BiggerPockets Money Podcast

BiggerPockets Money Podcast 80: Managing Money: How a Saver & a Spender Are Living Happily Ever After with Rich & Regular

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Kiersten and Julien came from two very different money backgrounds. She’s the naturally spendy one, and he’s the natural saver.

Their money views came to a head on their first vacation, when she put everything on a credit card—not to earn reward points—because she didn’t have the money to pay for it.

The ensuing argument caused them to have some pretty tough money conversations very early on in their relationship. But it also set them up for early financial freedom.

Kiersten decided her old, spendy ways weren’t what she wanted out of life. She started shedding her “things” so that she could pay off her debt and start investing.

They researched and discovered a hole in the FI community. There just weren’t many blogs devoted to the African American community that focused on tips about money and early financial freedom. So, they started their blog, Rich & Regular, to bridge this gap.

Investing in real estate helped create enough passive income for Julien to leave his corporate job, and for the couple to start living the life they truly want. 

Plus, don’t miss when Julien casually drops one of the best paying-for-college tips that’s ever been shared on this show.

If you’re struggling with spending too much money or reconciling your frugal ways with that of your partner, this is a must-listen episode.

Click here to listen on iTunes.

Listen to the Podcast Here

Read the Transcript Here

Scott: Julien and Kiersten from Rich & Regular, welcome to The BiggerPockets of Money Podcast. How are you guys doing today?

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Kiersten: We’re great.

Julien: Doing good.

Kiersten: How are you?

Mindy: I’m doing great. I’m so excited to have you on the show today, because I really love your story, but I think you guys can tell it better than I can, so I’m going to have you guys start. Julien, what is your experience with money before you met Kiersten?

Julien: Wow. I would say my earliest memories bring me back to my upbringing. I was born in Brooklyn, New York, in a Jamaican household, in a large sort of Caribbean West Indian community, and so frugality was very much a part of my day to day life. Let’s see. When I think about that backdrop, it reminds of like old school scenes of Law & Order. It was very much, what people would call, the hood. We didn’t have much. It wasn’t pretty, but we made the most of what we needed to do to get by.

Julien: I moved to Atlanta shortly after the Olympics, and so that was around ’96, and I’ve been here ever since, but that’s sense of frugality and trying to squeeze every last penny out of every dollar has always been with me. And so, money has always been something that I felt like I’ve been striving for and reaching for.

Julien: I think about my mom. I grew up in a single parent household. There was always something that seemed out of reach. So it really wasn’t until after college when I really started thinking about other ways to make money, aside from just a job. I never felt that I needed just one job. I always felt that I needed to have a number of different ways to earn income.

Julien: Part of that may just be the Jamaican in me. I don’t know if you know that joke, but Jamaicans are well known for having several jobs, and so part of that is definitely in me as well. But just out of a sense of control and wanting to have a greater sense of security for my family, I always felt that I needed to have a number of different ways to earn income.

Scott: So what did that look like out of college in terms of in practice? Did you have just one job? Or were you working for multiple moonlighting sources? Or did that kind of-

Julien: Well, going through college, I had several jobs. I used to cook professionally, I used to wait tables. I didn’t do that at the same time, because that’s literally impossible, but once I stopped cooking, I was waiting tables. I was working at the school actually, part-time, and I was going to school part-time, so you could say that was three jobs.

Julien: But after graduating, I went right into corporate America, and I did that for about 10 years, but towards the half way point of my corporate career, I just started to realize that there was a bit of a ceiling there, and I could just see it, and say, “All right.” Even though I’m skilled, it didn’t feel as if there was many opportunities for me to grow, and I could have gone to another company and done a number of other things, but it always seemed like there was a ceiling there, and going back to that original feeling of wanting to have greater control over my income for myself and for my family, I ultimately decided to start investing more of myself and figuring out other ways to earn income.

Julien: And so I would pay attention to the early days, the bigger podcasts, and all that stuff, and got into real estate investing, and in 2014, I got, what’s now, our first rental property.

Mindy: So what were you doing right out of college? You said that you graduated into corporate American. What was your job?

Julien: My job was, I was basically the point person that would help hotel franchisees build their hotels. And so, there are number things that you have to do from before signing the deal, to ultimately opening that hotel, and we helped people, the team that I was on, we helped people sort of check all of those boxes, from training to sales and marketing, to you name it, even down to construction and design. We sort of helped people, from end to end, to get that hotel opened on time.

Mindy: Oh, so there’s a component of real estate in there.

Julien: There was. There was, which is something that was in my mind, and as the wheels started turning in thinking about other ways to build income, and because of the work I was doing, I was working with entrepreneurs, other franchisees, and so no disrespect to them, but I would say, man, they’re no smarter than I am. They’re not geniuses. They’re just people that have the capital and were willing to put it up for this particular endeavor, and so I learned a lot from them while helping them, but also just in speaking with them and building relationships.

Scott: Did you have this job going into your guy’s relationship?

Julien: Yeah, that’s actually… Well, I didn’t have that particular job, but for the company that we worked for, that’s where we met. We met in 2012, starting on the same team, on the same day, trying very hard to ignore each other, or at least I was.

Mindy: Look at her. You can’t ignore her.

Julien: Yeah, I fail to disagree. I tried to ignore her.

Mindy: What a way to start a new job, attracted to somebody that’s working right alongside you. You’re like, “No, I need to concentrate, but I can’t concentrate, but I need to concentrate.”

Julien: Exactly.

Mindy: Okay, Kiersten, let’s… Oh sorry, Scott, go ahead.

Scott: I was going to ask Kiersten for her story. So anyway, that’s great.

Mindy: Okay, Kiersten, let’s start with your story now. What was your money story like before you met Julien?

Kiersten: Yeah, my money story is kind of opposite of his. If we’re comparing TV shows, if he was Law & Order, my upbringing was more like Family Matters with a little bit of Cosby Show mixed in. It was a two parent household. I had my brother. We went on vacations every year. My parents worked really hard in corporate jobs, and I got the bug of entrepreneurship very early. My dad bought us a T-shirt press when I was probably 10 or 12, and we make family reunion T-shirts, and just T-shirts for local landscapers, and so I caught the bug of like wanting to earn my own money fairly early.

