All posts by Elle

Exploring Your Investing Options in Real Estate

Are you interested in getting started in real estate investing but don't know where to begin? We’ll uncover some opportunities and niches out there that could be a good fit for you!

Adventures in Real Estate Investing

In our community we have families at different points in their financial journeys.

This year we have some who are focused on knocking out debts that have been weighing them down.

We also have families who building up their financial cushion or saving up for a huge goal including starting a family, maybe starting a business, or buying a house.

Then some, including us are in the CoastFI phase of things. That foundation is in place and we’re considering options that can give us more flexibility with our schedule while still producing income.

Real estate investing can be a great way to be a solid path towards that and financial freedom. By investing in a property, you can generate passive income through rent.

However there’s more to it than what you see on HGTV, Magnolia, or those real estate flip channels on YouTube.

Buying property takes money and finding good tenants and contractors takes time. You may also worry about being trapped with a money pit.

Which is why I’m happy to have Rachel Hernandez on the show. Rachel is an award-winning mobile home investor with over ten years of experience and author of several books about real estate including Adventures in Mobile Homes.

In this episode we’ll get into:

  • her journey into real estate investing and what made her choose to hone in with investing in mobile home
  • different options out there besides flipping and buying holding property
  • an honest look at the good and the bad with real estate so you have a clearer idea of what to expect

Hope you enjoy!

Resources to Stay on Top of Your Money

If you’re ready to achieve your family and financial goals and want to explore real estate, here are a few of my favorite resources, including what we covered in the podcast.

If you’d like to chat more your money system, please join us in our private and free Facebook group – Thriving Families.

We’re families looking to support and help one another out.

Hope to see you there!

Thank You to Our Sponsor Coastal!

Support for this podcast comes from Coastal Credit Union! Come check out Coastal today if you’re living in the Raleigh Durham area and looking to bank better.

As a credit union, Coastal serves its members first and foremost including an annual loyalty bonus.

We've been members for years and love their service and competitive rates on checking and savings accounts!

Exploring Options in Real Estate

In our discussion, Rachel discusses her experience with real estate investing, including her motivation for getting started and her transition to mobile home investing.

She emphasizes the importance of taking action and gaining experience, as well as finding a niche within the industry.

Rachel also offers advice for those interested in real estate investing and provides resources for learning more about mobile home investing.

Read the transcript below (edited for time and clarity) or watch our chat on YouTube!

Elle Martinez: You are seasoned with real estate investing. That's something my husband and I are in the early stages of talking about. We are thinking of having some cash flow for this next stage of financial freedom.

There's so many different ways to invest. We've done like index fund investing, which is really popular. But for you, what was your motivation getting started with real estate investing? What was that pull?

Rachel Hernandez: For you?

Sure. For me personally, I will make a disclaimer.

I hated viewing homes as a kid. I was with the family that moved every five to seven years because my mom wanted a bigger and better home, so we were in that rat race.

My parents were both professionals and so basically it's very surprising that I got into real estate because I hated riding in the car with the realtor, looking at homes as a kid every five to seven years.

Obviously as a kid you don't have any say. It's the parents deciding and I moved from so many different schools. I think that's why one of the reasons why I'm so outgoing, because I just had to make friends on my own because I'd be moving every five to seven years.

I will tell you, I was influenced by the book Rich Dad, poor Dad by Robert Kiosaki. You've probably heard about that, but what actually sparked my interest in real estate was the concept of passive income in that book.

I always knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur. As a kid, I did the lemonade stand, puppet show. Going into college as a young adult, I was supposed to be studying for my classes I was a humanities major, but on the side I had a resume business.

I got paid actually by my university to take notes, right? For classes. So I always had all these side hustles, you know?

Once I got influenced by that book, rich Dad, poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki then the light bulb kind of set off, ‘oh, there's actually income that you can make passively and it doesn't require work from you to do it.'

I learned the difference between active income, which depends on you working at a job, you know, you get paid a certain amount to work that job. There's also this concept of passive income and it's more on the investing side.

You make your money work for you so that you don't have to work so hard. That's how I got into real estate investing.

I was a business to business corporate account executive, so I had the sales experience.

While I was learning, I actually started finding deals for other real estate investors. What I do, I'd go to my local real estate investor club and I'd meet these real estate investors who just didn't have the time to go out there and find these deal. They'd give me their criteria.

I did something called bird dogging, which is like, you go out and you find these deals, you get all the information, and then you bring the deal to the investor and then they talk things out with the seller, try to negotiate you to deal. If they do, then I get paid for that lead.

I did that for a while, and then after that I went into wholesaling, basically taking it one step further, getting all the information, but then putting it under contract and then assigning my interest in the deal to the investor buyer, like the end buyer, and then I get paid for that.

I did that for a while to build up cash. Eventually I started building up enough cash to buy and hold properties as a single family home landlord. I did that for a while. I built up our portfolio and I got burned out from that because every month. Guess who the first person who got paid? Was a mortgage company.

I was like, ‘why is all my cash flow going to the mortgage company or h o a or the insurance company, you know?'

I was the one that was paid last. , I'm like, ah, that doesn't sound right.' Yes. You know, where's all the, the, the, the passive income and cash flow that I was reading about.

Then I decide to, you know what? I'm just gonna sell my entire single family home portfolio. Wow. Which sounds crazy. Cashed out at a great time and then use that money to actually get into mobile home investing, which is what I do now.

I buy mobile homes for cash without a mortgage and then if I decide to rent it or sell it on payments and all that cash flow comes to me.

So that's pretty much what I do in

Elle Martinez: a nutshell. Yeah.

I love how you had this plan and you build up, I think. . I don't wanna say it's a myth, but to a degree a lot of entrepreneurs are put in this bucket where they're risk takers, they're doing this but then when I talk to entrepreneurs like you who've been doing this for years, there's like a calculated risk. There's some kind of numbers and analysis as you jump in.

