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Author: Jonathan Mendonsa & Brad Barrett

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Jonathan & Brad explore the world of Financial Independence. They discuss reducing expenses, crushing debt, building passive income streams through online businesses and real estate. How to pay off debt, Crush your grocery bill and travel the world for free. Every episode is packed with content and actionable tips and no topic is too big or small as long as it speeds up the process of reaching financial independence.
219 Episodes
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115R | How to Get Out of Debt
A how-to conversation about strategies for tackling consumer debt, a review of Monday’s episode with Bonnie Traux, and a few updates about the ChooseFI community.     Brad’s wife no longer working as a CPA – although she was technically laid off, she’s excited for the extra time in her schedule. Being at FI gave Laura the ability to be happy for her previous employer and move on with a smile. Bonnie Traux, from Monday’s episode, is an ultimate side hustler. If you’re stuck, you’ll have to do something different if you want a different result. Bonnie reached financial independence in about 13 years. Before starting to save, Bonnie spent years paying down consumer debt as her husband was continuing to build it. The journey towards financial independence doesn’t start at zero – it often starts with tackling debt. How to tackle debt Use account-tracking software - examples: Mint.com, YNAB (You Need A Budget), or even Excel or a pen and paper. Know what’s coming in, and what’s going out. List out all the debts you have, their payments and interest rates. Reasonable interest rates are somewhere near or below 6%. The Debt Snowball – take all your debts and organize them from smallest balance to largest. Continue making minimum payments for all debts, and commit any extra to paying off the smallest debt. When it’s paid off, roll that payment into paying off the next smallest. The Debt Snowball is a psychological win, but ignores interest rates. The Avalanche – the interest rate is the most important thing. Always pay toward the balance with the highest interest rate. The Hybrid Method – combine these two strategies to pay off a few smaller debts at first, then commit to paying toward the highest interest debt. You could earn more – start a side hustle, work a little extra A no-spend month Optimize regular monthly expenses A credit card balance transfer Consolidating debt Part 1: Know where to find your account information Part 2: Acknowledging that you can’t afford debt. Part 3: Debt Payoff Strategy Part 4: Creating the Margin     For more information, visit the show notes at https://ChooseFI.com/115R 
115 | Poverty, Divorce and FI by 43 | Bonnie Truax
Bonnie Truax, a blogger and early retiree, shares her story of growing up below the poverty line, scraping her way out of inherited debt, reaching financial independence without knowing what it was, and understanding how to talk about money with your spouse. Bonnie grew up with family income that was technically half of the poverty level, but always debt free. In a town of only 35 people, W2 jobs were hard to come by, so Bonnie worked any odd job that she could find – mowing lawns, decorating cakes, roofing. What did Bonnie do with the income from her side hustles? Bonnie got married shortly after college and inherited significant debt. The first step to getting out of that debt, was learning spreadsheets and prioritizing which debt she would tackle first. Bonnie was managing thousands of dollars of debt and got back to broke, even as her spouse was actively spending and maxing out credit cards. What is Bonnie’s financial advice for people before they get married? Financial literacy isn’t distributed evenly throughout the country – not everyone understands how to manage finances. Not everyone is comfortable talking about money, even with their spouse. If Bonnie could do it again, she would start by talking about fears associated with money. When Bonnie started over she was 30, earning about $25k. Bonnie learned IT with her free time at a reporting job, eventually becoming the manager of an IT team. Before she got remarried, Bonnie and Trin had become very close friends at work and had already talked about finances, so she was confident about their joint approach to money as a couple. Trouble doesn’t have to be a disaster. Getting out of debt on a low income is possible – you shouldn’t have to eat rice and beans your whole life, but if you’re getting out of debt, you might have to them for a while. Bonnie and her husband automated their finances and didn’t give much attention them; they found a comfortable way to live regardless of their increasing incomes. Bonnie didn’t plan to retire, but when work became toxic, their savings gave them the freedom to leave work. Instead of just leaving money in their savings account, Bonnie and her husband began purchasing foreclosed home and renting them out. Without a knowledge of the financial independence community, how did Bonnie determine that she and her husband were financially ready to leave their jobs to retire? Bonnie and Trin are traveling the world for a few years before they decide where to retire abroad. It’s never too late to make tomorrow better. Anything that comes into Bonnie’s blog goes to support a safehouse in Ecuador. Fear of missing out is just an excuse; you are always choosing what you miss out on.   For more information, visit the show notes at https://ChooseFI.com/115 