Kiersten: And, then, when I was of working age, I got my first job in the mall selling tennis shoes, and so then I learned how to spend my money really well, because I was immersed in retail. Throughout all of my teenage years, I worked in the mall selling shoes, and then, when I got to college, I still worked in the mall, and I got an internship with a big box retailer, Target, who became my first employer when I graduated college.

Kiersten: So I had a lot of experience in sales and retail, and I developed, over the years, a big problem with spending, and so I acquired a lot of credit card debt, mostly starting in college, but continued outside of college. So, by the time I met Julien, I was great at selling, I had gotten promoted several times, and was great at earning money, but I was equally great at spending money, and particularly, money I didn’t have. So, I had quite a bit of consumer debt, and I was on a bit of a treadmill, living paycheck to paycheck, but not appearing like I was living paycheck to paycheck.

Scott: So I have a question for the income side of that. So, with the sales experience, it sounds like you’re painting a picture of a very successful career as a salesperson in those years. What did that look like? And what do you think helped you kind of develop the ability to sell to such an extent?

Kiersten: Yeah. I mean, I think it was just interacting with people. So, retail, and pretty much, any service industry culture is very team oriented, and so I would have a lot of conversations with people throughout the day. So the psychology of selling was something that I got really comfortable in, because I was immersed in it, and then I also got a firsthand view of customers in a realtime environment.

Kiersten: So, when you’re working in retail, you can see transactions in realtime, you can see what stops people from buying, what causes them and compels them to buy, and so after years and years and years of doing this, I just became really comfortable with it. It’s second nature for me, especially in a shoe store where the margins are really on the accessories. So you get them in the shoe, but then you have to upsell them into the laces and the cleaner.

Julien: The stupid spray on the sneakers.

Kiersten: Yeah, the socks, the six pack of socks that are buy one, get one half off. So there were just lessons that you can only learn from being immersed in those environments. You can take all the courses you want, but when you’re actually selling, and when you’re somewhat commissioned based, and you eat what you kill, you start to learn it, and it becomes natural.

Scott: On the-

Mindy: So-

Scott: Oh, go ahead, Mindy.

Mindy: I was going to ask what kind of debt she left college with.

Kiersten: Oh gosh, I don’t even know. It was all credit card, and it was probably, at that time, around $7,000.00 when I graduated from college.

Mindy: So you didn’t have any student loans?

Kiersten: No. My student loans were paid for by my parents, thankfully. I was able to graduate a year early. So, in high school, I took a dual enrollment class in a course, which allows you to earn college credits while you’re still in high school, and so I went into college with about a year and a half worth of credits. I went to an out-of-state school, and so I was able to complete it in three years, and thankfully, my parents were able to fund it, which was great.

Mindy: Wow. Julien, we didn’t talk about your debt load out of college. Did you have any debt coming out of college?

Julien: I did. I want to say I had somewhere in the $20,000.00, but I made a point to… So, I guess this jumping into hacks, but I made a point to really minimize my student loan debt when I was in graduate school. So, I went to the extent of becoming an employee at the school, because I wanted the employee rate on tuition, and so that was a job for me.

Julien: I would help students, I would sort of be a mentor in a formal capacity, I was technically considered a graduate research assistant, I would do research, I would help with these big programs, and then I would wait tables at night, but I did all of that so that my tuition could be reduced to $25.00 a semester, and so that helped me to get out of graduate school without incurring any additional debt.

Mindy: Okay. This is not a trick that I have heard from anybody who has been talking about paying for college before. You got a job at the college.

Julien: Yeah.

Mindy: And, then, you paying how much? 25.00?

Julien: I paid $25.00 for tuition, and I actually got paid. So, if you think about it, if you’re a big university, or even just a medium size or small university, there’s got to be some sort of benefit there, and I knew that, and so I looked up to see what the benefit was, got a part-time job. That made me eligible for that benefit, and that allowed me to essentially earn my MBA at a heavy discount.

Mindy: Wow. You said $25.00. Was that $25.00 an hour, like a credit hour?

Julien: A semester, the whole semester. Yes, you could take as many courses as you wanted. It was $25.00, and you still get paid, so I got a stipend on top of that.

Mindy: You give them a $20.00 bill and a $5.00 bill and you can take any course you want? Is this like… What school is this? Can we talk about that? Like that’s $25.00, and I’m way older than you. The cheapest I ever paid for college was like $60.00 a credit hour.

Julien: Oh wow. Yeah, no, it was $25.00, and when I think about it, I don’t even know what they would do with the $25.00. You might as well-

Mindy: It might as well be free.

Julien: Right. What cost is that covering? I don’t know, I didn’t ask. I was just happy to pay $25.00.

Mindy: I thought you misspoke, or didn’t say $25.00 per credit hour. $25.00? Oh my God, that is ridiculous. Okay. So we weren’t even going to talk about paying for college, and I know you guys have a really great story that I want to get to, but tip, college paying tip for everybody. Get a job at the college.

Julien: Yeah.

Mindy: And get the employee rate. Now, not every college is going to give you $25.00 for a semester, but look into it. I mean, if that is the difference between going to college A or college B, because college B is going to let you go there for $25.00 a semester, choose that one.

Julien: Yeah, I learned that in undergrad, because some of my friends were older, and I realized that they were all employees of the school, and I didn’t even connect the dots as to why they were doing it until afterwards, and then, when I saw that, I said, “Oh, I’ve got to look to see if there are any programs available.” And I looked into one and it fit. I was able to learn and work, still get a paycheck actually, and not have to pay much for my college.

Mindy: I might have a new favorite quote. I’ve always been quoting Joel from FI180, but I’m going to quote Julien now. “I got a job at the college and I paid $25.00 a semester for college.” Okay. That is fantastic. I can’t harp on this forever because that would make a very boring show.

Scott: Well, Kiersten, let’s get back to your journey, where you’re achieving some milestones in your career, and at the same time, racking up some credit card debt. I think we left off right after college.

Kiersten: Yeah. Yeah, so right after college, I got my first job working at a Target store in Charlotte, North Carolina. Because I didn’t have any student loan debt, that gave me permission to go buy a brand new luxury car, so that’s exactly what I did. I was 21 or 22, driving a $35,000.00 car, and I continued to pay for that car for several years afterwards, because I leased it, it was high interest because I wasn’t making a ton of money, and then I refinanced it after the lease. I ended up paying for that car like twice at the end of the day.