And I didn't know about the different roles in real estate that you were just mentioning. I feel like I'm gonna have to put in the show notes of this dictionary for real estate.

Rachel Hernandez: Yeah, that'd be a good idea.

Elle Martinez: Yeah. But as you mentioned, there's different ways even to invest in real estate. Single family homes is what people imagine. They see H G T V, and these channels and think, oh yeah, this would be great. What made you pivot into mobile home investing?

Rachel Hernandez: Pretty much the mortgage company getting paid first. When I got that rent check. That money, a large portion of it went to the mortgage company, then the h o A association, then the insurance taxes, and then whatever was left over that's pretty much what I had.

To tell you the truth, I made more money wholesaling than I had with these cash flow properties in single family homes.

Oh, ok.

Yeah. Pretty much my first deal as a wholesaler, I made a whole year's salary. Which is crazy. Wow. Looking at that, I just kind of got burnt out and I even brought property managers to manage these properties for me, but they got their fee and I had to manage the managers so,

Yeah, it was crazy and I can't do this. And you hear all of these stories from these burnt out landlords, and I will tell you, it's true. It can be a nightmare, you know? So now, as a mobile home investor, I've learned how to balance that, but not having that mortgage and buying these mobile homes for cash, actually puts less strain on me financially.

When I have to evict a tenant, money's not coming in because this tenant's not paying. There are issues, with the home. I gotta do repairs.

It just kind of lessens the burden on me. I just can't imagine some of these real estate investors in California who have these crazy large mortgages on their home. You miss one payment. I mean, that's a whole paycheck to some people, you know?

Yeah. If you have to fill the home and it's empty and you don't have it filled with a tenant, so it's crazy. . Yeah.

Elle Martinez: Okay. So there's a couple things I'm trying to like order my questions . Sure. Cause we had a lot of good ones there.

First of all, let's talk about like buying a home because I know many are familiar. They bought their home that they're living in. Is there a different process or mindset when you go in and you're buying an investment for you, your process with that?

Rachel Hernandez: Yeah, absolutely. As a first time homeowner, if you're buying a home for yourself, it's completely different than buying an investment because as an investment, you are looking at how can this make me money?

To me, an investment is more of an asset because it puts money in your pocket. Whereas I know a lot of people are not gonna want to hear this. Your home is a liability. Because it's taking money out of your pocket.

Now we always hear, from the banks, like, no, your home is an asset. To me, it's not an asset. I learned this from Robert Kiosaki in his books. It's actually a liability because it's taking money out of your pocket. You gotta think about that.

When you're buying a home for yourself, you're looking at the home, you're looking at the location. Mm-hmm. , you're looking at, can I actually live here?

But you're not looking at it from an investment perspective. How can I make money off of this home unless you do that, but that's different philosophy. My own philosophy your home is not in an investment because it's just a place to live.

Whether you buy a home or you rent a home, it's both a place to live versus an investment.

You're figuring out, you've gotta have this extra strategy. How's this gonna make me money? Either I'm going to sell it to a retail buyer and fix it up. I'm gonna sell it to an investor, like what I did wholesaling or am I just gonna rent it out and become a landlord? So that is your exit strategy as an investor.

As an investor, you're thinking how generate a profit so you're looking at it from a business perspective versus buying your own home. It's just for you, but you're not looking at it as a business perspective. That's just my thoughts.

Elle Martinez: Gotcha. Yeah, I, I think it does take a mindset shift when you're looking at that. I was talking to some others about what they had noticed as a difference was when it's your home, even though you might do your own repairs and it's a fixer upper.

You're still like looking for I need this layout. It's you, you, you. But like you mentioned, you really, I mean, this is a business so you. Is this a place that functions for whoever I'm trying to rent out to? Is this gonna be feasible?

You mentioned, the realities. Again, I love that you're being transparent. You got good tenants, they pay, this is great. Things are flowing. And then you have bad tenant tenants.

I know there's no way to completely avoid bad tenants but for you through the years, what are like some processes or filters you put in place to make sure that you find first of all, like a good investment and then second, finding those tenants?

Rachel Hernandez: Yeah. The good investment it comes with experience. Honestly, what I can say to everyone listening on this podcast, there's only so much you can learn your education.

I do believe in education, reading books, listening to podcasts, watching videos, you know, in this case real estate investing, but there's gonna be a point where you actually have to take action and that is where you learn the most.

What I love about real estate is like you don't have to be the smartest person in the room. You don't have to have a lot of money. You don't have to have a PhD in real estate to do this.

It actually levels the playing field. So what you get from taking action is experience, and that experience is where you learn the most. From that, you obtain knowledge, what gives you confidence to do more deals and get out there. It really is having the courage to get out there and take action.

And I will be honest, I mean, I've been rejected a lot by a lot of sellers on the buying end. Like, no, I'm not gonna sell you this, but you just kind of have to brush it off. It's part of the business. If someone doesn't have that personality to be confrontational. They can always bring in a partner or work with someone.

Like what I did as a wholesaler. I have the experience because I was in sales. So I can take rejection, pretty much. On that end you just have to have the courage.

The only way people are gonna get that is by taking action and by taking action, you get to learn the market, you get to network, and you just get better.

There is no, educational university for real estate, despite what other people think with all these real estate gurus. You just gotta get out there and learn your market, figure out what you wanna do, and then just, keep learning as you go. I know that's very vague, but it's actually worked for me.

Elle Martinez: I understand. As an investor, are there some wins that you're super proud of or some hard, learned lessons that you picked up through your years of investing?

Rachel Hernandez: Sure. Probably my win that is the most memorable is my first mobile home deal. Yeah. And basically this deal came from, of all things, a flyer, I physically passed out in a mobile home park cuz I buy these homes in the parks most times.

