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The Personal Finance Podcast

The Amazing Power Of Financial Independence With Brad Barrett

In this episode of the Personal Finance Podcast, we’re going to talk about the amazing power of financial independence with Brad Barrett from ChooseFI.

In this episode of the Personal Finance Podcast, we're going to talk about the amazing power of financial independence with Brad Barrett from ChooseFI.

 

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Transcript:

On this episode of the personal finance podcast, the amazing power of financial independence with Brad Barrett.

Welcome to the personal finance podcast. I'm your host, Andrew founder of mastermoney. co and today on the personal finance podcast. We're going to be talking about the amazing power of financial independence with Brad Barrett from choose FI. You guys have any questions? Make sure to hit us up on Instagram, Tik TOK, or Twitter at master money co and follow us on Spotify, Apple podcasts, or whatever podcast player.

You love listening to this podcast on. And if you want to help out the show, leave a five. Review on Apple podcast, Spotify, or your favorite podcast player. Now today I am so incredibly excited to invite Brad into the personal finance podcast, and we're going to be talking all about financial independence.

And Brad is the host of choose FI and choose FI is a podcast that is absolutely fantastic and was a staple listen for me. As I was on my financial independence journey. And I think choose FI is one of those podcasts out there that has a really strong community. A lot of people out there who are interested in financial independence are usually big fans of choose FI.

So definitely check out choose FI if you have not yet, but today Brad and I are going to talk about. His financial independence journey. We're going to talk about a lot of the why of financial independence and a lot of his philosophies around financial independence. We're going to go through frugality, how he tracks his money.

We're going to also talk all about the 4 percent rule, how you can figure out what your freedom number is, how to grow your income as you start to pursue financial independence. And Brad was a big influence for me in learning how to travel hack. So I'd be remiss without asking him about travel hacking.

So we're also going to talk a little bit about travel hacking on this podcast as well. So I am so excited for you guys to hear this episode because Brad is one of my favorite people in the financial independence community. So without further ado, let's welcome Brad to the personal finance podcast. So Brad, welcome to the personal finance podcast.

Andrew, thank you so much for having me. This should be fun. I am so excited to have you on here because I have been following you for a very long time. And like we talked off air here, I was following you first for some of the travel hacking stuff. And you're one of the main people that actually got me interested in travel hacking.

But then once you guys launched Choose FI, I think it was one of the most powerful podcasts that you've had out there. And you guys have probably been the folks who have interviewed some of the most people who have actually achieved financial independence. So I'm really excited to talk about financial independence today.

I think we're going to have a lot of fun. But before we dive in for people who may have not heard of you before, Can you introduce yourself and your journey to financial independence? Yeah. Well, I mean, that's very cool. First off that you've been following kind of my entrepreneurial journey, which is really an interesting aspect of my journey.

Truth be told. So yeah, I guess just to quickly introduce myself. As you said, I'm now the host of the Choose Fi podcast, and we've been going for almost seven years now. And yeah, it's been just this crazy adventure, and it's pretty remarkable. And it makes you realize, as you know, certainly from being a podcaster, you just never know where life is going to take you.

And you never know when some content that you produce is really going to strike a chord with people. And it's turned into, I guess, one of the biggest Certainly one of the biggest personal finance podcasts in the world. And, and, uh, the community we built, I think is the largest community of people pursuing financial independence in the whole world.

And it's just, uh, it's hard to believe we were talking again before the show. I live in Richmond, Virginia. My co founder Jonathan lives in Richmond. Like we recorded from spare bedrooms in these little, you know, the little houses in the suburbs from Richmond VA, and yet you can reach. Millions of people.

And it's just a, it's a wild, wild world. And yeah, I guess kind of going back to the beginning is I have really unbeknownst to myself, even I've been pursuing financial independence and I made a decision not to go to a quote unquote better college, if you will, because of finances. And I came out without really having any debt, which was pretty remarkable.

I made that decision to turn down Ivy league colleges at 17. To go to it. I'll be at a wonderful school, but to come out with no debt. And that really was a springboard for, Oh, wow. I come out. I'm a CPA at 23 years old. I have no, essentially no student loan debt. I think Andrew, I think it was like 5, 000 or less and, you know, got a really nice job.

And this is where some of those inflection points start, which is, Hey, I got a really nice job, but, and this is going to date me a little bit. In 2001, I went to work for the accounting firm Arthur Anderson, which got, for anybody who remembers history, got wrapped up in the Enron scandal. And the accounting firm that I went to work for, which is the most well regarded accounting firm in the whole world, didn't exist nine months later.

Wow. Literally, Andrew, nine months later, it did not exist. And it just went down in this ball of flames. And I realized very quickly, Oh, wow. Nothing is promised. No matter how well you do, the senior managers and partners who were living paycheck to paycheck, albeit with a great income, they were existentially worried at that point, right?

It didn't matter how much money you earned. If you're spending it all, you're poor and your life is essentially ready to go. Self destruct in 30, 60, 90 days if you can't pay that mortgage. So that was a very early moment. It was also at those first nine months. And it's amazing how much those first nine months really impacted me.

It's realizing, Oh, wow. Like the carrot. Essentially, you know, they talk about like, okay, you can make partner at this law firm or accounting firm. You only have to work 80 hours a week for the first, the next 10 years, but then you're going to make 600, 000, a million dollars a year, whatever it is. But again, at 22, I saw this partner who I'll be, it was making a boatload of money.

He was sitting there. Stapling tax returns with me at two in the morning and it was like, wait a second, like this is the life that I'm aspiring to. This makes no sense to me. So this is a very long way of saying, I realized there are a couple of these little moments made me realize, okay, nobody's coming to save me.

The only way that I can essentially save myself is to literally save money and to become wealthy. And I just started saving. I never succumb to lifestyle inflation. I just started saving money. And luckily my future wife was also in a very similar boat. I met her at work again when I was 22 years old and we both just were natural savers.

So I wish I had some story of adversity. It would make it much more interesting, but we were savers from the beginning and we were doing that kind of, okay, yes, in theory. We understood that nobody's coming to save us, but there was no financial independence movement. There was no, Hey, you're saving it to get, and we'll talk about this later.

I'm sure enough that you can withdraw 4 percent from that pot of money and you can ride off into the sunset. We didn't know any of that stuff. We were just saving money, but it gave us power. Andrew, it gave us power. And I think that is the kernel of truth that I would love for everybody to come away from, from this episode with is saving money, gives you power and it gives you more freedom and autonomy every little step of the way.

And I could not agree more how money is a tool and it just gives you all of the power. And you recognize this early on, because obviously you had a situation where the company you were going to work for was gone after nine months. That is a wake up call. If anything else in this world is. And I think that's a really, really powerful lesson.

But the other amazing thing that you did is you looked up to upper level management and said, Hey, do I want this life? Is this the life that I want, or do I need to make sure that I can kind of carve my own path? And so I think those two things for a lot of people who are in maybe nine to five jobs. Now you want to look at that situation and say, Hey.

Do the people above you have the life that you want? If they don't, you can still take control of your situation by doing what we're going to be talking about today. So as we dive into this today, Brad, if someone's never heard of financial independence, a lot of our listeners have, but we do have new listeners all the time.

Why do people consider financial independence the ultimate life hack? Yeah, the ultimate life hack. We have been calling that it, that for a very long time. I think my co-host Jonathan, uh, coined that a, a very long time ago. It is the ultimate life hack because I guess the way that I phrase it, that's how he loves to phrase it in his, uh, very Jonathan way, but for me it's kind of like the lead domino that makes.

Every other aspect of life easier. I think that's the key. So I already kind of have alluded to it in the sense that it's about this power. It's about trying to reclaim some power from the elusive. They write, like putting it on somebody else. They're impacting me. Oh, the government is keeping me down. All this other nonsense you hear from people who are just complainers, basically.

