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How to Use Money as a Tool to Achieve Financial Independence With Diania Merriam

In this episode of the Personal Finance Podcast, how to Use Money as a Tool with Diana Miriam.

In this episode of the Personal Finance Podcast, how to Use Money as a Tool with Diana Miriam.

 

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Transcript:

 

On this episode of the Personal Finance Podcast, how to Use Money as a Tool with Diana Miriam.

Woo. What's up everybody? And welcome to the Par Finance Podcast. I'm your host Andrew, founder of Master money.co. And today on the Personal Finance podcast, we're gonna be talking to Diana, Miriam about how. You can use money as a tool to achieve financial independence. If you guys have any questions, make sure to hit us up on Instagram, TikTok or Twitter at Master Money Co.

And follow us on Spotify, apple Podcast or whatever podcast player you love listening to this podcast on. And if you wanna help out the show, leave a five star rating and review on Apple Podcast, Spotify, or your favorite podcast player. We cannot thank you guys enough for leaving those five star ratings and reviews.

So today. We are gonna be talking to Diana Miriam about how you can utilize money as a tool, especially on your journey to financial independence. And Diana is a great thinker in the financial independence space, and she's also the host of optimal finance. Daily, and Diana runs this conference called Economy, and we have a ton of friends who go to this conference every single year, and it's really a money party for people who are interested in financial independence.

And I love this interview because I want you to listen to Diana's philosophies when it comes to money, because what she's talking about here is how you can utilize money as a tool to achieve financial freedom and so that you can have freedom with your time to pursue the things that you love in this life.

So in this episode, we're gonna go through the basics of financial independence if you're brand new to financial independence, and then we're gonna go into how you can have flexibility with financial independence. And Diana talks about a bad situation that she was in when she worked in the corporate world and how having money available help her get out of that bad situation.

Then we're gonna talk about who financial independence is for, and a bunch of common misconceptions when it comes to financial independence. So I am really, really excited for you to hear this episode. There is some amazing insights that Diana provides in this episode that you can truly utilize and take action on.

So without further ado, let's welcome Diana to the Personal Finance Podcast. So Diana, welcome to the Personal Finance podcast. Thanks so much for having me. I am so excited to have you here because you have a really cool financial independence journey that I love to hear your story. I've heard a bunch of talks from you and a bunch of different things that you've done, and you have a really cool story where you paid off a bunch of debt and you discovered financial independence.

In 2015. You went through and paid a bunch of debt, and then you also had a really high savings rate at 60%. So can you kind of talk through your story, how you found out about financial independence and kind of where you started and then how you kind of got to that point where you were saving that 60%?

Yeah. Absolutely. So I would say I was largely financially illiterate in my twenties. I was living in New York City working on increasing my income. That's the only thing I knew about money is just to make more of it. That was like the extent of what I knew. And so, you know, I was working on climbing the corporate ladder.

And I found myself at 28 years old with 30 grand of debt, and I didn't even know I had 30 grand of debt. I ran a credit report on myself and was like, oh crap, I gotta do something about this. And so I started researching online like, how do I fix my finances? I should probably know something about this.

And a lot of the content. I would come across just general personal finance content. It had this tone of struggle to it, right? It's like that Dave Ramsey eat rice and beans and like, you know, tighten the belt loop and it's gonna feel like deprivation. It's gonna be a struggle. This is gonna be really hard.

And at the time, mind you, I was having my twenties, okay. I was spending like, Two to $3,000 a month going out, partying. Okay. I, I mean, I, I definitely like sewed my wild notes and so this idea of like all of a sudden going from that to like this life of deprivation just did not appeal to me at all. And so, As I'm exploring this stuff, I come across Mr.

Money Mustache, which for many of us is like the OG of the Fire movement, right? Like he's probably the most popular blog within the fire movement, which for those who might not be familiar, stands for Financial Independence. Retire Early. And when I read this blog, I mean, I devoured it with a spoon. I read every single article, and I like to describe it as this like refreshing punch in the face because.

I came to realize that I was wasting an incredible opportunity with my money, and the way that he writes about money doesn't have any of that tone of struggle. It really has a tone of like abundance to it, and I got really excited about the potential. Of what I could do with my money. And so from there I made like a hard left.

I got outta that 30 grand of debt. In 11 months. I started saving and investing 60% of my income. I moved from New York City to Cincinnati. I took a two month sabbatical from work unpaid to go to Spain and walk across the country on the Camino. For those who aren't familiar, it's a 500 mile trek across Spain.

I did that in 2017, and then I retired from my corporate career at 33 years old. It just completely changed my life. That's an incredible story and I think, you know, Mr. Money Mustache had a major impact on me too. He was probably the first blog that I read that really just changed my entire mindset that this is actually possible.

It's something that you can actually go out and do. And the way that he writes it, like you said, it's an abundance mindset and there's a lot of things where he's lean fire and there's a lot of things in place There were like, yeah, originally, I remember the first time I read it, I'm like, okay, I'm gonna get rid of my car.

I'm gonna buy a bike. I'm gonna bike all over the place. And some parts of it didn't work for me, but I think that's one big lesson that a lot of people can learn is there's gonna be pieces that work for you too. Over time, and there's pieces of financial independence that are gonna work really well for you, and we could talk through those philosophies as we go through today.

But that was one big blog that I read very early on too, and it was the one I same as you. I just devoured the entire thing, went piece by piece. And if anybody has not read that blog yet, I think we've talked about it a couple times in this podcast too. I would encourage you to go back and read from the beginning because it is almost like you're reading a really cool financial independence books.

And the way that he writes is so incredibly entertaining that it's really, really fun. So, If someone hasn't heard about financial independence, I wanna back up a little bit and go to the basics so that we can talk through some of this stuff just so they understand it before we dive deeper into this.

