BiggerPockets Money Podcast 67: How Living An Intentional Life Led to Financial Freedom With Steven Donovan

BiggerPockets Money Podcast 67: How Living An Intentional Life Led to Financial Freedom With Steven Donovan

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Steven Donovan graduated from high school and went to college—because that’s what you do. He graduated from college but got cold feet when it came time to get a “real job.” So, he bounced around random jobs with no plan and no focus.

Despite his degree in finance and about $60,000 in student loan and credit card debt, he returned to the golf course that he’d been working at throughout high school and college. He also regularly played poker at a local casino, all while deferring and avoiding making any payments on his debt.

Eventually he got his first “big boy job” at a bank; however, he still wasn’t making much headway on his debt. In fact, he just kept adding to it. He ended up buying a Mercedes, quitting his job, and moving to Florida to be near his long-distance girlfriend.

But Florida didn’t work out, so he moved back home. He went back to the golf course until he found another job at a bank, moved into the city, and sold the Mercedes—at a loss, of course.

Once he got married, he began to tackle his debt. Slowly at first, bringing lunch one day a week, then two, and eliminating takeout coffee. He started “frugaling” his way out of debt, adopting a rock bottom budget in order to finally rid himself of the burden.

Steven paid off his debt in five years, in fact, while house hacking a Chicago triplex and renting his wife’s house in Florida.

They’re now debt-free, and they achieved it in a completely repeatable way, which is what makes this episode so great!

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Welcome to the BiggerPockets Money podcast show number 67 where we interview Steven Donovan from Even Steven Money.

Steven: The way I looked at it as no one hates my debt more than me so I took it as I am going to personally attack it and I am going to do well. I am going to do well at my job. If I need to make extra income. If I need to live on less, that is what is going to happen.’

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 is my co-host, Ms. Mindy Jensen. How are you doing today, Mindy?

Mindy: Scott, I am doing pretty good today. Yesterday was the end of Girl Scout cookie season in my area and I am the true cookie mom and I have been mired in Girl Scout cookies and it is done now and I am very excited to start and always very excited to end too. Big weight off my shoulders and it is going pretty good. How are you doing today?

Scott: I am doing great. Does any you get free Girl Scout cookies or they have to pay extra?

Mindy: That means I have thousands of boxes of Girl Scout cookies in my garage for 6 weeks and the temptation is very hard.

Scott: Oh, man. Well, let us get back to some more of them money topics that we are going to discuss today and…

Mindy: That is awful.

Scott: Well, you keep hustling about the guest today.

Mindy: Today we have Steven Donovan from Even Steven Money. I have known Steven for several years. I just enjoy hearing his story because it is not that different. He graduated from high school and went to college because that is what you do. He graduated from college and bounced around for a while because it is really almost inhumane task 18 year old kids to know what they want to do for the rest of their lives and his story is not that different from other people. He quite graduated from college and now what? You are an adult but not really because you are still feeling like a college kid and he got himself into some debt. Shocker, spoiler alert. His story of how he paid it off is pretty interesting.

Scott: Yes. I thought it was great and I just thought it was kind of a great example about how once intentionality comes into play. How that kind of results start piling up dramatically in this game of finance.

Mindy: That is a really good observation. Once he figured it out… He even says at one point, I was not sure what I was supposed to be doing. I was kind of lost. Once you figured it out and went to focus, you have really cannot get… You are unstoppable and that was him. I do not want to give away his whole story like we normally do before bringing him in. Before we bring him in, let us hear a note from today show sponsor.

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Mindy: Okay. Steven Donovan from Even Steven Money. Welcome to the BiggerPockets Money podcast. How are you today?

Steven: Hey, I am great. I am great. All smiles on this end of course.

Mindy: All smiles in these ends too. I am so excited to have you on this show. I have known Steven for several years now and he has got a really great story getting into debt and getting out of that which is kind of what we are all about. Steven, why don’t you start us back at the beginning of where you failed your relationship with money starts?

Steven: Oh, man. Relationship with money. For me, is starts really just coming out of high school. I ended up… I did not get a lot of guidance, I would say, from my parents. When I went to college I essentially went there without a lot of direction other than I needed to get a degree. I did not care or I did not know how to get it without really going into student loan debt is how I came.

Mindy: You went to college, why did you go to college if you did not know what you were doing?

Steven: You know what?

Mindy: You are 18, you should be making these lifelong decision.

Steven: I am like, Mindy, come on. But, no, I mean I knew that I wanted to be in business somehow and I knew that the next. I should say I knew, this is what I knew at the age of 18. I knew that I needed to go to college and I thought I was going to be a financial advisor. I was going to make hundreds of thousands of dollars and driving around in fancy cars and the next step was to get a college degree.

Scott: What was your kind of position coming? Did you work in college? Did you kind of like how did you kind of enter and leave college on a financial perspective?

Steven: I worked on and off throughout high school. I worked at a golf course, my last summer before I went into college I actually worked swimming pool construction, it is a thing. But yes, and then in college I got jobs periodically. Like during the winter, for example, I would work at Marshall Fields which I believe is now Macy’s, showing my age a little bit. I also worked at a golf course throughout college as well, during the summer. I was working, I was just never a full time employee. It would either be a summer or the winter for example. When I came out of college, I ended up having was right around $55,000 to $60,000 in college debt from my student loan and I had some credit card debt and a personal loan to my parents but other than that I was totally fine.

Mindy: But you loaned your parents money or they loaned you money?

Steven: They loaned me money.

Mindy: Okay. What were you doing with all the money that you were making? Were you just like spending it on regular living expenses? Were you trying to pay down any of these student loans?

Steven: Yes. When I was in college, I took that money and I did a little bit of it… I made sure that my housing was taken care of, that was the main point. I knew I had to live. Like without that, I would not have been able to go too much further. A lot of it I just did not really spend it wisely. If I wanted to go to a party or I wanted to go out that night, that is what I did. If I wanted to spend it on things I needed for school, that is what I did. Like that money was there to spend. It was not necessarily there for tuition, it is how I view things because I had those student loans, I could take care what of it.

Scott: What was your lifestyle like with this? Did you kind of live in the absolute cheapest place? Was it rubbing noodles or how did you kind of manage it and college overall?

Steven: Yes. I think I was pretty good actually. We live very close to school. I went to a school or college in Wisconsin, the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. With that, it was not an expensive school. It was a state tuition. I just made a lot of choices that really piled up that were not right and they just kept adding up. I mean I remember our rent, my portion of the rent that time, I believe it is like $315. Again, this is like it is 2000 – 2005 range, I do not know what that is in today’s dollars. But it was not like excessive. If I wanted something, I would take a credit card and go get it. If I wanted to go to Spring Break, I would put it on a credit card or I take the money that I had. If I needed a car or needed gas, like no qualms about taking on my credit card and swiping it. Wanted to go visit someone, same thing. Just freely spending is really what it was.

Mindy: Okay. You graduated college with $55,000 to $60,000 in random debt including student loans and silly credit card debt, what was your major in college? Did you major in something good?

Steven: I mean I think so.

Mindy: I know I know basket living.