Right. Like who don't want to take, I guess, to turn it around on them and look themselves in the mirror and say, look. I can make different choices. There's no, they who's impacting me. It's me making choices. And when you do look in that mirror and say, okay, I can take action to make my life better. Well, then once you start saving money, again, you have freedom that you didn't have because you were not beholden.

To a job, you're not beholden to somebody telling you at your job to do something that you don't feel is moral or ethical or you want to do, or all your job is like TPS reports from the old school office space, right? Like it's you don't have to do that anymore. Right. Because again, just like those partners and senior managers at my amazing accounting firm, they were beholden to those jobs because they spent all their money, right?

They spent all their money. So once you have a little bit of this freedom, everything opens up for you. And I think that's why it's the ultimate life hack or lead domino or whatever we want to call it. Right. Because Hey, once you have that space, then you can take a step back and survey your life and say, Oh, maybe what are these other things that aren't serving me?

What do I actually want to do with the finite amount of time I get on this planet? Right? You get, if you're lucky 90 years and how many of those are healthy. And I think that's another part of it also, right? It's like, Hey, maximizing your health, maximizing your relationships, adding value to the community, trying to figure out.

Why are you here? What are you doing? You can't do that when you're stressed all the time. You can't do that when you're worried about paying bills, but you can do that when you start saving money. So it reframes the entire thing from, Oh, the deprivation of, I need to say, I know I need to save for my retirement someday, right?

Like, that's all you hear. That's all saving is, is, Oh, for this mythical retirement, which most people don't actually believe is going to come. If you reframe it to no, no, no, my friend, like you can completely revolutionize your life. If you save a significant amount of your income, you can reclaim decades, decades from your life.

Well, that becomes the most obvious decision in the history of the world, right? There's no deprivation. It's just an absolute bonanza of wonder. Cannot agree more. And I think what most people's brains go to is they think of this as some sort of deprivation when they have to start saving money. But truly, if you start saving money, this is one of the most freeing things that you can do with your life because it allows you and gives you the power back so that you can move forward and have that freedom in your life.

And people don't understand how amazing freedom is once you can kind of achieve it and get to that goal. So I think it's one of the best things that you can absolutely do now. A lot of people On their journey to financial independence. We've had a lot of people on this show who have become financially independent.

They've had ups and downs. Has there been any downs that you've had along your journey or did you just start off saving and then you kind of move forward from there? Yeah, I certainly have done many stupid things. I think just like any, uh, any human, any human does. I wish that I was, uh, this perfect rational animal from, from the time I was 17 until now, I think.

Kind of the overarching theme is I think when you're pursuing financial independence and you save 30, 50, 60 percent of your income, whatever the numbers, and that might sound outlandish to a lot of people, but if you save 50 percent of your income, Andrew, you can't screw up your financial life. That's the most wonderful thing.

Like you have to really try hard, really, really, really hard by putting it into some crazy crypto thing or some lunatic, whatever, to screw up your life if you're saving 50 percent of your income. So that's kind of the bedrock. But yeah, like I've done incredible stupid things. I bought as like a 26, 27 year old kid or not kid, adult at that point.

But I'm looking at it as a kid because it was so stupid. I bought a property down in these like Golf course communities in North Carolina, like amidst the 2008, like right before the 2008 crash, basically. And those things dropped 90 percent and they just cost me probably hundreds of thousands of dollars, certainly compounded over the years.

Like if I didn't make that incredibly dumb mistake, my net worth would probably be 500, 000 higher, honestly. So, I mean, I've done that. I've just like most of us. I think I have fallen prey to the psychological effects of, Oh, I think I know better about the stock market. I can time it or, Oh man, this X crisis fill in the blank, right?

There's COVID crisis. That's going to take over the world. This X, whatever I have to sell everything like, and luckily I haven't sold everything, but I. Okay. Bye. Sold some, I sold more than I should have, which is zero, right? And like, so yeah, I mean, I do stupid stuff all the time. I mean, honestly, like incredibly serious stuff, but yet when you have this North star of saving a lot of money, when you have the North star of.

Very common sense, simple investing, which to me is low cost index on investing. You can screw up at the margins. Even these fairly large things that I'm talking about, like that's still at the margins for me because I got the big things, right? I got my expenses under control. Like I haven't had a car payment in.

My entire adult lifetime, basically I have a pretty inexpensive house, even though it's a beautiful house in a nice suburb in Richmond, I don't spend that much money on food and you know, like if you set up the structure of your life, that it doesn't cost that much, like it's actually pretty easy and you can live a wonderful, wonderful life.

And you know, your stress is not as high as someone who's living paycheck to paycheck all the time, obviously. And I love that you talk openly about this, because this is something that we love to bring up on this podcast all the time is that a lot of people make mistakes on their financial journey and they just think to themselves, Oh, I'm terrible with money.

I'm going to completely give up. But what you have to understand is if you get the big stuff, right, that we always talk about here, then you have that North star financial independence ahead of you. You can continue forward and keep moving on. You can still make mistakes and definitely get there and achieve those goals as well.

So I think that's a really powerful thing. Do you think that financial independence is something that anybody in this world can achieve? We truly believe that.

But I will, let's say I believe everyone in this world can get value from pursuing financial independence. I think that is something I would stand on Mount Everest and proclaim to 8 billion people. I think there's, to me, there's simply no question about that. And that's because of what we've talked about, that every little bit starts accruing that power and freedom and autonomy.

So if you are living, because Andrew, obviously the caveat is I'm not naive. I'm not stupid. I'm not trying to pull the wool over anybody's eyes. Clearly if you're making. 30, 000 a year, it's going to be harder for you than a doctor making 600, 000 a year. Obviously, end of story. We're not even arguing that.

But do I think that someone making a moderate to low income can benefit from pursuing financial independence? You bet. Because if they are living paycheck to paycheck or worse, and they can save 500, 1, 000, 2, 000, whatever the number is, and just invest that and keep growing it. And that gets to 10, over X number of years.

Is there a life going to be worse with 10, 000 in the bank after pursuing financial independence than before? No way. Right. Obviously it's like their life is dramatically better. Dramatically, dramatically better. Everything is in a crisis then because what's not a crisis to me and to you is getting a flat tire.

I had a flat tire yesterday and luckily they were able to patch it. But even if that was 200, That's not a crisis to me. That's just life. And I call it life is lumpy, right? Expenses aren't just a straight line, annual expenses divided by 12. And that's what you spend. No life is lumpy. Like you sometimes need a new air conditioner.

You sometimes have a large expense. It's Christmas. Like that's not an extraordinary expense. It's life is lumpy. And when you have again, that person who then has a thousand dollars saved up for 2, 000 and they get a 200 flat tire. Well, that's not an existential crisis to them, right? It's okay. Look, this stinks that I have to dig into my, the money that I put aside, but they're not going to a payday lender.

They're not putting it on credit card. They're not asking family, begging family and friends for the 200 bucks. They have the 200 bucks. So yeah, again, very clearly it's easier for people with high incomes. No question. Anybody who argues otherwise is a fool, but can everybody get value from it? You betcha.

I completely agree. And I think for a lot of people just having that pursuing financial independence can truly reduce your stress surrounding money. I think a lot of people are stressed about money, but if you have that cushion there and you are starting to save some of that money, you have those emergency funds build up.

And then you are starting to have those investment accounts built up. You can reduce that stress and anxiety around money. And you talk about life is lumpy. And that is one of the biggest things that people need to understand. You need to be able to prevent yourself from getting into some of these sticky situations and financial independence helps you do that and allows you to reduce that stress.

For example, this week I've had one of the worst weeks I've had in a while when it comes to surprises where we had an ER visit for one of my sons. We had another son that had to go to a doctor emergency visit. We had a huge vet bill that came in. We had a flat tire all in one week. And so all of these things.

