Welcome to the BiggerPockets Money podcast show number 76 with John and David from the Debt-Free Guys.
I actually started saying it’s to us it wasn’t financial independence, retire early. It was financial independence retire entrepreneur and that’s really kind of what I was like when I’m retiring, what I’m retiring is being chained to someone else’s desk. I’m going to be chained to my own desk.
It’s time for a new American dream. One that doesn’t involve working in a cubicle for 40 years, barely scraping by. Whether you’re looking to get your financial house in order, invest the money you already have or discover new paths for wealth creation, you’re in the right place. This show is for anyone who has money or wants more, this is the BiggerPockets Money Podcast.
Scott: How’s it going everybody? I’m Scott Trench and I’m here with my cohost Miss Mindy Jensen. How are you doing today Mindy?
Mindy: Scott, I am having a really great day. How are you doing today?
Scott: I am doing fantastic. Love today’s episode with John and David. They’ve had an incredible debt reduction and elimination approach story and then they’ve gone on from there to create a life of financial abundance business owners, financial independent retire entrepreneurs. Right that was a great term that they’ve coined there and really just all around great show about kind of starting at rock bottom or at least you know in a big pile of debt, climbing the way out and getting to freedom.
Mindy: Yes, you know I really like they had a series of four or five ways to get yourself out of debt and how to become debt free and money abundant and number one spend less than you make. Like groundbreaking stuff here. Be money conscious. Live by a budget.
What I love about their story is that it’s the same as everybody else’s story. There’s no secret sauce to this. You have to do the work and here’s the things that it takes to get debt free. Here’s the things that it takes to become financially independent and you know they just lay it out really easily and really understandably. This is what you need to do. If you don’t do this, it’s not going to happen.
Scott: Yes, I think there’s also a component of backing into the they have a clear goal and vision for their lives and they backed into that and that has created a different financial situation that they’ve produced for themselves, a large cash position, 401(k), a very large 401(k) balance, business ownership. That’s just different from maybe somebody else who’s kind of going into that 25 times my annual expenses through index funds and a couple of rental properties. You know, portfolio you know I think the reasons why they did that are very intelligent as well.
Mindy: Yes, they didn’t start off this journey to stop working. They started off this journey to stop working for other people.
Mindy: To stop working at jobs that they didn’t like and you know that, one of the most common things I hear about the financial independence journey is oh I want to quit my job. Well you probably want to quit your job because you don’t like it. You would probably really enjoy doing work that you enjoyed. It’s not that you don’t want to work and be productive anymore. It’s that you don’t want to work in this soul sucking place and have all of your free time just sucked away from you because you have to trade your time for money.
Scott: A consequence of spending more than you earn or not spending significantly less than you earn is that when you are stuck in that dead end job which will happen with greater probability every passing year that goes on, you will not have the option to make those big changes in your life. Yes.
Mindy: That’s a good word. That’s truly what financial independence is all about. Giving yourself options.
Scott: Yes. Absolutely. Well should we bring in David and John?
Mindy: Yes. Let’s hear a note from today’s show sponsor.
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Mindy: Okay, a huge thanks to today’s show sponsor. John and David from the Debt-Free Guys. Welcome to the BiggerPockets Money Podcast. How are you guys doing today?
John: Hi, we’re great.
John: Thank you for having us.
David: Yes, definitely thank you.
David: We’re happy to be here.
Mindy: I’m so glad this could finally work out. I have known John and David forever. It’s just never synced and now we’re finally getting you on the show and I’m very very excited. Like we start off with most of our shows, we want to know where your journey with money begins.
John: I think our first awareness with money really begins after John and I had been together for a year and a half. We decided one weekend to go up to the mountains and Colorado and visit a friend of John’s. He lived in Winter Park with his girlfriend and we went up there, had a great weekend. Although, we both had been to Winter Park before for some reason we just fell in love with Winter Park at that time and decided this would be a great place for us to have a vacation home.
On the way out of town on Sunday, we stopped at a realtors office, we looked at the real estate. We get in the car, we’re starting to have this really fun fantasy conversation about buying land and building a house. I love modern architecture. I want to build a modern home so we had this fantasy conversation.
If you’re familiar with the area, Winter Park has an elevation of about 9100 feet so we crossed over the top of the mountain. We’re driving down towards Denver. Our conversation still continues and pretty soon we’re in Estes Park, elevation 7,500 feet and our conversation had changed a little bit. We were now talking about well maybe it would make more sense if we just bought a place that already was up there.
That would be a good first step. Right let’s do that. Continue talking, continue driving, pretty soon we’re in Boulder, elevation 5,400 feet. Conversation is now more along the lines of maybe we should do a long term rental. You know we could probably do that. Like well we’re in for a whole month in the wintertime and a whole month in the summer time and all that kind of thing.
Pretty soon, we’re in Denver, elevation 5,280 feet. It’s the mile high city and our conversation was no longer a mile high. It was really at this point that we started to talk about how we were financial messes and that we really shouldn’t even be considering going up there for vacation and so we get to our place. We take our bags out of the car, open up the door and we literally walked down a flight of stairs into a basement apartment.
Right so this is where we were an hour and a half before, having this fantasy conversation about buying land and building a house to realizing that we didn’t even own our own home to vacation away from. The crazy thing about this is at the time John and I were both in financial services. We had 13 years of combined experience helping other people understand how they should be saving for the future and we had $51,000 in credit card debt.
Mindy: Was this your first conversation about money?
David: Well that started the first conversation about money. Up until then because we were both in financial services we thought like okay well he can’t be as bad as I am with money and so I’ll just trust him and he felt the same thing about me and you know the time like we were like just when we first got together we were that complete puppy love phase so like we were just spending and having a lot of fun and taking days off of work and doing little trips you know in the mountains and we just weren’t paying attention at all. We either had the cash or we couldn’t start the credit card and we both thought everybody, the other one was doing fine. I think that we had had little tiny conversations around like when we decided to move in together. We talked about you know how much it was going to cost, but we never had any bigger picture conversations about where we were financially, where we stood financially. We just kind of like John said I think we were in this kind of whole puppy love and I don’t want to scare him away with the fact that that I had I think at the time I had $17,000 in credit card debt.
John: The rest is lying.
Mindy: Yay, John wins.
John: At that time we were just focused on the weekend right so we would we were just living the life and I went to happy hours every Friday then that happy hours would lead into dinners. Every night, Saturday night was dancing. We needed a new outfit for every Saturday night to go clubbing.
David: He did. I didn’t. He did.
John: Some of the dumb mistakes that we made.
Scott: What was the bulk of this expense going out and those types of expenditures or was it you know were there automobiles involved or where did the bulk of that debt really had come from?
David: Yes, that’s a great question so I was the big ticket spender. David was the nickel and dimer so when I first moved to Colorado I moved there from Pennsylvania and I had $5,000 cash in my account that my grandparents gave me for a graduation gift and so within over a year I was $25,000 in credit card debt because I had to decorate my new apartment. I had to get a new car and did brand-new clothing. I couldn’t ride the same snowboard I did in Pennsylvania and Colorado so I had to then of course the furniture and the decorations I bought from my first apartment was all Pottery Barn. I just thought I deserved all these things and I needed all these things to sort of validate who I was. You know couldn’t be any less than what I thought was ideal or perfect otherwise I might not catch the right guy.
Mindy: Okay so first of all yes you can use the same snowboard. Second.
David: I’ve learned.
Mindy: What’s wrong with Pottery Barn? That’s high end.
David: Love you.
Mindy: I shop at the thrift store.
David: Right, right.
Mindy: And third I like how you use the word deserve.
Mindy: I deserve it is probably the worst financial statement you can make. If you can’t afford it then no you don’t deserve it.