114R | Fine Tuning the College Equation
Brian Eufinger returns to fill the gaps and address questions from the community about PSATs and National Merit Scholars, Brad and Jonathan discuss the benefits of creating a college-hacking strategy early, and the ChooseFI community responds to Monday’s episode. Financial independence is generally about knowing the rules and making decisions according to what you value in life. Many colleges use an equation to award merit aid --> a specific GPA + a specific test scores = a certain amount of merit aid. With a better strategy to studying for the SAT or ACT, even a small bump could save someone tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars. Is it better to get a summer job, or spend the summer studying for the SAT/ACT? With the Common Application, it’s beneficial to apply to a few extra schools because the merit aid packages available are hugely varied. Just being aware of the rules gives you the best opportunities to succeed, and to opens up as many options as possible. How has Brad’s mindset toward paying for college changed during the past two years of ChooseFI interviews? A message from Paul in the Facebook group, who appreciated that Brian presented college scholarships with a realistic perspective about the challenges. A comment from Rayanne, who shares the process her daughter is navigating as a graduating senior in California, looking for the best scholarship opportunities. Lynn is grateful for Brian’s realistic suggestion that students don’t start studying for the SAT until the end of their sophomore year; in New Jersey even sixth graders are being asked to consider future standardized tests. Julie messaged to remind parents that students should also study for the PSAT, as the PSAT is what determines a student’s National Merit standing. Brian Eufinger, from Monday’s episode, returns to talk about the PSAT and National Merit Scholars: CLEP credits and dual enrollment are good options for high school and current college students. Academic Common Market – in some states, students can pay in-state costs at an out-of-state school if they’re majoring in a subject unavailable in-state. Making a college-transfer strategy early will help students transfer from a community college to a four-year institution without any hiccups. “There’s no greater financial aid than finishing in four years.” Bringing AP credits into college gives a student more flexibility to change majors, study abroad, work internships or co-ops, or study for post-grad tests. In rural areas that don’t offer as many AP courses, many states offer online AP courses. The reward for being a National Merit Scholar varies widely between universities, but can be as much as a full ride, books, etc. PSAT is offered in sophomore and junior year. If your sophomore student scores higher than 1300 on a PSAT, it’s a disservice to not study for the PSAT in their junior year. Only 50,000 students get National Merit status: Top 16,000 students are awarded “semi-finalist” status Next 34,000 get “commended” status Many campuses offer cash for participating in graduate research projects. Being a Resident Advisor (RA) at most schools earns you free room and board, which can be as much as $20k a year. Becoming an RA is typically competitive, so start planning your application earlier. Being an RA is potentially the biggest scholarship you can get. The financial independence group in Scandinavia just surpassed 1,000 members. The Houston ChooseFI Local Group is hosting Alan Donegan from the Pop Up Business School, along with the San Diego and Los Angeles local groups. Jonathan will join the Washington, D.C., Local Group for a meet up soon.   For more information, visit the show notes at https://ChooseFI.com/114R 
114 | Demystify College Admission & Aid | Brian Eufinger | Edison Prep
Brian Eufinger, co-founder of Edison Prep, dives deep into the college admissions process and explains how a student should approach grades and test scores to give themselves the best college options, and how to pay for college without collecting a huge student loan debt.   Most merit aid that students earn comes directly from the university. Brian attended Washington University in St. Louis, earning about 2/3 merit scholarship and pieced together other scholarships and on-campus jobs to pay for his education. Many states or schools give merit scholarships for students who earn high test scores and high grades. Brian is surprised by the vast differences in aid packages among schools with similar academic profiles. Many schools will offer a few high school classes in the 8th grade year. Brian’s advice for helping students get into the best college and find the best merit aid is to sign up for challenging classes, starting in middle school if you can, earn the highest GPA possible, and find a few extracurricular activities you are passionate about. A super high SAT score will not offset a bad GPA; you can repeat a test, but not a class from 9th grade. The Common Application has made it more difficult for universities to evaluate an overwhelming number of applications, which is why a students’ numbers are so important when admissions officers are making initial evaluations. Grade inflation makes it difficult to understand GPAs; your student just needs to stand out among their school peers. Earning a “C” in their junior years is one of the bigger mistakes a student can