Are things where I didn't have to stress about the money side where I could just kind of deal with life and be able to handle that side of it. But the money side, I didn't have to stress whatsoever because we pursued financial dependence. We've been here and we've done this. The money was just there.

And I think there's power in just having the money there. When you go through these choices, it's really just truly a choice for a lot of people. So as you go through this, were there any pivotal choices that you can remember on your journey to financial independence that actually helped you kind of propel forward?

Yeah. So Oh, I guess the biggest one, and I, I sometimes hesitate to say this because I don't want anybody to think that decisions of this magnitude are necessary to pursue Phi because they are not. But for my family, this was a pivotal moment. So I have to state it as the, as the pivotal moment. So my wife and I grew up on Long Island, New York, which is high cost living suburb of New York city.

And, you know, we could have made. Our lives there, we could have, right? We were both CPAs. We both doing very well in our careers and at basically 25, 26 years old, we looked at each other and we were about to get ready to get married at that point and said, okay, we can do this. We can. But do we want to, will we always have to give something up if we live on Long Island?

Because at that point, and this sounds like, uh, uh, anachronistic at this point, but it was like 400, 000 for a shack with like 12, 000 a year of property taxes. And like, again, now it's way, way, way worse, but obviously that's 17 years ago at this point. But. We knew we'd always have to give something up because, hey, if we're going to have kids someday, did somebody want to potentially stay home with those kids?

Well, you wouldn't really have that option on Long Island. You would if you moved. So we made the really tough decision to leave really the place that we had grown up and moved down to Richmond, Virginia, which is a wonderful place to live. Absolutely wonderful. And and we've been here for 17 years now.

And it's, uh, that was a major decision. And like I said before. I think when you build a framework of a life that doesn't cost that much, then all the other decisions are so much easier because you don't have to stress about them. You don't have to worry about, Hey, do I want to get a Starbucks coffee today?

Or do I want to get avocado toast? You know, playing up to the ridiculous caricatures, right? Nobody cares about the five bucks. I mean, obviously if you kept, if you did 20 of those 5 items a day, they're going to start adding up, but you don't have to stress about, Hey, we're going to go to a happy hour and at our local brewery and grab a beer.

Nobody cares because our housing was very inexpensive. We have been driving old cars. We both just upgraded from a 2003. Honda and Toyota to a 2013 Honda and Toyota, which is funny. So, uh, there's still 10 year old cars. And obviously we have a significant net worth. We could drive any cars we want, but we don't value that.

And we didn't want 600 a month car payments each. So that was an easy decision. Again, we, for a very long time, we. Cooked most of our meals in the house for basically like 2 per person per meal and ate wonderfully. And again, when you get those three things right, everything else is easy. So yeah, I definitely got off on a tangent here, Andrew, but I think just doing that, creating that framework of a life, it just makes everything easier.

And I love these tactics that you're giving because most people need to understand if you get those big three items right, if you get housing, you get transportation, you get food correct, you can spend a lot more on other things that you actually value. And if you notice what Brad's talking about here, and he used the word, he said he valued certain things.

And that's what we're really talking about here is utilizing your money towards what you. Actually value. And I think that's one of the most powerful lessons that you can have there. And I love the fact that you talk about how you actually move from a high cost of living area to a lower cost of living area that actually fit what your values were, because a lot of folks who are out there are struggling to achieve financial independence.

And one of the reasons why is they are struggling to increase their income. And at the same time, they're also struggling with the cost of living in their area if they're in a high cost of living area. So that is one thing to consider as well. It's not for everybody, but at the same time, it is something that you definitely could consider as you go.

through this. Now, frugality is one big piece when it comes to financial independence, especially early on. If you're not earning a high income, you have to be frugal. I was extremely frugal in my twenties. I've become less frugal as I've had kids. And as I got married and all these different things, but frugality is a big part of financial independence.

Can you talk about, you know, how important savings rate is and do you have to save 90 percent of your income and how is this, is this deprivation or how do you actually think about this when you go through your savings rate? Yeah. So A couple of things you said a lot of really interesting things in there.

So yeah, clearly it is about what you value. And I think that's so important. I think for me, like right now at this point, I spend a boatload of money on my health. I just do. And I'm perfectly fine with it because again, I've set up this framework of a life that just doesn't cost so much, right? So like you talked about tactics, even down to something like your cell phone.

So we have a very large Facebook group for choose a value. We have like a hundred plus thousand members in there. And somebody posted the other day about their cell phone and they were with, I don't know, I don't want to cast aspersions on like Verizon or something. It might not have been them, but let's say Verizon.

It was like a hundred dollars a month per line. And I'm like, my brain was exploding because there are just simple options like mint mobile, like we're at mint mobile and it's like 15 or 20 a month. And it's fantastic. And like, it doesn't sound like a lot, but what's so interesting and we'll get into this later about like the definition of financial independence in terms of money, but for every hundred dollars a month that you cut out of your recurring expenses, that's 30, 000 less you need.

To reach financial independence. So this family of three that was spending 300 a month on their cell phones, and now is spending about 50, well, that's about what 75, 000 less they need to reach fi just because of that decision and their lives get 0 percent worse. Right. It is a complete free roll to use like the poker vernacular.

Like there's no downside. It is literally the same. So look for those things that you value. And then, like I said, okay, we don't spend any money on that stuff, but I spend hundreds of dollars a month on my health and fitness. I hired a trainer and I'm in the best shape of my life at 44. And that's fantastic because that's going to give me decades of health and vitality.

So it's a no brainer. Like I hate to use expenses as like investments. Cause I feel like people overuse that in a silly manner, but like, that is truly an investment in that sense. And it's wonderful. So it's, what do you value? So, and then you also asked the prior question on pivotal moments. I'm sure we'll get into, because you're now asking about like the expense side, but the income side is really interesting too.

And the pivotal moment was actually. My early entrepreneurship. So that we'll leave that as a, a wet the appetite for the audience, but I didn't want to, to completely miss that, uh, that pivotal moment, because that was really the other side of it was the earn more side, but to get to your actual question.

So about savings rate, I think savings rate is an interesting thing. I think what people can get caught up in, and this is what I fear. Okay. Most normal Americans get caught up in keeping up with the Joneses, right? For, Hey, the McMansion or the Mercedes or the, my kids at this private school or my kid got into this college.

And I think that. Most of us, certainly all of us, I would say close to all of us listening to this would say that that's pretty toxic, but what I found the very few instances of toxicity that I've found in the financial independence community are when people start trying to compare, Oh, I'm more five than you, right?

Like I am not spending this money or my savings rate is 59. 2 percent and yours is only. 57. 6%. Right. Like, look at how much better of a person on that than I am, than you are. And I mean, as you can tell, like, I'm kind of playing this up, but it can happen. It can become keeping up with the Joneses in a very negative sense.

So I think I've very much mellowed out over the years in terms of like, Hey, there's plenty of ways to get to financial independence. And there's any kind of timeline that you want. And yeah, at the end of the day, there is a mathematical formula. Okay, you just go and we can link this up in the show notes.

You go to Mr. Money Mustache website and go to the shockingly simple math behind early retirement. He has an incredible chart there and you're going to see, okay, look, if I say 50 percent of my income, I think he says 17 years, but I think I've seen 14. You're going to reach financial independence anywhere from probably 14 to 17 years.

Okay. And that sounds like a long time, but listen, most people are going to start working at 22, 23 are going to work for 40 years, save virtually nothing and wonder where it all went as opposed to, Hey, if you start getting this stuff right at the beginning, or if you've already kind of, you can unwind it a little bit.

And start getting there, start saving 20, 30. If you can get to that 50%, you're going to reach financial independence in about 15 years. And that's a remarkable thing, but you know what, honestly, if you save 30 percent and you get there and whatever the number is, I don't have the article pulled up at 25 years, let's say you're still a heck of a lot better off than you would have been if you weren't pursuing fine, I think that's.