John: Not at all. Exactly. I agree with you to a degree.
Mindy: You might want it.
John: Yes. I think that we have traded out deserve and earned right. I think that like you said if you haven’t. If you don’t have the money or you haven’t earned it then you don’t deserve it. We just kind of have dropped that that whole idea and for me like John said I was a nickel and dimer. I was the person who literally almost every single day I stopped at a bagel shop to get a bagel before I went to work. Most days I went out to lunch so I was spending hundreds of dollars a month on dining out and then as John and I got together it translated into that as well. One of the other things that I think most people just drop their jaw when they say this, but when we cut back, we cut about $30,000 of food spending a year out of our budget.
Mindy: Oh my God.
Scott: It’s amazing.
David: Because the way that John and I used to grocery shop, we were just I will be honest, we were stupid the way we used to grocery shop. Every day we would on the way one home from work, we worked near each other so we carpooled. I think that was the only way we saved money at that time because we just were carpooling, but we would stop at whole foods and buy enough food for one meal and you know that when you go to whole foods and you buy enough food for one meal, you’re going to walk out and spend anywhere from $60-$80 right. Well we would do that like four days a week and then on the weekends we were dropping a hundred dollars on dinners on a regular basis so we would just everything was gourmet, everything was fancy. Like John said we thought we deserved it. We had decent jobs and we were just spending way more money than we made.
Mindy: This sounds like the Waffles on Wednesday. They said that they were also spending like $30,000 a year when they quit going out to the bar that was down the street. Like they were paying the equivalent of an entire bartender salary.
John: Right. Well that didn’t even include our alcohol budget. That’s a whole different line item, but you know we would go to work every day and we felt like okay well I’ve got this college degree. I’ve got this job down. This must be what I do.
I deserve this and I worked all day long or I worked all week now I deserve this fancy dinner out. When I graduated and I moved out to Colorado I thought well I graduated college. I deserve to live like an adult. No more posters of sticky tack on your wall. I just felt like I deserved all this. I think people still have that expectation today. You know when you go into your friends and family’s house and you kind of see how they’re spending.
You can kind of sometimes get a sense you know, you have an idea of what they might be earning. You don’t always know, but you kind of have a sense. You kind of see the way that they’re spending money. You kind of have to ask yourself why are they spending that way? Most of us have attachments that we don’t even necessarily realize that we have and trying to break those habits can be very difficult for a lot of people.
Scott: What about student loans or any other types of debt like that? Was that a factor at all in your lives?
John: No, no.
David: We were kind of right before that. I didn’t have any student loans. I was fortunate enough. I was a late bloomer and I didn’t go to college until I was 29 so at the time I had a full-time job and fortunately I had an employer that reimbursed tuition and I also was working at financial services during the whole built up to .com. They were desperate to keep people so they allowed me to work 32 hours a week and go to school full-time and pay for my education.
I was very fortunate about the time period that I went to school. Now grant it I think that probably each year I maybe spent about anywhere from a thousand to $2,000 of my own money on school, but that was for things like books or a new computer or those kinds of things, but I was just very fortunate to not have to acquire that and maybe that was just a. Whether or not that was a fluke or maybe I was making a smart financial decision. I just didn’t take on any student loan debt.
Mindy: Let’s go ahead and call that a smart financial decision, a purposeful.
Mindy: Smart financial decision that David made. You had $51,000 in just random whatever debt.
David: Yes and the year and a half that we were together before we did that I know that we took two trips to Miami that we put on credit cards. We stayed at a hotel that was literally on the beach. Miss the view. Then we left the hotel and didn’t do anything. Right so we would walk down to the beach. I think that the like John said, the I deserve this lifestyle. We just got so caught up in that.
John: Yes. I put a down payment on my car, on my credit card, of $5,000 so that was a fair chunk of change.
Mindy: You can pay your car with a credit card?
Mindy: Okay so.
John: If your car was leasing too by the way. I wasn’t, I didn’t finance it. I was leasing it.
Mindy: Okay. Great just.
John: It was a merit.
Mindy: Scott do you have that list.
Scott: It was a Honda Civic. It was a Honda Civic or Toyota Corolla right?
John: No, it wasn’t it was a Volkswagen.
David: Volkswagen Jetta.
Mindy: Okay, so we’re checking all these boxes. No student loan yet still $51,000 in random credit card debt. Charging a car, which I didn’t even know you could do so I learned a new thing. You’re driving down from Winter Park.
Suddenly having this conversation that you should have had 18 months ago. What’s the first thing you do when you get back and you realize not only can we not afford an auxiliary apartment. We can’t even afford like a regular house, like our primary residence. How did you start turning around your finance? Did you start or are you like a thousand, a $100,000 in debt now or?
David: We cried a lot.
John: No, no we have.
Mindy: Oh wait, no you’re the Debt-Free Guys.
John: We are did that for you guys.
Mindy: How did you become the Debt-Free Guys from $51,000 in ridiculous debt?
David: Yes, I think the first thing we said was WTF. We sat on that basement floor for about six or seven hours. Cried miserably.
David: We started to ask ourselves questions of you know we’ve made pretty decent money. We weren’t you know, we weren’t rolling in the dough, but we made pretty decent money and a lot of our friends were bypassing us in terms of in life goals. They were getting married and they were building houses or buying houses and their lives were expanding and ours continued to always seem like they were contracting. We just started to ask ourselves like what are we doing wrong here?
In theory we should know better what to do with our money. We’re helping other people with their money. Why can’t we help ourselves? We kind of did a lot of self reflection over the next two or three months and we kind of realized that we were not really spending according to either of our values. For a number of reasons we were living up to everyone else’s expectations.
We felt like we had to have certain kinds of approval from our parents as well as our community. We sort of felt like we had to maybe put on the appearance of being better than other people to make ourselves feel better and to also prove hey I might be gay, but I’m as good if not better than you. I think there was a lot of that and it didn’t take until maybe three or four months after that experience for us to realize the way that we’re spending is not at all in line with what we actually want. In hindsight we realized we want to save for retirement, to travel the world on cash and give back to our community. Look at our savings or checking account at the time we were not spending at all that way.
John: I think that between the two of us even though both of us work with me. Services and we’re smart enough to have started 401(k)s. Between the two of us we had a negative net worth so we had less than $51,000 in our 401(k)s. We had a negative net worth and we just, we did really say if we continue down this path.
Where will we be a year from now? We knew if we, a year from now we would still be in that basement apartment. That’s not where we wanted to live. Five years, 10 years. We just knew our lives were going to continue to be mundane. We might have a lot of, eat a lot of nice food and take some nice vacations, but that was it.
Scott: Yes so what was your action plan that came out of this? Like what changed behaviorally coming out of this conversation?
John: Well, fortunately David is a numbers nerd and he loves Excel. The first thing you know he did was one or two weekends after that. He went and itemized every single expense that he could of ours for the previous 12 months and figure out okay why are we, what is not aligning with what we can afford or what we should be spending our money on and that really highlighted some major striking areas that we were completely messed up in. One of them was the food budget. One of them was our alcohol budget, which was about $10,000 a year and that allowed us to figure out okay what are we doing wrong? Where can we find some savings quickly? How can we reign in this spending as fast as possible? That was probably the first thing that we did.
David: Yes. Well I think that what we just mentioned earlier. I think having the conversation about what our life goals were really kind of solidifying what it is that we wanted. That gave us the motivation then to say and how do we change it? The first step as John mentioned was to do this crazy spending analysis.
I literally, it took me like four hours and I looked at every single statement, every credit card, every checking account, savings account. Everywhere we had money and I started writing. If we spent $0.99, I wrote it down and I put together this huge spreadsheet and it really is eye-opening. When you do a spending analysis, most people just kind of wing it when it comes to their budget or what they’re spending and we decided not to do that anymore.
