BiggerPockets Money Podcast 25: Raising a Family While Seeking Financial Freedom with Chris and Debbie Emick

by | BiggerPockets.com

Chris and Debbie Emick have two daughters—AND are well on their way to financial independence through a combination of local and long distance real estate investing coupled with frugality and conscious spending.

Chris and Debbie are everyday Joes living the dream in small-town Colorado. Debbie home schools their two daughters and manages their rental property business from home, after her 14-year career in teaching. Chris is a passionate leader to his team of network engineers by day and organic gardener/personal finance extraordinaire by night. Their home base is rural Southeastern CO, where they can go for dirt-road runs and trafficless drives while still being able to make quick mountain trips for hiking, backpacking, and skiing.

This is the first in a periodic series of interviews with families who are on the path to financial freedom.

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 Scott: Welcome to BiggerPockets Money Podcast, Show Number 25.

“The big thing I notice as a mom, the shift is, before we were just hurrying to get out the door. And then when we got home, we were hurrying to get ready to go to whatever sport activity or meeting or whatever we had after work. And then we’re hurrying to get all the homework done and get baths done and get in bed and all of that stuff. And that’s just not our reality anymore. I mean, that was a priority, too. We’re tired of that hustle and bustle and the word ‘busy’. We just decided we didn’t want to use the word ‘busy’ anymore. And so this has really helped with that. The pace is as fast or as slow as we want it to be and so that feels like freedom”.

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’s 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 co-host, Miss Mindy Jensen. How are you doing today, Mindy?

Mindy: Scott, I am doing really great today. I am having just a really awesome day. It’s beautiful weather outside. I really like it when it’s nice and sunny. We’ve had some rain lately so it’s been nice to see the sun for a while. The temperature is heating up so it’s nice to be able to go to the pool with my girlies. How are you today?

Scott: I am doing fantastic. I drove today but I’ve been biking the rest of the week. So I had a meeting across town but other than that, things are going good. I’m so excited that we finally have what I think is one of the best examples of how to approach financial freedom from starting in a position where you already have a family and maybe a lifestyle locked in and then make the shift to kind of aggressively pursuing our financial independence.

We found today’s guests, Chris and Debbie, through one of our old podcasts. We sent out a call to you, the listeners, asking for folks that have a story about how they began approaching financial independence with a family and how they began making the hard shift towards that. And Chris and Debbie kind of embody a lot of really good qualities and mindset shift and then of course, the production of incredible results after that mindset shift. So I’m very excited to hear from them today. I think it’s going to be one of the better shows that we’ve had.

Mindy: Yes, I am so happy they reached out to us back on Show 17. We asked for people who had families to come on the show and tell their story and it has been a bit of a struggle to find the right family to talk to. I found a couple of families—we are going to have more of these interviews so you can see that this is possible, while having a family, already have a family—you just discover this concept of financial independence and you know, a small tweak here, a small tweak there—you can really make huge strides towards your financial goals. Chris and Debbie chose real estate as their investment so that’s another positive for the BiggerPockets listeners in general.

Scott: Absolutely and they’ve produced incredible results. They went from a—they set their minds to it. They saved up a chunk of money and they turned about $60,000 into a 16-unit portfolio capable of supporting financial freedom in two and a half years. And they’re going to tell you exactly how they did that and how they got to it in just a minute here.

Mindy: Yeah, but before we bring them in, we should hear a note from today’s sponsor.

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All right, big thanks to today’s sponsor. So Mindy, should we bring in Chris and Debbie?

Mindy: Yes, I think it is time for them to come in.

Scott: All right, Chris and Debbie, welcome to the BiggerPockets Money podcast. Thank you so much for coming on today. How’s it going?

Debbie: Good. Thanks for having us. We’re excited.

Chris: It’s going great, Scott and Mindy, really excited to be here.

Mindy: We are really excited to have you. So Scott and I were recording a show a few weeks ago and we asked for families to contact us, that are pursuing financial independence. We heard a lot of people saying hey, it’s great that this single person or this couple was able to reach financial independence, but we’d like to hear from a family perspective.

How did the family do it or what did they do on their path? How are they cutting out this expense or that thing? So we would like to hear about your story. This is how we found you. You heard our call. You sent me a note. And I really, really like your story. So how did you get started on the personal finance journey, the financial independence trip that you’re now on?

Debbie: Well, you know we are a couple of people that came together and chances of two people coming together that have the exact same mindset and habits with money are pretty unlikely. And so we are that normal story. We were completely opposite. Chris has always been sort of natural saver and wanting to save money and keep as much as he can.

And I grew up with a whole other experience with money, some financial insecurity that made me feel a little powerless with money and so I always set the bar low with money. I didn’t aim high or think I could make a lot of money. I just thought I would get by. And so I graduated college with some student loan debt, about $24,000 in student loan debt, about $5,000 in credit card debt. I had a car, so I had a car payment.

I was a single teacher and so I was trying to pay rent and a car payment and start paying my student loans back and pay credit card debt and it was really hard. So that was maybe my first “aha” that it was like, yeah, I don’t need to earn a lot of money but I need to earn enough to pay the bills. And then Chris and I got married and he was as far opposite of that as he could be and it was like save every penny that you can save.

And so that’s how our marriage really began. And we slowly worked closer towards each other to where we are now. You know, in a good place, where we’ve had lots of budget conversations. Lots of talk about priorities. And what we value as a couple and as a family and where we need to spend our money. And so anyway, to get a little farther ahead in the story, I had taught for a long time and we were always the kind of couple that was like traditional.

Let’s work really hard. We’ll save our money. We’ll retire on these good pensions and then we’ll really live it up. We’ll live our life. And so I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease that caused some significant health problems. And so first, we weren’t really going towards financial freedom but we looked at our budget and we thought, we could make it work. Reprioritize and I can stay home with the kids and I don’t need the added stress from my stressful job that was adding to the health problems.

And from there, we just kept adding more and more freedom into our lives which meant you know, a lot of things like freedom with food. We were growing a garden. And freedom with our kids’ education. We started homeschooling. And eventually this topic of financial independence came up. So I don’t know if you want to take over from there, Chris. 

Chris: Yeah, like Debbie was saying, saving always came natural to me. I was very close with my grandmother growing up and she was a child of the Great Depression so she taught me that kind of fear-based mindset of look, you don’t spend your money. You keep it and you keep it because there’s always that day where something bad could happen. So that part of me just came and it came naturally to me.

I can remember back to Halloween as a kid. Me and my two brothers, we’d go out trick-or-treating. They’d come home and by two days later, all their candy would be gone and I would still have candy like seven or eight months later. I always just thought, I’ve got to save for a rainy day. You never know when a candy crisis might crop up and I’m going to need to have all this candy, or something like that.

Debbie: You never know.