This family called me, there was no for sale by owner sign on the home. Mm-hmm. , no one knew it was for sale, and the wife called me and said, ‘listen, we wanna move out of the park. We're looking to get into a regular home. Would you be interested in looking at our home and coming over to see if you would buy it?'

At that point I was like, ‘okay, sounds good.' And this was my first deal was completely new in mobile homes. I had the real estate investing experience in single family homes, but completely new to mobile homes.


I was like, okay, how much are you asking for the home? I mean, it's a natural question. And the wife paused and she said, ‘you know what? We don't wanna talk about that on the phone because we'd feel more comfortable if we kind of got to know you. And you came over for that.'

I was like, I've been told by many, many mentors and also these real estate groups spout out all day long. If they're not willing to give you a price, they're not a motivated seller.

Mm-hmm. I thought about that and I'll, but then I thought, you know, What have I got to lose? I haven't even done one mobile home deal if I passed this up. It could always be what if? What if? What if?

To make a long story short, I went over there. The reason why they didn't put a for sale by owner sign in their home is because they didn't want a bunch of people to go through the home and make it dirty, okay?

I went through the home. I negotiated. I got the home. It was, I believe it was a two bedroom, one bath. I think believe it was 1985, and I got that home for $3,600 cash. They even cleaned it. I filled that home in two weeks, sold it for 10,000, and with a nice starter family, they gave me a thousand dollars as a move-in fee, and then they paid me $250 a month for the next four and a half years.

Wow. So what did I learn from that lesson? You never know what's going through the seller's heads. So had I not gone over there and listened to what all these gurus are saying, or some MA mentors in the past, and they only tell me this because of their experience, but I could have a different personality than them.

You know? That's what I've learned. Then I may not be here on this podcast talking about mobile home investing. It may have never happened.

Elle Martinez: Wow. That's so fascinating. That's great that you were willing to take that risk. Again, it's like calculated risk. You had some experience already within real estate. I think that's fantastic.

For someone that is thinking about it, maybe it's on their radar getting started with real estate investing and they're also just curious about mobile home investing. How can people reach out to you?

Rachel Hernandez: Sure. Well, I do have a podcast. It's called Adventures and Mobile Homes. Really easy to remember and find on any podcast player.

I have a website, adventures in mobile If anyone wants to learn about mobile home investing, I do offer a free class. If you are interested, check it out.

As for real estate investing, my advice is to pick a strategy and figure out where are you at this point in life.

Do you want to build up cash so that you can eventually buy and hold properties? Or can you buy properties now, but you want to have them for cash flow?

So do you wanna be a landlord? Or do you wanna be like, what I did BirdDog and a wholesaler, figure out what your strategy is. And I do have a book, it's called Real Estate Investing Sucks, how to Find Your Niche and Dominate.

Basically, from all my experience as a real estate investor, the most successful people are the ones that actually have a niche, and mine is mobile homes.

In terms of mobile home investing, my recommendation is to, pick a niche, stick with the niche and then learn it as much as you can.

It's funny cuz I did have a mentor when I first got started. She was local in my area. I met her at a real estate conference.

She had never done anything in real estate investing. She just picked mobile homes. She just read the, she just read up all the books on mobile homes started it. And she was a corporate executive too for a tech company. And we just had similar back.

She's like, you could teach me a lot because you have more experience than me.

I'm like, I have, I don't know anything about mobile homes. She's like, Rachel, it's not that different. You know, I was coming from single family homes. Yeah. That's one of the things I do and she just stuck with it all this time. That's all she did. She's done great for herself.

Basically stick with a niche. And if you wanna check out that book, I have a whole series of books. Real Estate Investing Sucks. Then if you are interested in learning about mobile home investing, I have a book, adventures and Mobile. How I got started in mobile home investing and how you can too as well too. So that's just my suggestions. And of course, listen to podcasts like this.

Support the Podcast!

Thank you so much for listening to the podcast! If you enjoyed this episode and found it helpful, here are some ways to support it.

  • Spread the word! If you enjoyed this episode and think it can help a buddy get on the path to dumping debt and become financially free, please share.
  • Join our coffee group ☕: Get access to exclusive behind the scenes videos, chats, and more!
  • Leave a review. Honest feedback and reviews make a big difference and gets the word out about the podcast. Leave your review on Apple or Stitcher.
  • Grab a copy of Jumpstart Your Marriage and Your Money. My book is designed for a busy couple to set up their finances in four weeks. Get tips and tools that have worked for other couples on their journey of building their marriage and wealth together!

Photo by Mikhail Nilov

How to Design a Beautiful (and Low Maintenance) Garden

Do you want to start a garden this year, but are you've been bad with plants? Here are my best tips on how to design and grow an easy garden!

Learning to Grow a Garden

Before we get into gardening, I want to be upfront about something- I used to be the person who kept cacti around because it was the only plant I could keep alive.

It's true.

I am not someone who naturally has a green thumb. This is something that I had to build up from and learn.

Good news, though, is now I'm hunting through seed catalogs each season, picking out what we're going to grow. I enjoy seeing how much of our own food we can grow from the garden.

Obviously, this was not an overnight process, but surprisingly, it wasn't as hard as I thought.

A key part of me enjoying gardening is by starting off small and going with easy to grow plants. With some small, but powerful wins I was motivated to dive into this new hobby that I love.

The good news is if I can do it, you can do it.

If you are thinking of starting a garden, but you're worried about your skills or if it's gonna be a lot of work, I want to help you out.

I want you to have an incredible and awesome year of gardening without a ton of hassle. So in this episode, we're gonna get into how to design your garden so that it's productive. Yet easy to How to decide which plants to grow.

And some of my favorite garden tips to get you started on the right foot. We have a lot to cover. So let's get started!

In this episode, we’ll get into:

  • how to design your garden so that it’s productive yet easy to maintain
  • how to decide what to grow
  • some of my favorite garden tips to get you started on the right foot

Hope you enjoy!

