How would your life change if you reached Financial Independence and got to the point where working is optional? What actions can you take today to make that not just possible but probable. Jonathan & Brad explore the tactics that the FI community uses to reclaim decades of their lives. They discuss reducing expenses, crushing debt, tax optimization, building passive income streams through online businesses and real estate and how to travel the world for free. Every episode is packed with actionable tips and no topic is too big or small as long as it speeds up the process of reaching financial independence.
300 | Relationships and Money | Jillian Johnsrud
Money is one of the top three things people struggle to communicate with, falling right below sex and above our reasons and motivations for work. In her coaching practice, Jillian finds clients will be very open in one-on-one sessions, but when working with couples, it becomes much more uncomfortable. Jillian believes this discomfort is because discussions of things like sex and money happened behind closed doors and weren’t modeled for us growing up. In response to a call put out for questions in Brad’s FI Weekly newsletter, listeners submitted their questions for Jillian about relationships and money. The first comes from Jonesy who had a question about keeping the lines of communication open about money with a significant other when they are at different stages. He is working and beginning to build his portfolio and savings, while his significant other is still in school and struggling to make ends meet. Jillian suggests first trying to find common ground to discuss money. You can start with telling your own money stories, like how your parents spent money or what you wish they had spent money on. It’s important to feel seen and heard. Sharing childhood stories are opportunities to start having conversations to begin learning about each other financially. Help make the conversation not feel like a trap by being genuinely curious about your partner’s life and experience. You can approach discussions about money much in the same way couples talk about the parenting they witnessed and experienced. Pick one or two questions to open up the conversation and put your partner in a relaxed state. Ensure they feel seen and heard before transitioning into conversations on budgets or debt payoff. Taking the small step of sharing money stories can help the couple come away with positive feelings, feel closer, and know just a little bit more about each other. Jillian and her husband did not communicate about money well during the first few years of their marriage. They had very different money stories and didn’t know how to explain why they were reacting or felt the way they were. Breaking the big scary stuff down into bite-sized non-intimidating questions is something Jillian guides users through in her latest workbook, part of which asks us to examine our parents’ patterns, whether or not we have copied or rebelled against them, if what was inherited is serving you well, and do you want to take it forward. Because Jonesy and his partner aren’t married, Jillian says it’s okay to skip the specifics in the middle, like savings rates and budgets, and discuss the outcome, like a common goal to work toward together. If you work on learning to talk about money, understanding each other financially, and can work toward a common goal, by the time you are on the same page, the middle stuff will be easier. Listener Sam wants to know if it can work when one half of a couple is excited about being on the FI path but the other half says FI is not for them. Sam has been on her journey for three years and has a 50% savings rate and plans to retire early, but recently married and her husband’s savings rate is far from the same and he plans on working until 60. They currently keep their finances separate. Jillian thinks Sam and her husband could benefit from having conversations about work, its role, and how it ties to identity. It’s feasible for one person to retire while the other works, but it can create a rift unless they understand each other’s stories and mindsets. Brad wonders how Sam and her husband keeping their finances separate could work logically in the long-term. Jillian thinks on the surface it cold work so long as they work on everything below the surface and sure each is truly comfortable with the situation. Listener Titan wants to know how to make the monthly chart tracking their progress toward FI more fun and
299 | What's Stopping You from Reaching FI?
It's ChooseFI's first live radio show! Recorded live on Tuesdays at 7:30 pm Eastern using an app called Stereo, the live shows will be replayed for the Friday Roundup episode. The topic of this interactive live show is: “What is stopping you from reaching financial independence?”. Lorraine has a question about allocation and investing in one of Vanguard’s funds like VTI or VTSAX but the answer is situation-dependent. It’s important o know the investing timeline Lorraine is looking at, but hopefully, it’s investing for the long-term. Investing for the long-term provides for the highest likelihood of success. However, it’s money needed for something critical like an emergency fund, maybe consider keeping what you need in a savings account and investing the rest. Other factors to consider are risk tolerance, net worth, job security, and whether you have an emergency fund. How sacred you were in March is a good indicator of your risk tolerance. The right allocation will allow you to sleep at night, be confident in your plan, and stay the course. The best thing to do is take action and get invested without getting hung up on the details. Keeping your expenses low with low-cost broad-based index funds, like total stock market or S&P 500 index funds, make a significant difference over your investing lifetime. Getting to the point where you can make work optional can often seem like luck. However, the FI community believes we have the power to impact change in our lives and in our communities. Taking small actions to optimize and seeing that you can still live a life without a feeling of deprivation becomes a motivating positive feedback loop. No matter how much you earn, the