Chris: And then I go to college and I was on track to be a computer scientist, software engineer, and the main spur to that was I enjoy computers and I knew it was going to be a hot career and I could make a lot of money and you know, that’s what I needed. Well, I graduated right around the time where the dot com burst happened and it was real tough to get a job. Then I felt kind of defeated by that, like oh maybe I won’t ever be able to get to a position where I can make the kind of money where I had been promising myself and all that kind of stuff.

And so then we moved to rural Colorado at that time and we both had modest jobs in our early 20s. She made around $30,000 and I made around $30,000. Nothing crazy. At that time we weren’t saving a lot, but we easily could pay our bills and we were chipping away at student loan debt and got our house and we always kind of used that extra money to pay the mortgage because that was again one of the philosophies of debt was evil. Get rid of debt fast, fast, fast. So we just got rid of all our debt and then we started to have the children and then I got into technology and so then my career started picking up. I didn’t go from $30,000 to $100,000 overnight, but over 10, 12, 15 years, it started to get there.

And when Debbie did get that autoimmune disease and we had our second child, and she’s like Chris, I’d really love to stay home and again, I just had that fear-based mindset of like, look if you just work another 15 years, your pension will pay you this much money. And if I work another 20 years, my pension and my 401K will be worth all this. So it’s just that limiting belief that money is this finite resource and we have to hoard it and collect it and when we’re 60 or 70, that’s when we get to reap the rewards of that kind of thing.

Well, then comes that decision that Debbie does need to stay home. How can we do this? How can we budget? How can we understand how much we spend? And so that’s what we did. We started using a program called YNAB. You need a budget to just start tracking our money because at that time, we were still saving but it was like, as long as we saved, we were good.

Scott: What year was this when this happened? So we talked about a timeline, it sounded to me like ten years or so between graduating college, getting married, and all that kind of stuff. And then this focal point of transitioning because of the diagnosis into approach to FIRE. When was that?

Debbie: It was about 2014, I think. I got sick and I worked for several years after. And then it just makes it really real. It’s a reality for everyone, you know, like I might not even be around to enjoy my retirement by the time I’m 60. So why wait until then?

And so that reality, whether you have an autoimmune disease or not, it’s like why wait for life until someone tells you yeah, now you can retire. Now you can get all this money that you’ve been saving all this time. So that was 2014. When I actually quit being a teacher, we had that conversation about a year beforehand because of contracts and all of that stuff.

Scott: That’s great. So as soon as you decided this, what was your position at that point and what did you change in order to make this work? What were the kind of lifestyle and adjustments you guys had to make in order to kind of realize your objectives here?

Chris: I think the first thing was we didn’t really have any aspirations of let’s find additional ways to make more money. It was more of, let’s find ways to cut so that we can take this much money that I earn from my W-2 job and pay all the necessary things and still, at this time, we’re pre-real estate investing and pre-anything other than funding 401Ks and IRAs with that long-term mindset.

So the position we took then was okay, let me whip out some spreadsheets. Let’s try this YNAB thing and let’s start tracking our spending to see what a normal month-to-month looks like. We were kind of used to the tracking concept because again, with Deb’s disease, we got real mindful about what we were putting in our bodies, so we started tracking better what we’re eating like, are we eating out this much? What kind of food are we eating and that kind of stuff.

So the budgeting part was just kind of similar to that. Just make tiny bits of time every day and let’s keep track of what we did. So we found out our number. Here’s our number that we’re spending now. You know, I kind of played with the numbers a little bit, added here, took away here, and I was like yeah this is actually doable, surprisingly enough. And lo and behold, we can still pay down our mortgage. We can still save for the IRA. We can still put in my 401K, a healthy amount and all that kind of stuff. And so then that was that “aha” moment of whoa.

Because 2014 might have been when Debbie stopped working but in 2005 when our first daughter was born, she was like hinting, okay Chris, it would kind of be nice if I could stay home. You know, this new baby we’ve had for a couple of years. I was like, oh yeah, that’s good. Now could you please go back to work and let’s earn some more money, you know.

Debbie: Well, let me just say a couple of things here because Chris really acts like that was when we started budgeting but he is like a spreadsheet master. And really budgeted but it was more like him looking over—I mean, we use credit cards wisely. We always pay them off but we use them for points. So he’s always done that kind of thing.

So each month, he would sit down and analyze the credit card bill and be like, what was this? Why did you spend money on this? What’s this? Or look at the bank statement. And so it really wasn’t beyond the scope we had budgeted before. It was just that this was the most we’d ever budgeted. Every penny out, every penny in.

And over time, he kept getting raises and really, in a teaching position, I never got raises. But we had really increased our income quite a bit. And when we increased our income, we never really increased our spending. So we always lived off of what we made from when we got married, for the most part. But right before I quit teaching, we kind of got real lax.

We were making quite a bit of money and we weren’t paying so much attention to what we were spending. So that’s when we went with YNAB. But I remember early in our marriage a conversation that Chris and I had where he was like, wouldn’t it be fun this month to just like live off the pantry food and try to spend only $100 on groceries? And I was like, no. That doesn’t even sound fun at all.

He’s always been pretty good with that. It’s just that we started budgeting every single cent and finding oh, it actually would work just fine. We wouldn’t have to do that much to make sure I could stay home.

Mindy: I’m married to Chris, too. Like every single thing you’re telling me, I’m like yep. That’s my husband. That’s my husband. That’s my husband.

Scott: I think that sounds like great fun.

Chris: It’s a heck of a lot of fun. Did you tell them about the time I went to the electric box and turned off all the brakers, too? And I was like, let’s see what a day without electricity is like.

Debbie: Oh, I forgot that one.

Mindy: Don’t you work with computers?

Chris: Lots of candles and board games.

Mindy: Yeah, don’t you work with computers? How do you do computers with no electricity?

Chris: It was on a weekend.

Mindy: Yeah, my husband would never turn off the electricity because then he wouldn’t get to his stuff. So in that aspect, you’re different. Okay, so one thing different than my husband.

Chris: There we go.

Mindy: So you hit on a bunch of points but some of these that I really, really like is why wait for life? And then Chris said, we tracked our spending and figured out that this really is possible. And that’s something that I don’t think people who are not in this mindset really even understand that this is possible. It’s not that hard. I mean, yes, if you’re making $10,000 a year. It’s going to be a little bit harder than if you’re making $100,000 a year. But this is absolutely possible. Why wait for life? Why wait until you’re 60 to enjoy your retirement when you can do it by making these small tweaks into your lifestyle and into your spending right now?

Have a let’s shop out of the pantry month. See how many things you can eat out of the pantry. I have way too much food. I’m a bit of a hoarder and I’m trying to get over my stuff. But I hoard food. And I have never been food insecure so I don’t even know why I do it. I need help. So I’m trying to get rid of everything in my pantry and that’s like in the next couple of months. That’s all we’re doing is going to the pantry and eating everything in the pantry.

Debbie: I completely agree. I think if anyone proves it, it’s your BiggerPockets Money Show because I was doing my homework to be on the show. And we’ve always listened to BiggerPockets, like getting into real estate and everything. And now your show coming along and it’s like, your show proves that you can do it on $20,000 a year. Those people become financially independent in just a matter of a few years.