Resources to Easily Jumpstart Your Garden

If you’re ready to start growing your garden, here are a few of my favorite resources and includes what we covered in the podcast.

If you’d like to chat more your family and financial goals, please join us in our private and free Facebook group – Thriving Families.

We’re families looking to support and help one another out.

Hope to see you there!

Thank You to Our Sponsor Coastal!

Support for this podcast comes from Coastal Credit Union! Come check out Coastal today if you’re living in the Raleigh Durham area and looking to bank better.

As a credit union, Coastal serves its members first and foremost including an annual loyalty bonus.

We've been members for years and love their service and competitive rates on checking and savings accounts!

Support the Podcast!

Thank you so much for listening to the podcast! If you enjoyed this episode and found it helpful, here are some ways to support it.

  • Spread the word! If you enjoyed this episode and think it can help a buddy get on the path to dumping debt and become financially free, please share.
  • Join our coffee group ☕: Get access to exclusive behind the scenes videos, chats, and more!
  • Leave a review. Honest feedback and reviews make a big difference and gets the word out about the podcast. Leave your review on Apple or Stitcher.
  • Grab a copy of Jumpstart Your Marriage and Your Money. My book is designed for a busy couple to set up their finances in four weeks. Get tips and tools that have worked for other couples on their journey of building their marriage and wealth together!

Photos by Huy Phan and cottonbro studio

Finding Work-Life Balance By Switching to Part-Time Work

Want to have more work-life balance in your life? Today we’ll explore how the principles of FI can help you make the transition to part-time work!

Finding Work-Life Balance as Parents

Work- life balance can be a struggle for parents, especially if your kids are young.

You wand to have this time with them, but you also have to take care of the essentials like bills. Or maybe you have a job you really enjoy, but it’s very demanding of your time. You want some flexibility so you can work, but still be there with your little ones.

What if you want to work, but just not the traditional full-time?

Our culture and the way office work is structure makes that difficult. Family first employers can be hard to find. It’s an all or nothing approach.

Part-time work is regulated to lower paying work, which may not be viable for families.

It’s almost easier to just have one stay home while the other works full-time.

If you want something different, in most cases, you have to carve out your own path.

We had to do that and so have other families.

Which is why I’m thrilled to have Marriage, Kids, and Money creator and my buddy Andy Hill on the show. Andy and his wife Nicole have carved out that path of family and work that’s flexible and allows them to work part-time and hang out with their kids.

In this episode we get into:

  • conversations you two need to have create a plan you’re both happy with
  • how to use principles from FI to build flexibility so you can switch to part-time work
  • key financial milestones to help prepare you for the transition

Hope you enjoy!

Resources to Pivot Your Career

If you’re ready to jump into the year and knock out some of your health and wealth goals, here are a few of my favorite resources and includes what we covered in the podcast.

If you’d like to chat more your money system, please join us in our private and free Facebook group – Thriving Families. It’s a group Andy, Andrew from Family Money Plan, and myself run as a team.

We’re families looking to support and help one another out.

Hope to see you there!

Thank You to Our Sponsor Coastal!

Support for this podcast comes from Coastal Credit Union! Come check out Coastal today if you’re living in the Raleigh Durham area and looking to bank better.

As a credit union, Coastal serves its members first and foremost including an annual loyalty bonus.

We've been members for years and love their service and competitive rates on checking and savings accounts!

Switching to Part Time Work with Andy Hill

Elle Martinez: I think this is a great conversation to have, especially going into 2023. A lot of families are trying to reset things. We've had a crazy, to say the least go last couple years.

We've had to prioritize just making sure that everything is flowing but I think we're all to kind of taking a step back and hoping, Hey, can I get back on track? Can I reset and pivot?

And I saw this post episode, and I instantly thought, okay, I have to have Andy on, which was talking about part-time work and still having that time with the family. I think this is a conversation a lot of families want to have, but they're not sure how to go about it, right?

Because full-time work that's understandable. Working from home parents, remote work. Got that, but how do you transition to part-time work?

I know for me, being someone who works part-time as a career. I enjoy having the extra time, but let's be real. It, you can't just snap your finger and have it happen. So Absolutely. I'd love to dig into this.

First of all, who came up with this idea? Was this always a part of your financial journey or was this something that as you were paying off the debt, and I know you knocked out that mortgage, you said, okay, let's explore this?

Andy Hill: Yeah, I think for the longest period of time it was just, I was just a full-time employee and I just thought that's what you do. You just have a job and it takes up the majority of your day and your week, and you spend more time with the people at the office than you do with your, actually your actual family or your friends or your loved ones. And that's just what it is.

Then when you started to do some of these wild things like, you know, pay off all of our consumer debt or student loans, our car loan, and then eventually pay off the house and you realize that you're growing the gap between your income and your expenses quite a bit.

What if you just didn't need as much income then because the gap could be closed? So that's something sort of flipped in our heads being like, okay, well if we've got the retirement stuff set by saving and investing through those employer plans for so long, and Roth IRAs and HSAs and things like that. And then we paid off all the debt , what do we need to make a bunch of our money for?

If we've got our retirement set and we definitely need to make money because we gotta pay for our bills, we gotta pay for the food, we gotta pay for the bills. You know, gotta pay for the, this crazy inflation that keeps going up but we don't have to hustle hard forever.

I think there was a few epiphany moments. I think the pandemic was definitely one of them. I finished my full-time career and then I jumped into a life of entrepreneurship and I'm like, I'm gonna take this to the moon as well. You know, like, Hey, I'm gonna make a million dollars.

And then the pandemic happened and it was like, well, why ? Why continue to push, push, push, push, push what's it four? And I think that that great pause that we all got with the pandemic was, was nice. It was sort of a reset to say, ‘What do we want the next 20 years of our lives to look like?'

And you know, God willing, we have 20 years to move forward. Are we utilizing the time we have right now to the best of our ability? So I think that's when part-time work got interesting.