Steven: I ended up coming out with a bachelor’s degree in finance.

Mindy: Okay. That is usable.

Scott: Nice, Nice.

Mindy: That is not like… Oh, I am going to throw me under the bus, that is not like ridiculous degree. What did you do after college? Did you get a job right away?

Steven: I did but it is took me a little while actually. I came out in between 2005 to 2006 give or take. When I came out, I did not immediately go into the work world. I actually got cold feet. My intentions were to go into like a Northwestern Mutual or an Edward Jones type of establishment and some sort of financial advisor or sell insurance, something on those lines. It was actually… I was going to move to a place in Illinois and I just I really did, I got cold feet. I was like if I do this, I essentially have to live here for the rest of my life is how I thought of it and I was not ready to do that. I kind of did a little bit of everything, anything from which I did all a lot of actually. It was going back to the golf course too. I played poker…

Mindy: Like as a job?

Steven: Yes, for a very short period of time but that was the full time employment for a little while. Yes, I would wake up every morning, well, whenever I felt like waking up to be honest but I would wake up and I would go to a casino in Milwaukee and played 36 limit hold’em for that day. It was an interesting time when you are 20, was it is 25 give or take. But yes, I did not really get my I will say like a big boy job and until I was probably in 2007. A couple years after I guess “figured things out”.

Mindy: What did you do in 2007?

Steven: I ended up working for a bank. It is called the US Bank where I was in 24 hour banking and financial services or 24 hour banking and customer service, just probably know that a little bit better. Yes, I started out. I was literally was on the phone. I was so happy to get a job at that point because like now it is creeping in actually right into where the recession i almost ready to start. Yes, I was actually on the phone taking phone calls from people asking about their money essentially.

Scott: During this period, between graduation and this job, how did your financial position evolved?

Steven: It did not actually changed that much. I still had the student loans, I did everything in my power to defer them, to like any plan that they had like deferment, income sensitive, graduation plan. I think it was honestly like four to five different plans, whatever they would allow to make it either have me not pay or reduce that monthly payment, that is what I did. My credit card debt kind of went, as you can imagine with the poker as well, it was just swings. Sometimes it went way down and other times it went way up because of winning and losing with poker at that time.

While it was just a short period of time, it still kind of caused swings in my financials. I also, even with the credit cards, I was trying to figure out. As you can tell, I did not have like a real clear direction based on how many things I am probably talking about but I also did… I would go into Nike, the Nike outlets, and I would purchase things from Nike and then I would also attempt to sell them on eBay for a higher value and I did that also by buying that on a credit card.

Mindy: You said attempt to sell them on eBay for a higher value, were you actually successful? Were you making money off of that or was it kind of a breakeven thing? Because I tried the eBay like go to the thrift store and buy all these cool things then and put them on an eBay and I sold them for like $4 more, it was a waste of time.

Steven: What is really great about the Nike part was… You can, I mean I do not know how this might be moral compass ethical code but you can buy things at Nike and attempt to put them on eBay for, say whatever the customer service receipt says, say it is 30 days, if you could not sell it you can return those items. I was not really losing money at that point because I could return the items if they did not sell . If I bought 5 shirts, if 3 of them sold for $20 or $30 more, I made that money and then returned items that did not sell. Or if I thought they would, I hold them on soon for a little longer and just kind of write it out. I did make a profit, the problem with that, the way that worked was is it harder to buy… It is volume. You could not buy a 100 shirts at Nike outlet, I was buying 3 or 4 and then trying to sell those. I would make $60 here, $80 there.

Mindy: Yes, they are not really a viable plan, yes. Well, you said something that was very interesting. You said, ‘Well, as you can tell I did not really have any direction.’ Well, I think it is monumentally unfair to ask high school seniors, ‘Hey, pick what you want to do for the rest of your life and then go to college and figure it out and then come out of college.’ Now, you have got a career and there is a lot of changes that happened there. When did you finally figure out your stuff? Or did you? I am assuming you have.

Steven: Yes. I would say I figured it out really closely when I got married. There is kind of there is some back story so I actually I should fill in a little bit. I was working at that job for two years at US Bank doing the customer service and then I was actually dating a girl long distance. I decided to, well, first buy a Mercedes Benz and then moved down to Miami a couple months later to see if the relationship was going to work. I had maybe one or two months of savings and I had this big idea that I was just going to get a job and I would be fine and pursue whatever was going to work and that did not work out . Well, I did hustle as much as I could when I was down there.

I was literally doing anything from more loans to eBay to again playing poker, this time online and it did not work out. Then when I really figured things out was when I hit my breaking point, where I did not think I was going to be able to make monthly payments and had never happened before. I had always been able to make whatever the amount was that I could pay the next month and I ended up having to like tuck my, what do they say? Like tuck your tail between your legs and go back home because I could not make it happen. Like the happy ending, or like the spoiler alert, I married that girl, marry that woman later on. A few months actually later after I came back and that is really when I started figure things out because I did get full time employment shortly after I moved back to [inaudible][16:14] area. When you get married, you kind of have to step up your game or at least that is how I figured it out, I need to step up my game.

Scott: What was your… Let us go talk about the Mercedes Benz real quick. What was your financial position at that type and how did that kind of purchase looked?

Steven: Yes. I had this great amazing vehicle that I had since high school known as the Mercury Tracer. I called it the Tracer You Cannot Replacer. It was a purple. They also called it the purple Barney car but I do not really like that. That car ended being there is so many problems with it and finally like it was on its last leg and the next logical step and it is probably quite “logical”, in quotation marks again, was I needed a new car. I needed to buy a new car. I figured that what I could afford what I was somewhere in between $15,000 to $18,000 on a monthly payment which came out to I believe it was somewhere between like $300 to $400 that I could swing.

The bank that I worked for had a great deal. They had a slightly new Mercedes Benz and I actually sort of looked at it and said, ‘Okay, I can afford this.’ But at that time I was not making any really any money, any good money. I was making $30,000 and the Mercedes Benz was right around $18,000. I could afford it but I was also, I could afford it because I was deferring all my other payments and I did not… I lived very… I guess in some ways, I lived cheaply in everything else at that time but yes, the Mercedes Benz was or unfortunately.

Scott: Then what happened? It sounds like you lost the car right?

Steven: Lost? I feel like I lost.

Scott: Maybe I am wrong here. I thought you were saying earlier that you had to put your tail between your legs, you return the car and go back home. But it sounds like you did not have to turn the car.

Steven: I did not have to return the car.

Scott: Sorry, sorry.

Steven: Just me, personally, I was not able to make the payments but as soon as I went back to Illinois, I worked at the golf course which would pay me actually cash at that point and then I was able to make the payments because I had cashed. I mean literally from the day that I stepped in Illinois.

Scott: Okay, I see, yes.

Steven: But I did sell the car probably within 3 to 6 months of me getting back. Yes, I sold it. I took a loss. The car just ended up costing me so much money and I did not realized this. This was part of it too. It is like okay yes you can afford the monthly payment but then there is insurance. Then because it is a high end vehicle, you are not just getting an oil change that is $20 at your local whatever jiffy lube, you are paying like $120 just for an oil change and then I was driving a lot when I was down here looking for work and going to different interviews. Again, put so many miles on it like well, you have to get this maintenance and then all of a sudden it was $500 and $1000 and that car just, in many ways, it broke me. I mean to the positive I guess because it made me realize that I could not afford that many other things in my life.