That's the big thing. So let's not get caught up in savings rate, but clearly it's important. I mean, I think we'd be fooling people to say it's not important, but if you think you're going to do great saving 5 percent of your income, or even 10%, I would say, take a look at that article and say, Oh, wow, I'm probably going to reach five and 60 years.

That's not quite as great as I was led to believe by the mainstream media, but okay, if you can get to 20, 30, 40, I mean. Then you're really going to supercharge that. So it's kind of a, maybe a answer, non answer Andrew, but, but I think hopefully that gives some flavor to people on how to think through it.

The shockingly simple math behind early retirement was the article that really got me interested in savings rate. That is a really powerful article. If you go and read through it, we'll link it up down below. We've talked about it a couple of times, but I remember the first time reading that and I'm looking at the 70%, the 80 percent savings rate.

I'm like, I got to get to that point. I'm going to do exactly what Pete does. I'm going to ride my bike to work and do all these different things. And I realized that's not the path I actually want to take. Once I started to take action on some of that stuff. So I love that you're bringing it up, that there are multiple paths that you can take here, but your savings rate is very important.

It needs to really bump 20 percent or above is typically what we kind of think about. Obviously it's also seasonal depending on what your income is and all those different things. But as you get to that point in time, if you get that 20, percent savings rate, you can really make a massive difference when it comes to accelerating your path to financial independence.

So absolutely love that thought process and definitely check that article out because for most people you can hear the original, you know, the financial gurus of old. Hold would say, say 5 percent or 10 percent of your income and invest that you're going to be working for a very long time if you do that.

So that it is important on that front, but increasing your income, I think like we're probably going to talk about here soon is one of the most powerful things that you can do obviously to accelerate your path to wealth. So when you're striving to kind of go for this savings rate, how much time do you actually spend on your finances?

Do you have to kind of monitor your finances all the time or how do you actually track your money? Yeah. So I'm. I think this, like, like every answer is there is just a whole world of options. I think that's what's so wonderful. Like sometimes that is becomes a paradox of choice and it makes people shut down psychologically.

But I think there are tools for pretty much anyone, which is wonderful. And you can try out a couple. I think from Like mine is just very simple. I use still like Microsoft Excel, like old school Microsoft Excel. I have my own little document and I don't personally budget per se. I know that's another kind of point of contention of many people, especially people who are coming to the world of five from maybe like a Dave Ramsey, or they just came from having a lot of debt.

They need some, or maybe not need, but they crave structure. And therefore I think a budget appeals to more people like that. I've found anecdotally, obviously that's a broad brush, but very anecdotally I've, I've noticed that. So there are plenty of amazing budgeting tools. I know YNAB is one of the most popular.

Again, I've never actually formally budgeted. It's just for me, like in a weird sense. And this is not how I actually thought about it, but it's like, okay, I've got a hundred percent savings rate. And then I just start spending money from there in essence. And then there's other ways to do it. The pay yourself first method, which it makes a lot of sense is, Hey, I want my savings rate to be 35%.

Well, then you just set up automatic transfers and you just make that basically a metaphysical certainty that it's going to happen, and then you have the rest of the money to play with. And that's a very reasonable way too, because I think for some people that doesn't feel quite as much again, for some people that there's no deprivation there because they just get to spend freely down to the very last cent, but yet they're still getting wealthy at the time.

So I think the other aspect of your question was kind of how much time does it take? And this is one of those things I really want to dispel the myth that like, I guess, being smart with your finances takes a lot of time. I think. Especially once you get into this, maybe when you're past the first year or two, everything's just automated.

Like you want to take your brain, your little pathetic animal brain. And I say that in a very loving way, but like we at our essence, like we have like these old school reptilian brains and we are susceptible to psychology. Like I said before of. Hey, the world's coming to an end this because of whatever's happening this month or this decade.

Well, what do you do? You do stupid things that sabotage yourself, right? Like you sell everything at the most inopportune time. You buy back in at the most inopportune time. If you can take your little brain out of it, no matter how smart you are. And I'm saying this for us as humanity, like if you can take your little human brain out of it, your life is going to be better.

just plain and simple. So you want to automate as much as you possibly can. And what happens then your financial life just does not take that much time to monitor because it's all operating automatically in the background. I glance at my stuff maybe once a month or so. And I do some stupid things in all honesty.

Like I have this Excel sheet and I'm this big CPA nerd who likes to track things once a quarter. And I like do my net worth and all this stuff, but like You can have automated versions of that. So I probably spent a couple extra hours just for fun, but realistically, I think my personal finances could take under 10 minutes a month, every single month, if I was so inclined and just get very wealthy in the meantime, and that's pretty cool.

So there's no stress whatsoever when everything's automated. I completely agree. I think you could take less than 10 minutes per month. Absolutely. And have all of this process automated, which I think is the most important thing. And for a lot of people, if we put the word budget in one of our podcast titles, Brad, it is the least downloaded episode that we ever have every single time that we do it.

So this is one where. I know people hate the word budget. I know they hate thinking about it. This is why it's really, really cool to do things like what you're saying, pay yourself first, which we call the reverse budget here, where you just take it off the top and then you can spend what is left over.

And I've talked about this before, but one big thing for me was using YNAB. I use YNAB for about 10 years and I still use it from time to time now. And that's actually what got me on my journey. To financial independence, but now I'm more so moved towards the reverse budget. Once I got all my systems down, I kind of just have a feel for how everything goes now.

And so for someone with my personality, where I'm like spend happy, you know, right up front, sometimes now I got to make sure that sometimes I have to dial it back in and get back into the rhythm where I used to be really, really frugal in my twenties. Sometimes I just have to dial it back in. So there's like seasons where I will budget, which I think is another interesting thing, but I try to automate every single thing.

And I think everybody else should too, because it just takes your willpower out of the equation and it removes that friction. And then you can just make sure that you're saving money over that time frame. Now, are there any instances on your journey where you felt like you could be more financially aware or optimizing this budget or anything like that?

Would that have got you further in your journey faster? Ooh, that's a very interesting question. I don't think I've ever thought about that, to be honest. Uh, I think we were I mean, we were pretty locked in, obviously making that terrible decision with that real estate. I think, uh, clearly if I could go back in a time machine and not drive down to North Carolina on that trip, I certainly would have.

So that's a good one. Um, you know, I don't think so. I don't think, I don't think I would have wanted to get there quicker. I think that's actually my, the most important part of, of any answer that I could contrive right now is like, if anything, I suspect I would have liked to have gotten there a little slower.

And that's not to say that I was depriving myself at all or our family deprived ourselves, but I think maybe at the margin that had we spent a little extra money, and we weren't thinking about it at the time, so it wasn't like, oh, we could have done this trip, but we didn't because we were saving money.

It was never as overt as that, but maybe had we taken an extra 5, 000 a year or something and done. Fun, crazy experiences or something like, would we have had a marginally better 15 year period? Yeah, I suspect so. And I mean, that's a slippery slope, right? So you could always make the argument down to saving nothing and spending everything YOLO mentality.

So, I mean, I think it's kind of a silly statement in the sense that like, yeah, okay, it's fairly obvious, but there is an equilibrium point. And I think we were probably as close to the equilibrium point as we could have been just by essentially dumb luck, right? Because, you know, you're going through life.

You're just trying to figure things out. So we got it pretty close, but, uh, yeah, I don't think I would have wanted to get there quicker. And I love that because there's so many people out there that are just talking about, you know, maximum optimization. But what you had there was You kind of thought through this process and you're spending money on your values.

You have your values in place and you're going along your journey based on the speed that you want to. And I think that's a really, really cool thought process that a lot of people need to understand it is okay now to be completely fully optimized to the T all the way down to every single dollar. I think that is one really cool thing.