Mindy: Wow, yes tracking your spending. What a shocking.
Mindy: Way to you know and if you’re not tracking your spending, that first view of where your money goes is pretty.
Mindy: Like you said, eye opening. Painful.
Mindy: I’m doing what with my money? That’s not where I want it to go. Well then why is it going there? When you don’t pay attention, it’s so easy to just slip up.
John: Right, right what you’re actually doing and what you want to be doing are very often not aligned and people are very surprised when they realize what they’re actually doing. Now we one the our spending analysis is included in our credit card pay off course. Every time we have students go through that spending analysis. One they hate the idea of having to go back for 12 months and look at their expenses, but when we finally encourage them to do that then their eyes just like glaze over or they, their eyes pop out.
They just. You know they can’t believe how they’ve been spending their money. We’ve had several people tell us like I didn’t know I spent that much money on alcohol. That seems to be one of the most reoccurring high expenses that people that we work with have had it to us.
Scott: Once you saw that, what changed? Did you start shopping at grocery stores? Did you start drinking Natural Light? What was the kind of output?
Mindy: Natural light. Yes, that’s it.
Scott: Hey there’s nothing wrong with that.
Mindy: Yes, there is.
John: I think that the first thing is with because some of those categories were just so shocking to us. We immediately knew where we could make some tweaks to literally cut thousands of dollars a year out of our spending that could then be funneled towards paying off our debt. We went from spending hundreds of dollars a week on groceries to spending between $75 and a hundred. We created a menu and a grocery list every single week. We started shopping like mom’s who have seven kids and have a lot of money.
David: We had the envelope with the coupons inside and if we didn’t. If it wasn’t on sale or we didn’t have a coupon for it, we wouldn’t buy the food. It would go on our menu for that week. The fortunate thing is now there’s all sorts of tools and apps that can do that help you do that, but back then we just had to do it all ourselves, but we found that that was. That is what started to make sense for us.
We started to cut back on our dining out. When our friends would ask us you know to go out or do things we started kind of deflecting to say can we do. Hey do you guys want to do this instead? It’s cheaper or we had actually started.
I would like to say we kind of became directors of our friend group because we started really started pushing let’s go to the museum on this free day. Let’s go to the park and hang out there and have a bottle of wine instead of spending. Everybody dropping $50 on brunch. You know, those kinds of things were the. John and I realized that we still loved being social.
We still wanted to have a fun life and if we just cut everything out we wouldn’t continue. We would continue on our path. We would just kind of lapse back into the spending and doing everything the same if we still weren’t having fun. It was how can we have fun? Still do the things that we love to do.
John: Yes, we stopped going out as much. That was another big expense of ours going clubbing and partying every weekend was a huge expense. We got all that back considerably. We didn’t eliminate it altogether, but we got it back and then we figured out how to lower all of our credit card interest payments down to 0% and then that ended up actually being $10,000 as well. We were able to lower that down to 0% per year. We had an extra $10,000 we could put a year towards our credit card debt.
David: Awesome so what did that look like in terms of dollar progress made in that first year against that debt?
John: Well we paid off our debt in two and half years. You would call what we did.
John: In the first year. I think that the I can’t remember exactly, but I want to say we were closer to about $20,000 the first year because it took us a little bit of time. We cut about $20,000 the first year. It took us a little bit of time to really kind of ramp up to figuring out all the ways that we could really cut back and start saving money.
Scott: That’s still very impressive. Like $51,000 in two and a half years basically from these two or three major categories of spending after isolating them and tracking them and making a couple behavioral changes.
Scott: That’s fantastic progress.
John: Yes, we knew that we wanted to pay it off as fast as possible and that’s why when we looked at the snowball method to pay off our credit card debt and the avalanche method they all, they both make sense in their own way, but we realize you know it’s just going to take so much longer with this high interest payments and we want to pay this off fast. We want to end this problem and move on with our lives. That’s what encouraged us to look a little bit deeper to figure out how we could pay it off faster.
Mindy: How did your friends react when they would say hey let’s go to brunch and it’s $50 a person in you’re like how about we go to the park instead?
John: Well you know so that was very interesting. We had some friends who are kind of just evolved away from naturally. No hard feelings at all, but we just kind of went in different directions. It was surprising to us how many friends of ours either had credit card debt themselves or they just had some other life goal that they agreed would be much more easily achieved if they dialed back their spending as well. Whether it was, we had a time.
We had a lot of friends who were trying to have children or they wanted to buy a house for the first time or they were saving for a wedding and so if they could dial back their spending as well. Those people engaged with us. I think for the most part it was cool. We were very open with our situation too and so people I think felt relieved because we were probably the worst of everybody so they could feel a little bit more open about their situation. It was interesting how it happened, but yes like I said some people evolved away. Most people were pretty supportive and kind of got on board.
Mindy: Did you tell them, “Hey let’s go someplace else because we’re trying to pay off debt?” Like were you open and honest with them because this is the conversation that nobody asks.
David: We were very specific.
John: Well you know I don’t think it was a surprise to anybody because we didn’t have the nicest cars at the time and we were renting a basement apartment. It just and two you know middle-class white men typically would be doing better financially than living in a basement apartment so I don’t think it was a surprise to anybody, but yes they were kind of surprised when we did that a little bit.
David: Yes, I think that the people that were surprised the most was family. Because we told them and we said we’re like for example the very first year we told family and said we’re not going to exchange Christmas presents this year because we’re trying to pay off debt and we wanted to make some financial the changes, which is interesting because that stuck and we still don’t exchange Christmas presents.
John: Well no that’s not entirely true. We, the kids get gifts until they graduate at whatever school that they’re going to finish going to school at so whether that’s high school or college, you can still get Christmas gifts and birthday gifts, but after you graduate and you’re done school altogether then no more gifts.
David: You’re an adult so.
John: We haven’t stopped that tradition yet.
Scott: You know going back somebody said just a minute or two ago you talked about how you had this debate about the debt snowball versus the avalanche method. Can you explain both of those terms and then how you settled on your debt pay down approach?
John: Yes so the debt avalanche is basically where you pick a small card, the smallest card. You pay off that small card.
Scott: Smallest get balance card.
John: Yes, the smallest balance card first and as you basically the idea as you continue to make your minimum payments on all your cards, but you payoff as much as you can on that smallest card first as you pay that off then it starts to give you some momentum to continue paying. You pay off one card and then you move to the next smallest balance, the next card balance after that is the next smallest. It really kind of idea the idea is you’re accumulating some speed at which you pay the cards off. That’s the avalanche.
John: Or maybe I have them confused.
Scott: That might be the snowball.
John: Yes isn’t it?
Scott: That’s Dave Ramsey’s method right?
David: Yes snowballs do that.
John: Yes that. Then the other method, the avalanche I guess the snowball is smallest balance. Avalanche is the highest interest and so you’re going to basically again pay off the minimum balances are. Pay the minimum balances on all your cards, but you’re going to focus on the card that has the highest interest rate and pay that off first. When we looked at both of those. We kind of looked at them and said well we’re still paying $10,000 a year in interest if we keep our interest rates at the same amount. Why would we continue to waste $10,000 a year?
That’s when we said we got to do our own thing. Those are I think those are good, but we’ve got to do our own thing so that’s when we created what we called the debt lasso method. That is the desire to get all of your debt in one location. We tried to pull all your debt into one location and get it at the lowest interest rate possible.
For us, fortunately that was the time period when credit card companies were just flooding everybody with mailboxes with zero interest rate offers so we got everything under zero interest rate offers. We paid that three dollar, or 3% balance transfer fee and we eliminated that $10,000 a year that we paid. It then it ended up being $1,500 because we paid the 3% rather than paying 20% on the cards that we had. That is what really expedited our process of paying off debt faster.