message of FI can be valuable. If you are living paycheck-to-paycheck, it doesn’t matter how much you earn. You need some amount of gap between what you earn and what you spend. Growing the gap by cutting expenses is usually the most effective place to start, but you can widen the gap by earning more as well. It doesn’t mean going back to school or taking on a second job delivering pizzas. One way to increase your income is by negotiating your salary. If you research the highest paying professions, the search leads to a list of six-figure careers, however, the return on investment in these career paths is not what it seems. They may require a significant number of years in school and the student loan debt that goes along with it. Today it’s possible to skip a degree program in favor of a certificate program and land a high-paying job in less time and at less expense. Matthew has been listening to the show for about six months. One question he’s had is how people are retiring early when you cannot withdraw from retirement accounts without a penalty until you reach the age of 59.5. There are strategies for investing in retirement accounts where it goes in tax-free, grows tax-free, and is withdrawn tax-free ahead of the traditional retirement age. Investing in something like a traditional 401K account lowers your taxable income and gives you a current tax deduction. Once you reach FI and decide to not work anymore and are living off savings, you are earning $0. You can at that time pull take money from your 401k and convert it into a Roth IRA, an after-tax account, in a process known as a Roth IRA Conversion Ladder. The conversion is a taxable event, however, your earned income is $0 so the only amount subject to tax is what you convert. Even then, the total amount won’t be taxed. You can still take the standard deduction and only be taxed on the remainder at the lowest possible marginal tax rate. The account will then grow tax-free. Another method to access 401K retirement funds a few years earlier is with Rule of 55. One listener wants to know what other podcasters or influencers Brad and Jonathan follow. Brad’s long-time favorite is Th
298 | Habits For Wealth Building | Rich and Regular
We are checking back in with our Households of FI family, Martin and Ayesha, who have been paired with mentors, Julien and Kiersten of Rich and Regular. Kiersten and Julien live in Atlanta and started working toward FIRE before they married five to six years ago and have paid off $200,o00 in debt, including their mortgage. They now share their journey on their blog rich & REGULAR. Ayesha and Martin live in Chicago and found ChooseFI in January 2020 and jumped in with both feet. Martin is a natural saver and had been a positive financial influence on Ayesha before finding FI so they had done a decent job managing their money. Martin was researching dividend investing after it was recommended by Ayesha's uncle who retired at 55. Ayesha felt like her aunt and uncle had the most fabulous retirement life she'd ever seen. Thanks to his example over the last 25 years, their goal is to get to where he is. Julien had a similar retirement role model in his life. A close family friend was a Registered Nurse who retried early and showed him that there is a lot of life left after 40. Since finding FI, and partly thanks to Covid, Martin and Ayesha's savings rate has increased. It has made them aware of all the frivolous, non-essential ways they spent money before. Ayesha hates budgets and doesn't want to track every penny of her spending. She was out of work for four months during Covid and they found that they didn't miss her income and it showed them that they could save a good amount of money without feeling constrained or deprived. Having a quantifiable goal and a clear target has helped provide clarity in what they are trying to accomplish. Martin enjoys trying to optimize their spending and counting the dollars they save. When they decided to get a new television, he used Offer Up to do his research and purchased a flat-screen plasma HDTV for $40. Julien used to track every single expense and look for new savings opportunities each quarter. But now, optimizing their spending has become such a deeply ingrained habit that he no longer feels the need to look at their budget. He says it becomes like muscle memory once you sort out your own system. Ayesha feels like when you can simplify your life and have good habits, your life can smoothly and asked what Julien and Kiersten's top habits are. Kiersten says doing laundry regularly keeps them from having a ton of extra clothes. She and their son have a capsule wardrobe with 20-30 pieces of matching items. She also keeps the kitchen sink clear of dishes to cut down on kitchen accessories. Julien says they have just the right amount of things they need and notes that there is stress associated with the quantity and clutter in our lives. Having too many things adds to decision anxiety and analysis paralysis. Instead, whether it is life or a financial strategy, find a handful of things you can nail every single time and ignore everything else. Julien also says that he has never made an investment in himself that hasn't paid off handsomely, no matter if it is exercise equipment, a book, or a course. Don't allow frugality to prevent you from paying to learn new learning opportunities. New skills can improve your ability to earn more income or make you more marketable. Kiersten likes to save receipts. if the item she purchased sits for several days, she didn't need it and will return it. She also purges the house of items regularly. As far as community goes, Ayesha and Martin are doing okay. In addition to family, they have a group of friends who meet to share ideas on investing and becoming financially free. However, they aren't as familiar with the concept of FI so Ayesha feels like they don't have a like-minded community Julien notes that, especially for black people, the pursuit of financial independence can be a very lonely experience. Telling people about FI doesn't work. You have to show
297 | From Pandemic Layoff to $100k+ | A Salesforce Success Story |Anita Smith and Bradley Rice