Scott: What kind of car was it?

Kiersten: But that was the first step into my debt issues, because I had this massive car note, this big rent, and credit card debt, and no savings.

Scott: What kind of car was it?

Kiersten: It was a Lexus. I still drive it today. A Lexus, a black Lexus IS 250.

Scott: Nice. And so what would you say that your payment and your rent were, just between those two items?

Kiersten: Whew. So, my initial car payment was $653.00, and then I had rent of about $1,100.00. I lived in these fancy lofts, art district of Charlotte, and at the time, my starting salary was $40,000.00, and so over half of it was just going towards my housing and my car, and we hadn’t even gotten to food, clothing, 21 year old things, like brunching and clubbing. And what made it worse was that I wore a uniform to work every day. I wore red and khaki, but I still had this massive clothing collection for when I would get off of work. I would get my hair done every week. It was just, I was living a life I couldn’t afford.

Scott: And was that your situation heading into the relationship?

Kiersten: Yeah. So I eventually moved away from Charlotte. So, I worked at Target for about five years, and then I moved to Atlanta and started in the hospitality industry in a sales role, and so in that sales role, a lot of my life style continued. I did have a roommate the first couple of years that I moved to Atlanta, but I ended up taking all of the money that I saved from splitting rent, and spending it on other junk. And so, going into the situation with Julien, even though I had all these levers that could have saved me money, I wasn’t using any of them, and yeah, I was in a similar boat. I had a ton of credit card debt, and no plan to get out of it.

Scott: All right. So, you’re coming from these almost completely different perspectives, when it comes to dealing with managing money, and you meet on the first day at the job, at this new job. How do you guys end up dating? What’s that story?

Julien: So I was actually in a relationship at the time, and this is not going to get scandalous.

Kiersten: Why’d you start there?

Julien: Well, that’s the truth, but I say that I tried my damnedest to… And it was on the tail end, so enough of that. I tried by best. I just ignored her, really. I was focused on the job, like it was my first day, it was a huge promotion. I just wanted to do a great job. And then that relationship fell apart, and she was still around, and we were having fun, and we both got big promotions, and so we were just having a good time and celebrating, and because we would travel so much for work, this is what our young brains were telling us.

Julien: Because we could travel so much for work, you’d be like, “Let’s take it a step further instead of just taking a date, or going out on a date. Let’s just take a trip.” And so we decided to go to Panama, Panama City, Panama, and we went. We were there for little over a week, I think.

Kiersten: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Julien: And then, when we came back, I learned that she put the entire trip on her credit card, and at the time, I was very much passionate about earning passive income and building wealth and being debt free, and I was almost kind of angry at her and at me, and so I told her that if I’d known that she was in debt and that she’d put it all on a credit card, that I would not have dated her, and obviously, it was a terrible thing to say, terrible thing. I still regret to this day. She still reminds me to this day.

Julien: But I meant it, at the time, and it was because I knew the sort of role that debt could play in lives, and I knew that the path to your plan, we were on very different paths, that it just wasn’t going to work out. It was really just me trying to be a jerk, and I regret it, but it did help us to have some really uncomfortable conversations about money early on in the relationship, as opposed to ignoring them for years, and then like some bigger issue down the road forcing us to have that conversation. So I’m grateful for being stupid enough to have made that statement.

Scott: This is your first real kind of date almost, is what you’re saying. You had all these kind of like interactions at your work, and then you just said, “Hey, we’re going to go on a trip together.”

Julien: Yeah.

Scott: Before we’re-

Kiersten: Well, we had dated, but in the traditional sense. We had gone out for drinks and for dinner and for movies and all that stuff, and we were living. We were doing the whole like honeymoon phase thing, where we’d go out quite a bit, and it was starting to, for Julien, more than it was me, because again he, in his mind, knew that he shouldn’t be spending all this money, and so I think the trip was an excuse to use of the miles and to stop doing all the eating out, and to actually hang out, kind of for free, because we had miles and points and stuff. So it was his frugal macking that I fell for.

Scott: So what was going through your mind, Kiersten, when you had this conversation?

Kiersten: I was angry, I was hot. I had never thought of my spending as an issue. I assumed everybody had credit card debt, I assumed everybody was kind of waiting for the next paycheck to decide what they were going to do with their money. I didn’t know this world of people like intentionally not spending lots and lots of money. Outside of the suggested 4% or 6% or 10% that you save, I just didn’t know there were people like Julien, and so when he attached my character to my spending decisions, and said, “I just would have never even dated you if I had known this existed,” I was pissed. That felt offensive to me, and so after, it took a while for the anger to dissipate for me to actually try and figure out what he meant to say, what he would have said, what he would have said if he were in his right mind.

Mindy: So you guys didn’t break up over this, clearly. Well, did you take any time off?

Kiersten: A small break.

Mindy: Okay.

Kiersten: Yeah.

Mindy: I’m not trying to put you under the bus, Julien, but that feels very judgy. I mean, I would have said the same thing. I’m not saying you’re wrong. I would have been like, “Wait, you have debt?” Carl and I never had this conversation, because we were both so cheap all the time that I knew he was cheap. He used a coupon on our first date, and I was like, “Yes, he’s got a coupon.” Whereas, I have seen other people in like some female Facebook groups that I’m in, I’ve seen other women say, “Oh, he used a coupon. No, he’s not dating me anymore.” Wait, why would that be a problem? But, anyway, so you guys had a little bit of a break. How did you get back together?

Kiersten: He took me out.

Julien: Oh, yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah. No, I… Just because I just, I felt like a… I don’t know if I can curse on this.

Kiersten: Yeah, don’t.

Julien: But I just felt like a jerk.

Mindy: Jerk.

Julien: The safe way to say it, and I missed her, and so I realized what I said, and I had to fight to get her back, but I restructured the conversation and sort of said like, “This is what I meant,” because honestly, I was not up front either. I didn’t tell her the depth of conviction that I had, I didn’t tell her about the world, the secret world of personal finance that I was dabbling in. You know what I mean? I was just out there partying and having a good time just like her.