So to me, it’s a feeling of powerlessness or not with money where it’s like, if you want to do it, I haven’t heard of anyone yet on your show that made $10,000 a year and became financially independent. But I did hear a guy that made $20,000 a year and kept working towards financial independence.

Mindy: Yeah, you can do it. I’m sorry, Scott, go ahead.

Scott: I was going to ask is what was your spending prior to you leaving teaching? And what that’s changed to after you’ve kind of implemented and began changing and tracking every penny?

Chris: Yeah, so it really was, I would say for me, it was a lot of eating out. But I’m not going to a $50 or $100 dinners. It was just, I’m going to grab a Subway sandwich on the way into work in the morning. I’m going to grab a salad for lunch. And then maybe twice, three times a week, we’d do that. I think that was really the only thing that I felt like, hmm, we’re giving up on that?

And then consequently, Debbie is just an amazing cook now. So it’s like, it’s awesome for me because every morning, we have breakfast as a family and every night we have dinner as a family and I usually take leftovers to work or whatever. And that’s like really the only sacrifice that I feel like was made.

Mindy: And did that change your life to stop going to Subway in the morning and to stop grabbing a salad for lunch? Do you feel deprived?

Chris: No. Yeah, I feel so much better.

Debbie: That was a conscious choice and a conscious effort on our part because of health, because we started sort of taking control of food and trying to grow as much of our own food as we can, which is another step towards freedom, in our mind. And eating out just wasn’t healthy but because we both worked, there was just only a certain amount that we could do. And now that I was able to stay home, yeah, we could really focus on that. But we didn’t feel deprived or like we had to sacrifice at all.

Mindy: Because it’s just not that hard. You said conscious several times. This was a conscious decision. We consciously looked at our spending. We consciously made a budget. This whole journey is a conscious decision but it’s not like this overwhelming like all I can think about is money and oh, I can’t spend that penny. And I think that’s really important for people to understand is I say this all the time—personal finance is personal and what means a lot to you? You said in your e-mail to us that you really like to go skiing. Awesome. I do, too. Let’s go. And Scott, you can come with us.

Scott: I do love skiing.

Mindy: But that’s an expensive sport. You’re not eating out. You’re not doing all of these other things. You’re choosing to spend money on skiing that other people may not do. So you choose what you want to spend money on. You spend money on things that are important so you can save money on things that don’t matter.

Chris: That’s what helped with kind of breaking it out other than just before Deb left her job, we just shaved off the top and then spent the rest. And we weren’t very intentional about that. And then all of a sudden, when we decided okay, hey, how much do we want to put in Category A, B, and C and all of that stuff. That’s when that intentionality started to come in and we’re like, hey, we don’t want to skimp on skiing. There is a line item in our budget that’s just for skiing stuff.

There’s a line item in our budget for travel. There’s a line item in our budget for investing now. At that time, it was savings but now it’s for saving. It’s like we just prioritize those buckets get filled every month first and when there’s left over there, that’s when we kind of start saying okay, maybe I want to get this neat thing off of Amazon or whatever and if there’s not money left over there, then that’s easy to skip.

Debbie: It’s prioritizing. So there is not a big line item in our budget for clothes. It’s very small. We don’t buy a lot of clothes so that’s a small priority. But there is a big item in our budget for travel. So we save for that and that is a priority. And that’s kind of how our budget works. Talk about what’s important, figure it out, and then we budget towards it.

Scott: Awesome. So when you were doing this, do you decrease your spending primarily, it just sounds like, by tracking it and not allowing anything to leak out. And then also with this primary change of how you eat. That’s a major lifestyle change that you noticed as an outcome of it. Is that a good summary of that change?

What I find that’s interesting is that when people begin doing this and years go by, career growth seems to follow in a weird way. Do you find that that happened as well for you in terms of opportunity in your career? Yeah, it was kind of weird like I mean before, when it was Debbie and I both working like I was very obsessed about how much money I was making and I always kind of felt like what’s that next thing that I can do to increase my value at my job and how can I make more money and all that?

And so, I just really focused on it and it felt like it was always consuming me and I never felt like I was you know, getting paid enough or whatever. And then just starting to come to that realization. So maybe this is what you’re asking. Maybe it’s not. But it’s a realization of like look, this is decent enough. Like I’m happy with this. I can pay for all the things I want.

And then all of a sudden, it’s like whoa, here comes this extra money and now that I’ve stopped focusing on it, as far as like it was eating away at me all the time and I would just like come home and complain to Deb, I can’t believe I’m not making dah dah dah.

And then it started to just come in. And then we didn’t even spend it though. It’s not like we upgraded our life. All we did was okay, that top line item for saving and investing just got bigger every raise I got. Everything else pretty much stayed the same. And that’s how it’s been for several years now.

Debbie: But you know, our ideas about earning money changed a lot, too, because we started realizing that all this money we had been piling away in the bank was making zero. It was just sitting there and so we had worked so hard to save all of this money and it was there but we could only live off that money for so long.

And so we started looking for ways that that money could earn us money. The more we started investing and the more—well, actually, Chris is the spreadsheet master so we sat down with the spreadsheet and looked at what we could really do with that money in real estate and it was like, I earned, probably take home less than $30,000 a year as a teacher. And I worked and worked really hard for that money every year.

And with real estate, we were able to make that—double that money in about two years, that will make for the rest of our lives. And we can pass that money onto our girls and we made that money ourselves from our own money. And we don’t need a W-2 for it. We don’t need a boss for it.

Scott: So you stockpiled this money through your frugal habits and through your savings here. How much money are we talking about and can you walk us through step by step of how you began making the decision to invest it and then where you invested it and what those first few steps look like?

So how much are you talking about here? $10,000 or $100,000 or $1,000,000?

Chris: I think we were right around $60,000. So it’s like we had $60,000.

Debbie: I’m sorry but I’m going to interrupt you now.

Chris: Go for it.

Debbie: We had saved $90,000. But when we decided to invest, we took $30,000 right off the top and said, we’re going to keep this in savings and we could live off of this for a very long time if we needed to, if Chris lost his job, too. Because I was without a job at the time.

So we left $30,000 of it as our safety net. And then we took $60,000 and that’s what we felt comfortable with, with our risk tolerance at the time. And we felt comfortable investing that much.

Mindy: Okay. And where did you put that $60,000?

Chris: I really wanted to put that into self-storage sheds because I was like, I heard all these horror stories of like, if you get into real estate, you’re going to be fixing toilets at 2:00 in the morning. All this kind of stuff. I don’t want to deal with tenants in that regard. I want to buy a lot of storage sheds and that seemed like a good thing.

Well, I couldn’t find any storage sheds, so then I started Googling and BiggerPockets just came up over and over and I started hearing these success stories of people in a similar situation and they’re able to do it. And I’m like, whoa. That just really opened my mind. I don’t have to be fixing toilets at 2:00 in the morning. I don’t have to be doing that all the time. We can build a team around us and everything. So that’s where it started going.