make. The No. 1 academic risk for high school students is over committing to extracurricular activities, including sports, when they should be focusing on academics. Division I schools are able to give out athletic scholarships, while Division 3 schools typically don’t offer athletic aid. However, there are still options for earning scholarships at Division 3 schools for student-athletes. Merit aid is based on evaluation of your grades, test scores, application, etc. Need-based financial aid is based on perceived financial need. Students don't need 1,000 hours to study for SAT/ACT tests; if they treated tests like a sport for one season, they would have all the hours they need. The perfect time to start studying is after sophomore year, before junior year is complete. Sophomores should make sure to take a full-length practice test, created by the actual test makers, to determine whether they’ll be more successful on the ACT or SAT. It’s better to focus on one test than to try to be good at two. Practice is crucial. The best calculator for these tests is the TI-84 Plus CE, followed by a TI-84 and TI-83. It’s best to find a local tutoring company, with a small number of employees, that hires full-time professional tutors.   For more information, visit the show notes at https://www.choosefi.com/114 
113R | Making your Retirement Plan Bullet Proof | Tanja Hester
Tanja Hester retired early 15 months ago and joins the show to share her experience of being work optional, Brad makes a decision about solar panels, and a review of Monday’s episode with Grant Sabatier.   Brad shares some updates with his car malfunctions and follows up about his solar panel cost analysis. Brad anticipates a 9.6% return on his solar panel investment, compared to Brian’s 12.5% return in Rhode Island. Solar panels are expected to last for about 25 years. Message from Dan, who realized while listening to Monday’s episode with Grant Sabatier, that he is charging too little for his side hustle work, and paying too much in taxes. Sales is story telling – Grant figured out how to tell his story right and understand potential client’s needs. A message from Ben, who feels like building relationships with recruiters is more likely to get you job options that is $10-15k, compared to the $60-80k Grant mentioned. You’re unlikely to get a big pay bump by staying with the same company; getting a significant jump usually requires moving jobs. Maybe you don’t need a budget, but you do need to know what your life costs. Tanja Hester, author of Work Optional, joins the show: How did Tanja change from wanting to stick with her career forever, to choosing early retirement? Took Tanja and her husband about 6 years to reach early retirement. It’s hard to know your “why of FI”, but moving into early retirement requires some life planning. After 15 months, is early retirement meeting Tanja’s expectations? Whether you’re retiring at 45 or 65, the transition is still very similar; we all have a desire to matter and contribute. What are Tanja and Mark pursuing now that allows them to contribute? What things should people be considering in order to make their retirement plan bullet proof? A variety of different retirement options, aside from full retirement. One-phase or two-phase retirement – should you plan differently for your expenses and savings before and after the traditional retirement age? Does 25x and/or 4% work for you? When and how to cut your spending? It’s always better to over save. Tanja’s FI calculations don’t include social security, as there’s a possible it could change. Most retirees spend about $300k on medical expenses, beyond Medicare. For more information, visit the show notes at https://ChooseFI.com/113R
113 | Swing for the Fences | Grant Sabatier
Creator of Millennial Money and author of Financial Freedom, Grant Sabatier, shares his story of unemployment and entrepreneurship, and his strategies for increasing your income and optimizing your finances. In 2010, with a college degree in philosophy Grant had been laid off twice and found himself living at home as 24-year-old. Grant sent out more than 200 resumes without a single callback before he found the information he needed to start learning Google Ad campaigns. The certification process took about 30 days and he received a job offer almost immediately. The first step to getting out of a rut is being honest enough to admit that you’re stuck. Most people are only 2 or 3 steps away from a life that they’d love. A million dollars could be 10 years away; just take the next step. When Grant looked at all his friends and his parents’ friends, they were stressed about money so he decided to learn how to do it differently. Grant learned how to build Wordpress websites and began selling his services to law firms, quickly securing large contracts at lower prices than large agencies. Grant’s first client became his most valuable client because he served as a credible reference for more than a year. How does Grant recommend getting your first client? What matters is helping your client look good to their boss. Selling is story telling – who you are as a person is more important that what you’re selling. The paradox of the gig economy is that many people are actually less flexible and more stressed about getting their next client than they would be working a 9-5. Whether you’re happy with your current job or not, optimizing your finances through your full-time job is where you need to start. Talking to recruiters in your particular industry will give insight into the direction the industry is moving, what parts of your resume might be lacking, and the market value of your work. How does Grant maintain relationships with recruiters? Face-to-face meetings Taking people out to lunch Form an actual relationship, don’t just try to get something from them. For Grant, forcing someone into a budget that cuts out small things like wine and coffee just reinforces a scarcity mindset. The only way to get from a 5% to a 30% savings rate is to decrease your housing, transportation and food costs. There is a limit to how much someone can cut back, but making money is unlimited. Grant invested 100% of his side hustle income. For more information, visit the show notes at https://ChooseFI.com/113 
