracking and kind of everything else follows from there.

Scott: I love that. We keep hearing budgeting and tracking your income, but I really think that tracking your income is the one take away like if you’re just starting and you haven’t done.

Mr. PoP: Yes.

Scott: Like that comes up so frequently. We hear it almost every week in some capacity or another. The budget not you know optional. Some people live by budgets. Some people like I don’t have a budget, but I track my spending.

Mr. PoP: Yes.

Scott: You can’t even begin moving in the right direction if you don’t know where your dollars are going.

Mr. PoP: This thing has to be fun. Like you have to enjoy the ride even if you really really double down on this it’s going to take you at least five years to achieve kind of ERE, early retirement extreme type lifestyle. Five years is way too long to be miserable. You have to maintain, you have to be happy. You absolutely have to be happy and like fighting a budget every single month it just would have driven both of us nuts, but the tracking was really really useful.

Mindy: Yes, no that is absolutely correct and I don’t have a budget either, but by tracking my spending I can see you know if I’m starting to veer off course. Oh I guess I shouldn’t go my huge one is going to the grocery store so I guess I just shouldn’t go to the grocery store for a while. We are going to shop out of the pantry and eat out of the pantry until we get that back on track and it’s you know.

Mr. PoP: Yes.

Mindy: Even if you’re not budgeting you’re still tracking it and that’s nobody knows where their money is going I mean unless you have some sort of.

Mr. PoP: Yes.

Mindy: Savant brain and even then you cannot remember every single purchase and.

Mrs. PoP: Mindy not to interrupt in this day and age there’s no there’s almost no excuse not to track because you’ve got things like minute. You’ve got things like personal capital. A colleague of mine in 2008 was like hey there’s this cool thing called Mint. You should check it out.

Mr. PoP: Mint had already been out to for years at that point.

Mrs. PoP: No, it would have been out for. It was still in beta.

Mr. PoP: Was it? Okay.

Mrs. PoP: Yes, it was late beta, but I mean like we have had. We had a 10 plus year history of our spending on Mint because it’s just a no brainer.

Mr. PoP: I think well it might be a no-brainer, but I could see why people would be afraid to and that’s why I say hey that’s kind of like a judgment free zone right. Do not judge yourself around what you see at first because if you judge yourself it’s going to cause you know mental angst basically. Blah I don’t like this Fi thing. I don’t like the frugality thing. Lay off it. Make sure your partner lays off it too because that kind of stuff makes the overall path much harder to much harder to follow.
Mrs. PoP: Yes.

Mindy: Yes, that’s some new advice that we haven’t heard yet on the show is don’t judge yourself. That’s I think that’s a really great piece of advice. I’ve never not said. I’ve never said not to judge yourself. I have always recommended to judge herself very hard. You know, but you can still look at your spending and ask yourself does this align with my values? Is spending all of this money at the grocery store, the gas station or wherever it’s going.

Mr. PoP: Yes.

Mindy: Is that going to get me to the Fi path that I so desperately want? Yes it is. No, it’s not. I need to spend the gas money because I have to go into work. Okay well maybe I can move closer. Maybe I can ride my bike or maybe I can carpool or there’s a lot of ways around this, but if you don’t know where it’s going how can you fix it?

Mr. PoP: Yes you know did that spent dollar bring me happiness? Right and I think that’s where your money or your life kind of thing, but basically until you know where your dollars are being spent on you’re never able to ask yourself that question.

Scott: Yes, I love what you just said Mrs. PoP as well just that there’s no excuse. It’s so easy. You just literally plug into Mint and every dollar like I don’t spend that much cash, but when I do I list it in like the fun or other category of my budget over all.

Mrs. PoP: Yes.

Scott: It’s just every expense is tracked except for maybe a hundred dollars every couple of months when I pull out cash so.

Mrs. PoP: I mean it also gets smarter the more you use it. Like you know you’re like oh you’re writing a check for this amount every month. Like do you always want to categorize that as this? Why yes I do. It’s the exact same check I write every month. Please take care of that mental space for me.

Scott: Yes.