Julien: I didn’t tell her how passionately I felt about it, and how much of a purpose, or how deeply tied to my purpose it felt, and so I had to confront that as well, and be compassionate, and also realizing that, actually, the vast majority of people, and there’s data to back this up, were doing the exact same thing. So, to her point, there are plenty of people that are doing the exact same thing, so she should not have felt like she was doing anything wrong, because it is, unfortunately, really, really normal to just continue to live above your means and to hope that you can some day earn your way out of it.

Scott: Following that conversation, how did, if any, behavior change? Was it gradual? Was it sudden? Or did it happen at all, in terms of spending money and accumulating wealth?

Kiersten: It felt sudden for me, because the first thing we did was write everything down. So, we had the come to Jesus meeting where, pulled out all the bills, wrote everything down, literally tracked my expenses, uploaded them into Mint to understand where my money was going, and it was very clear to me that I could no longer afford to live where I was living, which was in midtown Atlanta, a very expensive place, and so I had to break my lease and move to an apartment that was maybe 600 or 700 square feet. It was basically a closet for Atlanta, in a less desirable part of town, but with that move, I was able to slice my rent payment into almost a third, and so I needed a strong catalyst in order to start paying down the debt, and so it was a series of large changes for me.

Scott: Mm-hmm (affirmative). The move is obviously a huge one, and then tracking your expenses, your spending, probably resulted in day to day changes. Did anything happen with the car or any other large buckets of spending?

Kiersten: I paid off the car, and I still drive it to this day. I stopped getting my hair done every week, so I’m embraced my curls. Stopped shopping, sold a lot of my designer goods, and my tennis shoe collection. I’ve got this picture of my shoe collection. I used to have a shoe room at one of my apartments that was just like a wall to wall shoe museum. So I became very active on Ebay and sold a bunch of stuff, gave away a bunch of stuff, oh, and started eating at home. Luckily, Julien is a great cook, being a former chef. So all of the brunching and eating out that I was doing before, I didn’t do as much.

Julien: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Scott: So, that’s a drastic set of changes. Looking from my seat, it seems like it’s a drastic set of changes in almost every area of your life. And did that happen within six months following this? Or a year? What did that timeline look like?

Kiersten: Yeah. So, we got engaged in 2015, so I would say the majority of my changes happened within a year, within 12 months. I was out of that apartment by… So we met in February of 2012. I was out of that apartment by January of 2013, and started piling up money after that.

Scott: And how long did it take you to pay off all of the debt, and otherwise, get back to zero from that point?

Kiersten: Two years.

Scott: Two years, so that-

Kiersten: Took two years and a couple of promotions in between. So I was fortunate to be burning the candle at both ends and would pay off debt, but then would also get strategic promotions where I didn’t pre spend that money like I was doing before. I could take all the incremental income and throw it at the debt as well, and so I was able to power through it pretty quickly.

Scott: And did you guys say you got engaged or married in 2015?

Julien: Got married in 2015.

Kiersten: We got married in 2015.

Julien: We got engaged in 2014.

Kiersten: Yeah.

Julien: Yeah.

Scott: Okay. And it sounds like, were you around zero net worth or back to paying off all that debt by the time you got married?

Julien: Well, she was.

Kiersten: Yeah. We both were.

Julien: Oh, by that time? I was positive when we got married, because I’d already been saving in my 401K and my IRA, so I was positive. It wasn’t much, but I was positive, but when we combined, I would say that was when things really, really took off, and so we spent the next couple of years. We paid off the mortgage on the house that we were in, in 2017.

Kiersten: ’17.

Julien: I also had some debt that I had to pay off. I had a tax debt, I had a car note, student loans, and so we banged through my car note for a while.

Kiersten: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Julien: And, yeah, so we banged through all of that stuff, and then, with what was left over, we just went on a saving spree and picked up a rental property as well.

Scott: All right. So this always where I get excited, is the investment approach. Okay. Now, we’ve got no debt. Now, we’re starting to pile up money. Now, we’re going to accumulate some assets. It sounds like a rental property’s in there. Can you walk me through what you guys were thinking about how you’re going to deploy all of this cash that you’re now generating to investments or passive income? How was that first formulated, and this first property, and then whatever?

Julien: It was interesting because, and you’re bringing me back, because again, I was still doing… I was deep into this stuff, and so all she would know is that I would tell her, “No, this is something that I want to do.” And so a couple weekends and a couple nights, I would just leave, because I’d have to go look at some properties or go meet with an agent or something like that, and so I was really sort of doing it on my own, and even after I got it, she just felt like that was something that he’s doing, and it’s fine, because we’re still achieving our goals, and our goal was to just max out every tax deferred account that we could.

Julien: And, at the time, we were still in the process of breaking up with our financial advisor, because we moved over to self managing, etc., but it was really something that I was just doing, and we really didn’t sort of get into together until after we got married. But to your point, my mind set was, “All right. Well, great. We have to own some properties.” The economy was still sort of rebounding. I knew there was plenty of room on the upside, just compared to the pre 2008 days, and I just felt very confident about it. I went into researching the part of town where we were investing. We felt really comfortable there, and it’s proven to work out really well for us.

Julien: And, so, the property that we bought in 2014 has appreciated nicely. We’ve always had a steady stream of tenants in that property. The property where we were living, we paid off that mortgage, and that is now our second, and now debt free rental, and so combined, we’ve got two properties that aren’t that far apart from us, from one another, and actually not that far from where we live. We’ve got a management company who basically does all the heavy lifting, and we enjoy passive income, and you’ve got some administrative work every now and then, but for the most part, it’s a pretty healthy stream of passive income.

Scott: So can I ask about that first property? How much did you put down on that property? What were the kind of specifics around that?

Julien: It was a condo. All in, I want to say I put down $18,000.00. That was including closing costs and commission, but we bought it for, I want to say $62,000.00, and the guy that bought it, pretty sure he bought it for $35,000.00. It was foreclosure. He was an investor. I want to say he was based out of New York, but he probably made off like a bandit, because he bought at around $35,000.00. My guess is he put maybe $10,000.00, $15,000.00 into it, and I bought it for $62,000.00, but now it’s worth about $130,000.00, and the rent has gone up and appreciated steadily over the last four years.

Scott: That’s fantastic. And you said that your philosophy is to pay off the properties and to get the mortgages off them on your primary and for the rentals as well? Or is that just the primary?

