BiggerPockets Money Podcast 66: Investing, Freelance, & Morning Routines With Paula Pant

by | BiggerPockets.com

Paula Pant has seen it all and learned a thing or two… thousand. Today, we sit down and chat with her about, well, everything.

Paula shares her habits, her take on journaling, and her morning routine. We delve into her fascinating backstory with money and her foresight to start investing in herself right out of college—when she was only making $21,000/year!

Paula hasn’t stopped since, and her choices have allowed her to lead a pretty spectacular life. For one thing, she discovered freelancing, and learned that it’s possible to generate income outside a W-2 position. Freelancing led to entrepreneurship in the form of a marketing agency, which led to a six-figure income.

But true happiness came when she stepped back from the agency to focus full time on her passion, her website, which she dubbed AffordAnything.com.

No topic is off limits in this candid chat with Paula. We even talk about her now-famous podcast episode where her guest, personal finance guru Suze Orman, had a lot of (not so great) things to say about the FIRE movement.

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Listen to the Podcast Here

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Welcome to the BiggerPockets Money podcast show 66 with Paula Pant from Afford Anything.

‘Because when you are not truly confident about your ability to earn, then even when you are doing well, you kind of think well this success that I am having at the moment, this is just a fluke or this is just momentary. If I could do it over again, I would have just been more confident and the decisions that would have stemmed from that would have reflected it.’

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

Scott: How is it going everybody? I am Scott Trench. I am here with my co-host, Ms. Mindy Jensen. How are you doing today, Mindy?

Mindy: Scott, it is a very chilly day in Denver today but I am doing very well. How are you doing today?

Scott: I am doing great. This is a fantastic interview with Paul Pant who is really one of the superstars I think in the whole financial independence movement in the area. It was a real privilege to get to chat with her today. She has got a great show and a program over at Afford Anything. Definitely encourage you to check that out for another great viewpoint on how they can go about all this stuff and just like a fantastic discussion about frugality, productivity, income.

Mindy: Everything.

Scott: Portfolio management, just like how she thinks about building wealth for herself and managing her financial position and I mean very few mines in the world as honed as hers on this subject I think.

Mindy: I have known Paula for years and we run in the same circles and I have just never had a chance to sit down and talk to her. A couple of weeks ago, FinCon came to Denver and we all went skiing and she was there and I got to talk to her a little bit there and I was really really excited to talk to her today because, like you said, she is one of the big names in this space and she is so smart. She just… Like at the end of the show, I say I learned like 17 things. I learned at least 17 things from Paula and I like to think I am kind of informed on this whole money thing but she is like, here is a tip, here is a tip, here is a tip, here is some more knowledge, here is some great things you could do and she just starts off and goes for, I do not even know how long the show went, but it is amazing. Every minute of it, you got to listen to the whole thing.

Scott: Yes, I think it is fantastic. You will hear, this is the first time you are going to hear about it, our re-branding as Wider Pockets today, April 1st.

Mindy: Oh, you screwed up the introduction. Do you want to do it again? Welcome to the Wider Pocket Money podcast.

Scott: That is right, I should have done that.

Mindy: Welcome WiderPockets Money where we teach you…

Scott: This is the WiderPockets Money podcast show.

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Mindy: Okay, huge thank you to today’s sponsor. Now, without further ado, Paula Pant from Afford Anything. Welcome to the BiggerPockets Money podcast, how are you today?

Paula: I am fantastic. Thank you for inviting me here.

Mindy: I am so happy you are here. How are you doing?

Paula: I am great. It is a good morning. I have this morning routine in which I make a cup of coffee and I write in my journal. I have two different journals, one in which I kind of flow stream of consciousness and the other is a gratitude journal. I start the morning with that and that completely grounds me for the day.

Scott: Well, what are you grateful for today?

Paula: I am grateful for having, this is what I wrote this morning, having a lot of friends. Like last night, we were recording on a Monday morning and last night was Sunday night and I had two different invitations to hang out with friends on a Sunday evening. One was a dinner party and the other was a movie that a bunch of people were going to. Having that, like knowing that I am tapped into a community, I was grateful for that, grateful for coffee, grateful for sunlight, grateful for the fact that business is going well and health. I actually also wrote down for sweatpants. I really like sweatpants. They are comfortable. I mean why would you not be grateful for them?

Mindy: I am also very grateful for coffee every single morning. Sometimes that is like I go to bed, in the morning I can get some coffee.

Paula: My best friend said that one. She told me that she wakes up and the first thoughts that enter her mind is like, I am awake. I could eat toast.

Mindy: I will say that I am not nearly as grateful for toast as I am for coffee. Coffee is my favorite. Okay, instead of the BiggerPockets Money story today we are just going to talk about BiggerPockets Coffee.

Scott: No, I think it is a good point because I do this same exact thing every morning, right? Where I have my little, it is not a journal, I have a sheet of paper I print out and I write three things I am grateful for every morning. I just think it is like a funny like overlap there and I think that that is like a great not just for having a happier day, but it is kind of like a productivity tool in some ways. You start the day, I am feeling good about things.

Paula: Absolutely… What are you grateful for this morning?

Scott: I said I was grateful for my wonderful girlfriend, Virginia. I am grateful for our awesome team here at BiggerPockets and I was grateful that it is going to get warmer later in this week because it is miserably cold today. That is kind of like a reverse cry.

Paula: A backhanded gratitude.

Mindy: I think this is really important that you are both extremely successful people and you are both writing down what you are grateful for and I have seen Scott’s little paper about like his goals and his just general how I run my life kind of paper. Scott, we should link to that in the show notes because that is really really helpful. I actually do not do this. I am feeling really overwhelmed right now in my life. Just February is always my biggest busiest month and thank God it is over. We are recording this in March now and it is no longer February and I can kind of breathe again. Of course, that is when the perfect rental property popped up around the corner from my house and I just could not make it happen.

I do not have the mental space but this seems like a really interesting way to start a day and these are the things I am thankful for. I am very thankful that I have healthy kids, I have really really healthy kids. A friend’s daughter just broke her arm in four places, that does not sound like a fun experience. I am so glad I have not had that experience. I should start writing these down more frequently, like every day sounds great. Thank you, I am grateful that I talked to Paula this morning and Scott and got a new thing to do to start my morning.

Paula: Ah, that is great.

Mindy: Yes. I hear that over and over again. I just need to do it. There you go, pro tip for everybody today. Is there something that you keep hearing, that you should be doing and you know you should be doing it but you are not doing it, do it. Write now, start today.

Paula: I will add to that. One thing that has helped, I think everyone listening might be able to benefit from this, there is this notion that is called habit stacking. That is this concept that if there is a habit that you already have and you want to form a new habit, link the habit that already exists to the new habit. For example, I drink a cup of coffee every morning, that is a habit and I am never going to forget to do it. There is a 0% chance of me forgetting to drink a cup of coffee in the morning. When I wanted to start journaling habit and a writing down gratitude habit, I link it to my cup of coffee. I make a cup of coffee and then I sit down and I journal. I will even say there are times when, last week I was traveling, I was in Los Angeles, and for like just various reasons due to routine changes.

This sounds awful but there were a couple of mornings when I did not drink a cup of coffee and those were the mornings that I did not write down any gratitude. That is one way to like make sure that your new habit that you want to develop sticks is let the existing habit be the cue or the trigger that leads to the next one.

Scott: While we are on this topic, do you have anything else? Like so you do achieve consciousness journal and you do a gratitude journal, are those links to anything around your goals that you are trying to work towards?

Paula: No, no, not at all. I just let the stream of consciousness one, I just let it free flow. The stream of consciousness one, I actually, I use a day planner and there is blank space for each day and that limits the amount that I can write. Like it kind of sets the container. I cannot go overboard and spend 45 minutes writing in it because there is only so much space for that day. At the same time, I am not going to write too little in it because I feel the need to fill the allotted space for the day. Using a day planner kind of gives me that those parameters of this is exactly how much I am writing for today and there is no plan to that. Whatever comes out of the pen is what comes out of the pen.

Mindy: Do you do anything with that stream of consciousness journal? Does that sometimes turn into blog posts or show ideas or anything like that or is that just clearing out your head space?

Paula: That is a really good question. That particular one which I write with pen and paper, no, I do not do anything. That does not develop out. That is purely for me. But I do if I wanted to write blog posts. This is something that it is a very important realization that I had in the past year. I used to try to write blog posts in the way that most people teach you to do so which is this incredibly systematic like survey what your audience wants and then give that to them. Find out what questions they have or look up keywords and then write to that. When I tried to follow that approach, I found that I was not writing from a place of inspiration or authenticity and it is just started to feel like a drag and like job and I did not want to do it and it and… Right? Then I started writing Stream of Consciousness on my laptop with no particular purpose.