We have a lot of optimizers that listen to this podcast, so I think that's one awesome piece of advice to have there as well. Now I want to dive into some other financial independence questions and one big one that we get when we talk about pursuing financial independence is we have people saying, well, listen, I went to go get a law degree and I love the law and I want to be a lawyer for my entire life or I went to go be a physician.

I want to be a doctor for my entire life. I love my job. So what do you say to people? Should they pursue financial independence if they love their jobs? And what are maybe the sum of the pros to pursuing financial independence, even if you think you're going to work forever? Yeah, this is something we have been very intentional about at ChooseFI.

So I think I very rarely kind of pat myself on the back for anything major, but this is one of those things that I will say we can take some credit for, that for a very long time it was about Fire, which is financial independence. Retire early. And there's something very cute about that, right? Like the fire and also like the retire early.

It gets people's attention. But from the really the very beginning of choose if I we focused on the financial independence side and not The retire early, and that was a very overt decision because while there is a lure to the retire early, I think it's more of a distraction from the importance of financial independence and you know, your question is wonderful, but it's really if you reframed it to if you'd never heard about This retire early, would you still be pursuing financial independence as someone who loves their job or someone who makes a high income?

Yeah, I think of course you would, right? Because hey, you never know where life is going to take you. First off, you always want more options. Second off, right? Like that's just something way I go through life is. Additional options, optionality, especially if I can get it for little to no downside. It's almost, again, it's like that poker mentality.

Like if I can, or betting, betting is maybe a better way to put it. Like if I can get options for essentially no downside, of course I'm going to take that. So you just never know where life is going to take you. You never know. Also like somebody who is that physician who loves their job, right? Because they're adding value to the world and they're trying to help people.

Well, if they're honest with themselves, they probably gripe about the amount of insurance calls they have to make, or they gripe about the number of meetings or, oh, the CEO at the hospital says we can only spend eight minutes now with a patient instead of 12 minutes, which used to be 30, right? Like, well, maybe that wasn't what they signed up for.

And maybe with pure financial independence, if they get to a point where working is truly optional and they don't need another dollar for the rest of their lives, well, maybe they have a whole lot more options to actually add value to the world and do what they love, which is helping sick people. Or helping people live a healthier life is probably a better way of putting it.

Well, then you can do that. You can pursue that. You can think outside the box. You can do fun things. You could work for nothing. You could set up a clinic. You can do anything, right? Like we could brainstorm here for 20 minutes over what that person could do. They could do anything, but they can't do anything if they spend all their money.

Right? If they spend all their money, I don't care if they want to work until the day they die. They have no options and their life is still going to be stressful. It's going to be unnecessarily stressful. And you can tell I'm getting a little agitated here because it's like, it's so. Self evident to me, and it should be self evident to everyone when they hear me describe this, like, yeah, work, add value to the world as you want.

If you want to work, that's great. If you're doing it because of some obligation or you're doing it because somebody told you that's how you, you have to give back to society or something like these ridiculous scripts that we make up in our heads. I think you need to lose those scripts. I think you need to say the overarching principle is you get nine decades on this planet.

You better use each and every one of those years very wisely. And if that means that you want to keep being a lawyer, because I don't know, you know, you do something that's wonderful and great. But if you want to Be a lawyer because you make 400 grand a year. Eh, that's probably not a great way to spend one of the 90 years you got on the planet.

So, yeah, I guess that's, uh, like I said, I got a little agitated, but, uh, but hopefully that gives some flavor. I'm like, again, this is all a thought process, Andrew, and I hope that's what the audience is getting from me. It's like, everything is in flux because it's your life. You can do what you want with your life.

I don't care. I just want you to go in with eyes wide open and make a decision based not on some script or something that somebody told you decades ago or what society is going to think or what the neighbor is going to think when you're not a doctor anymore and do what you actually want to do. And when you do that, you have a very powerful life.

It's completely life changing. And like you said, having the option available to you to have financial independence there, having that option is one of the best things that you can do. One of my favorite stories on this is our, one of our most downloaded episodes over the course of the last month was our mutual friend, Diana Miriam.

And she talked about how, you know, her whole process of, you know, she loved her job. She was at her job. And then all of a sudden a new boss came in and she could not stand that new boss. And she was struggling. Through this entire process, but she had her F you money there. So her money was already available there.

And so she was able to actually leave that job, uh, and do what she wanted in her life. And I think that was so incredibly powerful because she at one time thought she's going to stay in this job for a long time and have an entire career here. And then all of a sudden everything changed and you could be one decision away, somebody else's decision from losing your income.

And that is another powerful thing that you have to have available to you. So a lot of people. Just thinking about this need to have financial independence in their corner. I think there's so much value in pursuing it. Even if you think you're going to work forever, I think I'm going to do stuff like this forever and I still, you know, have financial independence.

That's one thing I wanted to pursue, even though I want to work for my entire life. I want to have that fulfillment. I want to have all those pieces, but at the same time, it is definitely something that I definitely wanted to pursue. So. The other big piece of financial independence is the 4 percent rule.

And the 4 percent rule is one that people argue all the time. I've heard some amazing new stuff come out in the 4 percent rule too, but there are a bunch of different methodologies when it comes to the 4 percent rule. Can you kind of explain the 4 percent rule and why it's powerful when you're setting your goals for financial independence?

Sure. Yeah, it's a really important one. And just quickly, since you mentioned Diana, so she came on our show at the end of 2022 and told that story. And it was just incredibly powerful. It was episode 416. It was called learning to leave. And I really recommend it. That is just such a poignant and powerful story.

So highly, highly recommend that. We'll link it up with on the show notes for everybody to check out. Nice. Yeah. That was really, really amazing. So, okay. 4 percent rule. So now this, like you said, people love to argue about this. And the funny thing is, even though I guess in theory, I'm like a math and numbers guy, I don't get bogged down.

In the details of this, because I think I think it misses the point for 98 percent of humanity and that most people are not getting bogged down in the numbers. They don't care. They just want like a north star. And I think for most people and when we're this essentially gets to the definition for anybody who is hearing this for the first time, this gets to the definition of financial independence, which is basically and now plus or minus, we call this a rule of thumb that.

Okay. You take your annual expenses, okay, what your life costs and multiply by 25, okay, now that gets you to a number. So let's say those annual expenses are 60, 000. So you multiply by 25 and that comes to 1. 5 million. All right. So that is your financial independence number because the 4 percent rule and there's this famous study called the Trinity study.

And like you said, there's been a lot of follow ups to this, but again, I don't get bogged down in that because they think it's a distraction for the 98 percent of people. And that's, what's important is getting through to regular people like me and you, which is okay. Instead of retirement seeming like this impossibility, or you hear in the news.

You can never retire. Oh, you're gonna need $5 million, $10 million. Imagine how much healthcare is gonna cost all this scare mongering. Well, when people get introduced to that, what happens in their brain is they shut down and they say, I can't do that. It's impossible. I can never get to $10 million. Who could do that?

So I'm not even gonna try. If the goal is impossible from the outside, why would I even try? And I think then people don't save any money. I think what's so beautiful about this definition of financial independence is just like what I've spoken about for the first 40 some odd minutes here is it's about reclaiming that power and understanding that you have control.

Okay, so instead of Susie Orman saying you're going to need 10 million with no explanation other than health care is going to cost a lot. You look at what is my life cost, which I have control over, right? And I can potentially make other decisions to Oh, again, because it's what you value. I'm not going to get to financial independence until I pay off my house.

Let's say somebody could make that decision and then your life costs a whole lot less, right? Because by definition, your mortgage isn't included. So those annual expenses go down and therefore, when you multiply by 25, that number has gone down dramatically. So again, you can make all these decisions, but at the heart of it is you have the power.