Julien: Well, we did it for the primary, because it was our primary at the time, and there were a number of reasons why we wanted to do that. One, because my mother is, what you would consider, financially insecure, and so I wanted to make sure that, no matter what happened, we always knew that she could live somewhere and not have to worry about having to pay rent or a mortgage or something like that.

Julien: The other reason why we… And we’d go back and forth, because when we think about our wealth building plan, we don’t to have too much in any one particular bucket, and so we’re always looking to sort of diversify, not just our income, but essentially, our holdings, and so we’ve got X in our portfolio. We want X in rental properties, and so we just didn’t want to put too much into any particular rental, especially knowing that we might be able to earn more by putting it into the market.

Scott: Got it. So you have portfolio of rental properties. You have these two rentals. And you have stocks, is what I’m hearing. Do you have any other investments besides those? Or are those kind of your two primary ways of investing right now?

Julien: Right now, those are the two, and we’re looking to start businesses and invest in other ways, and so we just had a couple conversations with a friend of ours, who is a franchisee, and so because of our experience, we know that business, and so we’re sort of taking the experience that we learned working in corporate America and using it to invest in ourselves, and so we’re looking at that. We’re also interested in eCommerce businesses and other things of that nature.

Scott: How have your careers progressed since marriage?

Kiersten: Mine has progressed nicely. I think I’ve more than tripled my income over the last 10 years just by focusing on key strengths and finding areas in the business that are sweet spots for what I’m good at, and so I’ve always been really good at earning, which is kind of what I use to justify my high spending, and now, I’m just good at earning and I use that to justify a high investment rate, which sounds crazy, but I look at my job as a means to an end. They’re funding my investments and that’s my incentive to continue to grow career wise and make more money.

Julien: Yeah. And would say mine progressed very well. It ended. I walked away from my corporate career last year. The last part of my career, or my time there, just got really, really tough, and it’s different when you are debt free and you’ve accumulated a significant amount of assets, and so when you reach a point where the work environment becomes toxic, it was a really simple decision to make, because as I said, I don’t need this. We don’t need this.

Julien: It’s impacting our relationship, it was impacting my health, and I think, more importantly, it was impacting my ability to be the sort of father that I wanted to be for our son. So we had our son in April of 2017, and I could tell how it was impacting me during that time, and so I made the decision to walk away and to figure out, I would say, healthier ways, better ways to earn income, and I don’t think we’ve regretted that decision at all.

Kiersten: Not at all.

Julien: It’s been a great ride.

Scott: Going into that decision to leave your job, how has your spending… I mean, I assume that your household spending was less than what you earn, Kiersten, in order for that to work. Right?

Kiersten: Yeah.

Scott: And so can you walk me through that progression? And also, did you stockpile any cash leading up to that decision, like an emergency reserve of months or years of savings?

Kiersten: Yeah. We’ve pretty much lived on one paycheck, on less than one paycheck since we got married. So that was one of the benefits of being able to pay down our primary mortgage, pay off our primary mortgage was that, we didn’t have that huge bill every month, and then outside of that, we always just operated as if there was only one check coming in, and we always picked the smaller of the two checks as the one to live off of, and so when we made the shift to only, literally, having one check come in, we were able to supplement that partially by our rental properties, and also because we never counted on it to begin with, and there wasn’t really a transition, because that’s just the way that we’ve always been since we got married.

Julien: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Want to add two things. One, it obviously helps when you’ve got two incomes and they’re high earnings. Right? So it’s a lot easier to do when you have that, but I would go back to, even the period where we paid off the mortgage, because one of the other reasons was, because we wanted to normalize our cost of living when we had a kid, because you hear these nightmares about how expensive kids are, much of which did not come true for us at all, by the way.

Julien: But one of the other reasons why we wanted to get the big mortgage out of the way is so that, if for some reason, we did run into a situation where having a kid was really, really expensive, or there was medical reasons, or just wants and toys, that we didn’t really feel it, because we had already done the work to pay off our mortgage, and so, now, we can enjoy sort of all of those benefits, because it is gone. Our kid likes to play with sticks and cardboard boxes, and we don’t really have to worry about buying all sorts of things for him, with the exception of daycare. I haven’t figured out, like I’m not going to go as far as to go work at the daycare, but I’ve got to figure out.

Kiersten: Own one. We can franchise a daycare. Maybe that’s the hot.

Julien: No, that is genuinely the hot. It’s like, if we’re going to open up a franchise, duh, open up a daycare, and we know how to do it, and so that’s literally one of the things that’s on our list, because not only would it save us a bunch of money, but I don’t see that business model going anywhere anytime soon.

Mindy: No, people are going to continue to have kids, they’re going to continue to put them in daycare, because they have to. They both have to work so they can fund their Kiersten before Julien lifestyle.

Julien: Yes.

Kiersten: You bet you.

Julien: Yeah. Which is fine, and we’d be happy to have them at the Rich & Regular Daycare facility.

Mindy: So I think it’s interesting that you chose to live on the smaller paycheck. I think that’s a tip that kind of got washed under the rest of the story, but that’s huge, because while one of you chose to leave, when you separate from your job, it’s not always your choice.

Julien: Right.

Mindy: So by living on the higher paycheck, and then that job gets taken away without your permission, then you’re left struggling, but if you’re already working on just living on the lower paycheck, it doesn’t matter whose job leaves for whatever reason. And I like to say that the point of being financially independent isn’t to quit your job, but in some cases, it actually is because you want to quit your job, not because you just don’t want to work anymore, because it is a toxic environment.

Mindy: And I have had a job that was just, I don’t want to get up out of bed, I don’t want to go to work, I can’t stand working for this micromanaging person another minute, and I’m going to go crazy, and every day, I am filled with dread walking into the office. But, now, are you just sitting around drinking tequila on the beach? Or do you actually do things?

Julien: I do things

Mindy: Yeah, yeah. See? So it’s not because you never want to work again. It’s because you don’t want to work there anymore. You want to do what you want to do.

Julien: Correct.

Mindy: Including running a daycare center, or just owning it.

Julien: It’s been really fun. I’ve spent more time around the house, I spend more time taking care of our son, and I spend quite a bit of time on our blog, and we can talk about that later, but it’s fun, it’s fulfilling, it’s helping people, and hopefully, we can turn that into something even bigger than we imagined.