What You'll Get Out Of Today's Show If you are willing to look outside your comfort zone, grab good information, and take action on it, you can change your life in a matter of weeks or months. One of the hardest-hit industries during the pandemic has been hospitality. Working in that industry, Anita was looking down a long dark tunnel before stumbling upon the FI community. When Anita found ChooseFI in August, she jumped right in, taking action and interacting with Brad through the FI Weekly and submitting her frugal wins of the week. By listening to the podcast, Anita heard about Jonathan starting up the Talent Stacker podcast and the program he put together with Bradley Rice on Salesforce career development. Anita gave it a shot and her results blew Jonathan and Bradley's mind. The results Anita has had are not an outlier. It's what others are also seeing every single week. Back in the spring of 2019, Bradley was on the show to talk about Salesforce and living a life by design. After Bradley discussed earning $200K a year working 15-20 hours a week, the listening audience really responded. Based on that interest, a Salesforce group was started for the community and people began landing Salesforce jobs. In just two years, the group grew to 5,000 members learning from each other. A year ago, Anita was working as a revenue manager for a hotel connected to a convention center. At that time, the pandemic was accelerating and group after group began canceling their events. As a result, she was furloughed in March. Understanding that hospitality wasn't going to recover anytime soon, Anita decided to be proactive, began learning, and figuring out what her next move would be. In addition to taking classes online, Anita researched Fortune's top places to work. The first time she heard of Salesforce was from that list but was turned off at the thought of sales. After a little research, she discovered sales isn't what they do. She signed up for Trailhead, Salesforces's online learning account, and did it for one day before concluding it was awesome. But she wondered it was real and if was as easy as it seemed. After receiving more bad news from her employer, Anita was motivated to learn more. She found ChooseFI and binge listened to over a hundred episodes when she heard about Talent Stacker, Salesforce (again), and the free 5-Day Challenge. She ended up in the paid program and because she had been laid off, she used her time to learn everything she could like it was her full-time job. One month after starting the program, she took the first admin certification program and passed. After that, she used all of the tips from the program and landed a good-paying job in January. Prior to the pandemic, Anita was in a financially stable place. She had no debt other than a car payment, although after being laid off she was forced to move in with her boyfriend. She says in her previous hospitality job, she was on a path to get o the kind of pay she is earning now, it just would have taken a lot longer. Bradley says what Anita has done is possible because cloud-based technology is less-impacted by things like the pandemic because they are skilled positions, are able to be done remotely, and without a lot of change management. There aren't enough skilled Salesforce professionals to fill all the available positions. To help fill the gaps, Salesforce developed Trailhead, a free online training app, which removed some of the barriers to entry. Being able to study inline for a few months and then land a $60-80K per year job sounded too good to be true. This is one of those occasions when something that sounds too good to be true really is true. If you don't have basic computer skills, a Salesforce career may not be for you. However, if you like the thought of helping companies generate new leads and support new customers, it might be a good fit. The
296 | Transition Planning from a Military Career on the Path to FI |Doug Nordman
We are circling back to check in with our Households of FI families. First up are Matt and Megan, our international, dual military couple. Having a military pension is like having multiple lottery tickets. You have both healthcare and an inflation-fighting pension, but how many of these lottery tickets do you need to really crush this game? Naval service is Doug Nordman's family business. In addition to his own 20 years of service in the Navy, his wife almost had 20 years of active duty service in the Navy before finishing her career in the Reserves. And then their daughter joined the Navy on an ROTC scholarship and married a Naval Officer. While dual-military couples are a small demographic that hasn't been extensively studied, Doug says even if they earn just one pension, they will likely have more money than they need for the rest of their lives just because of the pension and healthcare. Matt says the US military pension system is much more simple than for the UK's Royal Navy. He and Megan are working toward FI with their investments alone and consider the pensions to be an additional comfort. Matt has served for 11 years so far and the Royal Navy's systems provide a pension based on each year of service. Megan has been in the US Navy for 15 years after doing her first 10 years enlisted. She needs to fulfill 22 years before being eligible for retirement as a Naval Officer. Doug says when you're in the military with the opportunity to earn an active duty or Reserve pension, you have four lottery tickets and you only need to have one of them to pay off because you solve the healthcare problem and have an inflation-fighting life annuity with just one. If serving in the military is still challenging and fulfilling, stay in as long as you want, but when the fun stops, don't be afraid to leave. Don't fall for the military inferiority complex. Coming from the military you already have human capital. Employers can train you on the basic skills for a job, but they can't train a new employee on those soft skills earned in a military career. Co-locating as an international dual military couple has its challenges. Matt may soon be getting a medical discharge from the Royal Navy which will help solve that issue for him and Megan. Matt notes the US military provides spouses with opportunities for increasing human capital, like free courses