And so we talk about fire a ton in this podcast and one big concept in fire is FU money. And the first time I remember reading about Fu Money was in the Simple Path to Wealth with j l Collins, where he kind of talked through some of that stuff, which is a fantastic book also. Um, but can you kind of talk through why we all need FU money?

Sure. So when I think about financial independence, I look at it as a spectrum. And so I would say like you're at ground zero and you're debt free, not including your mortgage, which we can debate that, right? But I would say when you're out of like high interest consumer debt, you're at ground zero when it's on your past justify.

But there's these kind of like milestones that you reach. So I would say debt freedom is one of them. FU money is another one. Coast Fi is another big one. And then ultimately, financial independence, which is defined as having 25 times your yearly expenses in your nest egg. And so where I think that there's this misconception, I know we're gonna get into misconceptions later that.

You get to experience changes in your life when you reach that end goal. And I think FU money is a great example of being able to exercise some of your freedoms well before you get to the end. And so the way that I define FU money, and actually there's probably an another milestone there, but even before FU money would be your emergency fund, right?

So you go from debt freedom, you have a fully funded emergency fund, which depending on how you define it, Most people say three to six months of expenses. For me, it's a year of expenses in a liquid, easily accessible place. And then I would say FU money is two years of expenses. And so when you have FU money, and again, this is easily accessible.

I don't like to hold MyFu money in my retirement vehicles, right? I want it to be a little bit more accessible. But what this allows you to do, Is when your boss asks you to do something you don't wanna do, or when your work environment changes, you get to say F you or peace out for the polite among us.

Right? So Exactly. I think it really is important to recognize that money is power. And when you have money, you are no longer in a position of walking on eggshells with your employer, right? You're no longer in the position of looking at your employer like an overlord. You can start looking at them as a customer, and if you don't like your customer, you fire them and get a new one.

It allows you to approach your work from a position of power. And for me, you know, we're gonna talk about how I quit my job, but that was a big. Reason why when I looked at it was both FU money and Coast Fi status, which we can talk about too. But I found myself in a position with my employer where I was in a discriminatory environment and I looked at my money, I looked at my investment portfolio and I said, wait a second.

I have way too much money to tolerate this bullshit. I'm out. And so that is, reaching those milestones gives you kind of the confidence to make those kind of big decisions. And that's the power of having that cash available. Pete, and you and I completely align on this, longtime listeners to this podcast will hear me talk about this when you get closer to retirement age, your financial independence, I love having well over a year cash, including, you know, two even three years of cash available because cash is that safety net gives you power.

Sure. A lot of people argue that, you know, inflation will eat away all that stuff, but I don't care cuz I love to have that safety net cuz it gives you so much more power to make it. Decisions that are the best for you. And so you and I completely rely on that. I absolutely love that piece of it's having that year of emergency fund, then getting to that FU money is such a powerful thing that you can absolutely do.

Now, one big thing when it comes to financial independence, and this is the thing I love to unlock for people, is figuring out what their freedom number is. Mm-hmm. And it's a very simple calculation if we go through this to figure out what your freedom number is. But can you kind of explain the 4% rule, how it works and how people can kind of find that freedom number?

Yeah. So the 4% rule is based on something called the Trinity Study, and this is. Really a model or a guideline to figure out how much money do you need to retire? And this guideline, I hate the word rule because people think, oh, I'm gonna be drawing down 4% every single year. And that's not how it actually works in practice, but it is a guideline that we can use to determine how much we need to be able to pull the plug on earning more income.

And so, Essentially you need 25 times your yearly expenses and when you have that in your nest egg, not including your house unless you plan on selling your house, right? That's a real problem with the middle class is that a lot of us store a lot of our wealth in our homes and home ownership. It's kind of like the American dream to own a home and then you end up house poor and you can't access any of that money to actually live off of, right.

And so, Not including your house, but in your investment portfolio, when you have 25 times your yearly expenses, then you're said to reach that financial independence milestone. And in theory, you are able to draw down at 4% every year to fund your lifestyle. So a great example of this would be, let's say your life costs 40 grand.

Now here's like kind of a disclaimer. This is. What are your assumptions on what your expenses are going to be in retirement? That is a very unknowable thing. I'm 36 years old right now. I have no idea what my expenses are gonna be in 30 years. So again, this is a model that we use for financial modeling and then there are assumptions put into it.

But the best way for you, To estimate your expenses is to start where you're at now. And so if my expenses now are 40 grand a year, that means I need a million dollars so that I can draw down 4% each year and that money will last for the rest of my life. But there's a lot of as assumptions in there that also need to be understood.

Like for example, the model assumes that you will never have any other income ever. And so that's not necessarily true. Most of us are gonna have some kind of social security when we're older, right? Most of us, when we retire at a very young age, like the idea of retiring early, you're not signing a blood oath that you will never again make any income.

Most of us are very ambitious people. The idea that we're never gonna make money again is kind of ludicrous. And so I would say that there's a lot of like safety things within the 4% rule and this financial model, but it's really the way that we come up with how much do we wanna save every year? What is our goal for reaching financial independence?

Exactly. And I love that you brought up some of the safety nets that are kind of brought into that as well. Cause a lot of people think, you know, well is this risky to kind of go through this process And sure you're not drawing down that 4% every single year. It kind of depends on a number of factors.

But I love that you brought that in as well, cuz that's a very important kind of caveat to put in there. So, One big thing that a lot of people have is they get confused, well, I don't know what my future value's gonna be. Am I gonna have kids? Am I gonna have a whole family? You know, I don't know how much my expenses are gonna be, and you laid it out perfectly there.