Mindy: That’s really interesting because I have been hesitant to move like credit cards because of the 3% transfer fee. It used to be 0% transfer fee.
Mindy: Which I like better.
Mindy: I’m sure you did too, but.
John: Of course.
Mindy: That is well you do the math. Sometimes that works out. I like that idea then you’re paying one number.
David: We typically try to encourage people to get the longest terms possible and as of a couple of months ago there were still some terms out there for as long as 12 and 18 months. The longer term you can get, the better because you’re going to have fewer transfer fees. If you have any more than one and then, but the idea is if you’ve got a hundred percent focus on using every free dollar you have to pay off the credit card.
John: The other thing is that I think if you have a very large amount of debt like looking back if we had $51,000 of credit card debt to pay. May not even go for the zero balance transfers and make both for a low interest loan because if you have a significant amount you’d probably no one is going to would give us a credit line if a credit card of $51,000. They just wouldn’t do it right, but if you could get a loan from someone let’s say that was a 4% or 5% loan well then you’re able to do that transfer once and then continue paying that down. You only have that one transfer fee, but if you have a smaller amount then do the transfers and get them all into one credit card.
Scott: It sounds like another piece of this too is that you know when you have that very low interest, that zero starter interest rate for 12 to 18 months or whatever you know you guys aggressively paid off $51,000 in two and a half years right. That may not be practical for a lot of people with the similar amount of debt right. It may take them a little bit longer of a time period. I mean those are two quote on quote variable expenses that were crushing your expenses right in the food and alcohol budgets right.
If you knock those out, you’re able to payoff that seems like a lot of debt coupled with refinancing your debt and putting that all on that credit card. If it’s going to take you five years to pay it off, this may not be. The loan may be a more practical approach as well because now you’re going to fix this straight amount.
Scott: Got it.
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Okay so you’ve paid off your debt and now you have a zero net worth. What’s the next step?
John: Well actually.
David: We didn’t have a zero net worth right now.
John: The nice thing is is as we were paying it off we started to see it tip. You know eventually what we had in our 401(k)s started to be more than our debt and so we started to have a positive net worth. One of the cool things is that John and I really became very restrictive on our travel while we were paying off our debt, but we timed the end of our pay off our credit card debt with when John’s friend got married so we timed it so that we could save enough cash and go to Mexico for her wedding. That was kind of our reward to ourselves and then after that it was this all out let’s build up our net worth. Let’s buy a home for ourselves. Let’s get out of the basement. That’s really kind of what we all of the sudden started doing is really started to accumulate. That was just as much fun watching that go up. Our net worth go up as it was watching our debt go down.
Scott: What was your savings rate throughout this period on average? Was that rate as a percentage of your income climbing as over those two and a half years and into this area when you’re building positive net worth?
David: Sure, so the period of time when we we’re paying off our credit card then we had I think I stopped contributing to my 401(k) and all of my retirements accounts altogether. Use to be able to look 5%. I maintained enough to continue to get my company match. The company I worked for then was still matching at a very high rate and so I was trying to continue to get the company match.
John: Yes, so it was pretty low until that and then after we paid off the debt then we jumped that back up and we probably up until the point we both quit working for someone else we were contributing anywhere from 15% to 20% of our income into our 401(k)s.
Scott: Yes so when I think about savings rate I think that paying down debt is can you absolutely account for savings rate. It’s just anything that’s surplus over your the expenses to fund your lifestyle and it sounds like you know if it’s two and half years you know you put $51,000 toward savings right over that time period. That I think is one of the critical concepts to going toward financial freedom and all these other things. Was that accelerating that percentage of your income that you put towards either debt or investments even outside the 401(k)?
David: One of the things that we did is that immediately out of the gate we did build up an emergency savings about thousand dollars. We both contributed to that account because we knew that we wanted to get rid of our credit cards and stop using them. We knew that we would keep them around if we didn’t have that emergency savings. We had that and so that was our initial savings and then it was everything going toward as much as possible everything going towards our debt.
Like you said the fact that we were paying off our credit cards was giving us in my opinion a 20% return every year for those that two and half years because had we not refinanced or had we not paid it down we would have been paying interest on those and so that was what I was looking at. When I would see people saying that they were getting a 14% return off of their SMP 500. Index side will be like well I’m getting 20% return off of my zero balance transfer card and I’m paying it off.
David: I felt just as excited about that the fact that I like you said I was paying. That we were paying it off because even though it’s just sitting there and you’re watching the balance go down like I say it was just as exciting that seeing that balance go down as anyone else would be seeing their investments go up. What I was really looking at is I was looking at our net worth number and I looked at our net worth number every.
John: He still does.
David: Twice a month. First in the month and middle of the month when we pay ourselves or when we would get paid back then and that’s how I just was getting. I would get so excited about seeing the progress and there would be people who would talk about where the market was down so my net worth was down. I was like well mine went up because we paid off an extra thousand dollars on our credit cards this month or something like that.
Scott: What did you do with your investment approach with the excess money after the debt was paid off. Did you and you know you mentioned that you put more money into the 401(k)s. Was there any activity going on outside of that in terms I’m saving up for the house or?
David: Well yes. Saving up the down payment for the house.
John: Yes, we saved up the small down payment for the house, but we also then. We just all throughout that time period we kept on putting small amount of money into our emergency savings and when we got to the point where are debt was paid off we had over $5,000 in our emergency savings because we just kept on putting more and more money into that. As we could pay less on our debt or found other ways to save money. We kept in creeping that up because at the time both John and I were both working for the same company and financial services and we started our debt free journey in basically early 2006 was when we really started to take it started to pick up.
It was in 2008 when the market crashed and we were just both of us very worried that we were both working for a financial services company. That company had a hiccup and fired, let people go and they did. We could both lose our jobs. That became very important for us to make sure that if we had to we had enough money to fall back on so that we could immediately go get jobs somewhere like Starbucks or something like that so that we could at least cover our rent or our mortgage.
David: Get free coffee.
Mindy: You said you built up an emergency savings of a thousand dollars which sounds like the Dave Ramsey baby steps. I think that’s baby step number one. Did you follow the baby steps or did you just kind of wing it?
John: We don’t follow Dave Ramsey.
David: Yes and what was so interesting is I don’t know why we did this, but John and I just went and did everything on our own. Maybe we’re bad learners, but we didn’t look for someone else to tell us this is what you do. We just said what is going to work for us? How is this going to work for us?
We know what the foundational principles are of getting out of debt. Spend less than you make, but what you make. The difference towards your debt, pay the debt off and then start accumulating and that was kind of the basically the idea for us was stop using our. You know in our book Four Principles Of a Debt-Free Life.
That’s what it is. Become money conscious. Understand where your money is going then we’ve switched over to primarily being cash base. We didn’t use our credit cards or debit cards as much anymore. We had a plan. We created a payoff plan so that was our process. That’s what we created and then afterwards we were like oh there’s other people out there that are talking about this.
John: Really, it wasn’t until we were debt-free that we knew that there were like personal-finance bloggers was about money that there are podcasts about money. We just did it our own way.
John: Which I think you know we knew enough from financial services to be dangerous.
Mindy: Wait wait wait you just dropped some amazing knowledge that I’ve never in my life heard before spend less than you make. What wizardry is this? Can you? I’m just going to make you say that again and go slower so I can type it out so we can include it in the show notes, which for this show be found at BiggerPockets.com/MoneyShow76 so.