Scott: Going back to getting married here, what was your kind of position going into marriage? Like you had a job, what was your job at that point? What was your kind of financial situation?

Steven: Yes. My financial situation was unfortunately was eerily similar other than having the vehicle no longer. I did not have that big car payment which was nice of course and that helped me but I then still had… I was working on paying off credit cards at that point. I was close to finishing them right around when I was getting married and I still had all those student loans. I was still just making the monthly minimum payments and I still had a personal loan to my parents where, again, whatever they would accept was really what I paid which was the lowest possible. The job situation, it is actually right before I got married is kind of funny.

Right before I got married, we went through like I got married, we moved to Chicago because my wife came from Miami. Also I moved into a new position so I did a job transfer. I ended up getting a raise or what have you. But again, I was not making really for a lot of people I was not making good money. I do not consider that I was making good money. I believe I was making somewhere in like the $40,000 to $50,000 range and this was 2011 or 2012.

Mindy: Okay. You graduated from college, you bounced around, you finally get a job at US Bank, you are there for a couple of years, you are dating long distance, you moved down to Florida. Did you quit your job when you moved down to Florida?

Steven: Yes, yes.

Mindy: Okay. Then you were bouncing around down there for a while, how long were you in Florida?

Steven: For about a year.

Mindy: Okay. Did you have any sort of steady employment when you were down there? Steven: Does a part time job at Rosetta Stone at a kiosk mall counts?

Mindy: Wow, how did you convinced her to marry you? I guess tall dark and handsome goes a long way.

Steven: Lots of jokes. Constantly make wife laugh, that was my in.

Mindy: That is a good in. You got to make the ladies laugh. Okay. You are down in Miami for a year, you moved back to Chicago, did you get a job again with the same US Bank?

Steven: Not the same. I mean, yes, with US Bank but I went into the branch. I was assistant manager. They were at a in-store which is kind of like a grocery store. I do not know TCF, I do not know if you guys are familiar with TCF. They have those that are usually in grocery stores. That is what US Bank had, I am not even sure if they are still around with the in-store but that is what I was doing for about a year.

Mindy: Okay. Did you get married in Miami or did you get married back in Chicago?

Steven: I got married in Miami.

Mindy: Okay. You were in Miami, you moved back to Chicago, you get a better job. Do you still have the Mercedes at this point?

Steven: No Mercedes. When I came back, I stayed with a family member for a few months and so he… It was like, ‘Hey, you got a job. See you later.’ Then when I moved down into the city because I was staying in the suburbs with my family member, when I moved into the city, luckily enough I was able to get rid of that car shortly afterwards because it is just for usually in a big city especially Chicago, it just does not make a lot of sense to have a vehicle. Especially I worked about a mile away from the branch I was at taking public transportation or a buy or walking was not that big of a deal.

Mindy: Yes, Chicago has a great public transportation system. I actually really miss it because I am in the Denver area and they have not figured it out yet. Yes, in Chicago you do not need a car. There is a lot of people that I know that do not have a car. They did not even have a driver’s license. Like really, that is just weird because I lived in Chicago, I lived in the suburbs for a while, I moved to the city for a while, and public transportation is awesome. Okay, you got a good job now, you make it well, I still think $40,000 even in 2011, having a job at all was really a bonus. I mean there was so many people out of work. You got married, how did you figure out money and what did your wife think about all of this?

Mindy: Like did she come into the marriage with her own debt?

Steven: Yes, that is a great question. We went about things a little bit differently in terms of… I was starting to get my financial act in order. I knew that, I was in the marriage. I did everything in check because now you are, I do not even know how to say it, man of the house. Not really sure the right terminology anymore. I knew that I needed to like show my wife that having all this debt was not going to put us in a good place. What we did, and this was her recommendation, and I did not take it well. At first was we decided that whatever you brought into the marriage, that is what you are responsible for. Lucky enough, I brought in student loans, personal loans, credit card, all that other stuff. My wife brought in a house or a mortgage when we lived or when she was in Florida. We attacked that separately.

All of the money that I made, I attacked that debt with the money that I made. It was not a joint attack. Now, she was supportive and when we had the mortgage payment, if it was a $2000 mortgage payment, it was a thousand and a thousand, but if there is anything that I needed to like increase. If groceries were a little higher that month, she helped out with that. We tried to do everything really splitting it down the middle with that. My $40,000 at that time, that is how I paid off debt and anything extra that came along with that.

Scott: What did she do for work?

Steven: She audits banks or at that time she was auditing banks, plural, and later on she ended up auditing singular bank.

Scott: She is in accounting. Like a Big 4 something like that, similar type of firm.

Steven: Yes, exactly.

Scott: Okay.

Mindy: Yes. From a married perspective where we share everything, I think this is very interesting that you started off your marriage with is it even separate bank accounts and did you have the Steven bank account, the 25:30 bank account and then the Steven and 25:32 bank account for shared expenses?

Steven: Yes, we did.

Mindy: Is that still how you guys manage your finances?

Steven: Up until very recently, yes.

Mindy: Okay.

Steven: That was just because of, I mean we will talk probably in a little bit but I switched careers, switched jobs or what have you and now we just have a working really through her personal checking is how we do it.

Mindy: You guys both agree on this and it works for you and…

Steven: Well, not at first. I do not want to say I was angry.

Mindy: I had been angry.

Steven: It was tough to take because, again, you think of things right as everything is joint or you know we are in this together and hear the message at first was like well, not really, and that is how I took it. Then I really started thinking about it and the way I looked at it as no one hates my debt more than me. I took it as I am going to personally attack it and I am going to do well. I am going to do well at my job and if I need to make extra income, if I need to live on less, that is what is going to happen.

It took me a little bit at first because I was, again, maybe just not ready for it and not even sure how to say it. Like I just did not take it well at first and then I realized I thought it could be just such a benefit with really put it on me and because it was me who got into debt. It was not her, she did not go to London and pay extra tuition in my last years of college, she did not buy a Mercedes Benz, like she did not do any of these things. I ended up being totally fine with it, I ended up being really motivated actually.

Mindy: Well, that makes a lot of sense logically but you do not get married because of logic. Oh, I fell in logic with my wife. No, you fell in love with your wife and you think it is like supposed to be a partnership. Logically, it makes sense that you are responsible for your own debt because like you said she did not buy the Mercedes, you did. You should be responsible for paying that but I could feel your frustration too.

Scott: Looking back at your frustration, would you have handled the situation the same way if you were to do it all over again or how would you kind of approach that? Maybe put yourself on the opposite position, right? If you are a listener to the show, maybe your spouse is coming in with a certain debt or whatever and you want to have this conversation? How do you approach that from a relationship perspective?