Just use what you have now and you can adjust it over time. My goalpost has moved multiple times. Mm-hmm. Throughout, you know, my timeframe, you know, having kids or getting married, all these different things. And so it's okay for your goalpost to move, but just start where you are now if you don't know what else to do, and then you can kind of move that goalpost as time goes on.

So I love that. Now, one big thing that I wanna talk about is trying to figure out, you know, when it's time to quit your job. This is one thing. We haven't talked about a ton on this podcast yet, and you had a very interesting situation that you had to go through, and luckily you had that FU money available to you.

So can you kind of talk through when it was time to quit your job and the thought process that you went through to kind of get to that point? Yeah, I think in general, it's time to quit your job if you don't like your job. If you are out of debt, if you have an emergency fund, if you have FU money, and if you've reached Coast Fi status in particular.

So what Coast Fi means is that you have basically front loaded your traditional retirement savings. So the money that I need at 65 is in my account now, and it is going to grow. Through the power of compound interest to what I need at 65 years old. And there are calculators online that can help you figure that out.

And so what that means is that I don't have to invest even one more dollar if I don't choose to, if I don't need to invest any more money to have my money that I need at 65. And so what that means is that I can take my foot off the gas way earlier in life and take some big risks, right? Because all I have to do.

Is cover my expenses, my emergency fund, and my FU money is already there, right? And my expenses are really low. So right now I am working four hours of paid work per week to fund my expenses. I'm not drawing down off of my portfolio yet because I don't need to. My expenses are super low and I'm covering them with four hours a week.

I say I'm retired because I'm not gainfully employed, right? I mean, four hours a week. It's not like, you know, that's not a lot of work. So that's kind of coast by status. Now, I think if you're miserable in your job and you have reached those certain milestones, then go do something else. Quit your job, give yourself a mini retirement, a sabbatical, take a risk on self-employment or entrepreneurship.

You don't have to wait until you have 25 times your expenses to make a big shift in your life. And I think that's a real myth and like misconception in the fire movement. When I announced to my audience that I retired at 33 and kind of the, and I'll get into a little bit more details on. You know why I made that decision, but I would get all these notes from people that were like, I'm two years away from reaching my 25 times my yearly expenses, and I'm completely miserable in my job, and I wish I had the balls to do what you did.

And it's like you have too much money to be miserable. And so I think that. You have to be willing to leverage the money that you have to create the life that you want and not assume that when you reach financial independence, all of a sudden you're gonna start giving yourself permission to live differently.

If you can't do that now with the financial status that you have, if you're listening to this show, I've gotta imagine it's probably quite good. Then you're not gonna do it when you have more money. Right? That's a mindset shift that is moving from a scarcity mindset to an abundance mindset. Right? So my situation in particular is that I had worked for this corporation for nine years.

I had a great job. I mean, they let me go, you know, walk the Camino for two months. They let me move from New York City to Cincinnati, keep my New York City salary before remote work was the norm. This was back in 2017. I got. Three 20 to 25% raises three years in a row. I mean, I was killing it. It was like kind of a career.

That fed my ego too. I had an office in the Empire State Building. I had all these celebrity clients, like it was a fun, creative job. And then I got a new boss. A new incompetent boss and it changed everything. It changed the entire dynamic of my work life. And so, you know, we got to this place where, you know, when Black Lives Matter and Me Too is kind of like all the rage in the media.

A lot of corporations formed these very what. I would call performative diversity and inclusion initiatives, and I ended up being the only woman on my team after nine years because all the women were fleeing this company. And so, wow. I found myself as the only woman on my team being pulled into meetings about diversity and inclusion and asked.

Diana is the only woman. What do you think about this? I said I think it's about equality. I think it is about pay parity. If you actually wanna do something about this problem, take a look at me as one of your highest performers. In terms of sales, I made my clients $55 million and I was the lowest paid person on the team.

So if you actually really care about your diversity and inclusion and pay parity, then just do something about it. Just correct it. And they were like, actually, no, that's not what we wanna do. We just wanna talk about it. And so I quit. I mean, I kind of felt like my integrity would not let me stay in that situation any longer once it became truly apparent that I was being held to such a higher standard than my male colleagues, and that there was absolutely no interest in correcting this.

My integrity and my financial position would not let me stay any longer. And so I hope that most people listening to this would never find themselves in that kind of position. But if you do use your money to get out of there, you know? Absolutely. And that shows right there. You showed right there that money is a tool that you can utilize to get outta these situations that really, you know, are terrible situations and you don't have to put up with that stuff, especially if you have this in place.

And sure you don't have to put up with it either way you can go find another job. But if you have money in place, it makes a such a more comfortable move to be able to do that. So that is an incredible story cuz I think. A lot of people have to go through that kind of stuff where there's maybe a huge management shift, or maybe their company gets sold to another company and you have to think through some of this stuff.

If a lot of things could change during that timeframe where you have maybe even your dream job and then all of a sudden, you know, your job turns into a nightmare where you have to figure out a way to kind of get outta that. And so I love that story cause I think a lot of people have to go through some of the things that you went through and really have to think through that process.

One big thing that you talk about is called five flex or file flexibility is the easier way to say, it's hard to say that word. And this is kind of prioritizing the journey of financial independence over just kind of trying to get to that destination as fast as you possibly can. And I love this because one big thing about this is I remember early on I was like, man, I have to suffer through 10 years before I actually get to that point in time.

A lot of people think of it as suffering. But if you kind of flip the script on this, I think you can kind of enjoy the journey over that timeframe. So can you kind of talk through how you can enjoy the journey with financial independence? Sure. So I think the reason why I came up with this concept is that I realized I kept like getting all the things that I thought I wanted and it still wasn't making me happy.