David: Spend less than you make. You know one of the things I like to tell people is or remind individuals is no one gets rich spending more money than they make. No one. If you want to get rich, you have to figure out how to spend less money than you make. Then you have to then have to put that money to work, but one of the foundational ideas for us were to become money conscious.
Aware of where your money is coming in and going then live by a budget or have that kind of structure around your how your money is spent. Switch to being cash based and then finally have a plan and that plan is not just for paying off your debt, but your long-term plan. What do you want? You really what are your hopes and dreams? What do you want for life?
The idea of being money conscious is in hindsight we realized that was in Think and Grow Rich. We didn’t actually come up with it from reading his book. We came up with that on our own as well and people think that’s a very elusive description, but for David and me we were just spending left and right without paying attention to any of our finances and you know over the last couple of years we didn’t think that we had some friends and family who were paying attention to what we’ve been doing with our business, but they have started to come out of the woodwork and say because we don’t ever shut up about money they’ve just started to make slightly better financial decisions in their day-to-day lives because they’re just kind of slightly aware when they’re at the grocery store. Like do I need this kind of soap or this kind of soap? They buy you know those kind of better financial decisions are starting to accumulate into great financial results for them.
Mindy: That is habit of my life too and that’s so rewarding when you see somebody who is like just so spendy on dumb stuff and you’re like I know when why you’re always broke and then you never shut up about money. Scott, anybody in your life that is like wow you never shut up about money and now I’m better before because of it.
Scott: You know, I think I was more annoying about it. Not annoying. I was annoying everybody about it. I was not a good. I didn’t do it probably as tactfully as you guys are doing. Basically, what you’re saying here so I was kind of like why aren’t you doing this? This isn’t obviously correct and nobody likes being told how to live their lives my 25 years as Scott Trench. That was I think now I’m more hey if someone is interested I’ll tell them and chat about it and all that kind of stuff, but.
Mindy: Well I apologize if I have given the impression that I am doing it tactfully.
Scott: Oh okay.
John: I think that we’ve had some people roll their eyes and turnaround and walk away from conversations because the things you’ve said about how they spend as well.
John: You know it’s interesting. John and I we today we focus on trying to help the LGBT community, but we see it so prevalent in our community. You know that you’re not a good gay if you don’t have $40 shampoo.
Mindy: Yes, if you don’t care about your hair. You spent on what’s important and you save on money that. You save on things that don’t matter.
Mindy: You guys.
John: That’s one of the key things.
David: You know I think may be that’s one of the biggest points I think a lot of people don’t understand or think about is actually sitting down and saying what is important to me? Is what’s most important to you having a caramel macchiato for breakfast every single morning? If that’s really important for you then go ahead. Spend $1,800 a year on Starbucks. Just do it.
If that really, but John and I have found that when it comes to most things when we sit down and think about it we’re like that’s not that important to us. What’s important to us is and we’ve already said is those three things. We want to save for retirement. We want to give back to our community and we love to travel.
John: Our favorite question is do we want to have that margarita here in Pennsylvania or do we want to have in Puerto Vallarta?
David: Every single time it’s in Puerto Vallarta.
Mindy: Yes, yes, yes I get that. Okay.
John: High five on that one.
Scott: One of the things I wanted to ask you guys about was after kind of paying down the debt what year was that by the way? What year did you pay off the debt?
John: Middle of 2008.
Scott: 2008 okay and so from there it seems like that’s where this kind of journey towards financial freedom began in earnest for oh and that. How did you go about setting that up? I know that there’s probably a combination of investment in business and come involved in that journey is that right?
John: Yes so that’s a hodgepodge of stuff that happened so after we paid off our debt we thought we would be really brilliant and publish a book about how we paid off our debt and help other people, but nobody wanted to buy our book because nobody knew who we were and fortunately a publisher said to us, “You know because you have no platform you should create a platform and then publish a book.” We thought that the book was the platform and then we’re like okay well how do you create a platform? Then we realized oh okay there are people out there who do personal-finance blogging, David. We should check this out.
Maybe we could do that too and so we started a website called Debt Free Principles and then that evolved into Debt Free Guys. At the time I don’t think it was really necessary. I think we wanted to turn into a business. It started out more of a hobby. I just wanted to have fun with it and then we realize that oh my God there are people making money doing this. Helping other people.
We could probably do the same thing too. It was about that time that we thought to ourselves we were tired of going to work every single day. He would drop me off at work and then he would come back and pick me up and we’d go home. We’d have like three or four hours where we could eat dinner or hang out a little bit. Watch some TV and then go to bed. We’re like this isn’t the life we want.
We don’t ever actually get to spend time with each other. I’m sitting in a beige cubicle most of my life. We thought what could we figure out a way to monetize this, expand it, make it grow, and then also quit our day job so we could work full time together. It was a combination of growing Debt Free Guys and eventually Liquid Money Podcast as well as the time that we were working for someone else. Stocking as much money away as possible into our 401(k)s. That allowed us to kind of branch off and work for ourselves.
Scott: Got it and when it comes to the transition point because you guys have now transitioned away from those, those jobs. Right? What did that look like? What was your financial position at the point where you kind of began moving away from that full-time work?
John: There’s a lot of white knuckling. Tables. Are we going to do this?
John: I think that the first time it happened really was kind of. It was almost like the universe was saying hey you guys said that this is what you want to do. You need to do it or just stop talking about it. What’s interesting John got a new position at his job, had been in the position for about a year and a half and he would come home from work every single day and he hated it. I mean hated it. Hated his job. Hated his boss. His boss.
David: Strongly disliked.
John: Yes. His boss was.
Scott: Wasn’t your favorite.
John: His boss would talk out of two different sides of their mouth. Say one thing to John in private and then say a completely different thing about John when she did his reviews. There were times on Saturday where I couldn’t even get him out of bed with baking because he was just so tired and depressed. He was spending all of his energy and it was. I just looked at him and I said we have we have built up this emergency savings. We have enough money in our retirement accounts right now that we’re doing okay.
We fortunately bought a condo that was one and a half times our annual salary so we were not house poor and so everything. I looked at everything and I said I’m making enough money to support us. If we go back to living the lifestyle while we when we paid off our debt. While we were paying off our debt. We can easily cover all of our expenses and he did.
The job and had nine months where he didn’t have a job and that’s where we kind of reengaged and fell in love with this idea of helping other people do what we did and help them understand that there’s so much more to life than going in to your job 9-to-5 and just so that you can have the things. The things aren’t the enjoyable part of life. It’s actually enjoying life and what you can do with things in the time that you have and the money that you have. That’s really what brings a lot of fun to life. We were not having fun especially because of his situation.
Mindy: Yes, when you’ve got a job that you hate. It just consumes every bit of you because whenever you’re not there you’re thinking ugh only 17 more hours then I have to be back. Only five more hours then I have to go back in. You know Saturday is great because you’re not at work, but then Sunday, all of Sunday sucks because you’re like ugh. I got to go back to work tomorrow.
I got to squeeze every last ounce of joy out of today and it’s really difficult. I worked there too and it’s really difficult to you know have this job. You’re like 40 hours of my life is spent here and that’s 40 hours every week that I just hate and you know I don’t like this idea that financial independence is all about quitting your job. Because if you don’t have a plan for after you have quit, you’re just pushing your problems down the road. If you’re miserable now because of your job and you have other things enjoyable in your life then when you quit your job you can do more enjoyable things.
Mindy: If all you do is work and you hate that and there’s nothing else outside of it then you’re just going to sit there and hate your life afterwards.
Mindy: You had a plan.
John: Yes, we do.