I honestly didn’t know the real estate market around me. We bought our house 12 or 13 years ago and I haven’t paid attention. So I had no clue that investing locally was even possible so we started looking into turnkey in Memphis and I was like, it just keeps coming up over and over and over again. That’s a perfect thing. I don’t have to look for the property. I don’t have to get a tenant. That’s all taken care of for me.

So we were going down that road and just through happenstance, we started talking to folks around us and they were like, oh, so-and-so does real estate around here. So we started talking to some landlords around here and I’m like, wow. You can do really good here in little rural southeast Colorado. So we’re at 16 properties now and in about two and a half years, and that’s a mixture of five out in Memphis that are turnkey, and then the rest here in small little rural Colorado.

Scott: Can you walk us through your very first purchase? So that’s the scary one, right? That’s the one that really is the big hump for people to get over, is if you have the $60,000, you don’t want to lose it, right? It’s just something that you worked probably for years. How do you go about actually the process of buying that very first property? What did that look like?

Debbie: We did a lot of background work. So Chris is not traditionally a risktaker. That’s why we had saved so much money. That was not risky. And so we just like consumed BiggerPockets podcasts. We read book after book after book and we felt like yeah, we’re as prepared as we can be. And then a realtor just helped us stumble upon this property that was actually two separate single-family homes but then one purchase, because they were on the same deed.

And so we ran the numbers on it. It was good. I think we got it for $37,000 for both homes, right? We put about $15,000 rehab into them total and we were able to rent them both together for about $1,050 a month. That wasn’t cash flow. We decided to leverage so after all of our research, we didn’t pay cash for the property. We leveraged and so our cash flow on that property isn’t over $1,000 a month but it was a $30,000 investment for $1,050 in rent. I don’t know if I missed something there, Chris.

Mindy: Where is this at?

Debbie: In a very small town in southeastern Colorado.

Mindy: Okay, so this is in Colorado. This wasn’t in Memphis.

Debbie: No, no, no.

Mindy: Because $37,000 house in Memphis isn’t unusual. So $37,000 for the two houses and $15,000 in rehab so did somebody do math quickly? What is it? $52,000 all ready to go and that’s like the Two Percent Rule. The One Percent Rule is you rent out the property for 15 of the purchase price, and this is 2% almost. Wow.

Chris: Yeah, we hit anywhere from 1.75-2% on our first three or four deals around here. So this is about 2016 or so. We can’t get that now. We can still beat the One Percent Rule fairly easy. It’s almost like when I look at a 1% deal, I’m like no thanks. I’m going to go find me something that’s going to get me a little bit better than that.

But yeah, so there’s good deals. But the problem down here is there’s not a huge network. We do manage those properties ourselves and all that kind of stuff. So it’s a little bit extra work but that’s what we found is, we enjoy it and we’re learning all the time. Brandon Turner’s book, How to Manage Real Estate Property, has been a huge help in getting us some of that confidence and dealing with the tenant issues.

Overall, what we’ve found is like, and I found this in business and in life and other places, it’s like if you treat people with that respect and you just have that mindset of like, hey, they’re not out here to screw me over. And I’m here to provide you a service. You’re here to pay rent. And we have this mutual exchange. So far, so good. We’ve had a pretty good run with it. Not perfect tenants but everything’s been pretty good.

Scott: So how much cash did you put into the deal? I know it was $52,000 towards the total amount of the purchase price plus rehab. How much cash went in and then what did you do with the rest of your remaining cash?

Debbie: So the homes we get locally, we get through a small bank, local like hometown bank, and those are commercial. And we put 20-25% down on those loans. And then all the rehab costs are in cash. So usually, when we close on a local property, the closing costs are a lot cheaper and everything. And so yeah, I think that one was about $7500 by the time we closed on those homes. Do you remember, Chris?

Chris: You were saying down payment and the bank costs?

Debbie: Yeah, what we owe the bank. And then all the rehab, we used our cash for.

Chris: Yeah, we took that from about $60,000 down to, and then I think we spent about $20,000 out of pocket for that one. So we still had $40,000 left when we were done with that first deal.

Debbie: Once we started cash flowing, we never lived off of any of the cash flow. We take all the cash flow, plus what we’re saving from Chris’ salary every month and we just put that right back into real estate. So we used that then we still had some cash left and we were just actively looking for homes here and we were investing in Memphis homes at the same time.

And so, each time we started to get cash flow from a property, we just increased the amount we can save to put right back into real estate. So I don’t think I full answered your question. Not sure.

Scott: I very much understand the concept. What I would love to hear is what was the second purchase? So you had $40,000. I assumed that this is continuing to go up a little bit because you’re cash flowing from the property and continuing to save from your job.

What was maybe the second purchase there? And then yeah, it sounds like you were off to the races after that. Just kind of consistently operating this very simple yet foolproofed system that’s allowed you to scale to where you are today.

Debbie: So our second property was I mean, like, if we could have won a lottery ticket, I think this was as close to a lottery ticket as we’ve ever got. It was again less than $40,000. I think we paid $36,000 for that one.

I mean again, we live in a small town. Rentals here, they don’t have dishwashers or air conditioners. Those aren’t typical things that are provided. So it’s a small humble home. But it was in great shape and I shampooed carpets and then I rented it to someone right away.

So I paid $36,000. There were no real rehab costs for that one. And we found a tenant for it and moved them in right away. And that was our second. So I think we got a little lucky with that one and that felt really good and we just kept moving from there.

Scott: Awesome. How much did that one rent for?

Debbie: That one rents for $585. Yeah.

Scott: That’s great.

Mindy: Wow. I’m so jealous. So you said you can’t find these deals like this anymore. Are you continuing to look in Memphis or are you continuing to look locally? And where are you finding these deals? Is it with an agent? Are they on the MLS? Are they off-market?

Chris: Yeah, everything actually has been on the market. We’ve gone through a couple of different agents here locally but we have one now. He’s not like calling us every week saying like hey, here’s the next deal. It meets these criteria or whatever. But at the same time, he does bring us some that before they hit the market—I think this would be a good one, Debbie.

It was our third home. It was on the market. It was one of those where we were getting 2% deals but we still felt like we still gotta low-ball this offer. 2% is not good enough. Let’s low-ball a little bit more. Let’s see how good of a deal we can get.

So the third one, we actually missed out on but he was unable to close so he gave us a call right away since we were kind of second in line. He was like, is your offer still good? And we got that one and I think that was a three-bed house in the $30Ks again, and it rents for like $700 or something like that. So anyways.

Debbie: Each time we upped our skills a little bit. We’ve put a little more rehab into each one, made them a little bit nicer, just as we’ve honed our skills. But there is a push that we’re filling from your area up in Denver and Colorado Springs of people trying to also find freedom so they’re coming away from those places where real estate is really climbing and they’re finding their way down here. And there are other real estate investors down here, too.