Mindy: Yes and Mr. PoP mentioned that not everybody wants to put all of their financial information into the Internet because maybe somebody could take it whatever. You can do this on a piece of paper. I have a notebook. Right on my island right as I walk in the door because that visual is what I need to remind me to write down all of my purchases. I saved all my receipts. I stack them up and I don’t go more than two days without writing it down because if I do then I get you know oh two days now it’s three days. Now it’s a month. Now it’s and I’ve forgotten to track my spending for a while.

Mrs. PoP: Yes.

Mr. PoP: Yes.

Mrs. PoP: To someone who’s desperately afraid of not wanting to put it into some sort of Internet cloud-based system so I have done a lot of research on security in the past. We have very secure passwords, but it is something I’m cognizant enough, but I also know I am so much more likely to catch fraud if I got all of my accounts in one spot where I can check them regularly.

Mr. PoP: Yes, that’s a great point.

Mrs. PoP: Like.

Mindy: That’s a huge point.

Mrs. PoP: If have to sign into each of them individually I might not look at one account for I don’t know a month until I do or you know monthly updates at the end of the month and the fraud could have been sitting there the whole time. Whereas if it’s in Mint I can pull it up on my phone and I’m usually in Mint you know a couple times a week when I have a minute just making sure everything is getting categorized correctly so I’ll catch it like that. Instead of letting it go for as much as a month or more.

Mindy: Well let me validate your point. My husband actually does go into mint every single day and. Well you’ve met him.

Scott: I do too. I go into Mint every single day.

Mr. PoP: Yes. Yes.

Mindy: Okay then I won’t make fun of him.

Scott: Yes.

Mindy: He goes in every single day and one day he’s in there. He’s like did you put an ad in Auto Trader? I’m like really?

Mr. PoP: Oh wow.

Mrs. PoP: Yes.

Mindy: No, I didn’t put an ad in Auto Trader. He calls up. Somebody had somehow acquired our credit card number. You just cancel it and there’s one fraudulent charge. There is not 100 and yes you are not responsible for credit cards. You know credit card purchases, but somebody has your card they can really make your life difficult.

Scott: Yes.

Mr. PoP: Yes.

Mrs. PoP: Yes.

Mr. PoP: Agree.

Mindy: Then yes then you do pay more attention right after you find the fraud. Okay I’m sorry Scott. Now it’s your favorite question.

Scott: Oh yes my. What’s your favorite joke to tell at parties?

Mrs. PoP: Okay so this isn’t really a party joke. We mentioned a few years ago we did some pretty hard-core renovations on our house and part of that we built all new kitchen cabinets. We actually handcrafted the butcher plot countertop that went into our kitchen and so this was a joke that my colleague he would ask me regularly when we were in the process of building our counter and installing it. He would say, “Were you a counterfeiter this weekend?”

Scott: No because we have Mint.

Mr. PoP: Boo. DIY. DIY.

Mrs. PoP: Yes.

Mr. PoP: Yes.

Mrs. PoP: Yes.

Scott: I liked it.

Mr. PoP: There you go.

Scott: It’s an accounting and finance joke. I assume that your colleague is an accounting and finance person.

Mindy: No, it’s a countertop joke.

Mrs. PoP: Yes. It’s also a counter top joke.

Mr. PoP: Have you fit your countertop?

Mrs. PoP: Have you fit your countertop?

Mindy: It’s a counterfeiter. Okay.

Mrs. PoP: Yes.

Mindy: Okay, I didn’t get that accounting part.

Scott: Like counterfeit.

Mrs. PoP: It was both.

Mr. PoP: It was both. One above.

Mindy: Okay where can people find out more about you MrandMrsPlantingOurPennies.com.

Mr. PoP: Nailed it.

Mrs. PoP: Exactly. That would be the spot to go to.

Mr. PoP: Yes, www.PlantingOurPennies.com. There is if anybody wants to go there I think that they should probably check out our income and balance sheet reports because it really just tells the story for five – seven years now.

Mrs. PoP: Yes, since 2012 we.

Mr. PoP: Yes.

Mrs. PoP: Have basically published monthly income and balance sheet statements on our blog. It kind of just shows what we were earning, spending, and how our investments were growing over our entire financial independence trajectory.

Mr. PoP: If somebody just needs to see how this is actually done, that’s probably a good place to send them.