Scott: Mm-hmm (affirmative). It sounds like you had enough income from your job, Kiersten, and the rental properties to cover your expenses going into this. This may be a moot point, but I always like to ask. Was there a cash stockpile in conjunction with that, of some amount that, it helped you feel comfortable making that transition? Or was that totally irrelevant because of the savings rate that you had from the other sources of income?

Julien: There was some cash stockpiled, but it would not have covered like everything. My goal was… And I just reached this point, and I’d listened to enough people and spent enough time with real estate investors, where I knew that saving money, and again, going back to my upbringing, if push came to shove, I know that we can survive on a really, really low amount of money. May not be comfortable, won’t be sexy, but if we had to do it, we could do it.

Julien: And so, I felt comfortable sort of taking the risk not having all of the reserve that we did, and quite honestly, believing in all of the other decisions and research that we’d done to say, “Well, you know who’s going to actually help fill that up? The tenant.” The tenant is going to help fill the cash reserves or the capital reserves that we need. Let’s get it to a point where we feel comfortable enough to pull the trigger, and then we’ll spend the first year using the cashflow to help bring the reserves to a certain point.

Kiersten: Yeah. I also got promoted about three weeks after Julien left, and so with that promotion, by bonus structure changed, my income obviously changed, and so we knew that we could count on that. I’m using air quotes, because you can never really count on any of it, but we knew that we could count on that, and also to help mitigate the need for this massive cash stockpile.

Julien: Yep.

Scott: Got it. Yeah. I just always ask that because I think that’s a mental hurdle for some people.

Julien: It is.

Kiersten: Yeah.

Scott: And making that. It sounds like it wasn’t there for you guys, which I think is great, and it seems like that worked out perfectly, and I think that some people need to hear that, because that can be a huge, that can delay that choice by a year, six months or whatever.

Julien: It can. That’s the wave, man.

Scott: Yeah. That’s right.

Kiersten: Yeah, I don’t know that it wouldn’t have been there, that we would have arrived at the same conclusion if we hadn’t been doing all the work to pay down debt, acquire properties in the four to five years prior to that. In my head, I never imagined this scenario, but then, when it happened, it felt so natural, and one of the benefits of the journey to financial independence is you come across all these things that you think you would never do. You wouldn’t quit your job with a one-year-old, but then you realize, actually I can. We’ve done the work. We have what we need to be able to make those choices, choices that weren’t usually available to us, or that we didn’t think would be available to us, are now there, which is beneficial.

Julien: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Mindy: So a moment ago you said that you started a blog after you quit your job?

Julien: No. We started the blog in 2017, yeah. And it-

Mindy: Oh.

Julien: Yeah.

Mindy: Oh, I didn’t know it was that old.

Julien: Oh, that old? Is that considered old? It’s not even two yet.

Mindy: But it’s considerably longer. I thought you said that you started it after you quit. I was going to ask, why would you start a blog after you quit? Why would you start a blog before you quit? Why did you start your blog?

Julien: Well, so at the time, it was 2017. The idea actually came to us on our honeymoon in 2015, but we just sort of sat on it, because it’s a lot of time, and honestly, we were sort of enjoying reading everybody else’s blog, but we reached a point where we felt like there was an audience that wasn’t being spoken to.

Julien: We’re black Americans, and I think, particularly, in the fire community, you just don’t see a lot of that, and so it was that. It was a sort of experience that we went through as a couple. We didn’t see a lot of that, and so we said, “You know what? Instead of continuing to hope and look for it, we might as well just be that example for the people who are also looking for that deeper sense of relatability.”

Julien: Because, often times, that’s the one thing that will help get them, to move them to action. You can be a fan of something or someone or a movement or whatever you want to call it, and be comfortable sort of sitting on the sidelines and just watching it like a TV show, but when you see someone that you can really relate to, that looks like you, that talks like you, that might be where you’re from, it feels that much more real, and I think that it’s helped some people just say, “You know what? I think we can do this too. It’s not something that I like to watch that they’re doing. It’s actually something that I can do myself.”

Mindy: I love that answer. I love that answer, because there are so many people that I hear in the personal finance space, “Oh, another blog.” Yeah, there’s another blog, and that’s okay, because I don’t talk like Scott. Scott has a very different viewpoint. It’s similar, but different, and I think, in the entire personal finance space, there’s room for enough blogs for everybody to have their own, because what I say is going to be different than the way you say it, but the way that I say it resonates with working moms, as opposed to Julien, who doesn’t have a job and isn’t a mom. So he’s not going to say in the same way that I would.

Mindy: And if you’re watching this on YouTube, you can see that Kiersten and I don’t look alike, and that’s okay. She has different life experiences and she can share those with people in a different way than I can, and I love that you jumped into the blogging space.

Julien: It’s been great.

Kiersten: We’ve loved it.

Julien: Yeah. I mean, it feels like a family. It’s a lot more work than I thought, but I enjoy being able to use more different parts of my brain than I was doing before, and so that part is really, really fun, and it’s a lot of work. It’s surprisingly a lot of work.

Mindy: Yes.

Julien: But it’s a welcome challenge, especially if you want to do it well. It’ll eat up a good chunk of your day, but there are benefits, obviously, that I’d much rather be doing this than doing a job that I absolutely hate, and obviously, if we had to, and push came to shove, I’d do that, but right now, I think we’re in a good spot.

Mindy: Mute, crap. I didn’t mean to hit mute.

Kiersten: Ut-oh.

Mindy: No, I hit mute instead.

Scott: That was our only edit in this entire blog.

Mindy: Yeah, so there we go. You guys are rocking this out.

Scott: How many edits did we have the first 10 minutes after the reboot?

Mindy: Yeah, after the reboot, we have a lot fewer edits. Okay. I want to ask about healthcare. And, yeah, do we want to ask about healthcare? I get a lot of people telling me that they really wish I would have asked about healthcare.

Scott: Well, I imagine-

Kiersten: We use mine.

Scott: What?

Kiersten: Yeah. I was just going to say we use my employer sponsored healthcare.

Scott: Yeah.

Mindy: And do you have plans for afterwards?