And all of that has meant that the supply of housing is a little bit lower than it was when we first started and so we just have to hunt for those deals. I think they’re still out there and I think a lot of people still shy away from the sweat equity that you put into a house. And so as long as we don’t scare easily away from those things, I think we can still find the deals and go.

I mean, the last deal we got was at the end of last year. We haven’t gotten another one since then. Well, we got the two Memphises in between so that’s why we haven’t gotten a local one. But we got one locally at the end of last year. And it was a great deal. It was like four properties in one. So they’re still out there.

I mean, I kind of live by this mantra that you find what you’re looking for. So if we want to find a good agent, that’s up to us. We can look for the right kind of person. And we’re happy with him. He’s a good, honest guy that helps us find what we’re looking for, too.

Mindy: I like that quote a lot. You find what you’re looking for. Nobody is going to call you up and say hey, are you looking for a real estate agent? Because I am a real estate agent. I am super awesome. If they’re super awesome, they’ve got all the business. They don’t need to go out and look for more. They’ll take more but they don’t need to go out and look for more.

So yeah, you’re the one who wants to make money with real estate so go find the deals. Go find the real estate agent. Learn your market and you have to do the work. It’s like finding a job. Nobody is going to call you up. Companies—BiggerPockets is currently hiring.

Go to BiggerPockets.com/jobs to see the jobs that we’re hiring for. We’re not calling anybody up on the phone randomly. Hey, are you looking for a job? Do you do this? So that’s awesome. You find what you’re looking for. I’m writing that down.

Scott: And what I think is great about the story is, you just walk us through your first three deals and it’s not hard to—let me know if there’s anything that we or the listeners should know about the rest of the journey but it’s not hard to imagine that you just kind of operated the system and scaled up in your town and then bought a few that were kind of similar in Memphis to get to where you are today which is 16 properties, is that right?

Debbie: Yeah.

Scott: And how much cash are you producing from this portfolio?

Chris: So after all, taking out for vacancy and maintenance and all that kind of stuff, we’re right around $3500-$3600. So they only average about $200-$250 per property of cash flow and some of those early ones actually are quite a bit more than that, but some of the later ones, mortgage rates climbing up just a little bit here or the price of housing getting a little bit higher and all that kind of stuff. So that margin is shrinking a little bit.

Debbie: He’s being a little modest because like he runs those figures every week, I think. And just last week, he brought me a graph that was showing exactly how it was climbing and where we would be next year. So he probably knows to the cent how much.

Scott: That’s incredible. So you took—well I want to summarize it here from this story is you went along and you behaved reasonably for your finances and then a trigger happened. A trigger of that happened with your diagnosis and that’s when you decided hey, we’re going to get really aggressive about this and make some changes.

Save up $90,000. Set aside $30,000 as a safety bubble, which is really smart. I think it really gives you a cushion and allows you to be very comfortable with the risk you’re taking on with this brand new career or real estate that you’re kind of doing on the side here. And then you turned $60,000 in two years. Into $3500 per month with a family. I mean, wow. That’s awesome.

Debbie: I think we are just as surprised. I mean, we set goals in the beginning. We made projections. We were hoping, you know, that we could make even loftier goals but yeah, we’ve been really pleased with how it’s turned out.

Scott: So why can’t other people do this?

Chris: I mean, it was one of those where it’s crazy. So like I was the saver and everything, but I don’t know if I would have been able to get my risk aversion without some push and Debbie’s illness was that push. It got me to at least start opening books and reading blogs and all that kind of stuff so I think if they’re listening to this podcast right now, and hearing this story and other stories, that might be that push that they need.

But yeah, it’s absolutely possible but I’m very thankful for folks like you and the other great blogs that are out there that just take this crazy idea of like, whoa, you can find other ways, whether it’s through investing in mutual funds or investing in real estate or starting your own business and all that kind of stuff. You can find those other ways to pay the bills and allow you to have that freedom in life to do the things that are important to you.

Debbie: I think the real message though is they just have to sort of wrap their minds around it and prioritize what really is important in their life. So I mean, would they rather have a fancy car that they make a monthly payment on or would they rather work towards this? If we can do it, they can do it, too. It’s just a matter of taking a look at priorities and deciding what they want to do.

Mindy: Okay so, Chris said he has to get over his risk-aversion. What’s the worst thing that can happen? Like you buy a $30,000 property. The worst thing that can happen is that it gets wiped away and you don’t have insurance or whatever. It’s not worth—it goes from $30,000 to zero dollars in value. So you lost $30,000. That’s literally the worst thing that can happen when you’re buying a $30,000 house.

It’s not going to come shoot you. It’s not going to take away your home. So buy it intelligently, but when you’re trying to get over your risk aversion, think about what is the worst thing that can happen?

Joel from FI 180, who I believe was on Episode—I don’t know what episode he was. I’ll put it on the Show Notes. The Show Notes for this show is BiggerPockets.com/MoneyShow25. That’s Money Show 25. And he said, well I don’t really have enough money to retire, but what’s the worst that can happen? I’ll just go get a job. My worst-case scenario is everybody else’s every-day life.

Chris: Exactly, yeah.

Mindy: I quote that all the time. That is so powerful. People get this like, oh what if, what if. What if?

Debbie: Yeah, it’s so important to actually go there. Because even if I go farther down the road and I think like, what if? We’d just start over. I mean, that really is the worst what-if? We both have very marketable skills. We can both get a job whenever we want to get a job and we’d just start over. And now we know how to do it again. And so once you realize like, the worst that can happen really, it’s no big deal. So now it’s all just a game.

Mindy: Yeah, it’s not that bad. But Scott, you asked why doesn’t everybody else do this? Well, because you can’t invest in rural areas. There’s no deals on the marketplace. You can’t find a good contractor. There’s no time. There’s no money. You can’t do it with kids. I mean, I think they’re just lying. Everything in this story is just a big, fat lie. They just made it all up.

Debbie: You know, we’ve never shied away from hard work so we’ve always believed we value hard work. And so that’s something that we’ve done, but I don’t think there’s any special magic or anything like that here at all.

Mindy: You find what you look for. If you’re looking for the TV listings or you’re looking for the game, that’s what you’re going to find.

Debbie: When you’re complaining a lot, you find other complainers. So that’s what you find. So if you’re saying, there’s no contractors. There’s no good deals. Then what you’re going to find is more people complaining about the same thing. I think it’s so important in life, but really, in real estate, mindset is the thing. It could drive you nuts and you could get out of it right away, or you can work on your mindset and keep reminding yourself of the reasons you’re there and what your goals are. And yeah, it can be a blessing for your lifetime.

Scott: All right, let me ask a question here. So you’ve done all this. You’ve had a lot of progress. Since you’ve left your job, are you noticing a household improvement in quality of life? Has this financial result you’ve achieved resulted in a better lifestyle and family dynamic?

Chris: Yes, absolutely. So one thing I read not too long ago, it was pretty startling, was just taking an average snapshot of an average family. By the time your child leaves the house at 18, as a parent, you will have spent 93% of all the time you will ever spend with them at that point. So it’s like whoa, between 18 and until I die, there’s only 7% left.