Another reason I think that part-time work not only got interesting but realistic was I really kind of fell for this fire movement thing for a while of like, I wanna push so hard that I don't have to work ever, you know, and it sounds really romantic and cool and, but man, I would say that is difficult for 99% of our world, our country, and our world.

I think the reality of, I like the idea of financial independence and, being able to have more time, but I think if you're able to do some work that you enjoy and have that time freedom. I think that's the best of both worlds, and that's what we're pursuing as a family right now.

I currently have the opportunity to work part-time and my wife went back to school to become an esthetician. So she's seeking out part-time employment right now.

Elle Martinez: That's awesome and I love that. We're like you, we're a CoastFI family and we've had similar conversations and I think it's important to bring that up.

Of course, at the beginning when you're in your financial journey we had the credit card debt. I know when we started off I had to pay off the debt before the wedding, and then we had the car loan student loans. And so there is, and I get this, there's an intensity, right?

Your focus, you're trying to knock that out, but with your financial journey doesn't have to be off on switch, especially with financial independence.

I know it is a very popular topic. Like we retired in X amount of years, we're free. But I think the, like you said, more realistic, but I think also the more flexible and enjoyable path is after you do knock out a lot of that unnecessary debt and you're evaluating, you know, having these conversations along the way, finding, are there more options a and B that I've always heard about or been given and are there ways to explore that?

I think sometimes we get on that path and it almost becomes the extreme, like, before we weren't paying attention to our money, we got into debt, and now we're paying too much attention to the money and the number and chasing it.

And it's like, wait, wait, wait. And you have two kids like I do too. Yes. At at, at some point. It's like, I wanna enjoy the time I have with my kids. They grew up way too fast. So yeah, having that ability to maybe slow down worth work is incredible. And you laid out in that episode the steps and the process that you take.

I definitely recommend, if you haven't already, I'll put it in the show notes. Check out Andy's post an episode. But I wanted to talk about two key steps.

The first one, and you mentioned a bit about this, is growing that gap. I think a lot of families struggle with that. Like, where do I start? How do I one earn more? How do I pay down my expenses. How did you guys first approach it and maybe tell me which one was harder, earning more, or optimizing those expenses.

Andy Hill: Yeah, absolutely. I think at the beginning of our marriage we got together and we were living for today, having a great time, enjoying all that our late twenties had to offer, and having a great time.

We had no gap, you know, so we had $130,000 coming in. I think I was making 60, she was making 70, something like that.


And we were using all of it for fun, which is great. I mean, it was just us and we were enjoying ourselves and we were newlyweds. When we learned we were gonna be parents, that's when something said, okay, we gotta pay attention to things a little bit more because we've got a human coming into the world and we want her to have a great life. So that's when sort of conversations happen around growing that gap, not just everything that's coming in is now going out.

What can we do to save a little bit for our daughters? 5 29. Okay, that gap's gotta be a little bit bigger. What can we do to eliminate our student debt and my car debt?

Okay, the gap's gotta be a little bit bigger for that too. And then save and invest for our retirement so that we don't always have to work or what if we're not able to work or if we get laid off in, in our fifties or sixties.

Those conversations started to happen a little bit more. So we needed to grow the gap. I guess first things first is have a need, have a why, have a have a reason to actually want to grow the gap. But growing that gap between your income and expenses creates a. Power. It creates your ability to do things that you never thought were possible, right?

‘Oh, wow. Didn't think we'd be able to buy that house, but we grew the gap so we have enough saved for it. ‘Or, ‘Hey, I never thought we'd become millionaires by the time we're 40.'

Well, that's because we grew the gap and we're able to invest and, and get things that we needed to get done. So I guess the hardest part, to answer your second question of that, is probably the increasing income part.

I would say based on my nature, I sort of have a…. I don't know, frugal side of me. So it's like, hey, if I need to not go out to dinner as much or cut back on grocery spending or negotiate some bills or whatever. Mm-hmm. , that's kind of like a hunt for me, I think. And so that becomes a little easier for me.

Or sell some stuff around the house on, you know, Craigslist or Facebook marketplace and you know, get a quick thousand bucks. Just like easy things like that, you know? So lowering the expense is a little easier for me. But yeah, the harder part is, is going and earning more, but it's probably the more important and, and more effective part which is tough.

If you're looking to increase the income, the quickest place to start, instead of saying, Hey, I wanna start a whole business and do all these different things, it's like, where are you currently earning money and could you get more money? Like do you have a job where you maybe haven't gotten a raise in a while or do you have the opportunity for overtime at this place?

Or can you get a bonus? Can you get commission? Do you have a client you've been working with for a while that you can say, Hey, I'm interested in raising my rates cuz we've been working together for a while and I believe you enjoy this situation. So those are difficult conversations. Mm-hmm. , but Woo man are they effective when you're looking to grow the gap!

Elle Martinez: Yeah, absolutely. We're working from home, so people like, oh yeah, you would obviously, put that as first piece of advice, but I absolutely agree with you. If you have a nine to five, first of all, it can be either a tool to help you reach your goals faster, build new skills and everything. But yeah, negotiating, seeing if you can get some flexibility. Talk with your manager. Start building up a portfolio. This is something that you have, especially when you're a parent.

It's like, do I have the time and energy, depending on how old your kids are and where you're at professionally, to actually grow something from, the bottom up. I think that's a good piece of advice.

I also love how you talked finding that balance and you found it to be a game to cut on expenses, but I'm curious, one of the benefits I would say with financial independence and freedom is it kind of forces you to prioritize, right?

You're gonna be cutting certain things, but then on the other side, you are going to be defining. , I'm going to keep this expense. I might, minimize it for now because I gotta pay down debt, but these are my must haves.

For you guys, what were those? What was that line for you and Nicole where you said, no, no, we need to put aside some money for

Andy Hill: this?