112 | Zero Based Budgeting | How I paid off 1 million in Debt | with Naseema from Financially Intentional
Naseema McElroy, a registered and practicing nurse and blogger at Financially Intentional, explains how to accumulate $1 million in debt, and how she earned her freedom through financial independence. How does someone accumulate $1 million of debt? Naseema is from West Oakland, Ca., where she was taught to either join the military or go to college. She attended the University of Southern California for both her undergraduate and graduate degree, then later completed an accelerated nursing certification program at the University of California in San Francisco. Floor nurses where Naseema works earn above $200,000. How could Naseema have been significantly more efficient with her college education? Many nurses have two jobs: Naseema works part time with benefits (three eight-hour shifts), and a per diem job (two 12-hour shifts) without benefits, at a higher pay rate. Even after finishing her education and working full time, Naseema accumulated more than $1 million in debt, and was living paycheck to paycheck. Most of her debt was student loans and Bay-Area mortgage costs. What inspired Naseema to move from a 5002ft apartment closer to the city into a 40002ft home in the suburbs? Even with the house and the car and the seemingly perfect set up, Naseema did not feel secure, and even owed her family money. Dave Ramsey set Naseema on the course to pay off her debt. What was her first step? Once Naseema began tracking her expenses, she was an early user of Dave Ramsey’s Every Dollar app. A zero-base budget is projecting how much you’ll earn and set aside how much is intended for paying off debt, then adjust the remaining numbers to reflect other obligations and other adjustable expenses. What inspired Naseema to begin blogging at Financially Intentional? Before Naseema sold her suburban house, she had already paid $300k of debt. Naseema chose to leave one of her jobs when it became an unhealthy environment, because living debt-free gave her the room in her budget to do so. Currently, Naseema has moved out of the Bay Area and commutes back into the city 6 days a month for work. Building wealth is a mindset. You have everything it takes to be successful.   Links: Clever Girl Finance The Stock Series For more information, visit the show notes at https://ChooseFI.com/112 
111R | Make the Impossible Possible
Jillian from Montana Money Adventures gives advice for laying out roadmap in your life, right after and Brad and Jonathan review Monday’s episode and highlight activities from several local groups around the globe.   Brad and Jonathan reflect on last week’s episode with Billy Banholzer. A video inspires Brad to learn swimming from his daughter. Your current behavior or mistake doesn’t have to define you for the rest of your life. One of the first steps to Billy’s success was setting goals. What are Brad’s suggestions for developing into a better writer? Billy found ChooseFI while he was looking for a community of people who were pursuing the same things he wanted to pursue. Getting started on the path to financial independence can be really hard at first, but it gets easier as you move further down the path. Brad shares excitement about a local meet up and changes people are making locally. Highlight reel of local group activities: Combined Southern California and San Diego groups have a sold-out meeting where Jillian from Montana Money Adventures will speak. The Nebraska local group is meeting every two months with specific topics. A new group in The Netherlands has more than 20 members. The local group in Portland, Ore., met every week in 2018. A Northern Ireland local group doubled its membership in the past month. Alex, an admin from the Baltimore group, is setting up mastermind groups.   Jillian, from Episode 84, talks about building a life roadmap: Focusing on your values is the first step to building a better life. How did Jillian and her husband create space to talk about their values and what they wanted their life to look like? Be. Have. Do. Jillian uses sticky notes to brainstorm her ideas and organize her thoughts. What is a Quit List? How does Jillian consider seasons of life? Each person’s superpower includes: What you’re passionate about. What you’re naturally good at. What activities you get caught up in and find really fun. Brad talks about listening to where there’s resistance in your life. Could. Should. Want. Writing down your thoughts helps clarify and anchor them. Tickets for Chautauqua 2019 will go on sale soon.   For more information, visit the show notes at https://ChooseFI.com/111R 
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Comments (15)