When I do that on a laptop, I found that then I often would stumble upon ideas that could be developed out into blog posts and those were far more authentic and inspired and as a result resonated with more people. They are not keyword optimized, they are not based on survey data, but because they are from the heart they connect with more people and I think they have a bigger impact. Like ironically they have a bigger impact because they are not trying to have a bigger impact.

Mindy: That right there, that is a pure gold. If you are a blogger, write that down because yes, when you try to write to a keyword, it comes across as authentic as a really great word, it comes across as very inauthentic when you are just trying to fill out the form to get the most views. Okay, well, we normally ask you to walk us through where your journey with money begins but this is fantastic. Walk us through your morning. I love the tip to take your current habit, which is drinking coffee, and you are just drinking coffee. I can write in a journal as I am drinking coffee, those are two things that can be connected together.

Paula: Yes, absolutely. That advice came from a writer by the name of James Clear who wrote a book called Atomic Habits. It actually came from two people, James Clear as well as Charles Duhigg, who wrote The Power of Habits. That stemmed out of both of those books and they are both great books. For anyone listening, I recommend them both. But they very much make the point that a habit fundamentally is cue-action-reward. Whether you are trying to form a new habit or break a bad habit, break it down into those three elements. What is the queues? What is the action? What is the reward? In Charles Duhigg’s case, he found that the queues was that every day at around 3:30, he would be at his desk and he would just start to feel a little bored or feel restless.

His queues was time, location and emotional state. Time was three 3:30, location was desk, emotional state was boredom, those were the queues. Then the action that he took was eating a chocolate chip cookie. Then the reward was that brief hit of dopamine that you get when you eat a chocolate chip cookie. Although, ultimately that was a “quote” bad habit because he was starting to gain weight from all of those chocolate chip cookies. Once he was able to take this chocolate chip cookie habit that he had and break it down into that granular level, he then kept the same queues. Queues was unavoidable, right? it is always going to be 3:30.

He is going to be at his desk, he is going to feel bored and he kept the same reward which was that hit of dopamine in his brain and found a different action that would lead from A to B. In his case, every day at 3:30, he gave himself permission to get up from his desk, walk around, chat with colleagues, step outside if it was sunny or nice. Like he gave himself permission to take that break and so he still have that reward without the cookie.

Scott: How have these habits kind of impacted your success? Like what are some of the other habits that you have maybe outside of writing?

Paula: I will say as a disclaimer that I, in no way imply, that I am excellent at this or I am highly imperfect but there have been many times in my life where I have either temporarily formed habits that have served me well. Meditation is one that I have been off and on with. Yoga is one that I have been off and on with exercise. I realized that, to people listening to this, they might be thinking wait a minute, you just asked about success. Should not my answer be clacking on a laptop or looking through P&L statements, I honestly, but really these elements of healthy living are huge. They are the cornerstone, I believe, to productivity. Ten years ago or 15 years ago, I think it was fashionable for people to believed that they were robots and to try to muscle through it or to power through it.

Think if I can just team no sleep, right? If I get up early and work late and run myself ragged, then that means that I will be successful. But truly, if you try that, you end up with diminishing returns. You may be sitting in front of a laptop but your mind is not there, your mind is not focused. People often blame social media or the internet for distraction but the reality is before the social media or the Internet existed, people still zoned out. People still sat at their desk and built a chain of paper clips or you remember when printer paper used to have those two sides on it? Like the little sides that had that you would have to peel off of each sheet of printer paper and then you could actually make little designs out of those. You could fold each one over the other and make little origami designs? Okay, anybody under the age of 30 has no idea what I am talking about but…

Mindy: Yes, I am thinking to myself, I do not think Paula is old enough to remember the dot matrix printer?

Paula: I am just barely old enough. Like if you are 35, then that was like an early childhood memory.

Scott: What I think we are kind of getting at also is the sense that like in today’s world, like I remember when I was a kid, right? There was not all these electronics everywhere. Like every waking moment, now as an adult if I want to, I can be entertained or educating or learning or doing something at all times. There is, if I am waiting in line at someplace, I can be doing something. Like previously there was periods of boredom. It is going to fill with this kind of stuff I think is what is kind of what I am hearing.

Paula: Right. Yes, that is also a good point. There is a writer by the name of Cal Newport who wrote a book called Deep… He has written many books but the book called [inaudible][18:02] is the one which he talks about this concept. In order to focus, it is important to embrace those moments of those small moments of boredom. For example, when you are in line at the grocery store, rather than checking your phone, just be in line and notice. Like pay attention to your surroundings, notice the people around you. When you are at the gate at an airport waiting for your zone to be called, do not be on your phone. Just sit there at the gate and people watch. When you press the elevator button and you are waiting for the elevator to show up, do not get on your phone. Just wait for the elevator to show up.

By embracing these small moments of boredom, number one, there is no actual productivity hit that you are going to take. Like realistically, how much are you going to get done between when you press the elevator button and when the elevator shows up? Nothing. But embracing these small moments of boredom, for lack of a better word, you train your mind to be better at focusing, to not constantly be jumping from entertaining stimuli to entertaining stimuli. As a result, this is really a habit that allows you to focus for a longer periods of time which allows you to do the deep work necessary to excel at your profession whether that profession is writing or, for many of the people who are listening I am sure, people have all sorts of professions that involve scrutinizing a spreadsheet for a long period of time or reading a dense piece of material for a long period of time or whatever it is that you need to do that can make you excel at your job. That thing probably involves deep focus. You need to embrace deep focus as a practice.

Mindy: Yes, it is okay to be bored. I think that I was laughing when Scott said, when I was a kid there were not all these electronic things. When I was a kid, there was not even any internet. I remember getting the first Atari system and that was so cool. I had Pong, like the actual with the knobs and you do not probably even know what that is, Scott. But yes, there was not all this stuff. You just found other ways to keep yourself busy. We would run around in the street or play with our friends or be outside or just look at the grass or lay on our backs and look up at the sky and see the clouds and that one looks like a whale and it is okay to be bored because that is when your creativity kind of takes over.

I love your quote, there is no productivity hit by not getting on your phone in between the time that you push the elevator button and the door opens up. You are right, I am not negotiating multi million dollar deals in that four seconds of time or three minutes if it is a really long elevator ride. But that is a really great point. I like that, I liked that a lot.

Paula: Right, absolutely. Sometimes there is this fake productivity where you feel as though you are being productive because you are responding to a tweet or unsubscribing from some piece of junk mail that is cluttering your inbox. It can be tempting to think, well look, I have made some type of incremental progress therefore I am being productive. But truly the 80-20 of what you are doing is that deep work. Focus on that 80-20 of  what are the few things that you can do that will deliver outsized results? Then sure you can devote an hour of your day responding to tweets or clearing out your inbox. Absolutely, that stuff has to be done but do not get so caught up in it that you mistake busywork for true productivity.

Mindy: Alex has a little plaque on her desk. It says, ‘Do not be busy, be productive.’

Paula: In that same vein of do not be busy, be productive, I think a lot of people also have this sense of fake frugality as well. For myself, when I was figuring out money, when I was learning at what the world of money is, in my early years, I was really caught up in what I now in hindsight would refer to as fake frugality. Fake frugality is when you think you are being frugal but you are really just wasting time. For example, if I would like over scrutinize where your bananas are 30 cents a pound cheaper at this grocery store rather than this other grocery store, milk is 50 cents cheaper at this one grocery store versus this other. Like I would think to myself that I was being frugal by chasing these tiny tiny, tiny pennies or by spending hours like just scrutinizing the smallest things when in reality I just wasted an hour saving $2.

Actually, this one time I quite literally I wasted an hour to save $3.60. I was buying something that was $100. It was a window for a rental property or no a door, or it was something for a rental property. I think a window or a door or whatever, it does not matter. It costs $100 and I called this little mom and pop outlet store that I was buying it from and I tried to make a payment by phone and they said, if you make this payment by credit card, which is what I would be doing if I made the payment by phone, we will charge a 3% surcharge. But if you can write a check or pay in cash, then there is no surcharge. In my mind, I was like cool I can avoid a 3% surcharge if I just drive 20 minutes there, pay by check and then drives 20 minutes back.

It was not until later that I realized that is fake frugality because a 20 minute drive there, then 20 minutes to process the transaction, then 20 minutes back, that is an hour of my time and a 3% surcharge on a $100 purchase is $3. I just wasted an hour of my time to save $3. I did the math and it worked out to $3.60 exactly was what I saved. That is a perfect example of fake frugality and I did that so much when I was younger. I think that that really stemmed from honestly a place of insecurity because I at a fundamental level of did not believe that my time was worth very much. When your time is worth nothing, then devoting it to penny pinching seems like the rational choice because if at a deep level you do not believe in your ability to earn more and to advance, then of course you will just want to pick up the pennies at the bottom. In hindsight, fake frugality, fake productivity, those are all pulled from the same cloth, so to speak.