Yeah, I think there were some difficult moments when we were. You know, working our way up this debt free ladder, mortgage free ladder, Coast Fire Ladder, where I got pretty excited about it cuz I'm a numbers guy and I get really geeked about it and she, she gets equally interested, but as long as I talk about the emotional benefits or the payoff, like why mm-hmm.

why are we doing these things with all the numbers? Like what's the purpose of it? So there was some points in time where we'd be looking at the numbers and I'd be like, well, you know what this cleaning lady. I you know, you're a stay-at-home mom right now and we got this cleaning lady. It just seems like an unnecessary expense to me.

Ooh, that did not go well, Elle. And you know what I didn't do? I didn't really empathize with her situation. She's got two kids. at home that she's taken care of. Maybe, I think there were probably four and two at the time. Like really? I mean, beautiful, beautiful kids. Yeah. But difficult lot of work. Kids are kids. So a treat of somebody coming over and doing a deep clean your house once a month, it's not really that lavish.

And so when I poked at that little piece of an expense that became a very touchy subject for for her, and I'm quickly realized, wow, that's something that's very important to her.

And. . It hasn't come up yet. It hasn't come up again, . But I guess my point is, is that there are things that I really would feel super passionate about if she brought up and said, Hey, you know, that's not that important. Mm-hmm. to me either. And I would defend them. , but I think the point of the conversation is that we need to step in the shoes of our partners, Uhhuh , to say if it's important to them, then it's important to me.

And obviously there are lines you gotta draw as a couple, as you have these conversations. But I would try to go at it with an empathetic heart to say. , it might not be. It might be something that I think is completely silly, but really, you know what? That's not, that's doesn't matter. She thinks it's great or he thinks it's great, and so it's great for me.

So I think, I think having those conversations and a budget and some conversations around sitting down to look at a budget could open up those conversations in a friendly way as opposed to doing it in passing, which I've done many times and it does not go well for our relationship.

If you could dedicate time to specifically talk about these important things about growing the Gap, saying, okay, where are some areas that we could maybe work on so that we could eventually get to a part-time lifestyle, maybe in five, 10 years from now those can happen with some scheduled, specific time.

Where the kids are maybe not hanging on your legs to speak to that. Do you have that problem

Elle Martinez: too, ? Oh, you know it, sister.

Yeah. I mean, and, and that's the thing with family. It's all. Balance and I feel, well, I like that word balance. And at the same time, I think the reality is like we have seasons and cycles when you, you have kids and you're working, but I love that you're saying set aside time for conversations.

Cuz I'm a big believer in that, you know, I love the money date. I know you do budget parties, but kind of taking the tension out.

For me it was making sure it is regular enough. Mm-hmm. that we're having these conversations that it doesn't feel like it's the money talk.

I feel like if you only save it for special occasions, that's when you get a little more stressed out. You feel like you mentioned defending yourself with these expenses, but saying, Hey, you know, this month went well. I was looking ahead. Did you? This expense is coming up, or maybe we can cut back. Having that space, like I love how you guys are open about it saying what you you wanna say, and then yes, sometimes there's gonna be a little pushback on either side and understanding, okay, well maybe we need to go back to the drawing board and find a compromise we're both happy with, or we just keep it as is, but you won't know until you have those conversations.

Kind of breaks me to the next part. So conversations are great. You're making progress, you're getting ready to transition. I feel like this is a different, like another pivot point. Mm-hmm. , how did that conversation go with you and Nicole? Did you do like one at a time or how did you decide to make that, because I know like every family kind of calculates it differently.

Andy Hill: Yeah. We've had varying times in our relationship mm-hmm. when we've gone both full-time workers mm-hmm to ladder down to a single worker and then back up to, to full-time. And then now we're in this position of could we both be two half-time workers? You know?

I think that's how it, it's how it started for us. So we were both working full-time and then we got to a position of financial strength where I was making some good money at my job and we had paid down all of our debt.

It was the point in time when we had our first child. We figured, hey, Nicole could have the ability to work part-time. So that was, that was sort of our step into it.

That was much better than saying both of us are fully retired, or one of us is fully retired or not working anymore. It's a step down and it's a lot easier to get used to, just like all these financial steps that we do. It's easier when it's in small incremental steps as opposed to being like, let's do it all right now cuz it's very stressful.

We went from two full-time workers down to one full-time worker and a part-time worker with Nicole, and then eventually full-time stay-at-home mom. So she did that for about five or six years. So we had one full-time worker. And with that, I'll be honest with you, and I've been honest with her about it too, it was stressful.

It was stressful to own 100% of the financial responsibility. And I did it, you know, I'm like, you know, prideful, I'm working hard. Yeah, I'm gonna grow my income. And but after a few, four, five years, I'm like, And I kind of bottled that up a little bit and I didn't really share it with her how I should have.

And sometimes I would explode, you know, and it would be no good. It would be one of those things where I'm like, well, you should know, but I didn't share anything with her . So that's when things like marriage counseling would, would really help us out because. Our counselor would help us to say, well, Andy, all those things that you're thinking that you conveyed to her, you didn't.

So let's have that forum to be able to have that conversation. So we found that, yeah, 100% of the ownership, the financial responsibility is tough, even if you're making good money.

Honestly, on her end, 100% of the, of the, of the parenting or the, the stay-at-home mom duties is also very stressful.

We found a little balance after that act where I went down to leaving my corporate full-time job and being a part-time stay-at-home dad at a part-time business owner and Now we are both in that train. She's decided to go back to school and learn a new trade because after finishing the stay at home mom thing, she went back to advertising and it was like, this is not for me either.

So now she's gone back to school to learn to be an esthetician, which is somebody does like facials and things like that, and she loves it. Yeah. So now she's seeking out part-time employment.

So that'll be two part-time workers, which will make one full-time worker together, which is great because it's like, okay, we are one collective here as a family.