Steven: Yes. I think would I do it all over again? Well, it was first suggested by my wife. If I had suggested it the other way and she had come in with all that student loan debt, man, that would be a tough decision. I mean at that time I was really into personal finance and I was growing into like how can I be better at this? How can I pay off this? I was reading books and going through blogs. Personally, it was the right move for me. Now, is going to be the right move for everyone? I would say no just because personal finance is personal, everyone’s situation is different. I would attack it this way just because it really brought me… I think it brought us to where we are today. Maybe it would have taken a shorter period of time of course because we were to have those 2 income specifically applying but we also did a lot of great things together really because of it. Again, I would go in with a sense that it was the right move for us, I would do it again and kind of go from there.

Scott: With this new intent to pay down your debt, how did you kind of behavior and lifestyle changed relative to maybe the years prior as you would be in attacking it?

Steven: Frugal. Frugal is probably the word I would use because I still was not making a great deal of money and we still had our mortgage and different things. I had to cut… I would say either frugal myself out of probably like other situations. Like for example, I guess I could have chopped that Mercedes Benz, right? I would have just been in debt for that much longer so it was an idea that can you eliminate all that expense altogether and that was something that you had to choose and choose wisely. What is the next step? Do you want to pay off a little bit more student loan debt or are you good with eating out all the time? Do you want to pay off that credit card or again are you okay with buying fancy clothes as an example.

Scott: Okay. Would you say that you basically started packing your lunch, walking to work, just not maybe giving up some of the things that you might have done in previous years any more carefree?

Steven: Yes, I absolutely did. Things changed. Little by little, it was not overnight or anything but yes, I would bring my lunch more often to work, that was a big deal. Being in the city or in the loop, so easy to go and grab a $10 sandwich which $10 for lunch every day, you add that up, again, it takes away from that student loan payment. Again, you can say all these little things and may not be a big deal, right? A coffee, sure whatever I buy a $2 or $3 coffee, but again you keep doing it and keep repeating and I just made a choice that okay maybe I am not going to bring a coffee every single day let us try doing it 2 or 3 days a week or at lunch, let us just do it once. I ended up cutting things that I did not think had like a huge value or that I could at least frugal down a little bit and do it a little cheaper.

Mindy: People talk about this coffee, ‘Oh, if you get coffee out all the time you will never going to be financially free.’ Then other people come in, ‘Oh, it is only $5. If you cannot find $5 then you are not going to make financial freedom anyway. But I think it is a mindset. It is this mindset of, ‘Oh, I will just get it out, I will just get it out. No, I am not going to get it out. I am in this frugal mindset where I am going to be saving as much money as possible. Carl and I do this now. We have this app that we made from a Google form that we put on our phones and it is our spending tracker.

Now, it is a game to us. How little can we spend every month? We are still you know providing food and shelter for our kids, it is not like we are spending nothing. But, ‘Oh, do I really need that?’ I do not need that this week, I am going to see if I can push that purchase back or I do not need whatever. Let me let me eat out of the pantry instead of grabbing another thing at the grocery store. It is really once you get in that mindset, it is hard to stop you.

Steven: I hear it a lot too. I think a lot of it is planning. If you plan different things ahead almost in any situation, if you have a plan moving forward, you are going to spend less and it could be again the coffees and the groceries, right? But it goes into if you have plan a plan to purchase a vehicle if you go in and just go to the car dealership and buy a car, probably going to spend more money. Or if you have a plan for everything, chances are you are going to spend less. That is, I think, again it goes to the mindset and just with a little bit of planning it ends of really making a difference I think.

Scott: How long did this take you to get back to zero?

Steven: It took me right around 5 years.

Scott: What kind of changed after those five years or I guess after those five years, did you begin moving toward financial freedom? When did that kind of concept of building assets and building net worth kind of come into play as you went through this process?

Steven: Yes. One of the things that we did which was really beneficial. When we moved to Chicago, we are already looking for housing, we are looking to buy a house. It is just what we wanted to do. But some time in that first year, we rented an apartment and then we ended up actually buying a place but sometime during that shift, we were looking for a place that we could live in one unit and then rent the other. We ended up doing a house hack. We found a place that we really liked. We kept our housing expense as almost zero. Spending on your math and your taxes and all that and what have you. That was already a start with the investments.

Scott: What year?

Steven: We bought that in 2012.

Scott: Nice.

Steven: 2012 or 2011. 2012, back to the marriage numbers. But yes, we bought it in 2012. We already, during that time that I was paying off debt, we also were bringing in rental income. Now, the rental income, again it did not go to my student loans or anything like that. We went with a different approach on this as well. We decided that we would be responsible for the mortgage payment regardless of any rent that came in and then we took that rental income and then we actually applied it to the rental house in Florida.

Mindy: Was that you [inaudible][34:18] house before you guys? That she owned.

Steven: Exactly. Okay. Were you renting that out as well?

Steven: Yes, yes. As soon as we moved, shortly after that, ended up becoming a rental.

Mindy: How was your expense down there? You had the rent coming in to cover that mortgage and then also your rent from your Chicago place covering that mortgage?

Steven: Correct. Again, we decided to go at it in another direction. We made sure that we were responsible for the mortgage in Chicago but we are also responsible for the mortgage in Miami and then anything, again, any dollars that came in from any rental income, we just took that as almost like a bonus and then said okay we are going to pay down this Florida house.

Mindy: Okay. Where are you now with properties? You are living in Chicago… I am sorry, not now. What year are we talking about? 2012? Where you just bought a property?

Steven: Yes, 2012 is when we purchased the property.

Mindy: Okay. It was a duplex?

Steven: Yes. triplex, I am not sure. Chicago has some… I do not think it is a legal third unit. What is it, as is? I figured the terminology you are supposed to use in Chicago. That is what we used.

Mindy: Were you renting out 2 units in Chicago?

Steven: Yes, we rented out 2 and then we stayed in the top floor.

Mindy: Oh, wow. That is even better than a duplex. Okay, 2012, let us recap. Were your student loans paid off at that time?

Steven: Not in 2012. My student loan did not get paid off until, I believe, it is 2015 or 2016. I do not know how to give the exact date, I was terrible with that part of it.

Mindy: Okay. What are some other things you did to try and like just knock out the stat? You did the frugal thing.

Steven: Well, of course, I try to do my best at my current position. I was always the person who would take on more work or if they needed to stay later. I was actually an hourly employee. If there was over time available, you know I would absolutely bounce here. I did everything at my current job, right? But I also knew that it was going to take time. It was not the way it worked at my bank. It was not something where you did a great job and then a month later they promoted.

It was year over year and what have you unless you move to a different company or a different position in the bank but then I decided pretty shortly after, it is funny, I mentioned the Nike stuff with eBay and you said you did not do so well with the thrift stores. That is actually accidentally sort of walked into the thrift store gig where I would buy stuff from the thrift store and I would sell it on eBay for a profit. I use any extra income that I got from that. That is the secret sauce for me, that was the extra money that went in anything over zero, went towards all my student loans at that time. That was really big for me.

Mindy: How much time were you spending on the eBay stuff? Chicago probably has…

Chicago has some really great thrift stores. If you are in the right neighborhood, you can really clean up. Did you have a special niche that you were doing on eBay? I am going to throw like a 1000 questions at you. What are you selling? How much time did it take out of your day and what sort of profits raising?