Mindy: That is really really important that you said you did not think your time was worth money. I do a lot of the rehabs on my house myself and with my husband and what I hear over and over from people is oh well your time could be better spent. Well, yes and no. It depends on what I am doing and what is it going to cost versus what does it cost me to do. But that is really, really important. Your time does have a value because your time is limited. You only get 24 hours in the day, I have not yet found the loophole that gives you more than that. I need it, but that is the only amount that you have. The fake frugality, that is really funny.

I did that with gas, gas prices. I would drive across town to save 2 cents on a gallon of gas until one day I finally figured out there is like 10 gallons in my car and I just saved $2 by driving all the way across town. I sat in all the stoplights and I sat there and got frustrated. Why is this taking so long and $2? No, no, no. That is at 20 cents.

Paula: No, that is 20 cents.

Mindy: 20 cents it cost. Now, wherever I go, I do not even pay attention to the cost of gas. I need gas, it is not like I can go without it. My car will not run on banana peels or whatever they did in the Back to the Future Part 3. It only runs on gas so I just go to the gas station and put it in there and whatever because my time is worth more than 20 cents.

Paula: First of all, there is a Back to the Future Part 3.

Mindy: Yes, it is a trilogy.

Paula: What? Second of all, it is funny that you give that example of the gas station because literally just the other day I went through exactly that thought process. But for me, the two gas stations were not across town, they were across the street. Because you know how they often build competing gas stations at the same intersection. I was at an intersection, I pulled into one station, I looked at across the street and I noticed that the station across the street had gas that was 2 cents a gallon cheaper and I thought about, I had already parked my car at a gas pump, I thought about getting back into my car, starting the car, pulling away from the pump and crossing the street and then I realized it would be 20 cents. I made the conscious decision not to do that.

Mindy: Yes. When I come across those too, I decide okay which one do I not have to make a left turn out of? I do not care how much the gas costs. I do not want to make a left turn. Sorry, we keep stepping over Scott.

Scott: No, I just want to kind of point out what I am thinking this from… Because I remember a couple of years ago I was going through the same sorts of things. Like how much is my time worth and where should it be spent? What that dollar value of my time and like understand that it is a fluid number. Like that number is lower for you, right? You should be spending more time on saving money or working extra hours or whatever it is when your time is less valuable and as you move toward financial freedom, your time as in a financial sense, does become more valuable, right? Because you can command more earning power, you do have more income coming from passive assets, all that kind of stuff. How do you kind of think about that and how does that evolved over time?

Paula: That is a really good question. One thing that I struggled with a lot is that when I am honest with myself, I see all of my inefficiencies. I can see all of the moments where I am zoning out. I see all of the moments, I am not necessarily watching TV or any of those examples that people often cherry pick as time wasters, but I will still spend far too long. I will spend five extra minutes in the shower above and beyond what is like, strictly speaking, necessary. Or I will spend just a little bit too long getting dressed or I will just kind of zone out and get distracted and then the next thing I know 15 minutes have gone by. For the long time I had a really hard time outsourcing things. I still do, to be honest, I still struggle with this every single day.

A very hard time outsourcing things in a very hard time saying no to income producing opportunities like freelance assignments or gigs that I could possibly get because I would just think to myself, well, if I could just improve my productivity, then I could do it all. If I say no to this gig or if I say no to this income producing opportunity, am I actually going or if I outsource and save a couple of hours, am I actually going to spend that time doing income producing work or will my number of working hours stay the same but now I am just paying extra? The best piece of advice that I came to about this came from an author by the name of Laura Vanderkam who she made the suggestion. She said, ‘First, fill your schedule with all of the things that cannot be outsourced, regardless of whether or not they produce an income.’

For example, calling your mom. You cannot pay somebody to call your mom on your behalf, right? Exercising, as much as you want to you cannot pay somebody to exercise on your behalf. Fill your schedule first with all of those things and then if there is time remaining, then fill your schedule with the things that can be outsourced. But that I thought was a much better framework then this narrow framework of if I outsource two hours, can I then replace those with two income producing hours? Because maybe the answer is no, I am not going to replace those with two income producing hours but I will spend those two hours working out and talking on the phone with my parents and those are far more valuable.

Mindy: That is really powerful. I am thinking, as you are saying this, I am thinking to myself spend time with my kids. I cannot really outsource that. I mean I can. I can have somebody watch my kids, but then I am not getting the interaction with them that I want to have and exercise always gets pushed to the back corner.

Paula: Right? Exactly, exactly. Those are the unique things that only you can do. Like somebody else can mow the lawn, somebody else can scrub the inside of the oven. Although apparently ovens or self-cleaning now, I have just learned that, but somebody else can do those things but only you can have the emotional heart to heart conversation with the people that you love. Yes, only you can lift weights, nobody else can do that for you.

Scott: No, I love it. I think that like this is fundamental to kind of building a scaling infrastructure for your time management, right? Which is directly correlated to your other goals in life, right? Including your financial goals and all that kind of stuff, right? Like absolutely right. You have to exercise, you have to have relationships with the ones that you love and put the time into those things. But then like within the rest of that bucket, right? Those things that can be outsourced that duke you can place a dollar value on, right? Like, I do not know, painting a rental property, right? One of the great things about this business of rental property investing or that kind of stuff is that you can kind of make that determination at that point and say, ‘Hey, my time is worth $20 to $30 an hour right now.’ Right? It is worth my time because I have to pay somebody more than that to do this particular task.

Paula: Right.

Scott: But as time evolves, maybe that becomes less and less true. My time is now worth maybe a $100 or whatever it is that you kind of judge as time goes on. Now, it is time to hire those things out

and kind of in-source them. I love this thought process of kind of how you can fill up first with the things that cannot be outsourced and then move on to those next things and make a conscious decision about that.

Paula: Right, exactly, exactly. The other piece of it that I often think about is what is more scalable? I came to this crossroads where, as some background, a brief background about my job history. I graduated from college in 2005 and I went to work at a newspaper. My starting salary was $21,000 a year, that was in $2,005 as I like to joke. It is so often I hear people say like, ‘Oh, yes. I also made $21,000 a year starting salary.’ It was in 1975, I am like…

Mindy: Very different $21,000 back in 1975. You could buy a house for that.

Paula: Exactly. I got to say, you can still buy a house for 21,000 these days. It just depends on where.

Mindy: Not in Colorado, not in Denver.

Paula: Well, where and in what condition? You might be able to find some in a, I do not know about Denver property, but maybe in Aurora. I do not know, I have not looked in a while. I have not looked in Colorado in a while. Certainly in the Atlanta area where everybody claims that you cannot meet the 1% rule, there are still $20,000 houses there. It just depends on what neighborhood you are looking at.

Mindy: Yes. Okay, you started as a journalist at $21,000 whopping a year.

Paula: Exactly, exactly. I think this is where a lot of my like penny pinching habits really formed. Like if I forgot to bring lunch to work then rather than buy lunch, I would go to the grocery store and just walk in laps around the isles eating the free samples that people were handing out.

Scott: Oh, man. What was your position like at that point? Did you have like student loans or was that where you kind of…

Paula: No, fortunately I did not have student loans. I had that big advantage going for me as a 21 year old. I do believe that I still could have done everything that I have done if I had had student loans but it would have taken longer, right? That would have been the first hurdle to clear. Fortunately, I did not have to clear that hurdle, but I was starting with a $21,000 salary and I eventually bought a $400 car. When I say that people are like, ‘You mean 400 a month?’ I am like, no, no, no. I mean $400. That was the cost of the car. He wanted four $450 for it that I negotiated down.

Mindy: Did it run?

Paula: It did. It was older than me at the time. It was a 23 year old Toyota. It was in Colorado, I was living in Boulder. It was so rusted through that there were like the body was so rusted through that you could sit inside of the car and reach your hand out of parts of the body and the outside world. In Colorado, as you can imagine, when it snowed I mean it was winter wonderland inside of the car because car is not weatherproof. Anytime it snowed, I was just like sitting on these really wet seats. The seat belt, this is not recommended because this is very dangerous, but the seatbelt had frayed to the point where it no longer existed and it was a four speed manual. I had never driven a stick before so that was the car on which I learned how to drive a stick.

Scott: Where are you living for this? Like what part of Colorado? What city?