And I think that we have a lot of assumptions on what we think we want because we have assumptions on how we think those things are gonna make us feel. And then we finally acquire those things or reach those goals or have that level of success and it doesn't feel the way we anticipated. And that's disappointing.

And so I don't wanna say that you shouldn't develop goals because they're gonna be disappointing when you get there. I think goals are important in kind of, Putting you on a trajectory, but I think it's important that while you're walking down that road to pay attention on what's going on around you and be able to pivot if your circumstances change or if you learn new things along the way that makes your goal questionable.

So like for example, my goal was to reach traditional five by 40 when I first discovered it at 28. And I had a whole beautiful spreadsheet and plan and you know, I obsessed over figuring out my fine number and the, you know, safety nets and how. I was gonna get there and what my savings rate was gonna be every year.

And then at 33, I found myself in this situation where I decided to leave earlier than that. And so I think that we need to allow ourselves that kind of flexibility to not only change our plan, but also when we learn new information on what no longer appeals to us, or we discover that our assumptions behind our plan were wrong, then we need to be able to kind of pivot.

Now, I think the second part of this, That you asked is like, how do we make sure it doesn't feel like deprivation? And that to me is relevant no matter where you are on your journey, especially when you are going from like getting outta debt or changing your behaviors initially. Right? I went from spending two to $3,000 a month going out to then saving 60% of my income and getting out of that debt 30 grand in 11 months.

That's a huge swing, and I think the reason why I was able to do that is I had this deep mindset shift is. In that I realize that the best things in life are free, and the less materialistic I am, the more idealistic I get to be. And so it's not about just reducing your expenses and eating rice and beans and being miserable to reach a financial goal.

I think you actually have to change your desires, right? I didn't buy a Tesla. I didn't not buy a Tesla because I'm trying to save money. I didn't buy a Tesla because I don't want a Tesla because I am so appreciative of the 2010 Mazda three in my driveway that I paid $6,000 cash on, and I just don't believe in spending money on a depreciating asset.

Right. But I think learning that the best things in life are free and the level of material abundance you already have, if you can develop an extreme amount of gratitude for that, I mean, you're gonna, you're guarding yourself against our consumerist conditioning. And that is how things start to not feel like deprivation.

And that gratitude side of it is one massive, massive part of financial independence because you really have to go through that and see what do I really want and what are the things that you know are my needs, but what do I actually want? And then kind of think about your, what your values are and kind of go through that whole process.

And I love that you brought that up cuz I think that's really, really powerful thing. I think it's 90% mental and like 10% of actually what your head knowledge is. And so if you can master that mental side, I mean that's a massive, massive factor when it comes to your desired, your needs, your wants, all those other pieces.

So you went through this amazing financial independence journey and you had so much flexibility built in there and your story is so cool cuz it shows what's actually possible if you have just a little bit of cash in place. So if you had to start all over again and you started, maybe you found it again at 28, would you do anything differently than what you did?

Yeah, I think what you said before on not trying to copy someone else's journey, cuz I was like, you, right? When I discovered Mr. Money mustache, I like bought a bike and I thought I was gonna like, you know, salads and weights every day and like, you know, like I really tried to copy him and I think. It's frustrating when you try to copy someone else because you're never gonna be able to do it.

You have to be able to embrace your own unique path and like take the parts that work for you, leave the stuff that doesn't, and recognize that like each one of us has a unique set of circumstances, preferences, and skills that we can leverage in different ways on our pacify. And so when you try to copy someone else, like I love my story.

I love Pete's story. But we had the joy of writing our own story. It's like I would never tell anyone, just copy what I did or do what I did, because I feel like you're robbing them of the joy that comes with creating your own story and like figuring it out for yourself. You have to let it be unique and kind of like develop your own internal compass that's gonna guide you on your path.

I mean, there's very few hard, fast rules about money. The only thing I think we all agree on is to spend less than you earn and invest the difference. And there's like a ton of different ways that you can go about that, right? I mean, I think there's other things like I would say, uh, no MLMs and no whole life insurance, but those are like the only like other hard, fast rules I really believe in.

Everything else is up for debate and it's just a wonderful thing to be able to figure out your unique story. Don't copy anyone else. Completely agree. And I think that is where the power sets in because there's so much flexibility surrounding this, which is what financial independence kind of taught me.

Early on. I thought money was just black and white, but there's so much flexibility that you have with this from everything from, like you said, coast fire to barista Fire is another cool way where if you hate your job, you know something you can do is find something that you love to make up for some of your expenses and you can have that differential there.

If you love yoga, go be a yoga instructor and kind of make up for those expenses. There's so many cool things that you can do. It's so much flexible options that you have with financial independence. You just have to kinda. Learn about some of that stuff and be able to take action. So I love that to kind of create your own story, figure out what your situation is, create your own story, get your needs and wants there available, and then kind of move forward from there.

Now, one big thing though is I have a lot of folks who I have talked to who say they love their job, they're not pursuing financial independence because they love their job. For example, I was just talking to a friend the other day, he's a lawyer and he absolutely always has wanted to be a lawyer. His dad was a lawyer, and so he loves being a lawyer and he thinks he never wants to quit his job.

But why do people still need to think about financial independence, even if you love your job? Because the only thing in life that's guaranteed is that everything changes, right? Our life is full of uncertainty, and the more money you have, the more you're able to navigate that uncertainty. And so I was in the same position.

I thought I had a great job, and I wasn't that person that Google's, how do I retire early because I'm miserable? I think I pursued it for other reasons, but. I found myself in a position where I got this new boss and the whole dynamic changed. So that's why I think it's important whether you love your job or hate your job to pursue financial independence.