Steven: Yes. I walked in accidentally. We had moved into the neighborhood. I went to a local thrift store and I brought home… I saw these polos, men’s polo, probably like the one I am wearing. They were really cheap. They were like $3 or $4. I was like, you know what? I would consider wearing this. I was like I got to give it a good wash and whatever but I was like I would wear that. Then I was like I might even be able to sell these. Then I brought that on to my wife and she looked at it like I was the craziest person alive. She is like no. One, she is like you are not wearing this and even if you do wear it, wash it a bunch of times. You do not know who had that on and I was like, okay.

Well, I was actually thinking of selling this on eBay. Like it is not going to work, like no one is going to want this. Then I am like, well, we will find out. No big deal. Like I have done… I had some experience, right? At least I had sold some stuff on eBay. Yes, what I ended up doing, kind of that was where it started, but I ended up I had a couple advantages. I was pretty familiar with brand names in general. I worked at Marshall Fields and Abercrombie while I was in school so I had some idea. But the big thing actually originally was the golf courses. I knew all these random golf courses that would be considered like an upper echelon course, not only in the Chicago land area but in the United States or even overseas. People do not walk into thrift stores to buy men’s polo with an Augusta logo.

Most people have no idea what the Augusta logo is. I would buy those and they would be like $3 or $4 because people were not buying them. Then I would sell that shirt possibly for as much as $30 to $40 because it was basically a new shirt. You could not go into Augusta like the pro shop and buy without spending $80 on like for a specific shirts that I would buy. That is really where that you know like the bigger profit came from because I could also buy in bulk as well. I might buy a shirt like this one for example again or I should not say this one but I would buy Calvin Klein shirt, right?

Pretty, I guess, ordinary not terribly expensive and maybe that sells for $10. Not that big of a deal but then I would find this using Augusta example. Find this great Augusta shirt and that would be a $40 shirt that I could sell and that would take care all of my costs and everything, all 30 shirts that I had after that or all 10 or 15 shirts that I had were all profit. The amount of time I put in, it varied. Sometimes I would go in and I would spend an hour and come home with 40 shirts especially as the better I got at it the quicker you kind of go through things.

Mindy: Yes.

Steven: Yes, it could be as little. I remember tracking time and seeing how the benefits and what have you. I could go through and put 10 to 15 hours a week and that is with like everything. That is buying the shirts, the drive there. I used to wash the shirts and steam then and all this crazy stuff but no one actually cares about that apparently because they are going to washing them their selves. There is that, there is shipping and handling, there is listing the items, all of that. I could do that on a weekly basis and it is taking me 10 to 15 and the profits are very… The more items you can list, the faster, and the better items and then the more money you make. The most that I made in a month that I remember, and this is profit, was it was right around a $1000.

Mindy: Oh, that is a nice side hustle. Do you still do that?

Steven: I stopped mostly because of the move but I am no longer in the Chicago land area but I also did not need to. I started making, I slowly but surely started making the decision of so I could go into the thrift store on a summer day in June when it is 80 degrees or I could you know go for a bike ride along the lake shore. I started choosing biking on the lake shore instead of extra under $100 or $200 or whatever that week.

Scott: With this, what I want to kind of get to is where did you… Like how did your thinking about money evolved from breaking even and getting to zero and paying off your debt to building networks and moving toward the concept of financial freedom? Where does that kind of strike it into your story here?

Steven: Yes. You know what? What had started off with, like where did I find financial independence? I really started, I thought about it early on. I was like man I have to work this entire time. We are talking 30 to 40 years, like that does not sound that appealing. I actually went to the library and started looking for books and I did not really find anything. The stuff that I did was, what was it, it was like how to retire at like 50 or 55 and then everything was moving overseas. I was or like to Mexico or Costa Rica and I am like well it sounds really cool but I am like I do not know if that is going to happen in 55, it still another 20 or 30 years later.

I came back, did the internet, Google search, and found a couple people like Mr. Money Mustache and Early Retirement Extreme. I will be honest, I was very skeptical. I looked at it. I remember some of the first things that like my first thoughts  on Mr. Money Mustache obviously does not change but I was like, ‘Who is this crazy Canadian biking everywhere to early retirement?’ I am like that is not reality. Then there is Early Retirement Extreme which is Jacob Lund Fisker.

Mindy: Fisker, yes.

Steven: Yes. I read his and I was like $7000, I am like I am pretty sure this guy is living in like a mobile home somewhere and like renting out his stuff. I am like, again, these people are crazy. I then started looking at other individuals out there and people where I was like okay this is not just them. Other people are starting like writing in different things. It was anything from 1500 Days caught my eye and there was an awakening is what it was called. It was also probably because I had recently went to Hawaii which I loved, yes. Then there was Brandon’s Mad Fientist.

All these people were out there and they were seeing these great things. Like it was not my story at that point because I was still in debt. There was like one line answers to the financial independence movement and it was like pay off your credit card. I was like, oh, that is great. That does not really kind of dive into things.

Scott: What year did you discover this? Was in the middle of paying down all those debt?

Steven: Yes, yes. It is probably somewhere in between like 2012 to 2013, maybe even 2011. It is actually with the real estate part of it as well because that was another thing. I did not say it was not out there. I did not know about it where there was people out there that were like, ‘Hey, by the way, you can invest in real estate and also get to financial independence.’ I knew that it was a good thing. Sure, like buying real estate, thumbs up, but it never clicked until some of the stuff like BiggerPockets. It was not like thrown at my face where I was like, ‘Oh, I get it now,’ but slowly I was like yes, okay, you invest in real estate, this is going to help your network, you are going to be able to build things. When I had that investment property in 2012, my wife already had the investment property from Florida bringing into the marriage. There were, I would say, leg up that had. We just did not really know it until we started really reading more or I started reading more.

Scott: Okay. The concept started to strike in 2013 or 2014. You cannot really do much about it but then get down to zero in 2015 to 2016, right? How do you begun investing? How did you start applying your savings at that point towards this financial freedom goal?

Steven: Yes, one of the biggest things was it was kind of cool. I had this vision or this map, right? This road map to paying off my debt and that was on our bedroom door but right alongside that, somewhere along the way, I convinced my wife that paying off the Florida mortgage was like the next thing to do and if we could pay off both of our properties or both of the properties, we could then reach financial independence because we essentially would have very low expenses and we would also have a very high, well not very high, but we got income that would cover our expenses. That is really when it started and when she paid that off… I paid my debt off in 2015 to 2016. Again, I got to get that exact date. It should be on my board somewhere but unfortunately it is not. Yes, she ended up paying or we ended up paying off that Florida home. I believe it was the end of 2016, at the end of 2016 or early 2017, and we had a paid off mortgage.

We had all the rental income that was coming in was essentially free and clear other than your usual insurance and the upkeep or what have you but then we started making the transition to we paid off that Florida home, should we then pay off Chicago? We, kind of a personal decision, we decided that we should start investing more and to more into stocks and the 401K and taxable investments or what have you and we started making the plunge towards that way because we were not really sure what was next but we thought it could involve Florida and having one less mortgage along the way could launch us towards that way, towards that direction.