Paula: I was in Boulder, Colorado. I lived with a bunch of roommates in an apartment. My share of the rent was $400 a month. Yes, I was fortunately like walking distance to work so I did not actually have to drive that car very often. But I joined the Denver Press Club which met in downtown Denver. For trips like that, sometimes I would take the bus if it was snowy outside but other times I would, I would drive that little rust bucket of a car to these networking events at the Denver Press Club on the hopes that maybe one of these would allow me to escalate up to a high paying job like working at the rocky mountain news, which eventually collapsed.

Scott: What was your like trajectory like over the first… How long did this situation go on?

Paula: Oh, okay. While I was, so this is actually in hindsight, this is how I started to escalate. I mentioned I would go to these networking events at the Denver Press Club and that was where I learned about this organization called The Society of Professional Journalists. I am making $21,000 a year, I saved enough money to pay for myself to go to conferences. They had an annual conference and I would send myself to their conferences, that was me investing in myself and investing in my career. When I was at these conferences and the way that the tracks were broken out was newspaper, magazine, radio, TV, and then they had this track called freelance. I had never heard of that before, that concept.

Out of curiosity, I just started going to popping into some of these conference tracks that were on the freelance track and that was when I discovered at a conceptual level that it was possible to earn money outside of W2 employment. That concept was totally new to me. I had no idea that that was a thing. Once I learned that, I thought that was interesting. I started contacting various journalists in the Denver, Boulder area and inviting them to go out to coffee and just asking them how they got started and from that I started landing my first couple of freelance assignments. Once I started doing that, I was a freelance writer, I was writing for Boulder Women’s magazine for a little bit, I wrote for dining out magazine, I wrote for Awards and Engraving Magazine which is like an industry publication for people in the engraving industry.

I just took whatever I could get but the pay was significantly better. I was making the equivalent of between $50 to $75 an hour doing this freelance work whereas in my normal day job I was making $21,000 a year. I could see very quickly that I had better opportunities for income and better opportunities for “advancements” so to speak through freelance work. By virtue of doing this, really this did two things. Number one, I made extra money that I could save up so that eventually I could quit my job. Number two, by doing this freelance work, I saw that it was possible. While working a day job, developed the confidence to believe that I could it be a full time freelancer. I quit my job in 2008 and at the time that I quit, I was making $31,000 a year.

That is the highest salary that I ever earned as somebody else’s W2 employee. But during those three years, I had also been freelancing, making up to $75 an hour as a freelancer and that was instrumental for both of those reasons that I just named, for the savings that it allowed me to accumulate and for the confidence that it allowed me to build. In 2008 to 2010, I did not really do a whole lot. I traveled, I worked a little. Like I freelanced a little bit but I was not really throwing myself into it. In 2010, that was when I threw myself fully into this idea of I am really going to develop a career out of this. I am really going to go for it. I am going to be a full time freelancer.

From the point at which I started taking it seriously, it took from that point 18 months into the future of that that I actually started making six figures as a freelancer, which is mind blowing. Take this kid from who had been making $21,000 a year, driving a $400 car, to now making six figures self-employed, that was mind blowing. To me that was proof of concept of the power of self-employment, the power of entrepreneurship.

Mindy: What I find interesting is that you quit your job in 2008, I do not know if you know this, but there are some things going on in the world and quitting a job in 2008 was not necessarily the smartest move from somebody looking outward on your choices. How much money had you saved up? Because you said you did not really like throw yourself into the freelancing for a couple of years and I know a little bit about your story. I know enough that you were traveling. Where were you traveling? How much money did you have? How much money did you did you like had saved up for this? Like did you ever feel a sense of like impending doom? Oh my goodness, where is my next? What am I going to do for money? Because those are all the questions that I get on a regular basis. I cannot quit my job because what happens if.

Paula: I had about $25,000 at the time that I quit my job. I went to countries where the dollar exchange rate really worked in my favor. Egypt, India, Cambodia, Laos, those are places where the US dollar goes a lot further. I still in, even now in the back of my mind, I always know like alright, if I am in trouble, if things get rough, I can always go to a nation where the dollar exchange rate works in my favor. Maybe I cannot live there forever. But if things get rough and I need to cash up, I will go to Vientiene, Laos and spend six months there. That is always an option and there is a certain psychological relief that comes from knowing that that possibility of out there.

I know that for the people who are listening to this, that might sound intimidating, but things are only intimidating if you have not done them before. Yes, that is true if buying rental properties, that is true if starting your own business. That is true of spending three months in Gola or in Carola or some part of the world where the dollar just goes a lot further in Myanmar.

Mindy: This is something that Kristy and Bryce said in episode 55. They do the same thing. When something happens to their portfolio, they just look at where they want to be. Okay, we really like Thailand, let us go there for a few months.

Paula: Yes, exactly, exactly.

Scott: What brought you back to United States?

Paula: I just wanted to be back. You know what I missed that I did not expect to miss? I missed Costco. I got to the point where I just really missed Costco and I missed having a water kettle from which I could make my own tea and I wanted a cat. Like those little comforts of having an established home rather than constantly hopping from guest to guest house. That was what I wanted by the time I came back.

Scott: When was that? What year was that?

Paula: That was 2010.

Scott: 2010, okay. Kind of what is your situation look like once you moved back to the states?

Paula: I moved to Atlanta and I did very, very briefly work at another company for a few months but my heart was not really in it. I really wanted to freelance. I left that company and began freelancing. For a long time… I started out work writing these articles for ehow.com that paid $15 an article. My goal is to see if I could write three articles in an hour which tells you something about the quality of my work but I usually could not get it to that much but I was able to pretty consistently get myself up to two articles an hour. That ended up being 30 bucks an hour. Then I got my quote unquote big break which was I got hired about.com and they put me on a contract that paid $800 a month. Then I was like, whew, I have got some stable income coming in, $800 a month. I was living as one of five people in a three bedroom apartment. My personal individual share of that rent was $200 a month. That is where I was in 2010.

Scott: How much do they charge for cat rent?

Paula: The landlord charged like a $250 cat fee but I never told him about the cat. Then upon move out, it turned out that he knew about it anyway because he would come by to mow the lawn and he would see the cat in the window so he knew about the cat and he was nice enough to just not charge the fee.

Scott: Fair enough.

Paula: I think if I had been a problem tenant or if we had been problem tenants, he might have enforced it but he was willing to look the other way.

Scott: Was Costco everything that you remembered it to be?

Paula: Ah, a place where you can get huge bag of organic frozen blueberries for $9. I mean that is worth coming back to the United States for.

Scott: One of the things I want to point out here about this is that throughout this entire timeline, your entire adult life up to this point, you have really done an effective job at keeping your housing expense to a bare minimum which is kind of I think allowed for the freedom to do some of this stuff, right? Whereas I presume some of your peers were probably just moving into fancy places or nice homes or buying their first house and all that kind of stuff. You are living with roommates at very cheap rates, I presume, that is enabling you to pursue these adventures and confront.

Paula: That is a good observation. I would say that the number one thing that I did throughout my entire 20’s that assisted in my financial success is live with roommates. I lived with roommates until I was 31 and by the time I stopped living with roommates, I was married and I had a net worth of more than a million dollars. I was still living with roommates, I kept that habit up, after marriage, after hitting seven figures status. I still maintained that habit until the age of 31. Yes.

Scott: I think it is a critical point. I think if you had not done that, you had not done that, you would have needed to pursue a more stable source of income.

Paula: Exactly.

Scott: That would have prevented you from experimenting in some of these ways and all that kind of stuff. Sorry, you are at the $800 a month, you just hit the lottery and sort of that. What happens next?

Scott: I think you hit the nail on the head when you said I would have needed a more stable source of income. I think you are absolutely right. If I had needed to pay $1,200 a month for rent rather than $200, yes, I would have needed a more stable source of income. I would have traditional W2 employment. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but for me and my story, particularly in the field that I was in which was journalism, like that was not going to be my ticket to extreme success. Now, as for the people who are listening to this, sure, if you are an anesthesiologist, keep your day job. That is going to make more there than you will writing for ehow.com. But for my field and for the work that I was doing, let me put it this way, the newspaper that I worked at from 2005 to 2008, the highest paid person in the company was earning around $60,000 a year, the managing editor.

I knew that I was never going to make six figures there because nobody in the entire company was making six figures other than possibly, I do not know what the owner was making, but none of the employees were making that. It was clear, at least in my situation, that self-employment was going to be the way to go and keeping my cost of living low, particularly my housing costs as you mentioned, was going to be the key to that. There are so many people who I talk to now who are like, ‘I cannot because of X,’ and it will be, ‘Oh, because I am married’ or even ‘Oh, because I have kids.’ But I have plenty of friends with kids who still live with roommates and to be honest, most of them are doing it out of necessity.

They would not prefer to be doing it, but they do not have, financially speaking, another option. They do it because they have to. I very strongly want to send that message. There is a difference between cannot versus choose not to and never conflate those two. Do not confuse those two. There are a lot of people who can do things that you yourself believe that you cannot.