But I'll also say I think there's a lot of confusion around what retirement even is. People think of retirement as not working, and so that is unappealing to many of us who are ambition. Or ambitious and we get a lot of, you know, satisfaction and a sense of self-worth out of work, right? And so the idea of retiring and not working is kind of unappealing, and I totally understand that.

But my definition of retirement I think is very different. I don't look at retirement as not working. I think of retirement as separating your finances from your work so that you have a lot more autonomy and control over when you work, how much you work, who you work with, what you work on. I'm working now if that's what you wanna call it, and that's.

Technically work for us, isn't it? I mean, but this is fun, right? Yeah, exactly. We're just having a conversation. So honestly, like paid work for me is four hours a week. I just think that work is a very important aspect of wellbeing, but our culture ruined it because it confined it to, into the confines of a job where you're working nine to five, where you get two weeks to four weeks of vacation a year.

I mean, that's. So limiting on your time and freedom that of course, either work is seen as a burden or it's seen as you know, I'm attached to it because that's where I get my sense of self-worth. There is a middle ground. If we can separate our work from our finances and our livelihood is not dependent on work, now all of a sudden work becomes play.

And I think whether you retire at 30 or you retire at 65, if you think retirement, and I know people who do this where retirement is sitting in front of a TV all day and literally doing nothing because they feel that they bought their privilege to do that, which absolutely you have. But the studies show that if you approach retirement that way, as in very negative outcomes, These people are depressed and they're lonely.

You have to stay active. You have to keep your brain active, and if you're listening to this and you're pursuing fire, you are most likely a very talented, ambitious person. You're gonna lay on a beach for a week, and then you're gonna get bored and go do something, and I think that's a beautiful thing.

Again, work is awesome. Our culture ruined it. So don't think you need to retire from work or that you need to stop working when you retire. Just enjoy the autonomy that you get over that work. And I love that definition that you had. It's separating your work from your finances. I think that's a really powerful way to kind of think about this because it is so much more valuable to your life.

If you can actually do some of the things that you love in retirement, do some of the work that you love, still earn a little bit more money as well. I mean there's, there's some really cool things that factor into that, and that is just such a powerful way to live life. Like you said, there's people who will sit there and they'll do nothing all day long, but if you're ambitious, like most of our listeners are, you're just gonna get bored after.

You know, a week of vacation, typically I start to get bored and I want to go do something and kind of figure out some other things that, you know, we can kind of do to have fulfillment and all those other things. So I absolutely love that definition. So I wanna get into some of these misconceptions cuz you have some amazing talks about misconceptions of retirement and financial independence.

So what do you think most people misunderstand about financial independence? I think that they look at PHI as a goal, and money is not a goal. The goal is not to end my life sitting on millions and millions of dollars that I didn't spend, right? Money is a tool and it's really only as valuable as your clarity on how you're gonna use it and your comfort level.

With how much is enough. It's that clarity and comfort that allow you to kind of extract the full value out of your nest egg. And so this idea that I'm gonna sacrifice my health and relationships and those things in life that you can actually do irreparable damage to in the pursuit of money. Is kind of ludicrous because money is the only thing in life that you can absolutely, completely mess up and still be fine.

It is like this impersonal, dispassionate tool that you could completely ruin it. You could go bankrupt, you could lose all of your money, and you could rebuild. But you can't say that about your health and relationships. So this idea that you're gonna make all of these sacrifices for money so that you can sit on a pile of money, I think it's completely misguided.

I think there's a lot of scarcity mindset in the PHI community, and this pursuit of fire is almost like. A coping mechanism for their fear and their scarcity mindset, and they think that if they have more money, it's gonna make them feel safe. But your sense of safety and security cannot come from your bank account and your investment portfolio to a degree.

It can give you options, but your sense of security should come from your capabilities, your experience, your network. Again, most of the people listening to this are very ambitious, highly skilled, competent people. And so the idea that like if you lost all your money tomorrow, you would figure out a way to make more.

I mean, people say to me all the time like, aren't you afraid? You know, you left your six figure salary. What if some Black Swan event completely wipes you out? And to me it's like, okay, I made my clients. 55 million. The idea that I can't figure out how to make more money for myself later if I absolutely needed to is kind of laughable, and I don't think that I'm very unique within the fire movement.

I think most people doing this are highly skilled, responsible people, but they have a scarcity mindset, and I think that it's a real shame to me when we do these local meetups and we do these case studies. Where we go over people's financials for like two hours and we pick 'em apart, right? And I'm sitting in this room surrounded by millionaires with their money up on the screen going, is it enough?

Is this okay? And I wanted to be, I just wanna like shake them and be like, what is the point of having all of this money if you still can't experience any emotional benefit from it? You should look at your money and feel a sense of peace, and feel a sense of contentment if you feel fear. Whether you have no money or you have 10 million, which I know people in that position, they have 10 million and they're so scared that they're gonna lose it all.

It's like you just, you're missing the point, you know? So getting on my soapbox a little bit there, but I just think that that's, A huge misconception. Money is a tool. It's not a goal, and you are not automatically gonna be happier when you reach financial independence and quit your job. I think the reward for most of us who retire early is an existential crisis, right?

Because most of your schedule has been dictated to you by an authority figure for your entire life. And so to all of a sudden get the keys to the castle. It can be really disorienting, and especially if you're burnt out, if you have a dysregulated nervous system. If you have any childhood trauma, financial independence, and early retirement opens up enough space in your life to completely fall apart.

Ask me how I know. Okay. It took me two years to figure it out, and I've been retired now for two and a half years. So it's not just all unicorns and rainbows. You know, we talked about the economy conference and Carl Jensen did a speech Mr. 1500 where he talked about how Finlandia, you know, this magical place you think you're gonna get to when you reach financial independence.