Mindy: Yes, seven years is a really great chunk of time.

Scott: Yes, I think it’s great and I think that one of the things that’s so nice about you know most of the people that we interview are not anonymous on the show they’re you know. With you guys.

Mr. PoP: Yes.

Scott: You guys because you’re anonymous I presume you’re able to share it all of this right down to the details so people can dive in and see those numbers.

Mrs. PoP: Yes, if we hadn’t been anonymous we would not have had that comfort level with putting these numbers out there because I mean.

Mr. PoP: This was still a weird thing.

Mrs. PoP: Yes.

Mr. PoP: Like the whole Fi concept is way more popular in 10 years. I hope everybody is knowledgeable about it and it’s a part of many people’s lives, but when we started it was really really strange. It’s more popular now and it just wasn’t something that I wanted to worry about. You know is my boss going to maybe not give me as good of a lead set because I don’t have a lot of money. Do they wonder if I’m hungry as I was? I just didn’t want to have worry about those questions.

Scott: Yes.

Mindy: You know another reason that people blog anonymously is because they don’t want people asking them for money. Mr. Waffles on Wednesday when he won that car on the Price is Right somebody asked him if they could have it. He’s like well.

Mrs. PoP: Are you serious?

Mindy: I just won this. I didn’t win it to give to you. Like why would you even ask that?

Mr. PoP: That’s good.

Mindy: That was like. That was this one instance.

Scott: Yes I just you know and even without that like hey you guys have put in years and years of hard work to build what I presume is a 1 million plus-ish portfolio like that’s yours. You did that to achieve your dreams and live your dream life and enjoy your early retirement and quit your job four weeks ago. That’s and it’s not like this was like a bunch of luck or a bunch of good you know this was.

Mr. PoP: Yes.

Scott: Eight years.

Mrs. PoP: We did have some luck though.

Mr. PoP: I was going to say there’s always some luck in there yes.

Mrs. PoP: Yes.

Scott: Everyone has everyone has luck, but it’s not just like you were handed this. This was a you know.

Mr. PoP: Yes.

Scott: Largely driven by career success and savings rate and.

Mr. PoP: Yes. Good.

Scott: I think that there’s yes that there’s a good reason not to necessarily share all the stuff with the world if you’re not looking to have people asking you to borrow lots of money.

Mr. PoP: Yes.

Mindy: Can I have the car you just won?

Scott: Yes.

Mr. PoP: That’s pretty good.

Mindy: That was so ridiculous. Okay Mr. and Mrs. PoP thank you so much for taking time out of your very busy days of doing nothing now that you’re retired to come down and chat with us. I really appreciate your time.

Mr. PoP: It’s an honor to be here guys. Thank you so much for having us. We really really appreciate it.

Mrs. PoP: Yes, thanks Mindy. Thanks Scott.

Mindy: You’re welcome okay. We’ll see you later.

Mr. PoP: See you.

Mrs. PoP: Bye.

Mindy: Bye.

Scott: All right that was Mr. and Mrs. Planting Our Pennies. Also known as Mr. and Mrs. PoP. short for Planting Our Pennies. No one everyone knows that. That’s okay. I’ll tell you anyways. I thought that was a great show. That was a lot of fun.

Mindy: I thought that was a fantastic show. I love them. They are so nice and fun and they mentioned that they go to the Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting every year. We actually meet them there and have a nice weekend with them just walking around doing all of the crazy Berkshire Hathaway things that they have available. It’s a great weekend in Omaha.

Scott: Yes, they had an extensive I think four year interview process with Mindy prior to coming on this episode of the show.

Mindy: Yes, if you’re interested in being a guest on the BiggerPockets Money podcast it might not take you four years and several trips to Omaha, Nebraska in May to get on this show. You can send me an email at [email protected] and tell me your story.

Scott: Yes, one thing that they talked about in this episode that I want to call attention to before we close out is that they post and have their net worth tracked. I think income and expenses at least on their website. There is a directory, which we will link to in the show notes here BiggerPockets.com/MoneyShow32 over at Rockstar Finance that tracks the net worth of many different bloggers. I think there’s like 450 plus bloggers that regularly post their net worth to the Internet and you can kind of follow their journey.