Mindy: Yes, what is that quote? You are capable of more than you could possibly think. Yes, you could do it. I could have roommates right now, I choose not to. But instead of having a great big giant house, I have a small house. I do not have a tiny house, I have a small house and that is okay. My mortgage payment is $1,100 a month and I really like having a small mortgage payment. I choose, I d I do it different. I do not have the great big house, I have the small one instead but same general concept. My housing costs are very low. Do not forget your transportation costs were also very low with your one-time fee of $400.

Paula: Exactly.

Mindy: For the pre-air conditioned car.

Paula: That is a great way of describing it.

Scott: Yes.

Mindy: Yes.

Scott: I think the lesson that I am taking away though is that you want to make it big like Paula Pant, you got to put it in the dues with the low lifestyle expenses for as long as it takes to kind of get yourself, get your foundation set in a scalable income path, right?

Paula: Right.

Scott: That scalable income always comes with uncertainty, right?

Paula: Right.

Scott: Almost every single circumstance, unless you become a doctor, in which case it becomes with nine years of or whatever you want. Med school and residency.

Mindy: Really long time.

Paula: Right, right.

Mindy: Okay.

Paula: That said though, part of the takeaway is yes, the frugality, keeping your expenses, particularly your housing costs and other fixed costs. Keeping those low can definitely create the parameters that allow for success but that being said, as I just mentioned, I have a lot of friends who have a very very cheap lifestyle and they are not making six figure incomes or building seven figure portfolios, right? Like frugality is necessary but not sufficient. It is that combination of living as cheaply as possible while also escalating your earnings and focusing on the income side. It is that one, two, punch. You can think of it as a sports metaphor, playing defense and playing off fence, right? I have a lot of friends who play a very strong defense. They are living very frugally but they are also not making much and they have, at this point in their lives, no sign that they will ever make more.

That super frugal lifestyle alone is not going to help them advance.

Mindy: Let us go to 2010 when you decided that you were going to focus more on your freelancing and your generating income based on the articles that you are making. It does not sound like you stayed writing for ehow for $15 an article cause that is not really necessarily scalable. How did you scale?

Paula: In 2011, I started a blog. Then in 2015 or 2016, sometime after that, I started a podcast and the brand is called Afford Anything. It is AffordAnything.com. That on a parallel track also began over time to develop an audience and you develop the blog, develop their readership and then the podcast, develop the listenership. I kind of had these two parallel businesses that were going both at the same time. One in which I was a freelance writer and I was writing for mostly various online websites. I wrote for AOL Daily Finance and I wrote for JemStep.com which was a registered investment advisor based out at Silicon Valley. I wrote a bunch of… Wrote and edited a lot of blog articles for them.

I wrote for a company called BillGuard. Like I just accumulated a lot of clients that needed writing for their websites whether it was a startup that needed somebody to write for its blog or whether it was a more traditional sort of news outlet sort of thing. I developed a freelance writing career. That was this one business that I had. I called it Catalyst Digital Marketing. I eventually realized that in addition to actually writing the blog articles, I can serve my clients better if I also offered to manage their editorial calendar and to do their social media posting.

I kind of escalated from “just being a freelance writer” to offering full service digital marketing services. Hey, I am not just going to write your blog posts, I will also manage your whole content calendar. You do not have to worry about it because you are a brand new startup. Just outsource your content calendar to me and my team and we will handle it and it will cost you $3,000 a month, right? I scaled the business to that and once you are doing that and you are serving multiple clients and those clients all have funding and they have got backing and they can pay $3,000 a month to just hand all of their content management to you. Well, hey, guess what? Now you have got a six figure business doing content management for all of these companies and that is awesome. I was doing that and that was this one business that I had…

Scott: How long did it take to get from start to six figures? I am sorry to…

Paula: 18 months from the time I started taking it seriously, 18 months. I was doing it kind of a little bit without taking it very seriously for five years before that. But from actually taking it seriously, 18 months.

Scott: Okay.

Paula: I will say approximately 18 months. I do not mean like 18 to the day but I remember there were these two particular clients that I landed, one paid $3,000 a month and the other paid $2,000 a month and both of those contracts hit almost exactly the same time. Those two contracts, $5,000 a month, in addition to the about five-ish that I was already making, that was the moment. That was a first time that I ever experienced a five figure gross revenue month and that was an eye opener for me. Like that was such a game-changer that something like that was possible for someone who used to make $21,000 a year.

Mindy: How much time were you spending doing this? Did your six figure income come from 60 hour work weeks? 80 hour workweeks?

Paula: Oh, yes, all the time. I was a stressed out basket case. That was when I was really going through a lot of my mental looping around what is my time worth because I could not let go of the identity of the person who made $21,000 a year and that has always been one of my big financial struggles, it is still is. Your image of yourself is often lags the current reality of yourself because your image of yourself was formed from the several previous years and those several previous years are a lagging or trailing indicator of your current situation. But it is hard to mentally catch up.

That first five figure month that I had, that first month that my gross revenue tops $10,000, I still had this image of myself as somebody who made $30,000 a year. I was just burning the candle at every end because here I am running this business and then also trying to grow a blog and then also driving to five different grocery stores because bananas are cheaper at one and milk is cheaper at the other and I am refusing to outsource any of the logistics of my daily life.

To be honest, it was exhausting. If I could do it again, I would have valued my time more but really at the core of that, that means that I would have had more confidence. Because when you are not truly confident about your ability to earn, then even when you are doing well, you kind of think, well, this success that I am having at the moment, this is just a fluke or this is just momentary. This is not going to last so I need a clutch on to every penny for as long as I can, as hard as I can and as much as I can because this is just a fluke and I have got big imposter syndrome and any moment now this is all going to go away.

Yes, I mean if I could do it over again I would have just been more confident and the decisions that would have stemmed from that would have reflected it. In terms of like a timeline and years, how long did this kind of state continue for? When did you get those two contracts and how long did this kind of like hustle and bustle of like, yes, you are earning good money but also really stressed out on every front. How long did that go on?

Paula: I landed those two contracts, the $2,000 and $3,000 contract in late 2012. That hustle and bustle probably from 2012 to 2015, those were really hard years, constantly stressed out years. I remember, there is this conference all three of us all go to called FinCon and I remember being at FinCon and this must have been approximately 2015 and I was at the point where I was not really monetizing the blog very much and I knew that it had potential and I knew that it was more scalable than this content marketing business that I was running. That if I, realistically I could not do them both. At that point, I had been running my blog for about four years. I had always wanted a podcast but had not started one yet. I was thinking to myself, if I could just kill this content marketing company, I would have enough time to focus on Afford Anything.

But at the same time, as we discussed earlier in this podcast, I also, to be honest with myself, saw all of the inefficiencies in my life. I saw all of the times that it took me 10 minutes to wash my face at night or all of the times that I would be cleaning up and I would pick up an old book or an odd magazine and then I would absent-mindedly flipped through it and 10 minutes or 15 minutes would go by. Like to be totally honest with myself, I saw all of those and I just thought I should not have to kill both businesses. If only I were more productive, if only I were more efficient, if only I could make more efficient trips to the grocery store instead of mindlessly wandering the aisles, then I could do them both. I remember talking to this guy by the name of Leslie Samuel at FinCon. FinCon had just ended.

It was like a Sunday morning or Sunday afternoon. We were all sitting in a hallway of the hotel waiting for transportation back to the airport. I was telling him this, I was telling him like, ‘I have got the six figure business and then I have got this other brand that has potential and I want to do them both and I believe that I can do them both and I just need to be a more productive, more efficient person.’ He just looked me straight in the eye and he said, ‘How long have you been telling yourself that?’ Yes, right, that just hit me. As soon as he said that, I knew what I had to do. From that point forward, I began at the very slow process of dismantling my content marketing business and what that looked like in reality, it was not a one and done deal. It was the process of gradually dropping clients over time. It probably took me about two years to just drop slowly, drop clients and move my focus over to building this other brand that more scalable.

Scott: During this period… Sorry, I am like… This is a great… My mind is going on a different topic right now. What are you doing with your assets? Because I remember, I know you were investing in real estate during this period as well.

Paula: Yes.

Scott: What were you kind of doing from your other financial position while you were earning and saving and hustle bustle in these in these years?

Paula: From the money that I was making, because I was still living very cheaply, I was saving a lot. Those assets went into a combination of real estate investments as well as 401K and IRA contributions. Every year, and I guess most remembered or most known for my real estate investments, I think because to a lot of people that is unique. Now, I understand in the BiggerPockets community, there is nothing particularly unique or special or different about buying some rental properties like, ‘Welcome to the club, you are one of many people who have done it.’ But in mainstream society context, to a lot of people I was the only person that they knew who owned rental properties or the only person that they knew who was investing in real estate.