Scott: Yes. I am sorry, you decided not to pay off the mortgage? Like put every dollar towards the mortgage in Chicago and instead to put your stuff in tax deferred 401K, all that kind of stuff, maxed out those types of account and kind of diversify across other things while you kind of plan out your next move, is that right?

Steven: Correct, yes. Our mortgage was… I mean it was I think was like 3.75 that is also in the back of my mind, can you earn more in the stock market as well and what have you but…

Scott: It sounds like at this point you are also, I mean if I am going too far with this assumption here, but it sounds like you are trying to get really clear what you want out of life? Like kind of what you want your day to day lifestyle to look like, you are starting to plan around those things, is that right? Then back into that as an envision.

Steven: Yes, we were definitely preparing for it. Kind of like the possibility more than anything. The year after that, I paid off debt. I believe we called it the… It was like the year of freedom. There is things that I did that, or we did, that we normally once done. I actually remembered a real specific example of a year before. I had the opportunity to go to Berkshire Hathaway. A friend of mine offered to give us one of the extra, I was not a stock holder, give us one of the extra tags or what have you. We took that, sorry, and I could not go. I decided against it. I mean I guess I could have, right? I could have but I would have been able to pay off my debt that much faster, like I said no.

The following year, I went to Berkshire Hathaway. We stayed, this is kind of crazy, we stayed in a tiny home like middle of nowhere Omaha, Nebraska and it was on a goat farm. I just, that is weird anyways, but it was fun. We were definitely taking more time to travel and just do things that, like you say Scott, that it was lifestyle-based and it started to be more about transitioning into the lifestyle than it was how frugal do I need to be? It started to switch more towards our values and what we found important.

Scott: What was like the relationship between being debt free and starting to pile up some assets and paying off that mortgage and all that kind of stuff and that shift in thinking? Did that go hand in hand or did they kind of arrived at separately? What I am trying to get at is I have a hypothesis, right, that for a lot of people… Some people, they do not need a money, they do not need any situation, and they can just go in like design their lifestyle and go do it, right? They are is comfortable with that. I am not that way. I need to have my solid base of cash and some cash flow and a lot of flexibility from my financial position before I can mentally get into the state where I can start designing my lifestyle around exactly what I want, right?

I am wondering if that was the case for you. If the fact that you had paid off your debt and are starting to accumulate asset as a family and that the position was getting stronger and stronger, if that is what kind of allowed you to start backing into, okay, here is exactly what I want my life to look like and I am going to start moving towards that as a result of these improvements in financial position or was that just a totally separate program path?

Steven: No. I would say your hypothesis for me would abide in almost right on. I mean, probably 80-20, but I would say that once we realized, or once we had that debt freedom and we started to have assets and have say extra money or without you we realize that we could do more things. I probably was on the side, when I was paying off debt, a little more of the I guess scarcity or I need to live frugal and then I realized you do not need to live frugal on everything. You are starting to pile up things, you are starting to have more money and income that is coming in. Like you need to start really enjoying it. You do not have to wait until that date in two years or ten years.

It really helps with also the experience along the way, it helps you figure that out. Because originally I thought, Chicago, Florida, we are going to live in Chicago. Then if we want to go to Florida, we are going to go there, whatever. It was not like some specific direct plan and then later on we are like, well, my wife really wanted to be in Miami so let us prepare, let us plan for that to be a possibility. We might not be but at least let us prepare and plan and you start realizing the things that are more important to you are more important to your significant other.

Scott: In this culminated innate move, right, and a major life change, right? Can you walk us through that?

Steven: Yes, it ended up being a pretty big life change. Again, we decided to pay off that Florida mortgage and then I thought we are going to take a trip to Italy and celebrate and move on, right? That was my original plan. It ended up being a long series of discussions over time. Every time that I walk my dog and my wife was with, last time we talked about Florida and how it would work. During the year 2017 and 2018, we decided that if everything worked out, we would move to Florida and we figured out some stuff were it was like okay, we are in a better financial place, we know that if we move down we do not need two jobs. Sure it would be great, two incomes, perfect. But if one of our jobs says, ‘Hey, you cannot go down there and work remotely or you cannot transfer positions,’ that is fine. We were in a better financial place so we could make it happen.

In 2018, we ended up listing our house for sale and we thought we might do the long distance landlord but we decided to list the house for sale and it sold ASAP. Multiple offers in which we… I mean sure our house is very nice, you fix it up and all that but did not expect that and everything happened quickly, snap like that. We sold the house and within whatever that closing was, I believe it was July 27 or the end of the month, July 30th. We picked up and we were on the road to Miami, Florida. Then the way the job situation worked out was my wife was able to work remotely and my position, I was not able to transfer and work remotely. We went down there with one position, one income, and of course no debt whatsoever.

Scott: I assume that your, by having bought in 2012 and sold in 2018 in Chicago, that you cleared some cash there. That you were able to redeploy towards fortifying your financial position in that small?

Steven: Correct.

Scott: Is that right?

Steven: Yes, when we started out it was… I mean I am open about the numbers. We bought the house in 2012 for $200,000. It is actually a foreclosure through Wells Fargo and we did an FHA 203K loan. I was not that familiar with them at the time but it allowed us to essentially take the rehab costs and just throw it into the mortgage. Instead of a $200,000 mortgage, it was a $250000 mortgage and then we got some stuff fixed up which was great for us because I did not have any experience other than my one time as a swimming pool construction before college. Not that beneficial…

Scott: The Chicago house did not have a pool?

Steven: Yes, no pool. No pool.

Mindy: I actually had this house in Chicago that had a pool once.

Scott: Why? Really?

Mindy: I do not recommend it because nobody in Chicago has a pool. That is really interesting. How much money did you sell the house for? What did you clear on that house when you sold it?

Steven: We sold it for $485,000. I think they offered more and that is what it ended up appraising that, it was $485,000.

Scott: Nice.

Mindy: Wow. You lived there for free for six years and then made $235,000?

Scott: While living for free.

Mindy: While living for free. Did you pocket all of that or did you have some depreciation recapture and all that stuff because it was rental income?

Steven: Yes. We did not pocket all of that and to be, I want to be transparent as possible, we did do some work along the way so it was not… We put in 50 in the beginning and then we no longer worked on the house. There was other stuff that we did along the way for upkeep. Yes, with that, we are going to the fun tax part of it. We will be paying some, like you say in the differentiation recapture and then based on how much we lived in. You play free and clear for part of it and any other part is where you are going to pay some taxes on our profits and we will be going to that here pretty shortly.

Mindy: But you still made a profit?

Steven: Yes, absolutely. Yes, yes.

Scott: What is the lifestyle like right now and where is your finish line, I guess, from a financial perspective?

Steven: Well, the lifestyle, we are in Miami, Florida. We are in South Miami, Florida where it is nice and sunny every day unlike Chicago. There is no polar vortexes. Even if there are, you have to wear like a long sleeved shirt that day. But yes, the day is different. When I came down here, I knew that I wanted to start a business of some sort and we knew that we had the one income and very low expenses. I kind of went back and forth and really started researching different companies. Anything from I looked at Culver’s, starting the Culver’s franchise which is really expensive by the way. But Amazon, anything from a little bit of everything. Just figuring out what did I want to wake up and be happy to do?