It does not exist. If you are miserable before phi, you're gonna be miserable after phi, but hopefully you have. Enough interest and space in your life to use your time and money to figure that out. Exactly. I love this philosophy, Diana. I think it's so powerful what you're talking about here, and I encourage people, you know, if you feel these feelings, if you have some of this stuff where you are anxious about money or you're just stressed about money, you're worried you're gonna run outta of money.

I encourage you to listen to what Diana just said again, over and over again because it is a really powerful way to kind of think through this because you have to. To have that abundance mindset. If you have your skills in place, if you have all these other things, if you're an optimizer, you can go out and make more money.

You can always do that. And that's one of the things where we've even talked about people who have a really, really high net worth on this podcast. And one of the questions we've asked before is, you know, what is your biggest fear about money? And a lot of them have said, Running out of money and they have, you know, 20, 30, $40 million.

And that's what their biggest fear is. And I think that's one thing that's very common for a lot of people. But if you can change your mindset around this, you can really reduce your stress, reduce your anxiety, and that leaves to a happier and more fulfilling life. So I really think that's a powerful way to kind of think about money and utilize it as a tool that is what it truly, truly is.

Now one big question I have, and it's another misconception for a lot of people, is they say, listen, I don't make enough money to become financially independent or retire early. I just don't make enough. I don't think I make enough money to kind of get to that point. Can you kind of talk through, do you have to have a high income to reach financial independence or is it possible without having a high income?

It is easier if you have a high income, but fire is agnostic when it comes to income. The only thing that matters is the gap between your income and your expenses, right? And so it's not like I used to think, remember, the only thing I knew about money was to make more of it. I used to think that if I just made more income, if my income went up, I would be fine.

But then what happens when your income goes up? You have lifestyle inflation, and then your expenses go up. And so wealth is built in the gap, in the gap between your income and expenses. So if you make a lower income, and I know people that reached fire on 50 grand, like, I'm trying to think, the lowest I've probably heard is 50 grand in combined household income with two teachers.

Who did it through real estate and real estate investing. I am personally not a real estate investor, so I don't wanna like go into too many details on this, but that is actually the fastest path to fly if you have a need for speed. But also, it's really beneficial for people who aren't able to sock away, you know, tens of thousands of dollars every year into index funds.

You're able to use leverage through, you know, Mortgages and all of that to be able to, yeah, to get there faster. So if you have a lower income, I would probably look at real estate, even though it can be riskier in some ways, which is the reason why I don't do it. However, again, it really boils down to the gap between your income and expenses.

Now, I'll say this fire is for people who could do better, but are choosing not to. It is not a solution to systemic poverty, right? The World Bank at one point had reported that half of the world's population lives on $5 a day. To tell those people to get better at money management is ludicrous and offensive.

There are people out there that are truly disadvantaged, that are in third world countries, that are in war torn countries. They truly have no opportunity to increase their income and reduce their expenses. That is 100% true, and it's unfortunate that the fire path is gonna be really hard for them. Their focus is on what am I gonna eat today?

Right? But if you're listening to this, if you are in a first world country, if you have a roof over your head, you have access to a grocery store and clean running water and clothing, and if you have access to the internet, I would say is huge. You are not as disadvantaged as you think you are. And so I think that was a huge wake up call for me when I first discovered fire is that wow, I'm totally wasting my privilege.

I am an educated white woman in a first world country, and I think I need to make more money. Let's question that. I think a lot of us are far less disadvantaged than we perceive ourselves to be. And so again, fire is agnostic to income. Figure out how to reduce your expenses and increase your income. And if you are listening to this, I would argue that you have all the opportunity in the world.

So I have one last question on these misconceptions cause I think that's amazing and I think the one last question is, is there anybody that financial independence is not for in your opinion? Again, it's those people living on $5 a day. You know, it's the people in third world countries that like truly do not have access to opportunity to increase their income.

And it's amazing to me that like. Even though they don't have access, they still figure out how to contribute to their communities to make an income, how to barter. It's the ingenuity of the human mind is pretty amazing. And also, if we are in this position where we're so fortunate, I think with great privilege comes great responsibility.

We're in the position to make a huge difference in the lives of those people. And so there's like charities that I love, like Charity Water, for instance, helps. Developing nations drill down into the water sources that are below their feet. Right? That's a really amazing charity is Charity Water, or even Kiva, where you can do loans to, you know, small business owners where a $20 loan is like what they need to build a business.

The amount of impact that we can have as people with disposable income, it's not just about us, right? It is sad that this is not accessible to everyone, but it doesn't mean that we can't do anything to help them. We can create opportunities by charitable giving and really needing to vet these charities, right?

I think there's a lot of charities that maybe don't have the impact that we wish they would have, but very carefully vetted. Charitable giving I think is a way for us to navigate the fact that some people are truly disadvantaged. I completely agree, and you might have heard me early on. I said, you know, early on I started as lean fire.

That was my first initial goal and the goalpost actually moved very early on when I had kids, when I got married. But then it moved even more so to, I'm pushing more towards fat fire now, and the reason for that is I want to give away a lot more money. Mm-hmm. And Charity Water's a big one that we look at.

There's a bunch of other ones as well, but we wanna make that impact with our money and pushing to earn more so that we can give away more is the biggest, biggest motivator for me. So I'm really passionate about this and we talk about this on this podcast a lot, and we'll get kickback all the time, like, why do we need to give our money away?

But the impact that you can have on other people's lives. And imagine if everybody in this world built wealth and they learned how to build wealth. And then they could give more money away how much of an impact that could have on other people. I think there's just so much cool stuff involved there, and we need to do another whole episode probably on this that we could go into, but I absolutely love that mindset as well.