Okay, so very simply is this 4 percent rule of thumb is once you look at the, I guess the inverse of that, which would be, okay, if that's somebody with the 1. 5 million, you can reliably pull out 4 percent of that. Every single year. And again, get bogged down in the details. It is indexed to inflation because you're expecting an annual 8 percent return and you're only pulling out 4%.

So yada, yada, yada. We could get into all these details some other time. And there are much more qualified people than me to talk about this. But again, That's just a distraction for most people. So it's okay. I can pull out 4%. So what is 1. 5 million times 0. 04? It's a unsurprisingly 60, 000, which is exactly what we talked about before, right?

Your annual expenses. And now again, that is indexed to inflation. So it's not like if you were early retired or financial independent for 50 years, that you're still living on that same 60. So yes, these are the common questions, but I mean, Andrew, that changes the whole game. Right. It changes the whole game from, Hey, I can't do this.

It's impossible to, Oh, wow. You mean I have full control over this and there are lots of different decisions I can make over, Hey, what does my life cost? Where am I going to live? Am I going to pay off the mortgage? Am I going to have a car payment, all this stuff? Like it depends what you prioritize and you have a lot of latitude and that's really pretty cool.

One of my favorite things to do with people is to find this number for them. Because if they think financial independence is not something that they can achieve, we do the 25 X role with them. And I say, Hey, here's how much money you have to save every single month. If you got the average market return, we can do it.

We have 7 percent return, we can go through this and see, you know, how long it would actually take you to achieve this goal. And all of a sudden it like unlock something in their brain where they see that North star, like you call it. And they have that available there where they can actually move forward and they see it's actually possible to be able to do this.

And I think it's one of the coolest thing. And the 4 percent rule is what propels you to actually figure these numbers out. So I think it's one of the most powerful things that you can definitely do with your money. Now, beyond just saving money, income, I think is a big, big factor when it comes to financial independence.

I know for me specifically, it was the biggest propeller to actually accelerate my path to financial independence and actually move up to the next level. How did income actually impact you on your journey to financial independence? And how important do you think it is on this journey? Yeah, it's uh, you know, it's interesting for me.

It has played in a pretty wild way in that it's led to entrepreneurship, which I think is a totally separate. We can maybe I can come back on some other time and we can do a whole another hour on entrepreneurship because I think I think there's a big long thread there. But really, yeah. I pursued FI as a best middle manager at a reasonably sized company doing corporate state tax returns.

If you believe that I'm in the corporate tax department, I left the big accounting firm and just made a lifestyle play to go to a nine to five job. And, and that was a very specific decision. So I actually capped my upside in terms of earnings. Unquestionably would have earned more had I stayed at the accounting firm and gotten promoted to manager or senior manager, but it was a lifestyle play.

So, I mean, I never made my base salary was never, never got into six figures. Never as in my 13, 14 year career. Never. So, and my wife, which is pretty wild. And my wife worked from home, just very part time. So it's not like we were rolling in the income. We really were not. So our journey was. Mostly the again, I wouldn't call frugality as much as just setting up that framework of a life that didn't cost that much because and I'm so overt about calling it that because if you looked at our lives, I think we're rolling in abundance.

I mean, like we who have in the nicest part of town, we just made very smart decisions. You know, we bought, we have subsequently moved houses, but for um, 13 years, we lived in a house that was really nice, but I'll be at fairly small four bedroom house in the best school district in all of Richmond. And like, we made that decision many years, 10 years before we'd have a kid in school because we forecasted, because we think down the field, you know, like this is what people in the fight community do is like, you understand the rules of the game and you try to maximize.

So like we made a decision. A very long ways ahead of time and it turned out wonderfully, right? So like you have to think you have to forecast, you have to see how the world is going to work. So yeah, I mean, that's a very long way of saying I got maybe 75, 80 percent of the way to finance on dependence, just on a very modest middle class income between two of us working.

And, you know, then I think where fi intersects with entrepreneurship for me was that it basically gave me the opportunity. To transition into entrepreneurship in that we weren't technically at five. So you mentioned travel miles, one Oh one before. So that actually started, if you believe it eight and a half years ago at this point.

So the beginning of 2015, and that was when I left my full time job. So I'm coming up on really, yeah, it's eight and a half plus years now. And. I was able to make that move because while by no means were my side hustles, these websites that I own making anywhere near my full time income, but I believe that they could, I believe that if I had the time and energy to devote to them, that I could do something pretty phenomenal.

And I literally travel miles when I once started February 1st, 2015. My last day at my job was January 31st, 2015. The day before, I don't think you even knew that. So, yeah, I mean, literally the next day we had the first cohort of people join our free course, as we called it on Travel Mods 101 in February of 2015.

So, yeah, it's interesting that really FI enabled me. To have the freedom at that point with two young daughters and a mortgage and all these responsibilities to be able to transition and give it that chance that like, I knew I would have looked back 50 years hence and said, Oh man, if I didn't do it, I really, I so regret that.

And I don't have to regret it. And that's the cool thing. And I took a chance and travel miles grew into something really nice and very comfortable. And, you know, that was really the way that Jonathan, my co hosts and co founder of choose if I found out about me was he was just a regular guy listening to podcasts in Richmond VA.

He was a pharmacist and he heard me on the mad scientist podcast talking about. travel rewards and traveling for close to free. And he's like, Oh, wow. This guy, Brad is in Richmond VA. He's into travel rewards and he's into financial independence. He's like, I'm all of those things. So he just like randomly reached out to me and we, for some reason, I said yes to, Hey, let's have lunch.

And basically a couple of months later, we started this podcast and it just kind of grew like crazy. And it's just an absolutely wild story how. Every single one of these decisions led to that point. And it's just, uh, you know, you think about like the sliding doors, moments of life that if you had made a different decision, but yeah, I mean, it's really pretty incredible.

So earning more income has obviously helped. I have not had to pull money out of my net worth. So that's one thing leaving my job. And because our lives don't cost that much, like I clearly have been earning enough money in with my websites to pay for what our life costs. So. That's it's pretty amazing.

I'm able to grow this net worth without having to draw down at all. And like I said, it's almost been nine years at this point. That's truly amazing. And I think that is one of the most powerful lessons that we can learn here is that, you know, Brad did this and he was on this journey, got 70 to 80 percent there on a salary that was less than a hundred thousand dollars per year.

And it was able to transfer to Entrepreneurship, which we talk a lot about that here too, is have some of these side hustles and have some of these things available so that maybe they can turn into your full time thing. Maybe not. If it's something you're passionate about, like you were with travel miles, this was something that you were doing every single day.

And that's around the time I found you too. I think it was somewhere around 2015. Cause I just listened to a ton of personal finance podcasts back then. And I just heard you on every single podcast. I remember that it was way before choose FI. So. I think that's just a really, really cool journey, and it's a lesson where if you're in the arena, if you're just doing things out there, then you're going to be able to actually have these opportunities pop up.

A lot of these opportunities will just pop up if you are actually taking action and doing some of these different things. Now, we mentioned Travel Miles 101. I'd be remiss to have you on here without talking about some travel hacking, at least. We've had some, like, full episodes on it. It's a big thing for me.

You know, I learned a lot of it from you guys. I learned a lot of it from you, especially very early on. It was one of that really, really cool things that once I remember you talking about on different podcasts, it's like, Oh, this is so incredibly cool. So then we started to do it. We've taken dozens of trips now completely for free.

So I think it's a really, really cool path for a lot of people to take. So as you go through this, how can people use points and miles to travel the world for free? Cause I think this is a really, really cool concept. Yeah. Well, first that's amazing. It's wild to think that you found my little website.

Eight plus years ago, and you've probably saved, you've taken a dozen trips. You probably saved close to 50, 000 on travel just from that. And it's remarkable. So yeah, congrats to you for taking action most importantly. And, uh, and that's the through line. I know you've said that, like, that's what we say is like.