I mean, that was kind of that spur that started getting me thinking what can we do, Deb? Homeschool. What does that look like? That will buy us more freedom and more abilities to say like everybody else is in school? Let’s go take our family vacation right now. Let’s take school with us. Let’s go on a weeklong ski trip. Let’s go to Ecuador for three weeks and all that kind of stuff.

So absolutely, Deb being home and me having a decent amount of vacation time has allowed us to really improve our life in that regard. I feel, there’s definitely times where I’m working from home. Debbie’s teaching our two daughters and that kind of stuff. There was like, there can be time. Let’s spread apart from each other a little bit here. But overall, it’s just nice having that freedom to be able to spend that quality time. And as I mentioned before the food part is amazing. So Deb is an amazing cook now. So I just feel like I’m eating at nice restaurants almost every night. So it’s awesome.

Debbie: He’s exaggerating but the big thing I’ve noticed as a mom, the shift is before we were just hurrying to get out the door. And then when we got home, we were hurrying to get ready to go to whatever sport activity or meeting or whatever we had after work. And then we’re hurrying to get all the homework done and get baths done and get in bed and all of that stuff. And that’s just not our reality anymore. I mean, that was a priority, too. We’re tired of that hustle and bustle and the word ‘busy’. We just decided we didn’t want to use the word ‘busy’ anymore. And so this has really helped with that. The pace is as fast or as slow as we want it to be and so that feels like freedom.

Mindy: Nice.

Scott: I love it. This is so fantastic, what you’ve created here, how you’ve done it, and it’s so good that you’re reaping some of the rewards of that right now. So what’s the next step. What are you going to do? What is your kind of goal for the next few years? What is the end point, I guess, for you?

Chris: So it’s one of those and I think this is part of the reason, too, why I never was really ready to get over that risk-aversion hurdle and make a jump into something. I actually really enjoy my job. I’m in a leadership position and I love the people that I can mentor and help and coach and everything. And so it’s great for me, but at the same time, I just want to keep lots of opportunities open.

So I feel a calling in several areas. I don’t have a real specific like by this time, I’m going to do this, for sure thing. But I’m really looking forward to starting something, either on my own or partnering up with someone and doing some kind of other entrepreneurial type thing. As Debbie mentioned, I’m really into gardening, so I’m like maybe I can build some greenhouses and we’ll sell produce. We’ll be little mini-farmers. And that won’t be enough to pay for all the other stuff, but that’s what the real estate is for.

Debbie: So we’re close. We’re really close to just being able to live off of our cash flow now. And we could actually probably do it right now. But we’re working on sort of wrapping our head around the whole healthcare side of things. And I think Chris has this sort of two-year plan to maybe wind things up with his leadership role and look towards the future.

I mean, neither of us say we never want to work again. But we want freedom to work at what we want to work at. I think we could actually live off the cash flow now. But it would be a question of prioritizing and figuring out the healthcare side of things, which can be expensive. So that’s kind of where we’re at.

Scott: Debbie, earlier in the show you mentioned, and you made a nice motion here for the graph, going up to the right. Chris, do you know what kind of your target is for the next two years for a cash flow projection if you continue on your planned trajectory?

Chris: Yeah. I’ve actually got like several little targets. So it’s like here’s target one and this means we can pay the bills and we’re not driving around, we’re not doing all of this kind of stuff. And then target two is—yeah, so anyways, I do have all of those targets. And we’ve hit like the first two, three, and four. I mean targets two, three, and four, in those two years. We will hit those numbers to where we can both still keep investing a decent amount every month.

Whether that’s in Deb starting a new business, me starting a new business, some other kind of whatever. And I actually still find a lot of enjoyment out of real estate, so that’s a potential, too. So in about two years, we’ll have not only enough to pay the bills but still keep investing at the same similar clip that we’re doing today as well as having a healthy travel budget that will allow us to go see more of what we’d like to see.

Mindy: So do you have a goal for how many more units you want to acquire?

Chris: Yeah, that number kind of changes. At first, I knew exactly what that number was as far as the units. Then I did a recalculation and I was like, oh, these are actually producing 30 or 40% more cash flow than I thought. So actually, we need less units. Well now that the market’s kind of caught back up, I was like, okay. We need to get back to that original number.

I think another five to ten units will get us somewhere right in between those three and four marks of where we’re still able to invest in either ourselves or our other businesses or whatever. I’m still trying to—that’s one thing that I guess I did want to talk about, is just what we do differently than I feel like a lot of folks is just the money conversations that we have with our children.

So we expose them to a lot of business. We explain—my 12-year-old daughter could come here and she can tell you what equity is and she can tell you how a mortgage works and she can tell you how cash flow works and all that kind of stuff. And they get to help—she just learned today, I came home from work and Debbie’s working with her on some bookkeeping stuff for the business.

So that way, it’s kind of a nice healthy way to kind of one, pay her some money so that she can earn a decent little chunk of money. And she can use that money to learn money mistakes at the age of 12 and at the age of 13 and it’s awesome. The benefit there is, I think this is in Cash Flow Quadrant where it kind of teaches you how it goes when it’s pre-tax money.

So it’s like, okay, she needs to spend $200 to be on the swim club this summer. So she earns $200 through our real estate business. We never pay tax on that. She now takes that money. She’s not paying tax on it because you know, she’s 12 where she has to pay income tax, and now she just paid a $200 swim club team fee and nobody ever paid tax on that.

Whereas if that money comes to Chris and his W-2 and then Chris pays that, well, to pay $200, I’m going to have to earn $240 or $250 or whatever. So it’s just taking those little examples here and there and trying to teach the girls along the way what money is. It’s nothing to be scared of. I grew up with that big fear mentality of like hoard it, hoard it, hoard it because you never know when it’s going to go away type of thing.

So I think Deb and I both draw an analogy that it’s like you take a breath in, you take a breath out. That’s how money flows in and out of your life. If you want to hold your breath, you can do that for a few seconds but there’s no real benefit to that. It’ll always be there when you need it. You just need to have the right mindset. You need to have the right wherewithal to go get it.

Scott: I love it. And of course, you get a bookkeeping service for your business.

Chris: Absolutely.

Debbie: I was like overwhelmed with all of this filing today and I was like, yeah, Claire can help. And we pay them an equitable wage. So I mean, our eight-year-old makes $5.00 an hour for the work she does and our almost 13-year-old makes $10.00 an hour. So it’s good for her if she works hard and she wants to make it. And we would have paid that swimming due anyway. But you don’t tell her that.

So she’s earning the money and now she’s learning how to spend it, which was an experience I never had growing up which was why I felt this powerlessness with money. So hopefully we’re empowering them to be able to take care of their money, to learn how to spend, how to save, how to give. And also, to not be afraid or feel powerless or feel like they have to overcontrol it or hoard it.   