Kiersten: Yeah. I mean, I think our short term plan, so we also max out our HSA. Are we record… Yeah, I guess we’re recording. Our short term plans-

Scott: Let’s do this. Let’s bring that question back in, and we want to do both of them, but the first one’s an easy answer. Employer healthcare. And then, is there anything else that you want us to ask you guys about that we should probably have covered that we haven’t got to yet, before we got to the famous four?

Julien: Well, I mean, you said you wanted to talk about bread winning, right?

Mindy: I did, but that didn’t actually come up very much in this conversation.

Julien: Okay.

Mindy: I might just skip that, although you had a great answer, but we didn’t really say that Kiersten made more throughout the course of the conversation, so I think we’re going to skip that for today, unfortunately. We’ll just have to have you back.

Julien: Okay. No, I think we’ve covered a good bit.

Kiersten: Yeah.

Julien: I mean, I think the dynamic and sort of coming from different backgrounds, I think, was the key thing that we wanted to hammer home.

Mindy: Yeah. And I think that you guys don’t have like that unique of a story, where you come from two different sides. We just haven’t talked to a lot of people who come from two different sides, but I think, in the real world, there’s a lot of people who are just like you, and having that conversation, I mean, Julien, you should start turning this around on Kiersten, “Well, look where we are today because I told you I never would have dated you.”

Kiersten: He reminds me.

Julien: I do.

Mindy: So look at how far you’ve come. That’s really awesome.

Julien: Yeah.

Scott: We’ve got to get his expression.

Mindy: Yeah, we’ll just place that back into the other part of it. Okay, Okay, so now we’re going to go. Okay. So what are you guys doing for healthcare now? And what are your plans for healthcare in the future when neither of you have a job anymore?

Kiersten: Yeah. So, right now, we use my employer healthcare through my job. We also max out our HSA every year, and so once both of us are no longer working, I think the short term plan would be to either use part of our cash reserves and budget for healthcare just like we would any other expense, or to start to leverage our HSA to cover expenses that we couldn’t cashflow.

Mindy: Okay. Yeah, that’s one of the biggest questions. I get that, and childcare, and we’ve already discussed that you will open up a daycare franchise.

Kiersten: I don’t even know if that’s realistic. I mean, he’s two now, so by the time we open a franchise, he’ll probably be in regular school, but it does intrigue me when you think about how much money, over the three to four years you have your child in childcare, that you spend. It’s like no, you really could probably open a franchise for that same amount of money, and I don’t know. It’s just one of those ideas that I like to fantasize about when I’m not working.

Julien: Yeah.

Mindy: Yeah. I will say though, that is a lot of work.

Kiersten: Yeah.

Julien: Yeah.

Kiersten: It is.

Mindy: Okay. Well, this has been fantastic. I really like how you came from two different money backgrounds and money philosophies and you came together, you figured it out together, and you worked together, thanks to Julien telling you that he never would have dated you if he had known how bad you are with money.

Julien: Constantly reminded.

Mindy: But Julien you should be reminding Kiersten, look the place that you are now, because you put your foot in your mouth.

Julien: I love that.

Mindy: Look at where you are. What if you didn’t find out she had all this credit card debt at three months in? What if you never said “Wow, I never would have dated you?” Kiersten, would you have changed on your own?

Kiersten: No. Not to this level.

Mindy: Probably not.

Kiersten: No, no.

Mindy: Probably not. So, okay. But this has been really interesting, and I think that what makes your story so great is that, I never know how to say this. It always sounds like such a crappy compliment, but what makes your story so great is that you’re not unique. There are a lot of people in the same position you’re in. One of them is more spendy, and one of them is more savey, and if you want to stay together you have to figure out where the middle is, and how to get there together, and I think you guys did a really, really great job of that. I mean, Julien, congratulations on turning Kiersten around, bringing her over.

Julien: My son claps to everything, so I’m going to go ahead and clap too.

Mindy: Okay. It is now time for the famous four. This is the same four questions, and one command, that we ask of all of our guests. Julien and Kiersten, are you ready?

Kiersten: Yes.

Julien: Yes we are.

Mindy: Okay. What is your favorite finance book?

Julien: I would say The Wealth Choice by Dr. Dennis Kimbro. He is a professor here at Clark Atlanta University, and it is basically, it’s just his version, if you will, of Dr. Stanley’s, The Millionaire Next Door, except he researched black millionaires and spoke about their experience, and so he documented that, and compiled it into a book, and so you get sort of very intimate perspective into the mind of the black millionaire.

Mindy: And that’s called The Wealth Choice, by who?

Julien: The Wealth Choice by Dr. Dennis Kimbro.

Scott: I have not heard of that. I’ll have to check that out.

Kiersten: Yeah, it’s a great book.

Julien: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Kiersten: It was the one that shook me like out of my debt mindset.

Scott: That’s awesome.

Mindy: Okay, Kiersten, what’s your favorite finance book?

Kiersten: That’s hard, because there’s been so many good ones recently. I’m going to say, for now, the season, it’s Broke Millennial takes on investing by Erin Lowry. I think she just has a really relatable direct approach to talking about money to an audience that really, really needs to hear it, which is broke millennials. So we got a chance to participate in one of her book tour stops, and the engagement was incredible, and it’s hard to get people who don’t have money to engage in money, but she’s figured out how to do it.

Mindy: Oh, that’s awesome. She’s going to be on the show in a couple of weeks, so I will make sure to let her know that you recommended her book.

Kiersten: Oh great.

Mindy: She’s a fantastic author. I really enjoyed her first book.

Scott: And she’ll be a repeat guest, right? She was on show number 24. Look at me pulling the show numbers out.

Mindy: Oh, Scott taking my place. Yes, and she’ll be on in, I want to say, two or three weeks from now.

Kiersten: Cool.

Scott: Awesome. All right. What were your biggest money mistakes?

Kiersten: Mine was my car, for sure. I was given the gift of a student loan free graduation and I went and created my own version of it, and so it is the single financial mistake that I wish I could do over.

Julien: I would say mine would be that first house that I bought. I was waiting tables and working at the school and a student at the time, but the bank still approved that loan, and that was in 2007, and we all know what happened in 2008. So for the first couple of years, it was peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and hotdogs and baked beans, pretty consistently, so yeah.

Scott: Yeah, we didn’t hear about that one, but that sounds like unfortunate timing and a tough position.