It's all well and good to take this information in, but you have to get up off the couch and take action, right? That is the most critical, critical thing. Okay. So travel rewards. I think this is a big topic. And like you said, you've had episodes on it. We've had a ton of episodes. I would suggest everybody go to choose a better comm slash travel.

That's where we have all of our resources or even travel miles. When I won from back in the day, we still have that. If you're going to start here, it's not an email course anymore. It's just all right there. And, uh, It just gives you the background. I think we have an ultimate guide on travel rewards. Like I said, I choose a VEDA comm slash travel.

So I think what makes sense to talk about today is just like the overarching, like, Hey, what is this? Why would I do it? Is it a scam? Is it like, you know, is this going to hurt my credit and all this stuff? Like basically what I would say is for most people. Again, who are financially responsible, who are pursuing fi and having a savings rate.

You're not living paycheck to paycheck. You don't have credit card debt. You don't have an issue with your credit card, right? Like you're paying your cards off on time and in full every single month. That is like table stakes here on time and in full every single month. If you're not doing that, just fast forward a couple of minutes, right?

Like you do not need to listen to this. If you do. Pay your credit card on time in a full every month and you use your card normally, or maybe you use like a debit card, which I think is one of the worst things you can do, frankly. But again, you have the money saved up. Everything's there. There's no issue.

It's just, okay, what can I use to make this payment? Well, most people have a credit card that maybe gives them 1 percent back. And at the end of the year, they're laughing all the way to the bank. I got an 80 check this year and Oh, it's wonderful. Right? Like that sounds great. And I don't begrudge you There are better options.

And I think that's the cool thing. So you and I both know this. We both have opened up numerous, numerous credit cards over the last decade. And basically what happens is for very attractive, let's say consumers like us who have high credit ratings, uh, the credit card companies want our business. They simply do.

And what they do is they offer these very lucrative signup bonuses. Okay. So a, and I don't want to talk about specific cards necessarily, but a normal bonus might be, Hey, you earn 50, 000 of these points, these bank points, let's say, you know, Chase has some. Amex has bank points and, and these are the best points.

So, okay, let's talk about chase ultimate rewards. I'm being silly here. So chase ultimate rewards. Let's say you open up a chase Sapphire preferred. I'm not saying this is the bonus at the time. And this obviously always changes, but this is a fairly standard thing is let's say you earn 60, 000 ultimate rewards points when you spend 4, 000 in the first three months.

Now, again, I don't know if that's the current bonus, but that's the generally you see that bonus fairly often. So what does that mean? Let's break it down because I think this is the type of stuff that gets people from taking action because they look at that and say, Oh, what does that mean? Do I have to carry a balance?

How much is this going to cost me? Etcetera. Okay. It doesn't mean any of those things. This is great. Like you just use that credit card. You pay it off on time and in full every single month. And if once 4, 000 over those first three months, it triggers this bonus of 60, 000 ultimate rewards points. And I value the Chase Ultimate Rewards points at about two cents per point.

So let's say the 60, 000 points would be times 0. 02 would be 1, 200. All right, so 1, 200 in value. I think you can get pretty conservatively from that one signup bonus. Okay. So that sure beats the 1 percent that you would have gotten for spending 4, 000 on your regular credit card. 1 percent of 4, 000 is 40.

Okay. So compare and contrast 1, 200 versus 40. It becomes very clear here why this can be so lucrative. And now if you can accumulate a lot of these bonuses, and now we talk about like two player mode, kind of jokingly, like if you have a spouse or significant other. Each of you can open one of these cards, every single one of these cards in your name and social.

So like my wife and I, for instance, we're each able to open up that card and then we're able to move on and each open up the next card. So it essentially like you can get, like I said, 1, 200 over that 4, 000 spend is a 30 percent rebate. It's 30 percent of the money that you spent is coming back to you in essence.

And that's sure beats that 1 percent that you would have gotten otherwise. And again, like I said, this is not costing you anything. You're just using that card for your regular everyday spend. You're paying it off on time and in full. So there's no interest expense. You just are earning that massive signup bonus for them to get you as a customer, basically.

So you can see if you open up a couple of these targeted cards and you're very smart about it, you can earn many thousands of dollars of value. And you could probably take one to two nearly free trips every single year. And I think, uh, you're a perfect, uh, evidence of this. I think it's very doable. It's exactly what we did.

And that's the kind of the process that we went through. And you can get really granular and optimize all of this stuff. But really, what Brad's talking about here on the grand scheme of things is, is that most people just want to take those one to two trips every single year. And you can do that in a very simple way by just paying your bills, On these credit cards and then just paying them off every single month.

And like Brad said, it is very important that if you've ever had credit card issues or anything like that, you avoid this. But if it's something where, you know, you're responsible with credit cards, this is a very, very powerful thing to save over your lifetime. I'm sure it's going to be, you know, close to 50 to a hundred thousand dollars, at least that you could be saving by following some of these strategies.

And I want to kind of bring this home. to an example. So what are some of maybe the your favorite trips that you've taken? And what did they cost you when you travel over there? Yeah. So I guess the one that stands out is our kind of three generation trip to Disney World. And this was the one that it's funny because this was the one that put me on the map.

Actually, it sounds crazy. But at 10 years ago, I put together this trip using rewards points to Disney World. And when I'm getting featured in the New York times, NBC, CBS, all this stuff. And. It's because it really resonates with people because there are millions of families like ours. And I think this is what I've always taken putting any type of content together that I create is I don't think the aspirational, Oh, this 22 year old kid flying in this crazy first class suite to Singapore.

I don't think that resonates with most people, but I think going to Disney world and instead of spending four or 5, 000, 200. I think that resonates with tens of millions of families. And I think when people see that, oh, this suburban family in Richmond, Virginia, who nothing special, we're just regular suburban family.

Like if they were able to do it, then I can too. And it just takes a little bit of planning, like if you were instant gratification, well, I don't think financial independence is for you. I don't think travel rewards is for you. Like, because good things don't usually happen immediately. Like you have to plan, you have to think ahead, you have to look down the road.

Like if you're willing to Plan 12 to 15 months in advance. I think you can take a free trip to just about anywhere in the world. And yeah, so we wound up just a long story short is putting together this really wonderful trip to Disney world with all four grandparents, my two daughters, my wife and I. And we went up staying at the Swan and Dolphin hotels there.

Uh, well now they're Marriott, but they used to be Starwood. So we're able to use, uh, points. So those are luxury hotels right on site. I was able to figure out that you can use, uh, the capital one venture card to pay for Disney tickets, not through Disney, but through this other website called undercover tourist.

com, which is like a authorized reseller. So that was actually the cool piece is I couldn't figure that out, Andrew. And then I like. Did a whole bunch of investigative research and, and figured it out. And that was the final piece because flying to Disney is actually really, really easy flying to Orlando because they have a Southwest flights.

There are thousands of Southwest flights that go into Orlando basically. And those are the easiest of all the miles and points to use because there are no limitations based on award seats. I think that's what frustrates most people when it comes to travel miles is. You hear about the, Oh, there are blackout dates.

Oh, I can't find a flight. And usually what it just simply means is, Hey, there were probably two or three award seats on that flight and somebody else booked them before you, right? So like to you, that looks like a quote unquote blackout, but it wasn't, it's just, okay, somebody else got them. And you know, there are hundreds of millions of people with rewards points and they're going to go fast.

But when it comes to Southwest, they're none of those limitations. It's essentially just a function of the cash price. So. Disney is actually like one of the easiest places to go with points and miles, because like I said, the getting the tickets super duper easy. There's nothing to it. Getting the flights are incredibly easy and you have a lot of options with Hyatt and Marriott in Orlando.

And if you want to stay on site, you can at those swan and dolphins. So for anybody who's looking for the precise details of this. I do have like a step by step at choosefi. com slash Disney, and that'll take you right to our article. It's just like literally step by step of the whole plan. So it's a pretty high value, fun one.