David: Well yes we had this, the financial security. It wasn’t necessarily. We didn’t strategize, feel depressed for me to quit at that time, but luckily we had the financial security. We didn’t have the debt where we could just take out a little bit of a gamble. The idea was that if I was going to be quitting to focus on growing Debt-Free Guys that was my full-time job. I wasn’t going to be spending the afternoons at the pool or going out shopping with my friends. It was full-time work mode so I went from working 60 hours a week for someone else to working 60 plus hours a week for ourselves to get Debt-Free Guys growing.
Mindy: But you liked your boss?
John: It was much more fun.
John: That’s when we met you.
Scott: What year was that by the way? Let’s start with that.
John: That was right after Alaska.
David: It was 2013 was when that happened. He did go back to working full-time about nine months later and part of it was both of us realized we need to bank some more money in order for us to both be able to do this full-time and so he went back to work at for two years. We set a goal. We didn’t quite meet that goal. We originally wanted him to only work for a year, but then he was able to quit his job two years later and part of that was because we’ve started to see and what we were doing.
That’s when it started to make sense that okay he can quit his job and that can be the revenue source for us. Okay so this sounds really interesting. This sounds like the point where you’re like okay we’re really going to retire early or at least leave full-time work very early. This seems like a turning point in the thinking right. Right?
David: What’s interesting is that John and I never really considered ourselves part of the FIRE Community, the Financial Independence Retire Early and I think that’s because I got a miss idea. I still believed in traditional retirement. You know retirement is when you don’t work anymore. You don’t work for anybody, you don’t work for yourself. You’re just done. I actually started saying it to us it wasn’t financial independence retire early. It was financial independence retire entrepreneur. That’s really kind of what I was like when I’m retiring what I’m retiring is being chained to someone else’s desk. I’m going to be chained to my own desk. That’s when it really.
John: You are.
David: Really kind of like.
John: It made so much sense to us and we started having all these conversations around this is our new goal. This is our new desire, our new want is to get out there and help our community start paying attention to their money. Then after two years he quit his job. I continued to work for another two years and then I quit my job. That was a year ago.
Scott: Okay so when you made this revelation for retire entrepreneur. I love that term. What great spin on FIRE right?
John: What? You can trademark that.
Scott: What changed about your asset accumulation approach? Were you still maxing out your 401(k) or were you doing things outside of that in order to facilitate this transition?
John: Yes so when I stopped working, I saw the contributing to my 401(k). The goal was for me to contribute to my ROTH. Unfortunately, we didn’t have it. We decided that we didn’t have enough money for me to do that so much of the revenue that we earned initially was going into, back into the business.
David was supposed to quit a year after I did the second time, but we weren’t able to do that because healthcare was more expensive than we had originally budgeted for. That’s why he ended up having to work an additional year. All the while he was still trying to put as much into his 401(k) as possible. Then after he quit he hasn’t obviously contributed to his 401(k). We’re now at a point where we’re now making enough money that we’re able to contribute to our ROTHs right now.
David: The other thing is that John and I took a 360 look at our lives and said what is it that we need to do or what do we want to do to be able to do this and I mentioned earlier that we had purchased a condo that was one and a half times our salary and we started looking at that as maybe there’s an opportunity here for us to not have that anymore, to unload that. Part of the reason we did that was because it would give us cash sitting available as we’ve ramped up our business even more so we did that. We got rid of, we sold our condo. We looked at it as funding our future. I quit my job after we had unloaded our condo so we really kind of established.
We had our retirement, then we had our emergency savings, and then we have this hoard of cash from the sale of our condo that is all there as ways for us to support ourselves over the next couple of years. We don’t have a desire to spend that hoard of cash down. That’s not what’s happening, but we’re. We have it there as kind of a secondary cushion for us continuing to grow our business.
Scott: Love it and by the way I think that’s I don’t think that’s a bad move to sell the condo in that situation. I think it’s a brilliant move. You have a clear plan in place at this point. You know exactly what you want and how you want to back into what your life’s going to look like and you make a decision that rounds that out. What you’ve built at this point it sounds like is a classic and fantastic position from which to pursue entrepreneurship or the next big opportunity right? Mound of cash.
Scott: Significant 401(k) reserves. It’s almost like you’ve like hey we hit a goal of whatever we think we’re going to need to back into long-term for our 401(k) that will compound into that and now my cash position will support this business endeavor and I know what my. I am very confident in my spending it sounds like on an annual basis. You kind of know what that’s going to look like and where you have room if things go well or where you can cut back if things go poorly.
Scott: That’s I mean it sounds like this is what a plan sounds like. This is what a plan that’s been executed and is moving you along right towards that goal it sounds like.
John: Gosh, you make me feel good about myself.
Scott: Yes, I mean it’s awesome. But like this.
John: My therapy session.
Scott: Yes, I think it’s fantastic. I love it.
John: You’re right that we have backed into a couple of things. With our retirement, one of the things we like to say to some individuals who we talk to was like we don’t have a long-term financial problem. We have a short-term financial problem.
David: Income problem.
John: And that is trying to generate enough money for us to live day-to-day. We’ve saved up enough money in our retirements so that we set a specific number and we said if the market can continue to give us 7% 20 years from now we will have that number when we plan on actually literally retiring and just spending all of our time at the beach.
David: All of our time.
Scott: Your worst-case scenario it sounds like is one of you goes back to work if things don’t work out right?
David: That’s always an option.
Mindy: Yes, yes my favorite quote is what’s the worst that can happen? You have to go back and get a job. Your worst case scenario is everybody else’s every day life.
Mindy: That’s from that’s not mine that’s from Joel from FI180. He was back on episode 11 of the BiggerPockets Money Podcast, but that quote comes up so many times like people ask one of the biggest questions is what if you ran out of money? Well then I go back and get a job.
Mindy: I have lowered my spending so it doesn’t really matter what kind of job I have since I live on such small amounts of expense anyway I can go work at Starbucks. I can go work at McDonald’s. I can go work at Costco where they have health insurance and it’s a great place to work and you don’t have to have this corporate job to fund a life when you’re not spending, when you spend $75,000 a year you need to make at least $75,000 a year, more with taxes in all of that, but.
Mindy: When you’re spending $24,000 a year it’s really easy to cover that.
David: Yes. Yes.
John: Our overhead it’s pretty low so especially now that we don’t have a mortgage or rent.
Mindy: Yes, yes you don’t have a mortgage anymore. You just live on the streets.
John: We have a very nice box, cardboard box.
Mindy: Financial independence, retire.
Scott: Under our bridge.
Mindy: Under a bridge.
Mindy: Yes. It’s way better than FIRE so where do you guys live? For real?
John: Temporarily, we’re living in Westchester, Pennsylvania.
John: Recently, previous four months we were housesitting as people do in our community. They house and cats sit and some of our—we house sat for months. After that, we move down to a friends of ours who live in Westchester. They’re leaving for Monaco in a few weeks and they asked us to housesit for them and since we kind of didn’t have any place to go in the interim, they said we’ll come down and hang out here until we go off to the other country and then at that point we will be going to my sister’s for a little while to help them out for a few months and then we’re going to return back to Spain for three months for David’s birthday.
Mindy: Oh, well what a horrible life you lead. Three months in Spain.
John: We’re supposed to be there for my birthday last year. He wants to go with there for his birthday this year.
David: I will say that well John and I are very fortunate to have some great allies in our lives right now because we are dedicating a lot of our time and energy to helping the LGBT community with improving their financial situation and because of that we want to try to focus on an area where there’s a large population or there are large populations of individuals that we can reach out to or actually meet face-to-face and so we’re doing that on the East Coast and that’s how we just happen to be living where we’re living because we have somebody who truly believes in what we’re doing. Although these two are not members of our community. They believe that helping our community is important because they’ve seen some financial struggles in our community.
Scott: That’s great.