Julien: Yeah. I just shouldn’t have bought it to begin with, but I just, being an overachiever, I wanted to just do more than a normal person. It came back to bite me in the butt.

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

Julien: I would say, actually, recognizing where the real hard parts are, because we’re a little further along on the journey, and I would say way further than most people, and looking back, the hardest part is the beginning. Everything gets better. Right? The hardest part is sort of wrapping your head around these concepts if you’re unfamiliar with them, or taking the action to make those drastic changes. That’s the hard part.

Julien: Once you get in it, and you build a community with like minded people and you start to change those habits, everything gets easier, everything gets better, and it becomes and feels more normal. So I would say the first tip is sort of recognizing that, even if they’re being confronted that, that is the hardest part. Everything after that gets easier.

Kiersten: And I would say use cash. Cash has a way of telling the truth in the way that debit cards and credit cards don’t. In our world today, a lot of people don’t carry cash. We did a little experiment earlier this summer, and you’d be surprised that even cashiers don’t have cash in the registers, but until you get the flow of how much a dollar is and how quickly it leaves your pocket, I feel cash is one of those ways to teach you very quickly how much money you’re spending and how quickly you’re spending it.

Mindy: Yeah. That is. Using cash is an eyeopener.

Kiersten: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Mindy: I have been just swiping and swiping and swiping, and I don’t want to go to the bank and get cash out, so I just hit it with the credit card, and then we started tracking our spending, and I like to say that I’m good with money, and you start tracking your spending, and you’re like, “Whoa, I spend way too much money.”

Kiersten: Yeah.

Mindy: So if I had cash, then I’m like, “Oh, I’ve got to get this out of my wallet and hand it you.” That’s a lot more real.

Kiersten: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Scott: And to your point, Julien, the grind that you just described of a few years that you have to put in, in order to get this going, that is, I think, the hard part. That’s the, maybe a little bit too far, but a potential secret to capitalism here, and this world is like, hey, you’ve got to slog it out for several years and grind away, $2,000.00 a month at a time, however long it takes, until you’ve got a significant chunk of liquidity that’s been vested in something. Right? You talk about your situation now, two rental properties, stock portfolio. Right? Still living on just one income, right?

Julien: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Scott: Even though you have two earners. Like that’s the position of being farther along, where opportunities will multiply for you guys for the rest of your life, with whatever you want to do, that most people just can’t grasp. They don’t go through that slog that you guys have been through.

Julien: Yep.

Scott: All right, last and most difficult question here. What is your favorite joke to tell at parties?

Kiersten: So, this one, I just learned this weekend from my cousin, but it is, where did Captain Hook get his hook?

Scott: I don’t know. Where?

Kiersten: The second hand store.

Scott: That’s fantastic.

Kiersten: It’s very fine, very frugal.

Scott: That’s where I actually get all of my pirate attire.

Julien: Well…

Mindy: My daughter has made it her mission to find jokes for me for my show now, because not everybody is prepared and has a joke. So she gave me this one this morning that I thought was hilarious. Why does the chicken coop only have two doors?

Kiersten: I don’t know.

Julien: I don’t know.

Mindy: Because if it had four doors, it would be a chicken sedan.

Scott: Nice.

Julien: Oh God.

Mindy: So, that one, I laughed out loud. Now, Julien’s reaction is my normal reaction to these jokes, but I thought that one was very funny.

Scott: Mindy’s coming around.

Julien: Because I always think I can solve it, the riddle, and then when you start saying it, I’m like, “Oh, I should have done that.”

Mindy: Yeah. Almost as soon as she started saying sedan, I’m like, “Oh, that’s it. That’s hilarious.”

Julien: Yeah.

Mindy: Okay. Tell me where people can find more about you. That’s my command.

Kiersten: We’re at Rich&Regular.com and then we’re on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest, all under the handle Rich & Regular.

Scott: Awesome. Well we will link all of those places in the show notes and make sure that people can find it.

Kiersten: Awesome.

Julien: Awesome, guys.

Scott: Thank you, guys.

Julien: I thought-

Scott: This was a fantastic show. We had a great time hearing about just the different perspectives and how it came together to create something pretty awesome for you guys in your lives right now, and into the future.

Julien: Thank you. It was a great pleasure talking to you guys, and hope to see you in person soon.

Mindy: You will. Are you going to anymore Camp FI’s this year?

Julien: We haven’t booked one, but I wouldn’t rule it out. I know we’ll be at FinCon. Will you guys be at FinCon?

Mindy: We’ll be at FinCon, and do you have a podcast?

Kiersten: No.

Julien: No.

Mindy: You don’t have a podcast, okay. So you’re probably not going to go to Podcast Movement then?

Julien: No.

Kiersten: Mm-mm (negative).

Mindy: Okay. So well we’ll see you at FinCon for sure.

Julien: Cool.

Mindy: And maybe before. Maybe you’ll come back up to Longmont.

Kiersten: Yeah.

Julien: Maybe, maybe. We had a great time when we were there.

Kiersten: We did. We really did.

Mindy: It’s an awesome city, I’ve got to say. It’s like the favorite place I’ve ever lived.

Julien: Nice.

Mindy: Okay. Julien and Kiersten from Rich & Regular, thank you so much for being on the show today.

Julien: Thank you.

Kiersten: Thanks for having us.

Mindy: Okay, we’ll talk to you soon.

Julien: All right.

Kiersten: Thanks. Bye.

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In This Episode We Cover:

  • Julien’s money journey
  • Frugality as part of his everyday life
  • On feeling he needed different ways to earn income
  • On his job right after college
  • How Julien and Kiersten met
  • Kiersten’s money journey
  • On her sales and retail experience
  • How Kiersten had a problem with spending
  • Julien’s hack to pay $25 per semester in college
  • Reason Kiersten got into debt
  • Talking about their relationship journey and how they fixed their money problems
  • Went on a saving spree after paying off all his debts
  • Didn’t get into investing together until after marriage
  • Their philosophies on buying properties
  • On their investment properties
  • How their careers have progressed since marriage
  • And SO much more!

Links from the Show

Books Mentioned in this Show

Tweetable Topics:

  • “If we have to do it, we can do it.” (Tweet This!)
  • “You can be a fan of something or someone and be comfortable sort of sitting on the sideline and just watching it like a TV show.” (Tweet This!)

Connect with Julien and Kiersten

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