That's a, like I said, very, very easy, a good way to wet your toes when it comes to travel rewards. Absolutely. We'll link that up in the show notes down below too. Cause I think that's a really valuable one for a lot of people that a lot of people that listen to this podcast have little kids. And for me specifically where my house is, is about an hour and 20 minute drive to Disney world.

So for me, it's like super easy to just to get over there. So I love those little hacks though, when it comes to points and miles of being able to, you know, buy, like you said, buy the tickets on these other sites where you can just find these little hacks in there. I think that's part of the fun of even doing this as kind of gaming the system over that timeframe.

And I truly appreciate you creating travel miles one on one cause that is what kind of taught me all of this stuff. And. really, really got this going and we could probably do, you know, a really long episode just talking about travel hacking if we wanted to. And you guys even had a, an episode recently of travel hacking to, I think he called it two Oh one.

Um, and I thought that was a great episode too, that we get, we'll link up down below if anybody wants to go a little further in advance on this too. So that is perfect. So Brad, I'm going to throw some questions at your rapid fire that we ask a lot of our guests. Cause I, I really like these and I think a lot of people, um, have some interesting answers to these.

So what part of your work or your life makes you come alive? I genuinely love podcasting and it's funny because I have always like self conceptualized if that's even a phrase or a word as like kind of like an introverted guy. I've always had a lot to say, but I've just kind of kept it to myself for the most part, like in, in real life.

And there's just something about this podcasting that like brings out the best in me. Like, I don't know what it is. I'm not uncomfortable at all. I just love it. And I think there's. Some kind of alchemy in like how I describe things that somehow compels people to take action and it's just like this magical thing that like I just never thought I would have the ability to do again.

Like I said, I was this middle manager at a Okay. Doing corporate state tax returns, the worst, most mind numbing job you could imagine. And now I get to help people transform their lives. And it's just, uh, it's something I could have never imagined in my entire life. And you are so good at it. You have a gift of just kind of breaking down the steps and kind of making you take action because the steps seem so simple that it just kind of gets you to that first step.

And then you just keep going along. So you're amazing at that for sure. The second one is what is your biggest fear when it comes to money? Biggest fear who, you know, I used to stress a lot about money, even like, especially that issue that I talked to you about with, uh, that real estate that failed real estate.

Like, man, Andrew, if I could tell you how many hours of lost sleep that I had, even though I knew intellectually that I was going to be fine because again, a 50 percent savings rate cures all pretty much. I just would beat myself up. I just like, I couldn't get over it. And then I, I've now realized that like, Alright, that savings rate cures all, time cures all, compounding, like it all just works.

And I don't have that many fears about money anymore. I cannot believe I'm at a point where I can say that. I don't think I ever would have believed that I'd be at a point where money would not stress me out constantly. And that just shows the power of fine financial independence right there is that can remove that out of your life, which I think is so incredibly cool.

How do you plan to level up your finances this year? Could be business, it could be investments or anything along those lines. Level of finances. So I'm gonna take a different, uh, different spin on this. I have realized, I've read, and you might have mentioned this on the podcast before, but this book called Die With Zero by author Bill Perkins, and the combination of that book and the article on the website Wait But Why, which is called The Tail End, T A I L, Tail End, by Tim Urban, have really jolted me to the point where I'm trying to level up my finances by spending more money and by living for experiences and based on the timing that it's most optimal for me to really maximize as Bill Perkins calls it memory dividends.

So how I'm actually leveling up is okay. I have, uh, I'm not getting any younger, even though like I, you know, like I said, I'm in pretty good shape. I expect to be healthy for decades, but you know, my daughters are 15 and almost 12 now. And if you look at that article, the tail end, basically every year you spend with your kids until they're 18 is about 5 percent of the time you will ever spend with them.

Okay, so by the time they're 18, that's about 90 plus percent. So every year is 5%. That is really sobering when you think about that, right? So my 15 year old, I'm at 75 percent of the time that I will ever spend with her. In her entire life, because right, just think about it. Kid goes to college. They may or may not come back, but you have to bank on them not.

And yeah, you just get the dregs of that little time, like for the next X number of years. And again, that could be very sobering and that could lead you to being like despondent. But I think what it's done for me is say, okay, I really need to maximize this. I need to spend this time in a way that I won't look back on life regretting.

And what that's meant is I took my older daughter to see Taylor Swift in Pittsburgh, and we went on this amazing road trip. We spent a lot of money on tickets and we had the best time ever. And I was able to buy tickets to see Taylor in London next summer. So we're all going, the little one's coming for that one.

So we have a whole year to look forward to that. Again, these little trips, I took my younger daughter mostly with travel rewards once, but it enabled us to then get like those amazing box seats to see Hamilton on Broadway. And like, we went to New York city and we had this, we had a ball. And my older daughter is a roller coaster, fanatic roller coaster enthusiast.

So we've taken like three or four trips on the East coast to different amusement parks. And like, these are things that you could look at and say, Oh, the tickets are expensive. Oh, we're only going to be there a day. We should probably get the fast pass. And that's another. A hundred bucks or 150 bucks. Oh, maybe that's too much.

But when I look at my money and say, all right, I've been on my own now for eight plus years, and I haven't dipped into my nest egg, even 1 and my income is stable. I can spend money. I can, and I need to, I should be spending money. I should be spending more money. So that's Andrew, how I'm leveling up is I'm spending time to build these memories with my family that I will regret dearly if I don't do.

That is by far my favorite answer we've ever had to this question. Cause I think that is one of the most important things that you can do and really utilize your money as a tool to build out these memories and you figured out these optimizations, obviously, and all this other stuff too. But I think that is one of the things that we will be spending money on.

And I always think about this. I have. five year old and a two year old. And I always think about this, you know, how can I optimize my time with them? Because I know how small this window truly is and spending money on experiences like that. I think it's just one of the most powerful things that you can absolutely.

Now, the last question that we're going to ask is my favorite and it's, what does wealth mean to you? I think at its essence, and I've said this throughout the entire episode is wealth gives you freedom and it gives you choices and it gives you options to spend your finite time how you want with the people that you want.

And I think there's really no better answer than that. It gives you options and it gives you freedom and there's no aspect of deprivation about accumulating wealth when you're thinking about it in those terms. I could not agree more. I think that is one of the most powerful things that you can do with your time and your energy is learn to accumulate wealth so that you have that available to you, Brad, this has been absolutely amazing.

Thank you so much for coming on. Where can people learn more about you choose FI and everything else you have going on? Yeah, well, I appreciate it. The questions were amazing. So this is a lot of fun. I think, okay, obviously for people, there are two ways to, I guess, get the content that I put out. So every week, obviously you're listening to a podcast, so you know how to find podcasts, just search.

Choose like make a choice, choose F I for financial independence, hit subscribe. We put out an episode every Monday and then every Tuesday I personally handwrite a newsletter that I think is almost as important as the podcast, frankly, because it highlights a couple. I curate some things that I think are very timely and important, but it also highlights the actions that other community members are taking.

So. Every week I ask people to hit reply to that email and tell me what you're doing to make your life better. And then I'll highlight six or seven of them in the next week's email with their names and everything. And it's just differentiation point that really sticks out for people because. I'm constantly getting emails just saying like, man, this motivates me so much.

You can't even imagine. And like, sure. The curation that you do and whatever, that's great. And I, I know it's useful, but it's really that motivation. So choose fi. com such subscribe. And like I said, I handwrite that email. If you hit reply to it, it comes directly to me and let me know what actions you're taking to make your life better.

And I'd love to highlight it for the whole financial independence community. I love that. That is so incredibly valuable, Brad. Thank you so much for coming on. We will link everything up down in the show notes below. We truly appreciate you coming on. Thank you. Thank you, my friend. This is fun.

 

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