Mindy: I was on the about section of your website recently and I really like what it has to say. If all this talk of money makes you feel inadequate, buried with debt, fearful of checking your credit score then you’re in the right spot because we felt the exact same and a couple of weeks ago we interviewed Ramit Sati and he said when he asked people what they felt about money they said the same thing. Money makes me feel stupid. Money makes me feel anxious. Money makes me feel guilty. Why are so many people afraid to talk about money?
John: I think our society ties a lot of our self worth to our net worth and a lot of people I think aren’t doing well financially or at least not manage their money appropriately. They might have a great income. We know of several people that we work with who are earning six plus figures, but it’s going out as fast as it’s coming in. I think we tie a lot of emotion to that. We don’t feel confident. We don’t. I think often times it shows a part of ourselves that we don’t want to share with other people.
David: I also would say that there’s a lot of people feel guilty that they’re not doing as well as everybody thinks that they are. You know they don’t want to tell the truth.
John: It’s so easy the appearance that I’m doing really really well and everybody does that and so when you start to uncover or dig into the truth about where you’re at it starts to bring up those feelings of shame, of guilt, of you know. You think about just the traditional way of the way that society has been built around the idea that men are supposed to go out and earn enough money to take care of their families. Well if you’re a husband and you’ve got a wife and a couple of kids and your family is broke, you feel like you have failed your family. You feel like you have failed your parents.
Everyone around you. If you’re a mother and your family does not have enough money, you may feel like you’re not a wise steward of your family’s finances so both parties can feel so guilty and that guilt just gets transferred down to children because of the way that we carry that kind of baggage with us. Emotionally, the way we talk about money. One of the things I think is so interesting is in our society so many people deflect that away by saying money is bad.
I don’t have to be good with my money because if I’m not good with money my money I’m not rich and rich people are bad. If rich people are bad, and I don’t have any money, I must be good. Well that’s just a load of crap right? If you’re a good person you can do good in the world if you have more money.
You can do more good in the world if you have more money and that’s what I think that a lot of people get stuck on this idea is I don’t want to be like this person or that person that is always in the news about how bad they are because they’re rich. I think that’s a struggle that many people have. On one side we have this shame and guilt around how we deal with our money. We have this negative viewpoints about how rich people are, but everybody out there fantasizes about what they would do if they won the lottery or had a great job or were making as much money as the Kardashians. They all know what they would do, but we just don’t do what’s necessary to make it happen.
Mindy: Well and winning the lottery is not the answer to your questions. If you can’t figure out your $30,000, have an a hundred thousand dollars, $300,000 isn’t going to change.
John: That’s right.
Mindy: You know you don’t suddenly become magically good with money just because you have more of it.
Mindy: You just spend more.
John: Well and I think 78% of people who win the lottery end up broke, which is about the same percentage of people who retire from the NFL end up broke. Because they get all this money and they don’t actually know how to manage it.
Mindy: Yes, within like three or five years afterwards.
John: The thing is going to be the panacea to all their problems, but it’s not. Unless you are able and that’s what David and I learned was until we realized what was most important to us it wasn’t having $500 pairs of jeans. It wasn’t having all these vacations that we couldn’t afford. It wasn’t drinking fabulous wine that we couldn’t afford.
It was that we wanted to retire, travel comfortably and give back to our community. We were so confused with what everybody else wanted for us or what we thought everybody else wanted for us. We were so lost in validating ourselves to people because we already felt valueless that we kind of exceeded all of our expenses.
Mindy: Okay, John and David this has been fantastic. I really appreciate your time today, but we’re not quite done yet. Is there anything else you want to tell us before we move over to the Famous Four?
John: I think the last thing I would add is no matter where you are in your financial life, no matter how bad you might think that it is. You can improve things.
David: There is the opportunity. It is not so bad that you can’t fix it.
David: Just look for the resources that are out there to help you whether that’s BiggerPockets, the Debt-Free Guys, or whoever you connect with. Find the tools and the resources and people that can help you out and definitely get to where you want to go.
Mindy: Yes, I can’t stop that.
John: I guess I don’t have much to say after that.
Scott: What’s great about today though is that there are so many different people and resources out there that are exactly or that are extremely relatable to you, whatever your position is. I mean what this is show number 76 of the BiggerPockets money show right? We’ve had 76 totally different perspectives come on today, all starting from completely different situations, perspectives, like places in life, all that kind of stuff and that’s what’s I think really great about today’s world.
David: There is a wealth of information out there if you look for it.
David: You may have to pull from a couple right you may like what one person says on one particular topic, but may resonate with someone else on something else so don’t silo yourself into just having it come from one person and don’t feel like if that person isn’t exactly like me I can’t listen to them. Just because someone may have a different belief system than you doesn’t mean that what they’re saying isn’t valuable. They can have some value.
Scott: Love it.
Mindy: Wow. Okay, well I knew I asked you guys on this show for a reason. Okay, it is now time for the Famous Four questions. These are the same four questions and one command that we ask of all of our guests. Are you ready?
David: I think so.
Mindy: What is your favorite finance book?
John: Just for simplicity’s sake, I love the lesson that it teaches. I love The Richest Man in Babylon. That’s a book that you can read with your kids. That you can read on your own and it just all makes sense. It’s just. It’s so simple. I love that book.
Mindy: It was written a hundred years ago.
David: Yes, yes.
Mindy: It’s still 100% valid.
Mindy: I mean I don’t invest with the guy that buys rubies or whatever, but you know it’s still all the lessons in there are 100%, that’s my favorite finance book. I love that book. I also, it’s written in like Shakespearean English so it’s not necessarily something that everybody will connect with, but I really love that type of language so it was very very fun to read.
John: To be honest, I think that’s where I got this whole idea of no one ever gets rich spending more money than they make because his whole philosophy was make sure you’re saving 10% of your money. Right? You have to save something in order to get rich.
David: I would say Think and Grow Rich for David and me was very powerful. Whether or not you believe in the law of attraction and how all that works is one thing, but one of the biggest challenges that we had to compensate for was just our mentality and how we looked and executed on things. Our biggest challenges were ourselves. That kind of book kind of helped us reflect inward and sort of start to redefine how we saw ourselves and what are our opportunities we have ahead of us.
John: I’ll just add that there’s so much in that book that is prescriptive. You know sometimes we read stuff and we just think oh I don’t know how to do this. This is how you do this steps in that book that are great. Whether it’s actually taking steps to make progress or it’s actually this is how you stop thinking that way or start thinking this way.
David: Is everybody else dancing to that song tune? This is how we do it.
Mindy: This is how we do it. Yes, I’ve got that going on in my head. Thank you so much for that.
John: All day long. You’re welcome.
David: We probably already covered this the second question in the Famous Four, but what was your biggest money mistake? Is there one that you can point to?
John: Oh yes, our biggest it’s hard. I have one. it goes back to when I first started with credit card debt. Actually, when I was younger my family lived in Ireland for a short time period and when I was 19 my parents and I saved up enough money so that I could go over to Ireland and see friends over there for a couple of weeks. My mother took me to the credit union and signed me up or cosigned on a credit card for me in case I’ve had any emergencies.
Right so she wanted to make sure that if I needed to I could get a plane and get home. Went to Ireland, came back. Had $500 on the balance of the credit card and no emergencies, never saw the inside of a4 hospital or a police car. Thank God, but that was when my albatross of credit card debt began. This whole idea that I could just spend somebody else’s money and then pay it back later.
I kept it for 17 years and I went back and over the years I would save for 17 years. Have spent anywhere from I would say $30-$40,000 in interest payments and I just think if I hadn’t been able to invest that money I would be a millionaire today. Right, but instead I got stuck so my biggest mistake was not understanding how spending on credit cards anchors your future earnings to the past.
Scott: That’s a very powerful way of putting that I think.