or paying for college. Doug thinks obtaining certifications and licenses is going the help Matt find a job in the US more than an advanced degree because he's already proven that he can do things. Networking will be key. After having conversations with others about how he can fit in, what he can help them with, and what he knows how to do, he will make a shift to an abundance mindset. Megan notes that Doug lives in a high cost of living area. He says having a high savings rate on the path to FI, as well as frugality are what enables it. In most high cost of living cities, it's housing that is the biggest expense. After you figure that out, everything else falls into place. Doug and his wife bought crappy houses and put sweat equity into them before renting them out. They also eat local, optimize spending, and slow travel. Spending in the areas that provide the most value gives you margin. People who have been in the military have an appreciation for the line between frugality and deprivation. Frugality is optimizing your spending. The transition is scary and stressful, but statistics show that within two years of getting out and starting a civilian career, half of all veterans change jobs. It's not because they can't hack it, it's because they have figured out how to get more money, get a better job, or move to a better location. They've cracked the code in a corporate environment. Megan is torn with her TSP. She doesn't know if she should go traditional or Roth. Doug says that, anecdotally, in the
295 | Emergency Fund for the Zombie Apocalypse
This Friday's episode continues with the theme of looking back at how our perspective has changed since the show began. What has changed, have we pivoted, and what do we feel more confident about now than we did then? Last Friday Brad shared the saga of trying to find out how much a CT scan was going to cost him. In response to the story, members of the community reached out with their ideas for saving on the cost. One listener shared a link for MDsave.com, a company that contracts with different healthcare providers to provide very specific pricing for a number of healthcare-related services and procedures that you pay in advance for. Using the CPT code for his procedure, Brad discovered there were no providers in his area, but there was a good number in Charlottesville about an hour away. Had he used this website, he could have paid under $300 for his CT scan. Without using it, his insurance company was billed $2,083. For prescription drug needs, there is a similar website called GoodRX.com The healthcare system is broken. Price transparency in healthcare, like both of these websites offer, cuts the middleman out and lowers costs. Jonathan suspects that anytime you are using these apps you are sacrificing some privacy. If you have a high-deductible plan and rarely if ever reach it, you may be better with the discount as you cannot double-dip and need to choose whether you go through the app/discount card or your insurance company. However, prescriptions do qualify as HSA reimbursable expenses. Emergency funds are a part of every financial plan, with most stating a fully funded fund contains three to six months' worth of expenses. ChooseFI has pushed back a little on the standard emergency fund concept, asking if you really need one, what does it need to look like, and what are we protecting ourselves from? Both Brad and Jonathan's perspective on the emergency fund has changed over the years. Most personal finance experts conceptualize it as money sitting around doing nothing waiting for an emergency to occur. The further down the path to FI you travel, the role of the emergency fund begins to change. At what point should you stop allowing your emergency fund to lose value from inflation and invest it instead? When first starting out, a fully-funded emergency benefit provides psychological benefits. But 1o-15 years down the path to FI, there are very few true emergencies. There is an opportunity cost to your money sitting on the sidelines. Could you have that money invested, earning and growing for you? Brad can't think of a scenario where he would need thousands of dollars in cash in a hurry. Even if the unthinkable were to happen, he could pay with a credit card or a check. Worst case scenario is that he would need to access money by selling funds in an investment account and he would have it two to three days later. For individuals just starting out and moving away from living paycheck to paycheck, having $1,000 available in cash as a crisis fund makes a lot of sense. Brad keeps a couple thousand dollars extra in his checking account just so that he never needs to worry. There is an opportunity cost, but he finds it worth the peace of mind. Jonathan tries to keep as little in cash around as possible. He has one or two months' worth of expenses in cash. Because he knows his monthly expenses, when he gets paid, he's able to save first, get it invested, and live off the remainder. Interest rates on bank accounts are so low that there's no incentive to keep it there. Inflation alone erodes the value of money by an average of 3% per year. Is there a way to hedge against inflation while still meeting a need for liquidity? Beginners may need to keep their money sitting in a savings account to feel comfortable. Once you get to the point where you can put money away and realize you aren't going to touch it for 30-50 years no matt
Changed my life for the better
I implemented some of the action points and I got results that positively changed my future!
Greetings from Holland
Love the podcast, still 100 episodes behind but i am just a few months in😬 you gust changed my life! Love the minimalism👌🏻 and all the tips💪🏻 stay strong greetings From wietse from Holland
Great podcast with enjoyable interviews
Brad & Jonathan produce an easy to listen to podcast, with enjoyable interviews with a wide range of individuals. While the content and the actionable tips are pre-dominantly focused on US citizens, the interviews provide insights that can be applied to lives anywhere.
I'd love for you guys to see if you can have an interview with a European (or Dutch) individual working towards or alreadying enjoying FI(RE).
Keep up the good work!