Chris: Yeah, they come to us now of like little lessons here and there of like, oh man, I must have spent $10-$15 this month riding around town, going to Sonic and getting a drink here and there. So it’s like yeah, learn these mistakes when you’re 12 and making $15 mistakes rather than when you’re 21 making $15,000 mistakes and all of that kind of stuff.

Mindy: Yeah, look at this new car I bought.

Scott: It sounds like you never made a big money mistake where you took on something that you couldn’t handle prior to getting over this, but it sounds like for many years, you didn’t have that same kind of healthy, in control mindset and relationship with money.

Within two years, you literally changed your whole mindset, your whole position, and now you’re passing it along to your children. And it’s just, I think it’s fantastic and an example that hopefully some of the listeners here can learn a lot from. Because I think it’s really incredible.

Debbie: It helps.

Mindy: Yeah, you mentioned Cash Flow Quadrant. I want to just expand on that a little bit. Can you share with the listeners what that is?

Debbie: So we prepared for like I think it’s famous for the end, right? Did I get that right? And that was mine for the Famous Four. It’s Robert Kiyosaki’s book and it’s sort of like I think the follow-up to Rich Dad, Poor Dad. But I think it’s so much more tangible and applicable. Like Rich Dad, Poor Dad is good if you’re looking for a story, you know, with characters and all of that stuff. And then Cash Flow Quadrant is a lot more tangible. It talks about the four different categories you can use your money in. So what isn’t really an asset? What is an investment?

Chris: I guess—sorry for stealing your Famous Four thunder there but yeah, it was kind of like how money flows in and whether in those four quadrants, it’s either you’re employed or self-employed, and then the other ones are investing in business. And it just like Debbie said, it gives you the real tactics and it just helps to really blow my mind, one, on kind of the whole like what the rich do is they don’t pay a boatload of taxes.

They do, through legal methods, find ways to try to minimize their tax burden and all that kind of stuff. So it was just real eye-opening to me to hear it that way as far as how this money flows into the business. And the business can pay for expenses rather than flowing into Chris’s W-2 income, getting taxed, then I get to pay after that tax money, after I’ve already been taxed on it.

Debbie: And the story that really still rings true for me now, which is why it taught Claire how to start working on bookkeeping and filing for me a little bit is the man who carries the buckets. And so there is a man who needs a job and I’m sure I’m butchering this, but he goes out and gets this job carrying buckets of water. And he takes the bucket of water from one place to the other. And it’s hard work and it’s all day and he makes a little paycheck at the end of the day, but then there’s the guy who needed to solve the problem in the first place, who had water in one place and needed to get it to the other place.

And instead of carrying the buckets of water himself, he found someone that wanted to do that job and needed to do that job, and that man is carrying the buckets of water for him. And so it was just like, man, I’ve been carrying buckets of water for people for over 14—I mean, I’ve been getting a W-2 income since I was 16 years old, working hard for other people. And now, we’re figuring out how to move that water for ourselves.

Mindy: Wow.

Scott: I think it’s great.

Mindy: That’s fantastic. So well, the Famous Four questions are the same four questions that we ask everybody every single week and what is your favorite finance book is the first question, which you have already answered. I am assuming Cash Flow Quadrant is your favorite finance book. So that was a really, really, really great illustration of the man carrying the buckets, which I’m assuming comes out of the book.

Debbie: It does. Yeah. I think Chris, you have a different book than me. But that one was mine.

Chris: Yeah. Millionaire Next Door was the one—I read it early on when I wasn’t making a whole lot of money but it was just again, kind of giving that story of like, look, you don’t have to—this is not some elite secret club of people that are the millionaires. It’s just the person next door to you that drives the 10-year-old, 15-year-old car, and they don’t keep up with the Joneses and all that kind of stuff. And it’s been so long since I’ve read it but it was really that first book that helped me to get out of the whole mindset to be like, I have to just hoard and accumulate and save, save, save. And then eventually someday, I’ll get to spend it when I’m 69 or 67 or something.

Scott: I love The Millionaire Next Door and that’s one of my favorite books as well. If you’re not interested in finance, I’ve heard that some people can find it a little dry and boring because it’s very data-driven and kind of like, here. Here’s a millionaire. He’s worked hard for a very long period of time and been consistent at what he does. Self-employed at a kind of boring—they talk about the guy who owns the trash company, the janitorial business, those kinds of things.

And have just accumulated a large amount of wealth by behaving responsibly for a long period of time with data to back it up. I love that because that’s what this is. There’s no secret or big “aha”s in this whole thing.

And then kind of to add onto the Cash Flow Quadrant book and the Rich Dad series, there is actually a board game called Cash Flow that’s kind of an interesting experience that you can play. There’s like two little circles that you’re on and the one is the rat race and the other is the fast track and the goal is to get out of the rat race. And it’s like, you know, I have a kid which slows you down.

And then it’s like, buy a doodad like a jetski and you’re like ah. And once you get on the fast track, it’s like, be the mayor. Go save 400 people in Africa. You can start a charity. All these different things that happen as your passive income kind of exceeds your liability. It’s kind of a good way to kind of learn and maybe teach kids as well. Some of these concepts.

All right, so let’s move onto the second question in the Famous Four which is what was your biggest money mistake?

Chris: Yeah, I would say it’s similar to this story but just kind of having that mindset of I just need to accumulate this big pile and never feeling comfortable or safe enough to do that. So it’s like, man, we could have—because we had—maybe we didn’t have 90s housing at the beginning of the housing crisis but we had a decent chunk of change. And even though I was getting 2% deals in 2015, I probably could have been getting 3-4% deals in 2009 or 2010. So taking that long to take action and feel comfortable doing that is definitely my biggest money mistake.

Debbie: Mine, I guess, is the opposite. My mindset with money was of powerlessness. It caused me to be in debt before we got married and it made me feel like my worth was lower. I could only achieve a certain amount of money. That was as high as I was going to aim and I certainly was never focused on financial independence or freedom until being able to overcome that sense of powerlessness with money. Whereas now I know the money is out there. It’s out there for anyone who wants to find it and work for it and if that’s what they want, I just have to go out and find it.

Scott: That’s a great answer.

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

Chris: This is probably been said before but mine is definitely tracking. Just start paying attention to where your money is and if that’s in alignment with your priorities then you’re probably doing things right and you’re living a happy life. If things aren’t in alignment and all that and you feel like there’s something that you want to change in your life, there’s some big goal that’s out there, it’s not hard. Just be diligent about it and start tracking and you’ll be amazed at what you find and you’ll prioritize those things that are really important to you.

Debbie: I completely agree with Chris but you might notice a pattern with me. Mine is just mindset. Something that I maybe haven’t touched on with it is when we started real estate, we wanted to talk to local investors and get ideas and any advice they might have, and we kept hearing the same thing from them. They’re like, it’s hard. Tenants tear everything up around here. But we’re sticking it out.

I can’t find anyone to buy my rental house so I’m still doing it, basically. And so we had to decide from the get-go what we needed to do as far as wrapping our minds around it so that it could be a long-term solution for us in the search for financial freedom. So we had to really work on our mindset with like I’ve said, you find what you’re looking for.