Scott: Thank you.
Mindy: Yes, we need to teach money management to our children. We also need to teach it in schools. Like it’s not the teacher’s responsibility to teach my kids about money.
Mindy: So many parents don’t know anything about money that we need to have like it needs to be. Kids need to be hearing at from everywhere. I mean you can’t just say go out into the world and good luck. You have to teach them how to be responsible with money and you know it isn’t something that’s just inherent. It isn’t something that you’re just going to be born with one day.
Mindy: You know you learn that.
John: Well you know what’s so interesting is we teach our kids that being rich is cool. We teach our kids that going to college and getting a good education is cool. We never teach them that the way that you do all that and do it right is actually cool. You know it’s all of that would say oh that’s oh that’s mundane or that’s boring or I hate this or I hate that. Well of course our kids aren’t going to know how to do anything financially when they grow up because we’ve been telling them all along that we hate this. This is boring. I hate this. Yes, this is awful. It makes me feel bad.
Mindy: Exactly. What is your best piece of advice for people who are just starting out?
John: David and I would always go back to figuring out what is most important to you. What are your hopes and dreams? I think that’s a great way to actually start a conversation with somebody who’s maybe, you’re maybe in a relationship, new in a relationship with. You can start to focus on the big things that you want to achieve in life.
What your hopes and dreams are and then kind of dial back from there. Okay, how exactly are we going to achieve that? What’s kind of preventing us from getting there today or what steps we have to implement to actually get to those long-term goals. Once you know as David alluded to earlier, once you know exactly what’s most important to you then regardless of whatever situation you’re in today, that can be your inspiration to get to where you want to go. As you’re living in a basement, chipping away at $51,000 from credit card debt, knowing that two and half years are going to be sitting on a beach in Mexico drinking a Mai Tai. That hang on to that or happy.
Scott: Love it. Yes, I mean begin with the end in mind and you back into exactly the position that you want to be in, which is what you guys have done to outstanding effect.
John: Yes, for Stephen Covey.
Mindy: Okay, the hardest question.
Scott: What is your favorite joke to tell at parties.
John: Oh yes, this is giving us a heart anxiety because.
David: We don’t.
John: Neither of us are joke tellers.
David: No, I don’t.
John: I know a joke, but it’s too colorful.
Mindy: Okay, I will save you.
John: How many people don’t ask, don’t answer this question.
Mindy: Zero. I mean I guess until show 76. No, we have had people who are not joke tellers so I will save you with a horrible joke. I went to the zoo and I saw a baguette in the cage. The zookeeper said it was bred in captivity.
Scott: Oh man. That was great.
Mindy: No it wasn’t.
Scott: Yes it was.
Mindy: It was awful. For the record, I got that off of the Internet. I did not make that up myself. My kids have been telling me a bunch of really terrible jokes lately. I should write them down.
John: Yes, it was.
Mindy: Claire’s really good at jokes.
David: Yes, last night John and I were at a restaurant with Two Cup House, Claudia and Garrett and for some reason a gentleman just felt like he needed to sit there and tell us a whole bunch of jokes.
John: Rattled them off.
John: Well he was.
Mindy: Because he knew you were going to be on the show.
John: Yes and we.
David: I know we should have. Can I tell them that?
John: Well that was actually one that he told us I was like oh. That’s a very inappropriate joke to be telling a complete stranger.
Mindy: Oh you know Zina Kumach.
Mindy: Call her up and ask her what joke she told on the show.
John: Oh yes, that was terrible. We had to edit it out.
Mindy: I had to edit it out. Like I couldn’t even let that be on the show. It was horrible. Yes, anybody who wants to call Zina and ask her what joke she told, she will be happy to tell you. Just I warned you. Okay and the command. Tell me where people can find out more about you. Please.
John: Oh okay, well we’re Debt Free Guys everywhere. DebtFreeGuys.com, DebtFreeGuys on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest.
John: And we also have the Crib Money Podcast that should be.
Mindy: That can be found on all podcast apps.
David: Except Spotify. We’re getting in over there to Spotify soon.
John: David’s working on that.
David: We’re working on that one, but yes.
John: Everywhere else right now.
David: Yes, everywhere else you can find it.
Mindy: Okay. Great. Well David and John from the Debt-Free Guys, this has been a super awesome show. I’m so glad we finally were able to connect and get you on.
John: Thank you.
David: Thank you for having us. I appreciate it.
Mindy: Thank you for your time.
Scott: Yes, thank you guys.
Mindy: We will talk to you soon.
John: Absolutely, thank you.
David: Sounds good.
Scott: All right, that was David and John from the Debt-Free Guys. Mindy, what did you think.
Mindy: I love their story. I love how once they truly sat down and thought about what they wanted their lives to look like. It had no bearing on what they were actually spending their money on. They stopped. They took a good hard look at their spending. They changed it to reflect their values and now they’re leading the life that they truly want. They have the option. They had the option to quit their job so they took it and now they are taking what they love and teaching other people.
Scott: Yes and you know it’s not that they said at the end really stuck with me there where there is this kind of stigma it seems like in America today against people who are well off financially. Right?
Mindy: There is and like everybody wants to be rich, but nobody wants to be rich.
Scott: I can see the dislike for somebody who seems to be making money at the expense of somebody else, but we’re here on this podcast because we believe that if you spend less than you earn and you invest it intelligently and you create passive income, a sizable cash cushion, all of the pillars of financial independence that we’ve talked about over and over again on the show that you can have the option for a better life, to be more impactful and all that kind of stuff and I don’t think that comes at the expense of the rest of society in any way and I don’t think. I don’t understand why there would be a stigma against somebody who became rich doing what we’re talking about every day on our podcast.
Mindy: We’re also coming from that though from a position of not being poor.
Scott: We’ve heard so many people who have come from a position of being poor on this podcast right?
Scott: Who have gone from poor to rich and made that transition. Right I mean it’s no secret it’s the same way that everybody else has done it right? Spend less than you earn and invest it.
Mindy: Wisely. Yes, so I think there’s a difference between having enough money to fund your lifestyle and having so much money that you don’t know what to do with. When you say rich, what do you think of?
Scott: Right, when I see a rich I think of someone who’s. I look, we’re not supposed to put numbers on there. We ask this question good week with Remit Sati right and you know rich to me I think means financial independence right where your assets produce enough passive income such that you are reasonably likely to generate spendable liquidity in excess of your lifestyle needs right? I mean that what is that? That’s $1 million if you’re trying to spend $40,000 a year after taxes right or on your lifestyle so.
Mindy: Right, but is spending $40,000 a year a rich person?
Scott: You know, it all depends right? You can live a $100,000, $120,000 lifestyle on $40,000 a year if your house is paid off, if your cars are paid off. Right, if you own that stuff that goes can I say things free and clear. If you travel hack, there’s ways to kind of back around that. You can live a very fancy lifestyle on a very low amount of money depending on how you set things up and what you back into and what your plan is.
Mindy: True, but if you ask somebody what does a rich person spend they’re not going to say oh $40,000 a year. That’s not what rich people spend.
Scott: That is exactly what rich people spend. It’s the entire thing that we’re trying to drill into everybody’s heads here on this podcast.
Mindy: That is what rich people spend.
Scott: Spend less than they earn. People who are broke make $200,000 a year and spend $200,000 year. Right?
Mindy: Yes, yes. You really do need to reframe the way you think about money if you are going to become financially independent and that’s.
Mindy: What were here for. That’s what that Debt Free Guys shared with us today.
Scott: Well should we get out of here Mindy?
Mindy: We should get out of here today Scott. From episode 76 of the BiggerPockets Money Podcast. This is Mr. Scott Trench and I am Mindy Jensen and we our gone.