So, Diana, this has been amazing. I wanna shift to some questions that we ask a lot of our guests that come on this podcast and we get some really cool answers outta this. So I would love to kind of go through some of these with you. So what part of your work or life makes you come alive? Well, as you can imagine, I really love to talk.

I'm very verbose. Um, so being a podcaster and a public speaker is definitely in my lane. I am the most extroverted person I know, and really it's. All about community. For me, it's conversations like this. I produce an in-person event that we had talked about before we started recording. It's called the Economy Conference, and really the goal of that conference is to create community and inspiration for people on the path tophi, because I truly believe that PHI is better with friends.

What's the point of retiring early if you have no one to hang out with? Right? Like my best friend who I hang out with, A ton. She retired at 36. And it's just so much better when you have other people to like spend time with. Right? So community and talking to people is really, really what makes me come alive.

I love that. I love that answer. This is gonna be an interesting one for you. What is your biggest fear when it comes to money? So I would say that the healthcare system in our country is so incredibly broken. It is terrifying. I pay for health insurance. A lot of people worry about health insurance, but the reality is even if you have health insurance, you can get completely wiped out by a Black Swan healthcare event.

Like I have a friend now, this was before there was out-of-pocket max on. Health, you know, with your health insurance. But she had health insurance and she had a brain tumor at 28, and she's been investing since she was 12 years old. Completely wiped out and had to start over at 28 years old with health insurance.

Oh my goodness. Our healthcare system is a profiteering healthcare system that is so chronically broken. It is terrifying. So I think that is the thing that scares me the most. Like we did a presentation at the Economy conference where I actually found a medical billing fraud investigator, and she showed us that medical billing fraud, whether you have insurance or not, is an.

80 billion problem that no one's talking about. So, you know, if you look at bankruptcies, 60% of bankruptcies are from medical expenses in the US. It has nothing to do with people mismanaging their money. But if you look at financial media, it's all, oh, you're irresponsible on credit card debt, and obviously that has a piece of it, but 60% of bankruptcies are from medical debt.

For no fault of your own, you get hit by a car for no fault of your own, and you could just be done. And I think the reason why that scares me is like I talked before about the ability to make more money. If there was some kind of health scare that I was disabled and that affected my ability to make money affected me mentally or physically, my ability to make more money.

That to me is the most terrifying thing. I think you just unlock a new fear for me, cuz I think that is one that, uh, I haven't really, I didn't thought a ton through that yet, but I think that is one that, uh, that is definitely very, very possible. That is one where I look at the spending a, for a lot of people in retirement too, especially as obviously as we age, we need more healthcare.

And you look at some of that spending and it is a massive, massive amount that people have to spend. And so preparing for that is a big thing. But, you know, anything could happen, like you said, and like you can get. Disability insurance, which like, I'm actually looking into that. Sure. But the thing is, I just don't trust insurance companies and our healthcare system.

So even if I have insurance, I just think I'm gonna get screwed if something like were to actually happen. That's just a fear of mine because you see it. All the time. Exactly. I'm on these Facebook groups of like, there's one called Harnessing Healthcare. If you really wanna get scared, go join that group.

And it's people with health insurance that are battling these insurance companies where you have these, you know, people on the insurance company side, they're not doctors, and they're sitting there telling you that you don't need this medical care that your doctor is telling you you need. You know, they're denying claims left and right.

I mean, it's terrifying. Terrifying. So, yeah, I mean there's a lot out there too that I know we don't have time to go into this, but like, Go arbitrage for medical reasons. Like we are the only first world country that has not figured this out. So like if you're actually really scared about healthcare, like I think I probably will move to like Europe later in life because of this fear.

Yeah. Yeah, it, it is one that I completely agree with you on that. I think it's just incredible some of the stuff that we have to revamp the whole system for sure. Cuz there's so much involved and there's so much profiting going on that really, you know, it's a whole different ordeal for sure. The next one is, how do you plan to level up your finances this year?

Is there any new investments you're gonna make or anything that you're gonna do to level up your finances? Well, you know, I'm in this place of coast FY where I don't really feel a lot of pressure to invest. However, I do have this business, the economy conference that, you know, I've been working on this since 2018 and I took a 40 grand loss on my first conference.

I would argue now that that's a 40 grand investment. But it was really scary at the time. For someone that like saves and invests 60% of their income to invest in your own business is so incredibly risky. So you really only wanna do it when you've reached some milestones. And please do not drain your 401k to start a business.

90% of businesses fail, right? Let's just say that. Full stop. However, you know, I'm at a place now where I'm gearing up for my fourth event and it's never been a source of income for me, but I think. This next event, it's going to like turn a corner in terms of the financials of the business, again, I'm not dependent on it for my livelihood, but that allows me to like hire more people, do cooler things for the audience, continue to build it and invest in it, and that's very exciting to me.

I think that's amazing too. And I plan on definitely going next year. And a lot of people who are listening, a lot of folks who have been on this podcast go to Economy, you know, every single year. So I think it's gonna be a really cool event. Uh, next year. It's in March next year, right? Yeah, it's March 15th through 17th.

That's St. Patty's day, weekend of 2024, and we're over halfway sold out. So that's another reason where it's like, I feel like I've turned a corner. Even you were saying you heard about it through word of mouth. Half of my audience hears about it through word of mouth. It is something worth talking about.

It's a really incredible weekend. It's like a party about money and just knowing that like all that hard work, it is making an impact on people and people really, really love the weekend and that is why we are over halfway sold out this far in advance. So I feel very good about ticket sales. I think the thing I'm focused on most right now is sponsorship sales.