So we've gone essentially from two full-time workers down to now one full-time worker over the 12 years of our marriage because we've done these things to grow the gap and have some, yeah, financial strength. We're not saving as much as we used to at all, but because we're not saving as much as we used to, we now have the ability to own more of our time.

Elle Martinez: Yeah, absolutely. I love this because you, you're kind of carving out your own. You're finding, this is where I'm happy. This is the kind of mix as you could say, with, professional paid work, taking care of the kids, spending time with them.

She's going back to school and I love that she went back to work, realized it's not for her.

Yeah. And then she said, okay, let me find a different path. And you guys were able to work as a family and create a plan. And I think that's flexibility is what a lot of families are looking for. And while financial independence, a lot of stores might be shared about, oh, we retired in, you know, 10 years, or we did this crazy side hustle and made six figures.

I think the bigger takeaway are the stories where families are creating meaningful and memorable, lives for themselves, however that looks for them.

Maybe you do wanna travel in an RV with your kids, or maybe you just wanna stay put and be next to your family, right? And have that network.

There's so many different flavors to fry and I sometimes taking the word independence and just put freedom, just having some more freedom, whether that's money, but more importantly, in the end time, To spend with whoever or whatever you wanted do.

Andy Hill: Yeah, that's a great point. And I think the funny thing, and I think I'm part of the problem too is it's hard to quantify what we're describing right now. So it's difficult to share and draw people in because I think as humans, we really like to see something that you can measure at least I do. You know, where it's like, Paid off that much or saved that much by X age.

It's something that we could quantify. You know, quantifying time ownership and quality time with family and quantifying happiness. That's a lot harder to do because it's personal and there's not a lot of numbers associated with it.

So I think the conversation we're having right now is a little bit more difficult to quantify. And therefore people are like, well, if it's not a $5 million net worth, what are you doing? What, why are you even, why are you working part-time? You could make, make making more money. It's like, hmm. It's hard to quantify .

Elle Martinez: Yeah, exactly. Oh my goodness. I know we just scratch the surface, Andy and I would love to chat with you some more but for those that are listening if you haven't already subscribed to Andy's Podcast, marriage, kids and Money, it is a holistic approach. It's not just, retiring and becoming financially independent.

It's enjoying the journey as well.

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Building Connections: Networking Tips for Busy Parents

Learn how you can get back into the swing of things and effectively network!

Why You Need to Rethink How You Network

For better and worse the pandemic has shifted how we work. For some families, working from home has now become an option. That’s blessing for sure.

Some companies have shifted how they communicate, with in-person meeting being replaced with chats, emails, and video conferencing.

However, there’s benefits for in-person events like conferences and team strategy sessions for a big project or to connect with coworkers.

With in-person events opening back up, you may feel a bit rusty with essential skills like networking.

Whether you’re an entrepreneur, remote worker, or back full time in the office, it’s vital to your career, and believe it or not, your joy to brush up on those skills.

That’s why I’m thrilled to have Michelle Jackson on the show today. She’s an author and content creator and the founder of The Brand Building Lab where she helps entrepreneurs dial in and design a profitable and authentic business that positively impacts their community.

I’ve known her for probably 10 years now and I can tell you she has a gift for connecting with people and networking.

In this episode, we’ll get into:

  • why the old model of networking doesn’t work
  • where and how you can organically connect with people
  • how to develop a strategy that’s a effective and fun

Hope you enjoy!


If you’re ready to jump into building your career and finances, here are a few of my favorite resources that we covered in the episode plus more.

If you want to chat more about creating better money habits, questions, or share your own tips, please join us at Thriving Families on Facebook. We’d love to see you there!

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Effective Networking is Building Connections

Elle Martinez: One of the things I love and respect about you is you have a great reputation in our original space, the FinCon space, the personal finance space for being someone who's just genuine fun to be around with, but also an effective networker.

I wanted to first jump into that because I feel like this is a skill that maybe post-Covid, were a little rusty on.

We're going back to in-person, events and working with people again. For you, have you always been like a natural networker or was that a skill that you've built upon?

Michelle Jackson: I wanna actually change how we're referencing this, which is relationship building.

I feel like when we say networking, it feels very like mechanical and stilted and like I get images of going to a cocktail bar and wearing, you know, a really cute cocktail dress, which I don't own because I've gained weight over Covid and I have to use Rent the Runway now as I try to lose weight.

Like just, I don't network. I build connections authentically, in organically with people. I think that would be a better way to kind of frame what I do.

The Effects of The Pandemic with Networking

Michelle Jackson: I've always been pretty good at connecting with people, but I do wanna say even though I am a natural extrovert, during Covid, I have definitely become very solidly an ambivert.

In the sense that I notice that there are times when I just get tired of people faster than before.

Now I will say, I'm an extrovert, a lifelong extrovert, but I'm an only child and so I would be social and then I would be fading away prior to Covid. Covid just made that tendency a lot more pronounced.

But because of how I approach connecting with people and just connecting with people.

I think that there's room to organically meet people where they're at, including yourself when we are in these professional spaces.

What I would say to anyone listening to our conversation as we get further into it is ask the question, how would you meet people if you could never go to a conference?

I think it's just a completely different approach, like how would you meet people in the content creation space that you're currently in and never attend conferences.

How to Approach Conferences

For context, I now alternate the years that I attend conferences so, Any conferences that I attend in 2023, I will not attend in 2024.

This has not harmed my visibility in the space. I see people all the time. In fact, today as we record this episode, prior to getting on the show, I was sharing how some mutual friends of the FinCon space will be in town. I'm gonna have, you know, cocktails and happy hour with them.

So I think my first question would be how are you meeting people if there's no conferences?

For a lot of people you've been doing that because of Covid, especially if you are observing, protocols. For me, I have only so much capacity and I do not want to go everywhere.

For conferences, like I'm very like, particular about the conferences that I attend. I want to enjoy the location. I wanna be excited about it.