We started realizing too do you want to put in like in Culver’s, you were getting a loan for and you could spend as much as $2,000,000 really is what it came down to you and basically do you want to put all your eggs in one basket into at Culver’s. I was like that is scary for me and for us. We decided that whatever would be, it would be online. I have been blogging for the last four or five years at Even Steven Money and that was just to really hold myself accountable and just to make sure that when I made debt payments or when I did different things that I let the world know essentially, really helped me there. Decided to get into a different aspect where I am going to be helping people really go through what I did and that is working one on one with them as money coach.

Scott: You started that business when you moved down to Florida and has that been able to take off? How has it been going?

Steven: I would say, just started actually. I just started in January so I am in that getting all of like your process and procedures and making sure that what I do works for them and really following, having it all set up. Having it as automated as possible with the idea that I am still one on one. It is not an income that is needed and that is not the plan for it to be really needed but it is to be where I can help other people and also have it be part of our lifestyle. I can jump on his room call and talk finances with someone to help them in whatever they need.

Mindy: What does a money coach do exactly? Somebody calls you up and says, ‘Hey, I do not know how to figure my finances.

Steven: Kind of. No, there is a couple of things and it is all so new to me. It is new to me but I really feel like it is a new thing in personal finance. There is a couple ways I explain it. One, you could say, ‘You know who Dave Ramsey is yes?

Mindy: Yes, I have heard of them.

Steven: I am the prettier one with the bigger beard and more hair. No, that one I just made up. But usually, what I tell people is… You know people when they say I am bad with money. You tell them what they do and then I will respond with, ‘Yes, I help them solve that. I help people pay off debt faster, save more money than they ever have before. All this so they can live a better life today and retire comfortable tomorrow. Now, I do everything step by step, yes that was practice Mindy. But yes, I take things step by step. I want people to get to that financial freedom, right to where I am today. Where we, my wife and I are  in such a better financial position but I also know it does not happen overnight.

I would say it is like it is brick by brick, step by step. You are building up that road, you are building that foundation. While Financial independence is a great journey to be on. Not a 100% of the population is not currently on the road to financial independence. If I can help some of the people beforehand, and maybe I can convert a few along the way, to financial independence then I think I can help a lot of people even if it is one on one.

Mindy: I think this is a really needed position right now because there are so many sources of information for financial independence but you said earlier, and I say all the time, personal finance is personal. What you did for your situation is not going to be the same as what I did for my situation because they are different situations and having the idea that you want to pay down debt is great but you do not know what you do not know. If you are like, ‘Okay, I want to pay down my debt. What is the best way to do it? Oh, I do not know, never mind.

I can see a lot of people like wanting to be excited about it but then without the special tools and you cannot really… There is generalities that you can take and apply to your life but having somebody to help you with every single situation can just be the difference between actually achieving financial independence or even just paying off your debt and giving up because you are so frustrated.

Steven: Yes. I mean one of the biggest reasons people work with me is that means for a couple reasons but a lot of times I hear, ‘I do not know where to start. I do not have a financial plan.’ Then you will hear, ‘This is causing me anxiety or I feel like I have a weight on my shoulders and if I can help them away from it really even just getting started, right? Like, hey, let us track your expenses . Some of my clients will say, ‘I do not know how much, like I am bad with money, I do not know where I am spending my money.’ Like, well, let us start with just tracking your expenses. Here is a tool that you could use or try this so you would be able to really get an unbiased 3rd party opinion, I am your third party, and I am really like I want you to win. I want you to do the best that you could possibly be.

I am not selling you anything, I guess besides me, right? I am selling you me. But other than that, I am not telling you to go invest here or buy this insurance and that is where sometimes some that advice can be… You have to be careful, right? With me, you are getting someone who has gone through it before and can and help you along the way. Kind of get through some of those roadblocks of sometimes just getting started and other times just running through your plan now that we have one and seeing if it works. There is more than one way to do this, not everyone is going to follow the same exact plan. If I can get you going the right direction and figuring out what your personal plan is, it is going to be a benefit for you.

Mindy: Yes, that unbiased third party is like a counselor. In marriage, oh I have got my opinion, you have got your opinion, somebody else can help you see what is going on. With finances, sometimes you are so mired in it that you just cannot rise above it and see the whole big picture. You are just like swallowed in it. I think that is really a necessary tool for a lot of people. Okay, is there anything else that you would like to share with us before we get to our Famous Four questions?

Steven: My wife is beautiful and wonderful and hopefully she will listen to this and that will give me nothing but kudos points, can I add that?

Mindy: Your wife is beautiful and wonderful and delightful. Okay, it is now time for the Famous Four. These are the same four question and one command that we ask of all of our guests, what is your favorite finance?

Steven: The right answer, I had this discussion with my often, I know what the right answer is. Any book that is written by BiggerPockets, specifically Scott or Mindy.

Scott: Perfect.

Mindy: Set for Life was a pretty good book, I am going to lie.

Steven: The one that kind of changed the way I thought about money was Millionaire Next Door. That I would say that is my favorite one. I am also pretty big, I like stories involved in my personal finance books. A little less rigid on the save x amount and then apply it to debt. I also like the Richest Man in Babylon as well. Both were pretty influential to me.

Mindy: Yes, that Richest Man in Babylon is my favorite.

Scott: Good choices. Alright, what was your biggest money mistake?

Steven: Quite easily, it Mercedes-Benz, buying the Mercedes Benz, so many things. Not only buying it but like leaving your job a couple months afterwards, paying all the expenses for it. Yes, that one hurt.

Scott: How much in total you think that car cost?

Steven: I feel like you are trying to make me cry, Scott.

Scott: The point is to help our listeners.

Steven: Absolutely, absolutely, right. I did not have it that long. I would not be surprised. I know I took a loss $1,200 plus payments for even just a year and I had it for longer than that. I mean $10,000 probably just in a year.

Mindy: Wow.

Scott: Wow.

Mindy: $10,000 and that does not even include opportunity costs but also would you be where you are today if you had not made that decision? I honestly do not think so. Yes, I am also a believer that everything that we do kind of has a little effect in something else at a different part of our life. Yes, it was without that, without making a stupid decision, I once have, I guess, got smarter.

Mindy: Plus he looks like for a year.

Steven: Right, I got to drive my friends around and say, ‘Hey, did you see what I am driving? Obviously, I am doing really well.’

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

Steven: Yes. I mean it is a number of things but to really narrow it down is I say if one thing talk with me is to track your expenses and it does not have to be like a rigid thing but if you are able to know where you are spending your money, you can make the decision if you want to keep spending it that way or if you want to put more money in something else that you value more or to put more in the stock market. Just tracking it, I think it is such a big deal. You do not have to be… Again, you do not have to be so rigid, but it allows you to really decide. It is like it is data impacted. You are allowed to take that data and decide what you want to do with your money after that.