That's incredible. I'm so excited to go. I can't wait to see the event cuz I think it's just so fun to have a party about money. And that's especially if you nerd out about this stuff. That's amazing. So what's one thing you would tell your younger self about money? Or if you go back in time, what would you tell your younger self about money?

I think let your curiosity be bigger than your fear. You know, like I had no idea I was 30 grand in debt because I was so scared to just look at it. I think money for a lot of us is such a source of shame. We're so embarrassed about the mistakes we've made in with our money, but now I know that again, money is the only thing in life that you can totally screw up, and there's like little to no long-term consequences.

I could just give you so many stories of people like going completely bankrupt and in 10 years completely fixing it. It's like, I just think I was so scared about money and I was scared to look at it and face the reality of my situation, and it was so unnecessary. I love that one. What is the best money advice you've ever received?

Oh, this is a good one cuz this was one of those like aha moments where it's kind of similar to when I said that it's not just about income, that your wealth is built in the gap between your income and expenses. That was an aha moment for me. And another one was I went to a presentation once where it was like a rich guy in a suit talking about personal finance for like young people.

And he said, Wealthy people buy assets, not stuff. And so if you see some rich person with their big house and their fancy car and all their fancy luxuries, the reality is statistically speaking, they probably don't have money. They are drowning in debt to buy all of those fancy things. And that actually wealthy people, and this is also demonstrated in that book, the Millionaire Next Door, just kind of like the key habits of wealthy people and that stealth wealth or modest wealth where you actually have a lot of money in the bank but you just don't care about material possessions.

And I would say no one would look at me in my 1200 square foot house and my 2010 miles a three and think that I had money. But I have a sizeable amount of money in the bank, you know, and it buys me freedom, but not things. And so buy assets, buy, invest in real estate. Your primary residence is not an investment.

I will die on that hill, and we could talk about that another time. But buy real estate. That is bringing you rental income. Buy stocks, invest in your own business. If you're at a place that you can take on that risk, buy assets. Not stuff. And I think I've trained my brain now whether this is right or wrong, I've trained my brain now where like if I see somebody driving a bmw, I automatically think, you know, they're spending all of their money or they're, you know, their car poor instead of actually having that in place.

But it's just like one of those things where the Millionaire next door just kind of changed my mindset. That's the perfect book reference there, cuz I think that's the one that just changed and trained my brain to kind of think differently about all this stuff. The last one is my favorite one. What does wealth mean to you?

To me, it's really full autonomy over my time and the ability to take risks. I've taken a lot of risks. Like the economy conference again, that 40 grand lost the first year. It started in 2020. We had our first event March 7th, one week before the world shut down. Oh my gosh. You know, and then just navigating that whole thing to start an events based business and a pandemic is like something I could have never anticipated in all of my business planning and all of my fancy documents.

And modeling. I could have never anticipated that that would happen, but I'm okay. I felt none of the pain of that, and it's because I put myself in a position to have the bandwidth to take risks, and I think full autonomy over my time. You know, to me, that goes back to what I said before on the less materialistic I am, the more idealistic I get to be, and I think most of us, Chase that material abundance.

That's what we think of when we think of wealth. But if you chase that, you are potentially missing out on time, abundance, relationship, abundance, creativity, abundance. Those are gifts of wealth that I feel like so many people don't get to experience even when they have 10 million in the bank because they're addicted to their job and they're in this fast paced lifestyle, that they're not able to slow down enough to savor it.

You don't need 10 million to have that kind of full autonomy over your time, and that to me is really what wealth is about. That is such a powerful message. Diana, this has been absolutely amazing. I've loved this conversation. Can you tell us where people can find out more about you and what you have going on?

I. Absolutely. So if you wanna hear from me, I'm on all the social media, but here's the thing, I don't play the games with the algorithms, so even if you follow me, it's so unlikely that you're gonna see any of my stuff I post like once a week. So if you really, really do wanna hear from me, I would recommend you sign up for my.

Newsletter on my website. So if you go to economy conference.com and economy is spelled with an m e at the end, not an m y. If you look at the first, uh, if the spelling of my first name, you'll see I really enjoy misspelled words. So economy conference.com, and if you wait five seconds, this popup will come up.

And if you sign up through the popup, you'll get a copy of my exit letter. So when I quit my job and I left due to being in a discriminatory environment, I wrote a letter on my way out and made a big stink about it. And I'm giving you a copy of that. So the voyeur among us might wanna give that a read.

You can get it on my website when you sign up for my mailing list through the popup. And then you can also listen to me every day as the host of Optimal Finance Daily. So this is a narration style show where I am reading to you from popular personal finance blogs like Mr. Money Mustache for instance.

And I offer a little bit of commentary at the end. So it's every single day in 10 minutes or less. And I like to say that these bloggers like wrote these amazing songs and I get to perform the covers. It's super fun. So you can listen to me blah on about money every day. And then lastly, For listeners of this show, I'm actually gonna offer you a 10% discount to come hang out with Andrew at the Economy Conference next year.

So it is March 15th through 17th of 2024 in Cincinnati, and if you type in the code Personal Finance pod, all caps, one word, that'll get you a 10% discount to come hang out with Andrew. That's perfect. Yes. And so again, you can get those tickets@economyconference.com. There's a button right there. As soon as you get on the main page, it'll bring you over to our Eventbrite site.

You can buy your tickets there. Yeah. And act fast cuz we're over halfway sold out. So if you really wanna come party with us, I would act fast. That is incredible. Thank you so much for doing that. We will link all those up down the show notes below so that you can, uh, check those out. Diana, thank you so much for coming on.

This was absolutely amazing. Well, thank you.

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