Why this might be really helpful is go check out Mr. and Mrs. Planting Our Pennies at PlantingOurPennys.com, but also check out this directory because you might be able to find somebody who is in your position or is in a position that’s really relatable to you and see how they kind of got from where you are today to where they are now. You can see this at every stage for basically any financial journey. I think the lowest net worth there is you know $-800,000 in net worth. Two doctors and there’s like $600 or something very. Extremely into debt, yes.

Mindy: I’m scrolling.

Scott: Yes and then there’s a.

Mindy: That’s a lot.

Scott: Somebody with over $10 million in net worth so if you’re in that range you might find some value from this directory.

Mindy: Okay there are 614 as of today there are 614 people who are on this list and they range from $-500,000 at a very aptly named blog Deeply in Debt all the way up to a $12,600,200. I don’t know why they.

Scott: $12.6 million.

Mindy: $12.6 million. Thank you. I don’t know why they put the $200 in there from the wealthy accounted and there’s everything in between. There’s $5 million, $3 million, $1 million. There’s people who are hundred thousandaires and 10,000 aires.

Scott: Yes.

Mindy: There’s people who have negative and I think the negative is really important. If you’re not starting from a position of positive it might be difficult to read the guy who’s got $12 million, but it’s not so difficult to read Burke does. Emily Burke has a $-3,967 net worth. Then there’s the guy with one dollar and positive net worth. Go Frog Dancer from Burning Desire for F1ire.

Scott: Oh I got to check that one out. That’s going to be so fun to watch them go from I presume zero now to positive.

Mindy: Yes so.

Scott: Work.

Mindy: It doesn’t matter where your state is unless your over $500,000 in debt, but I bet you could learn from that anyway. It looks like there’s a huge range of people that you can find to connect with.

Scott: Yes and our goal here on this show is to help you find stories and situations that you can relate so that you can accelerate your progress whether it’s getting out of debt or working towards all out to financial independence and this is a resource that I think will really benefit you if you’re looking to find some folks that you can relate to that maybe went through exactly the same or very closely similar circumstances to what you’re going through right now.

Mindy: Right this is wow. I have not been on this in a really long time. This is fantastic.

Scott: Yes, I just I recalled it earlier when they mentioned that they were tracking their net worth and I thought that call this out as a resource for everyone to check out.

Mindy: Right oh yes and we should also get back to the topic at hand. They tracked their spending for seven years. They have seven years worth of in and out from one person on their website. I think that’s really fantastic and if you want to see what this journey looks like from the beginning to pretty much the end. I mean he has retired. He doesn’t have a job anymore. Go to and we will link to this in the show notes. I’m not exactly sure what their link is. PlantingOurPennies.com.

Scott: Yes, if you want to look up that directory you can just type in Rockstar Finance blogger net worth into Google and you’ll find that. We’ll also link to it in the show notes. The directory is the URL is kind of complicated to read out here online.

Mindy: Yes and we will link to the Planting Our Pennies income statements. Their income and balance sheet for I think they have a big page that lists them all. Awesome okay Scott shall we get out of here?

Scott: Let’s do it.

Mindy: Okay. From episode 32 of the BiggerPockets Money show with Mr. and Mrs. Planting Our Pennies. This is Mindy Jensen over and out.

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In This Episode We Cover:

  • The beginning of Mr. and Mrs. PoP’s money journey
  • How they stumbled across financial independence 
  • The changes they made moving toward financial independence
  • Mr. PoP’s tips for people who want to become successful salespersons
  • Their advice for people who want to move faster and expand their income
  • The paycheck Mr. PoP got
  • Mrs. PoP’s career
  • Investing their income in real estate and index funds
  • The reason they started investing in real estate
  • What saltwater front lot is
  • How they got their properties
  • Their housing costs
  • Modeling out their spreadsheet
  • And SO much more!

Links from the Show

Books Mentioned in this Show

Tweetable Topics:

  • “As soon as you link spending money with happiness, you are going straight downhill and it is not gonna end up well.” (Tweet This!)
  • “If things are simple then it is much easier to achieve.” (Tweet This!)
  • “Don’t judge yourself.” (Tweet This!)

Connect with Mr. and Mrs. PoP

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