Pavlina Atanasova

FINALLY!!!! Someone with an actual business that is living a FI life. As a business owner myself it's great to hear other people that have gone through this and how they've done it. LOVE IT! Go Craig.

Feb 13th
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Alina Leonardo

great episode!

Feb 8th
Reply

Vast

taking this entire episode into practice today

Feb 4th
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M Jay

loved this interview!

Jan 29th
Reply

greg koeppen

love the podcast, always learn something new from each episode.

Jan 12th
Reply

Rebecca Markin-Newsome

I love your podcast and this episode is especially poignant for me. I am a mother of a special needs son and this has been weighing on me for several years. Initially we had a 529 account for him and we wanted to rotate it to an ABLE account. However the State had one and so did Fidelity. After reading the recommended book' the simple path to wealth' I was fired up. Both ABLE accounts have a high expense ratios, they are in portfolios and so you do not get to pick which funds, they ate actively managed accounts also they both( state and Fidelity) have quarterly fees of $11.00 to $15.00. I asked to waive the quarterly emails in lieu of accessing it online and was told they could not and it was mandatory to send quarterly updates. Also if your account dropped below a certain amount you would incur a monthly charge of $2.00. So mandatory quarterly fees and high expense ratio kind of pissed me off. let's face it. I am trying to SAVE every cent as most of our discretionary funds are used up in various therapies and upkeep of our son. Our insurance deductible alone for his therapy jumped from.$8k in 2018 to 13k in 2019 not including our $300.00 monthly insurance payment. All these little expenses DOES add up. So I rotated back to the 529 educational plan as their expense ratio was mild and with no monthly fees. I am hoping to keep it there and contribute as much as I can. Eventually i will turn it into a Trust or rotate it to the ABLE plan later( when the rates get better 😁) . To date Vanguard does not have an ABLE account. The only ones I know about are Fidelity and my home state NEVADA. please let me know if there is any change. I think I spent 5 hours on the phone with both Fidelity and my State's ABLE company.

Jan 1st
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Steve Diahy

didnt even talk about vtsax until the 40 minute mark...what a waste

Nov 24th
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Clay Connolly

I love this podcast! I have been binging almost every episode over the last 2 months. They seem to give the perfect level of explaination for me, not too in depth, but not too basic to where I'm bored. The hosts also seem like authentically nice guys. Also enjoy the guest they bring on and the questions they ask them.

Oct 5th
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B Pack

oqqq

Oct 3rd
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Andrew MacPhee

Great episode, with loads of takeaways for beginning real estate investors.

Sep 4th
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Misaki Miyashita

Ya

Jul 27th
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Kamil Banc

I had an issue with "what do you do?" for a while so I just tried to boil down my life (past, present and future) into a motto that I can stand behind. that's when I came up with 'Adapt and Create"

Jun 25th
Reply

Brendan Leighton

Great Podcast! I'm 27 making a little over 20k/year and finding their advice is helping me move into a better financial mindset. My only hope is I can make this mindset a habit before I'm making more money. The podcast seems to be more generated for career professionals but others like me who haven't hit that tier could still gain something.

Jun 17th
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Pavlina Atanasova

love the accountant's breakdown on the new tax law. Super helpful since I am a small biz owner and I try to deduct as much as possible! 😁

Feb 19th
Reply

Christopher Wills

This podcast adds so much to the FI arsenal. The Friday round up is great because it breaks down the previous show and pulls nuggets out for the audience. kudos guys.

Dec 30th
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