For some reason, that is what a lot of people seem to associate me with or what people remember me for or know me for. But the actual numbers of it, you know real estate was just one of many slices of the pie. I also had a Roth Solo 401k and I maxed that out every year. That was at the time that I started at $18,000 a year. Now, in 2019, that is $19,000 a year. I also had a Roth IRA, at the time that I started, you could max that out at $5,000 a year. Now, it is $6,000 a year. Now, I can no longer do a Roth, I can do a backdoor Roth contribution. I do that, I max that out every year. I have an HSA, that is another $3,400 a year.

Then of course because I run my own business, there is the employer side of what myself, as my own employer, can contribute to my 401K. That is 25% of some complicated calculation, 25% of the very complicated IRS calculation of what my “compensation” is. I was doing all of those things as well and that is also a huge part of my net worth and that does not generate the same level of attention as my rental property investments. I think, I do not know, I have many theories about this. Partially because rental properties are more unique or different.

Partially also because rental properties are tangible. You can take pictures of them, you can post data about them like it is this many bedrooms and this many bathrooms and I bought it for this much like. It is more of a talking point than, ‘Hey, I maxed out my 401k this year.’ But that does not mean that it is any more or less important. Like your 401k, your IRA, your HSA, those are still massively important and there is a huge part of my portfolio.

Scott: No, I think that that is a fantastic answer. I think what I am trying to get at is just how you thinking about asset management and portfolio design and all that kind of stuff as you are going through this period of earning a lot of money. It sounds like your approach is I want to be efficient in every area. I am going to take advantage of all my tax advantage accounts first and then I am going to do HSA, getting tax advantage and all that kind of stuff. Then I am going to have this pile of cash leftover and rental properties as one of several efficient things I can do with this large surplus of cash. I am going would accumulate a bunch of this. Is that the right way to understand it?

Paula: Absolutely, that is spot on, yes.

Scott: I think that a lot of folks that are listening to BiggerPockets in the show, you think hey, the real estate is the central part of the portfolio, right? Well, I am the same way as you Paula. Real estate is one important part of my portfolio but one of many parts, right?

Paula: Right.

Scott: That is going on in my overall wealth building plan. I think that is true of most real estate investors, right? Very few people that I have talked only or have the vast majority of their net worth only in real estate. It is about the output of the financial freedom and flexibility, not about which specific path you go down.

Paula: Right, right. Exactly. In the world of traditional retirement planning, people often talk about traditional retirement. We are talking about retirement age 59 and a half plus. They talk about it in terms of the three legged stool which was your tax advantage retirement accounts as one leg of that stool, your social security as the other leg, and then any pension that you might receive as the other leg.

Financial planners often talk about this three legged stool. Well, for us, for you and me and probably a lot of the people who are listening to this podcast, that is a multi-legged stool that consists of real estate and also tax advantage retirement accounts and also maybe some other businesses that you own that are a source of passive or semi passive income and also your mentality. The fact that you embrace the flexibility of I am just going to go spend rent out my primary home and spend six months in Medellin, Columbia if things go bad or if it were a tough state. I think that that combination of all of the above is what creates true security.

Mindy: Okay. I am going to go back to this. Just a moment ago you said, ‘I do not know why everybody associates me with real estate so much because there is so many other things.’ I know exactly why people associate you with real estate. It is because you are a woman and women do not invest in real estate according to I do not know what but there is this overwhelming feeling that women do not invest in real estate and I get questions all the time and people send me notes all the time, ‘It is so nice to hear from you, another woman who invested in real estate.’ The BiggerPockets membership skews totally male. To see somebody who not only is a real estate investor, but a successful real estate investor and female is different. It is odd, it is the yellow sock or whatever.

The pink sock and the red sock in the white load, it stands out because it is different. I want to say that you can be a successful female real estate investor. Look, here is one right… Here is two, 66% of the people on this podcast are successful female real estate investors. 100% of the people on this podcast are successful real estate investors. But also, real estate has this aura where you buy a property and you are instantly a millionaire. That is not necessarily true but it is a lot sexier than, ‘Oh, I maxed out my 401k,’ like you said earlier. That is not so exciting and real estate is very exciting. I think that is why it really sticks with you but also like you are successful real estate investor and there is a lot of people who lose money doing it because they do not do it right.

Paula: Right.

Mindy: How many properties do you own?

Paula: Between myself and Will, we have seven rental units plus a primary residence.

Mindy: Okay. Does that, does the income from your rental units cover what you need to live?

Paula: In 2017 the rental units grossed $125,000 and netted $43,000 after all expenses, including debt servicing and all other operating costs.

Mindy: Okay. You are around there, are you comfortable saying how much you spend?

Paula: I mean how much I spend is kind of a moving target.

Mindy: Okay.

Paula: I would consider myself financially independent because $43,000 is, well first of all, that is only the cash flow for my rental properties. That does not include the size of my other portfolio, right? Just putting it out there. As of July of 2018, between myself and Will combined, our combined portfolio was around 2.2 million. That includes equity in the rental properties as well as all 401k, all other investment assets. About 1.1 million per person is, regardless of cash flow from rental properties, like that is… If I am 35 and healthy and I cannot figure it out on $1 million, I have got some problems.

Mindy: I am glad you said that, I totally agree. But with the cash flow just from the rental property, I am married and have two kids and a fairly frugal-ish, we spend around $40,000 a year. I am assuming that you, in your situation, in your life, you would be able to live off of $40,000 a year.

Paula: Yes, there is no reason why I would not be able to live on $40,000 a year.

Mindy: Well, sure there is. You could have a big house and a big car and a brand new cell phone with an expensive cell plan and all the clothes you want and thousand dollar makeup jobs and all that stuff.

Paula: People pay a thousand for a makeup job?

Mindy: I do not know, clearly, clearly I do not know.

Paula: I drive an 11 year old Honda civic and I live in a two bedroom condo, 1600 square feet which is to be honest, that is really big for my needs. I could live in half of this size.

Scott: I love this discussion. It is like a compound effect of how do I maximize my income, how do I keep my expenses reasonable and then they will grow over time as your financial position. The point of this is to live a comfortable life on your terms exactly as you want, right? Then we are going to have a holistic approach to wealth management from there. Where do you kind of think once you wound down that business, like what was kind of the output of that exercise of kind of getting your priorities figured out from a business and financial perspective? What did the situation look like maybe a couple of years following that crucial discussion at FinCon?

Paula: Fortunately, the risk that I took paid off and it was a risk  but when I wound down my content marketing business, I put more and more time into developing our Afford Anything and both the blog and the podcast. That has paid off. I have run the Afford Anything podcast for about three years now. Last year, I am just throwing all the numbers out there, I want to explain to the audience like this is not me. The reason that I am doing this is that I hope that this added transparency will provide an educational component.

Mindy: It is the opening the Kimono.

Paula: Oh, that is a visual.

Mindy: Show us what is under your Kimono. This is not you bragging, I made $14 off my podcast last year. Like that is not you bragging about this, this is look what I can do, look what I did as a self-employed person. Maybe somebody is not going to start another podcast, but maybe they do I could do this and I could take my passion and put it this way. You never know what is going to inspire, so please please share. This is an inspirational share.

Paula: Good, good. Excellent. Last year, Afford Anything, the entire brand of Afford Anything. The blog, the podcast, the YouTube Channel, the whole soup of it grossed $285,000 and netted a $113,000 after expenses. I say that because I want to communicate to people. A lot of people have…Basically I want to clear up misconceptions. Number one, a lot of people have this misconception that the majority of my money comes from the cash flow from rental properties. I do not know why people think that, it does not. I am going to stay flat out that it does not, but still and I have said that many many times and yet people seem to continue to think it anyway. I do not know why, I really do not know why so many people place more emphasis on the rentals than I think is…

Scott: They are one meaningful contributor to your overall income, right?

Paula: Exactly, exactly.

Scott: They are not insignificant but they are definitely not the whole show it sounds like.

Paula: Exactly, exactly, exactly. I think probably a lot of rental investors who are listening to this are probably nodding their heads because I imagine many people in the audience have the same experience where you are a multifaceted entrepreneur and investor and you do a lot of things and some of those things are headline grabbers, some of those things are tangible and visceral like a house, and those are the things that people tend to remember but really it is one of many. It is one slice of a bigger pie, so maybe BiggerPockets should be called BiggerPies.

Scott: Yes, but it is about bigger pockets, it is not just about real estate, right?

Paula: Oh, yes.