Mindy: I have told this story a hundred times but until we tracked our spending, I did not know how frequently I went to the grocery store. At one point for like several months it was every single day. It is just, wow, I cannot believe I am doing that. Not only does it help you track like your expenses but it tracks your behavior and this is not how I want to be. I do not want to be at the grocery store every day. I had mentioned earlier that I put this Spending Tracker on my phone, my husband did, I did not do that. We got that from the Waffles on Wednesday.

They created this Google sheet, Google form. It is like a questionnaire. You fill out, where did you spend it, what day, how much, what is the category? We made it customized to what we spend money on typically. Now, every time I go anywhere and spend a dime as I am walking out of the store, I am entering my expenses and it is really really helpful. At the end of the month, you are wow. Now, we are trying. Now, we have got a game going on, how little can we spend?

Steven: Yes. I mean a business keeps track of all of their expenses. It is like why would you not do it for yourself?

Scott: Yes. When sometimes I meet with people, not in a coaching capacity or anything like that, but people will go grab a coffee or whatever and discuss someone’s financial position and see if there is anything I can do to help or whatever. I will not get them to schedule a meeting until I get a commitment to that person that do not. At least have some indication of what their expenses are going for the last couple of months. I mean this tip comes up 50% of the time with people on this say, ‘Hey, my best piece of advice is to track your expenses. I have never come across somebody who has failed to do this exercise and then does it. Who is not able to come up with potentially life-changing amounts of expenses to cut or change or clear patterns that do not reflect what they say that their priorities are, right?

If you say, ‘Hey, my priority is financial freedom and this other thing and then you have huge amounts of expenses leaking out in this category, in that category, that tells a clear story, right? That means you are not being honest with yourself or need to change something, I mean this one exercise is foundational to everything else. You can cut your expenses, you can increase your savings rate. You have more to invest, you have a larger cash cushion. You can take more entrepreneurial risks.

You can go on and move to Florida and start a business and try and see how that goes. You can do all of this stuff that all starts with your tracking your expenses, right? All the other opportunities downstream to earn more and invest, all that kind of stuff. It all begun with this very very simple exercise that most people do not do, right? Money is hard. Okay, well, anyways moving on from my little rant there, what is your favorite joke to tell at parties? I know you tell a joke every single day to your wife. Maybe you can stretch it. What is the joke you tell that makes your wife groan the hardest?

Steven: Oh, I cannot use that one.

Mindy: It is a family show.

Steven: Yes, exactly.

Scott: Oh, I did not mean it like that. I meant like a horrible, oh that was terrible joke.

Steven: It is the same one. Whether I am saying it to my wife or when saying to anyone, I usually just rely on my quick witted responses. Since I wanted to be good, I wanted to follow, have a good joke, I did look one out and I laughed when I read it. Hopefully, that helps. Did you guys hear about the new restaurant called Karma?

Scott: No.

Steven: Well, there is no menu. You get what you deserve. Was that good? I do not know.

Scott: I think…

Mindy: I left. I mostly hate these jokes so I left.

Scott: That means you get to tip that you deserve too, I bet.

Mindy: You tip what they deserve. Okay. Steven, where can people find out more about you?

Steven: You can go to and pretty much everywhere, all social media. What is it? Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn. It is all going to be Even Steven Money.

Mindy: That is unfair that you have the name Steven and get to be Even Steven Money. That is a great name.

Steven: Thank you, thank you. Lots of years of being Steven really got me to earn that position so I am very proud of it.

Mindy: Even Steven, there is a lot of Vs in there and this is show 67 so we threw another V in there just for you.

Steven: Thank you. 67.

Mindy: 67, yes. The show notes for this particular episode can be found at, that is moneyshow67. Even Steven can be found everywhere you can find Even Steven Money. Thank you so much for your time today. This was really awesome.

Steven: Hey, thank you guys so much. Again, still smiling so Scott did not make me cry, I appreciate that. Always, it is a pleasure. I am a big fan of BiggerPockets Money so I appreciate it. Thank you, guys.

Scott: Yes, thank you.

Mindy: Okay, we will talk to you later. Have a good day.

Steven: You too.

Scott: Alright, that was Steven Donovan from Even Steven Money. Mindy, what did you think?

Mindy: One of my biggest takeaways from this episode is the fact that he did not feel that having a finance degree made him too good to do any other job. As soon as he graduated from college, he went back to the golf course that he was working at throughout high school, throughout college. He did not feel… He went to the poker tournament or the poker casinos. That is that is not my thing, I really really do not like gambling so that would have not of been something that I tried but he was like, ‘Oh, let me try this. Let me try that. Whatever,’ to bring in money. He did not just sit around and do nothing, he did not just sit around and wait for this perfect job to come in. He graduated right before the market crash and just did what he needed to to put money on the table or to put food on the table.

Scott: Well, I love how he just like got intentional and the results piled up and piled up. I love the fact that his wife had a pretty sounds like a tough conversation with an output he did not like and instead of kind of getting upset about it, he attacked his debt, got it back down to zero and is now living the life of his dreams and making things happen. I just admired the hustle and the tenacity once he got going on achieving his goals.

Mindy: Yes. Again, he took that same I will do anything to pay off this debt, I will do anything to bring money in attitude towards his debt. Selling stuff at eBay for what did he say? His best month was a $1000, that is not small potatoes when you are trying to attack this debt that was… He had at one point a $100,000 in debt. That is 1% of your debt in one month, that is not bad.

Scott: Yes, I mean a lot of creativity and a lot of discipline I think really got him through all that.

Mindy: Yes, it really did. I like that now that he has moved back to Florida, he has decided I am going to do this for other people too. I am going to help other people do this because I hear from a lot of people, ‘I am stuck. I do not know where to go, I do not know what the first step is, how do I get started? When you are in this situation, sometimes it is so hard. You are trying so hard to keep your head above water. You cannot see that the island is right there, you cannot see that the help is really close and sometimes that is just really what you need to get you pushed over the hump and get you started.

Scott: Yes, I hope he is very successful with it.

Mindy: I do too. Should we get out of here, Scott?

Scott: Let us do it.

Mindy: Okay. From episode 67 of the BiggerPockets Money podcast where we interview Steven Donovan from Even Steven Money, brought to you by the letter V, this is Scott Trench and Mindy Jensesn. Ve vill see you later, that was terrible.

Scott: Oh my gosh.

Mindy: That was Scott level. Seriously, like the letter V is everywhere in this title.

Scott: Yes.

Mindy: Okay, we are gone. Goodbye.

Scott: Goodbye.    

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In This Episode We Cover:

  • Steven’s money journey
  • How he managed his personal money and student loan
  • What his college lifestyle was like
  • The evolution of his financial position between graduation and employment
  • His experience purchasing things from Nike outlets and selling them on eBay
  • The moment he figured out his goals
  • How he purchased his Mercedes Benz and what happened after he purchased it
  • His financial and job situation going into marriage
  • The reason he and his wife have separate bank accounts and paid their own debts separately
  • The importance of having a frugal mindset and a plan for everything
  • How he got into house hacking
  • Exactly how he paid off his debts
  • How he started investing and building assets
  • Biggest reasons people worked with him
  • How important an unbiased third party is
  • And SO much more!

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