The homes we fixed up just so we would want to live in them. We treat people the way that we would want to be treated and we never think of the homes as like our homes so we don’t take it person if there is a problem there. It just happens. We are prepared for it. We know we’re going to have some problems along the way.

So we really worked on that mindset from the beginning. Even if people aren’t going the real estate route, it’s like, what’s your goal? Why are you wanting to get there? And what kind of work do you need to do so that when things get hard, you can remind yourself of that and prepare yourself for that?

Scott: Excellent. Thank you. What is your favorite joke to tell at parties? That’s the hardest question of the four.

Chris: It is. It was one of those where this part of it gave me the biggest pause of preparing for this. It was like, maybe Scott won’t be asking this question by the time we got there but it was like, no, I think he’s going to stick with this.

Mindy: No, it’s sticking around. It’s sticking around.

Scott: It’s my favorite part.

Debbie: Okay, you want me to go first? Chris has a tough one. He’s trying to like actually stretch himself. So I’ll do mine first. It’s quick. We have a couple of bar jokes. Mine is, a dyslexic man walks into a bra.

Chris: All right, so the one I found that I thought was actually pretty decent was, a pirate walks into the bar and he’s got a peg leg, he’s got a parrot, he’s got a hook for an arm and he’s got a steering wheel hanging from his belt. And the bartender looks over at him and he says, what’s with the steering wheel? And he goes, arrr, she’s driving me nuts.

Scott: That may be my favorite pirate joke.

Debbie: You’ve heard a lot of pirate jokes, huh?

Mindy: Scott collects them.

Scott: Oh, no. I always get into pirate jokes with a real pirate at Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville one year on vacation.

Debbie: Wow. You picked the right joke, Chris. Who knew that was even a thing?

Scott: I did not but yeah.

Mindy: I knew that was a thing because Scott tells pirate jokes all the time.

Debbie: That’s good. Very good.

Mindy: It’s not just for this show. It’s for every day.

Chris: I was just going to say there is a guy in my office that—he loves the dad jokes and puns and I can imagine what it’s like at BiggerPockets around the office.

Mindy: There’s a guy at my office who likes them, too. Two guys.

Scott: A pirate walks up to the golf course and he says, Ayee may-tee. There you go.

Chris: Oh, Scott.

Debbie: Why don’t you—Chris can’t get into a battle with you because he only knows one pirate joke.

Chris: I’m going to have to pause and go look up some more real quick.

Scott: I’ll retire as champ.

Mindy: No, that’s okay. Scott, you can be—you’re the champion. Congratulations. You win.

Scott: Chris and Debbie, where can people find out more about you?

Debbie: So we aren’t super social media type of people. We shy away, but I have a blog that talks about all the ways we’re finding freedom because of my illness and it’s called ImperfectProgress.me and so I’m also on Instagram at the same thing, @ImperfectProgress.me and if you go onto that, you can find our Facebook link and our Instagram link. Chris is on Facebook but he might get on there like once a month or something. But we love to connect with people. We like that we found freedom this way and we would love to help people find the same thing.

Scott: Absolutely.

Mindy: We will include those links in our Show Notes at BiggerPockets.com/MoneyShow25. Awesome. Well, Chris and Debbie, thank you so much for reaching out and thank you so much for taking the time out of your very busy days to talk to us. We really enjoyed having you today.

Debbie: Thank you.

Chris: It was great. Thank you so much, Mindy and Scott. Have a great day.

Scott: Thank you guys very much. This was great.

Debbie: Thank you. We’ve enjoyed it.

Mindy: We’ll talk to you later. Bye.

Scott: Bye. All right, that was Chris and Debbie. Thanks so much to them for coming on the show. Mindy, I thought that episode was a big, almost kind of departure from what we’ve been hearing from a lot of other folks. This was really a family that had not been pursuing finances aggressively, that had been ultra-conservative in kind of saving up a large amount of cash, and then had a mindset shift trigger event in that diagnosis for Debbie that kind of caused them to aggressively pursue financial independence. And boy, have they produced some results in that time period.

Mindy: Yeah, that 16-units in did they say two and a half years? That’s just amazing. They’ve replaced—they’ve doubled Debbie’s income just by investing in real estate and now she’s able to stay home with her kids. She homeschools her kids.

She learned how to be a really great cook and they’ve gone from this busy, overwhelming lifestyle to a very relaxed, as busy as we want to be lifestyle. And they said the word “intentional” a lot. They live an intentional life. They do what they want to do on purpose. Life isn’t dragging them around. They’re going for what they want.

Scott: And what I thought was kind of refreshing about how they discussed this concept was they didn’t use a lot of terminology that we like to throw around like FI or FIRE or Four Percent Rule or anything like that. Nothing fancy. Their approach was nothing if not incredibly simple. You find what you’re looking for.

We’re going to invest $60,000 and we’re going to buy a property that produces a lot of cash flow that’s local, in a rural town and we’re going to put some sweat equity into it, scrub the carpet myself, maintain it and we’re going to repeat the process after with the savings from that property and our current job and go one by one by one over the course of several years. There’s no fanciness here. There’s no mathematical—I mean, Chris is obviously a very good spreadsheet wizard but the concept of this is so simple. And so effective.

Mindy: Yes, this is absolutely achievable for anyone who is looking for it. Like Debbie said, you find what you look for. So if this is what Debbie wants, start looking for it.

Scott: Absolutely.

Mindy: All right. Scott, shall we get out of here?

Scott: We shall.

Mindy: For the BiggerPockets Money podcast, Episode 25, this is Mindy Jensen, over and out!

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In This Episode We Cover:

  • Chris and Debbie’s personal finance journey
  • Debbie’s autoimmune disease diagnosis
  • Lifestyle changes and adjustments they made to achieve their objectives
  • Using the YNAB app to budget their money
  • How they track all their spending
  • How their budget works
  • Why they invest their money in real estate
  • The very first property they purchased
  • Properties they have purchased since
  • The cash flow they produce from their portfolio
  • Household and quality of life improvements
  • Their goals for the next few years
  • What the cash flow quadrant is
  • And SO much more!

Links from the Show

Books Mentioned in this Show

Tweetable Topics:

  • “You find what you are looking for.” (Tweet This!)
  • “If we can do it, they can do it, too. It is just a matter of taking a look at priorities.” (Tweet This!)

Connect with the Chris and Debbie

About Author

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

1 Comment

  1. Ryan Gil

    Great podcast! Reminds me a lot of my family. Curious as to how Chris and Debbie were able to take $60k and purchase a dozen or so properties and create $35k a year positive cashflow? They said they were doing 20% down on commercial loans then using cash to fix up. The properties they are buying are in the $50k range, so about $10k for downpayment at 20%. According to my math that means only 6 properties could be purchased if no rehab is to be done. I may have missed something or my math may be incorrect, just wondered if anyone had some insight into it?

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