Scott: All facets of wealth creation, right? Here on the money show, we are not focusing on real estate because it is about the personal financial position and moves toward financial freedom. Now, that said, probably most of you listening have real estate as an interest in one component or the other of your overall plan.

Paula: Yes, you are right. BiggerPockets is a perfect analogy because you can put multiple things inside of your pocket. But yes, but I say that also because a lot of people have the impression and I can see this when I go to cocktail parties and somebody says, what do you do? I say, ‘I am a podcaster.’ Everyone is like, ‘Pfff, can you make money or that?’ I do want to communicate to people that, yes, there are opportunities to make good money online and particularly if you, as I started off, if you are in the type of industry or have the type of profession where you do not realistically see yourself making a six figure income in the next five years, then you might be able to make more striking it out on your own and developing an online business and you can make good money doing that.

Scott: I love that point.  That, I think, is critical. Is assessing the reality of your current career track, right? Because when I was at my first job, I was making $48,000 a year, which is much better than $21,000 a year, but still the career path was not going to get me to where I wanted it to go. I knew that the best I could hope for in about 10 years was to become a director, making around $110,000. I was like that is not an acceptable best case scenario for what I am trying to do. How do I go along in another career track that has more scalable opportunity there? I think this is a really important point for people who are not in love with their current job. If you love your job, there is a lot of good jobs up there that are not going to have a huge income but have a really rewarding experience, that is one thing. But if you do not love your job and there is no career potential, like why are you not coming up with a plan of action to move on to a different thing? Not immediately. Do not quit tomorrow with no plan, but over the next six months to a year.

Paula: Yes, absolutely. Absolutely.

Mindy: Yes. I know multiple people, as to you Paula, as to you Scott, who make six figures or very high five figures a month on their online business and I am going to say they did not whip up their website today and tomorrow they are pulling in five figures. It does take time, it takes quality content. Over and over, you hear content is king. Are you making boring content on your podcast, Paula? Nope.

Paula: I hope not.

Mindy: I am going to go and I am going to bring her in to this conversation. Did not you just interview somebody that went ridiculously viral because of the content? A little podcast called, what episode number was it, 153?

Paula: Ah, the Suze Orman.

Mindy: Yes, the Suze Orman. Yes, this was so difficult to listen to. When I was hearing her, I am like I have to admire your poise and your restraint because I am not the same kind of interviewer that you are and I would have been like what are you talking about Suze? Yes, you can do this. I am living proof you can do this. What are you talking about? Every single thing she said, it was like no. Then she contradicted herself and that was a very very powerful interview because you gave her all of this rope to hang herself and she just kept taking it from you. But that went crazy and it did not go crazy just because of what she was saying. It went crazy because of the way that you were allowing her to say it. That takes skill and that is never something I could have pulled off and that was a really great content interview as well.

Paula: Ah, thank you. Thank you so much.

Mindy: I really loved that. That was… Like I loved it and I hated it and that went crazy in a lot of different ways but it was also really really good information and here is a counterpoint to what all these other people are talking about and every single one of her points could be shut down pretty easily.  I did not want a private island.

Scott: For those of you who are maybe not familiar with the podcast, right? This is episode 153 of Afford Anything featuring Suze Orman.

Paula: Suze Orman has written nine books, I believe. Her latest book is called Women and Money, but she is best known for being the host of the Suze Orman Show.

Scott: Oh, that is right. Suze basically says hey, I hate the FIRE movement because you really need five, ten, thirty million before you can feel comfortable retiring early, right?

Mindy: I hate it, I hate it, I hate it is the exact quote.

Scott: Interesting perspective that I think a lot of us that are working on and the FIRE movement and all this kind of stuff, talk about money, would disagree with a lot of her points but it was an interesting different perspective and I think it was a great listen. To Mindy’s great point, you do a fantastic job, Paula, of hosting the interview and asking great questions and making it clear I do not agree necessarily with these things. My job is to interview her.

Paula: Thank you.

Scott: Yes, go ahead and listen to that show.

Paula: Thank you. Thank you.

Mindy: Yes. There were follow up shows. But what the point I am trying to make is you need to make good content in order to make money off of your online business. First, be interesting. You can have a blog, you can have a podcast, and if nobody listens and nobody reads and it does not really matter, you are not going to make very much money off of that. It will be interesting.

Paula: This circles back perfectly to what we were talking about at the beginning of this interview, which is writing from a place of inspiration and authenticity. Not just writing for the keywords or the search strings or surveying your audience and writing whatever they want you to say. If writing is the physical manifestation of your thoughts and feelings, then what is going to emerge is going to be much higher quality than something that have tried to do in a formulaic way.

Scott: Love it.

Mindy: Perfect.

Scott: You do not get… You do not get… You do not stir up a debate of a lot of questions if you are writing about something that do you think is going to be the key word of the day. You get that when you write about something that people disagree with strongly with you and you have a point that you want to defend justice strongly on whatever it is, right?

Paula: Right. If you have a message, if you have a philosophy, if you have an idea that is worth spreading to borrow from the TED Talk slogan, that is how you get noticed. I should say also for the people who are listening, any type of an online business, it does not have to be a blog or a podcast necessarily, whatever it is that you are doing. If you are selling windshield wipers on Amazon, if you are selling candles on Etsy, whatever it is that you are doing. If you are selling… If you are a teacher and you are selling lesson plans, no matter what, be the best. Like if you deliver quality, if you deliver value, then it will take a while. It is not going to be 10 years to overnight success, but over time, people will recognize that value.

Scott: Yes.

Mindy: Yes, I love it. I love it.

Scott: Is there anything else about your story that you want to cover before we begin kind of transitioning to the Famous Four here?

Paula: I think we have done it.

Mindy: Okay. It is now time for our Famous Four questions. These are the same five questions we ask all of our guests, four questions and a demand. Up first, what is your favorite finance book?

Paula: Strictly speaking, this is not a financial book, but Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. It is one of the books that I go back to at least once a year and re-read. The most important piece of it, I mean I get new pieces from it every time I re-read it, but one of the most important pieces of this book is when he talks about your circle of influence versus your circle of concern. Essentially, he talks about the importance of maintaining a locus of control. I highly recommend that book to everybody. Do not get it from the library. Buy it so that that way you can take notes and you can mark it up and you can go back and re-read it or re-read sections of it over and over and over again.

Scott: Yes, love it. I mean that has been a perennial best seller for a very long time, for a very good reason. I have not read it in a couple of years, maybe almost eight years now. I am going to go back and re-read it as well.

Paula: Awesome.

Scott: Alright. What was your biggest money mistake?

Paula: Actually, it was fake frugality. It was what we were talking about earlier. It was getting so stuck in this mindset that I have to do everything myself and I have to say yes to every income producing opportunity, every gig, every new job, no matter how well or how poorly it pays. Say yes to every article that is offered to me, say yes to everything like because I was afraid, really I had a scarcity mindset, and I was afraid that there was not going to be enough. That often what you fear is what you manifest. The fear that there will not be enough and sometimes lead you to making decisions that inhibit your growth, thereby resulting in less.

Scott: Awesome.

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

Paula: I would suggest what I call growing the gap. People often get caught up in this debate over is it more important to earn more or spend less? Which side should I focus on, the earning side or the saving side? My compromise, compromise is not really the right word, when you take a step back and you ask what is the actual objective here? What are we trying to do? What we are trying to do is increase the gap, grow the gap between what you make and what you spend. Of course, there are only two ways to increase that gap, earn more or spend less or some combination of both. But at the end of the day, what is important is not to pick a side like it is a sports team. I am on the earning camp, or I am on the saving camp. What matters is the size of that gap.

Scott: Love it. Yes, I would not even… I will throw in there as well as what are the piece there. It is about creating passive income, right?

Paula: Right.

Scott: You can earn more, spend less or you can create a blog or an asset, right? Focus your time on that kind of stuff as well, right? I just think, yes, there is no reason to choose sides. It is how do I optimize every part of the funnel, spend less, earn more, income or asset allocation, all that kind of stuff. I love that.

Paula: Right.

Mindy: That is the best answer to that which side of the… Which teams should I take? That is the best answer I have ever heard.

Paula: Thank you, thank you.

Mindy: I love that a lot.

Scott: Yes. Okay, what is your favorite joke to tell at parties? This is the most difficult question of Famous Four.

Paula: Alright. What did the caveman say when his suit got altered really fast?

Scott: I do not know. What?

Paula: Taylor swift.

Mindy: Oh my goodness. Throwing that out to JD Roth, the big Taylor Swift fan. Jim Lang I believe is also a big TS fan.

Paula: Mr. Money Mustache, also a big Taylor Swift fan. Lots of people in the fire community, big Taylor swift fans.

Scott: Well, actually today, a bunch of companies are re-branding. You got a good point about how BiggerPockets could have more money coming in there. We are actually re-branding to  WidePockets. I think JD, his site Get Rich Slowly, I think he is re-branding that to Get Rich Swiftly to go along.

Scott: Yes, still out there.

Mindy: It is Taylor’s face on the turtle? Okay, our last, it is not a question. It is a command. Tell me where people can find out more about you.

Paula: I am the host of the Afford Anything podcast. You can download that anywhere that you listened to podcasts and I suggest hitting the subscribe button so you do not miss any of our awesome episodes. I also have a blog, @affordanything.com, and a free ebook @affordanything.com /escape. It is a 77 page eBook all about escaping the nine to five and designing your lifestyle in a way that in a way that you want to, but in a way that is also money smart.

Mindy: Awesome. We will include links to all of these in the show notes for this episode, which is found at biggerpockets.com/moneyshow66. That is biggerpockets.com/moneyshow66. Paula, this was fabulous. Thank you for taking the time out of your day to share all of this amazing stuff with us. I do not even know what I am going to call this episode. Absolutely Everything with Paula Pant.

Paula: Aw, thank you. I learned like 17 things, things I need to do, books I need to read. This has personally been very very helpful.

Paula: That is good. We have covered so much ground with habits and productivity and morning routines and that very very important piece that we talked about at the end of that I think a lot of people can relate to. That real estate is one of many things that I do, but it is one of many items in my very large pocket.

Mindy: In your wide pocket, line them up.

Paula: Gigantic pockets.

Mindy: Let us see if that one is available. We better get to it before this airs otherwise it will not be available anymore. Okay, we are going to get out of here. Thanks again, Paula. Have a great day.

Paula: You too.

Mindy: Okay, we will talk to you soon.

Scott: Bye.

Paula: Bye.

Scott: Alright, that was Paula Pant from Afford Anything. Mindy, what did you think?

Mindy: Oh my goodness. I just did not learn a thing, terrible show. It is not something I can say about this episode because it was amazing. I Love Paula’s story. I love her mindset. Just I am thinking everything she is saying, I am like, I should be doing that. I should be doing that. I need to do that too. I need to read that book. I have never read that book. I have been meaning to. Like just over and over, everything she says. I am like, yes, I need to be more like Paula.

Scott: Yes, I think she has a really good perspective that we have not gotten before. Like I think a lot of maybe the listeners of this show can really relate to like fake frugality, right? How many times, I know I have done this in the past where I have just tried to over optimize something that just was not really meaningful and it was a waste of time, right? It seems like such an obvious concept but it is probably something that a lot of people can relate to you here and that it really is a time suck if you are trying to be too productive and to over optimize and every category where it does not really matter.

Mindy: What I find myself doing when I am trying to be really productive is sometimes I catch myself just being busy and that is not the same thing. I took what, 97 tips from Paula today that I can implement the journaling. I just sit there and drink my coffee. I mean like check my email or Twitter or whatever but I could be writing down what I am grateful for and I do not think about it enough. What I am grateful for? The health of my children is just I really take that for granted and I need to stop. I have got really great kids, I have got a really great marriage, I have got a really great life. I need to be more focused on what I am thankful for and I love that gratitude journal. That, from the very beginning of the show, I am like that is starting tomorrow.

Scott: Yes. I think that relationships and gratitude are just central to overall well-being and that kind of stuff. It is so easy and it takes a little time to write things to say. I am grateful for this, this, and this. It is a way better way to start your day. I think there is just like that positivity helps with other things. Very simple thing. Like on my sheet, I have got my three goals and then the first thing I do before I start working on those goals, I write down three things I am grateful for. Then I start making progress towards my kind of like most important actions for the day.

Mindy: Yes. We are going to have that sheet in the show notes at biggerpockets.com/…

Scott: Widerpockets.com.

Mindy: Widerpockets.com/moneyshow66 or the old one will probably still work. BiggerPockets.com/moneyshow66 where we will link to Scott’s document. You can take it and make it your own, you can take it and use it exactly how Scott does. You could be like Scott, but I mean that I think you hit the nail right on the head. Starting off your day with a delicious cup of coffee and a list of things you are grateful for cannot make your day suck.

Scott: Yes. I think it is just kind of funny little tip that Paul and I share in terms of how we kind of start our day and go about things. I think it does make a difference over time.

Mindy: Well, I kid you about your age but you are super super smart and very successful and I have to say that at least some of this is attributable to keeping your goals and writing down your goals and keeping them forefront in your mind and with so much going on in the world, it is so easy to forget about one thing that you were supposed to do and then you are like, oh crap.

Scott: Yes. It is never a time commitment, it is not really a time factor to make that progress is what you call is literally the phone call or the simple action needs to take that just has to get done.

Mindy: Yes.

Scott: Anyway, should we get out of here?

Mindy: We should. From episode 66 of the BiggerPockets Money podcast… From episode 66 of the WiderPockets Money podcast. This is Mr. Scott Trench and Mindy Jensen and do we are gone.

Scott: Bye Bye.

Mindy: Bye.

Scott: Yes, April fools. We are obviously not re-branding as WiderPockets,

Mindy: Although, do we still have that link up? BiggerPocketslove?

Scott: No, that link now do not work in any of that.

Mindy: The links do not work, but the article is still there. The article is hilarious. A few years ago, Scott wrote an article about a for April Fool’s Day called BiggerPockets Love where he pretended we were going to start a dating service because who wants a cashflow negative spouse?

Scott: Back in the early couple of year, real estate aspirations, I think.

Mindy: Yes. Or your financial independence aspirations. The cash flow negative spouse, not the best choice. Yes, we will link to that in the show notes too. It is very funny read. You should read it. Okay, now for real, let us get out of here. Bye, Scott.

Scott: Bye bye.

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In This Episode We Cover:

  • The first thing she does to start her morning
  • The notion of habit stacking
  • Her stream of consciousness journal and gratitude journal
  • Her approach to writing blog posts
  • How habits impacted her success
  • What productivity really is
  • What fake frugality is
  • How much your time is worth
  • On outsourcing time
  • Paula’s background story
  • How she discovered freelance
  • The power of self-employment
  • On living with roommates until she was 31—with a net worth of over $1 million dollars
  • The advantage of freelancing as a writer
  • Low lifestyle expenses
  • Her six-figure content management business
  • Her approach on portfolio design and assets management
  • On retirement accounts
  •  Properties she owns
  • What happened after she wound down her content marketing business
  • Assessing the reality of the current career track
  • And SO much more!

Links from the Show

Books Mentioned in this Show

Tweetable Topics:

  • “Don’t be busy, be productive.” (Tweet This!)
  • “Frugality is necessary but not sufficient.” (Tweet This!)
  • “Scalable income always comes with uncertainty.” (Tweet This!)
  • “Often, what you fear is what you manifest and so the fear that there won’t be enough can sometimes lead you to making decisions that inhibit you to grow thereby resulting in less.” (Tweet This!)

Connect with Paula

About Author

The BiggerPockets Money Podcast is for anyone who has money… or want to have more! Join BiggerPockets Community Manager Mindy Jensen and Director of Operations Scott Trench weekly for the BiggerPockets Money Podcast! Each week, financial experts Mindy and Scott interview unique and powerful thought leaders about how to earn more, keep more, spend smarter, and grow your wealth. You'll get tips for getting your financial house in order and actionable advice from guests who have been in your shoes - and found their way out.

6 Comments

  1. Charles Picarella

    Not to get religious, but have you ever been listened to a preacher or just an awesome speaker and you feel like they are speaking to you directly and your like WHOA!!… Yay, minute 59… Had to back it up and listen twice. Loved it! Thanks BP Money!

  2. Shiloh Lundahl

    This was a great episode. The things that were talked about with regards to the episode that Paula has with Suze Orman sparked my curiosity so much I went and listened to that episode and the episode after with the commentary. One of the things in that episode that stood out a lot to me was that Suze said that people basically need 10 – 20 milllion in order to be financially secure. The thing that I find so ironic about that (or hypocritical to be more accurate) is that few, very very few, can build that type of wealth by following her financial advice. In fact she did not build her wealth by following that advice. She wrote a best selling book, and then another, and then another. Then she started doing speaking gigs. That is where she gained most of her money. Not by following the advice that she gives. The more common way to get to 10 – 20 million is by starting a business, systematizing it, growing it, rolling the profits back into it, and then selling it for 10 – 20 million or more, not through compounding interest through dollar cost averaging buying mutual funds on an average wage salary over 40 years.

  3. Brittany Schultz

    I loved this episode with Paula! She mentioned ‘Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’ and I was nodding my head the entire time! I read that book a few months ago, checked out from the library, and before I had even finished the book, ordered it off Amazon knowing it was a book I would read and re-read. Great podcast!

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