I wanna feel like the content makes sense for me to even be there cuz I've been in the content creations space for a long time. Like it has to make sense to get me on a plane from basically the middle of the country to fly around.

The last conference that I attended, it took five hours to fly back because I live in Colorado, so it was almost five hours. That's not including once I arrived at home, like at our airport and getting home.

So for me, it has to really make sense to do these things, which is part of the reason why I emphasize connecting with people in other ways.

It's so much better, it's so much less pressure and I'll just get off my soapbox.

Finding the Right Spaces to Network

Elle Martinez: No, I think you bring up a lot of good points and one, we do have parents who are starting to build something on the side, either for a career pivot or for their specific financial goal, getting outta debt, saving up for a house, or, doing something else.

Then your advice about connecting with people, not just networking, I completely understand. A lot of people have like a bad taste in their mouth when they hear networking, but it is a necessary skill too if you have a nine to five, because I don't think people realize how important it is when it comes to promotion.

Even if you go job searching for another position, having your network there for you, letting you know about openings that might not be advertised. are great opportunities to build up your career.

I know, we're gonna be focusing a little more on entrepreneurs and freelancers but a lot of this advice is really helpful for families that are looking to get ahead with their nine to five career.

So, wanna take another step back. What you were saying about if you couldn't go to conferences, how would you network.

Let's say someone, it's been three years, what are some ideas or starting points for someone who is trying to, maybe a resource to find, like I need to develop my relationships and networks within the community that I'm around.

Michelle Jackson: Again, I kind of think of it this differently.

Right now there is a epidemic of loneliness in the United States and across the world and partly because of the impact of Covid, if we've been shut off and cut off for one another for a long time.

The reason why I keep kind of pushing back on this idea of networking is it takes a community to do a thing, right?

You would be surprised at the most unexpected people who may be a resource for you or related to someone that they connect you, that they could connect you with, because it's just they like you and they're like, oh, well my cousin so-and-so does this thing.

I'm gonna give a couple examples of how in regular, everyday life this can happen. If you're a nine to five, if you're an entrepreneur, it doesn't matter.

This is just making connections with people in an authentic and organic way where they're sustained over time and they would actually want to share things with you.

So simple things like what do you like to do for fun? What do you enjoy? There are different, and this is a very Colorado example, but there are so many different outdoor experience clubs, if you will. So if you like to ski, if you like to hike, if you like to work out, there's all these different communities that you can join for free here in my state and beyond.

Using to Find Your Community

Michelle Jackson: A good example of that is actually. I absolutely love It is a community of communities.

Basically that came out of 9/11. They created because people were like, we don't have a sense of community and we're feeling really apart from one another. was a great way for people to create all these different interest focused meetups and and then it grew from there.

I've attended meetups in the US in Australia. They've just been amazing. What I like about them is they can be very, very, very niche.

So you could have multiple interests, you could be interested in. I actually, am in an online marketing community for women here in Denver. But there are FinTech meetups, so I go to the FinTech one.

There's podcasting meetups. I go to those. It's great because when they schedule an event, I see if it works with my schedule, and then I go, I don't have to pay.

It's just like a, a great thing. Maybe I buy a drink when I'm there. I don't have to dress up because here we don't really have to do that. It's just super low key. If we're going hiking, Same thing. I just go and sign up and I go hiking.

Consider Professional Development Opportunities

Michelle Jackson: The other thing I would say is, you know, again, talking about interests especially from like a professional standpoint where you're really trying to grow and expand in your area of expertise or your field that you're working in?

Anytime you can do a professional development program, say yes. There was a program on my campus that was professional development program and we were in a cohort for a year.

We got to go to conferences as a part of that cohort and mine was in Bozeman, Montana. It was phenomenal.

It was just a really amazing way to meet people who were aligned with what I was doing. They were my colleagues across campus and it was just cool.

What I would say is you could also look into that at your organization. There are fellowships you could apply for. You don't, just because you work for people doesn't mean that you have to put all your cards into them, like you don't need to put all your eggs in one basket.

You could apply these kind of communities where they could support what you're trying to do and expand your learning and then they become a community that you're a part of throughout the year.

I apply for fellowships and a lot of times with fellowships, you're part of a cohort.

I just feel like there's more than one way to meet people, and I feel like that's the part that people are missing.

Think Outside the Box with Networking

Michelle Jackson: It's just like there's this whole thing now where people are trying to date, right? They're always trying to date, but this is like a new thing that came up and they're like, wait, I don't have to use an app.

I can just go to Home Depot. And I'm like, Yeah, you can or you could be a part of a pickleball, pickleball league or corn hole if you're in the Midwest or here, like corn hole. Or maybe you like snowboarding. I feel like, yeah. Meeting people doesn't have to be work.

And a lot of times in these conversations, that's how people approach it and so it's painful. I would say the other thing is this- if you're a part of a community, as a creative, like we are there are a lot of different online meetups that they're hosting in state meetups. If people are coming to your state, Connect with them, but there's big caveat with that these are people that you've been in touch with for a while.

You know people are crazy, so you have to have discernment. If a person seems like a weirdo, they probably are, but if you've been in touch with someone for a while, and you're like, this is a person that I can transition from online to offline. You do have to do that thoughtfully.

You're meeting in a place with lots of other people. Maybe there's other people with you. I've made some really amazing friendships transitioning from online to offline but I do have some very strict ways to do that because I don't have time for crazy people.

I just would say there's 1,000,000,001 ways to meet people and expand your network, and most of them do not involve wearing a cocktail dress. I love to dress up and whatever, but it is cold today, right?

At the time we're recording this, it's freezing cold. I'm not gonna dress, wear a dress to meet people cuz I'll freeze. I totally get that.

Elle Martinez: Yeah. You're negative seven. So don't do that. Choose life. Yes.

But I I do appreciate you saying that cause I think we have kind of gotten out of, we have to get out of that mindset where here are my professional interests.

Therefore, when I meet people it's gonna be in this very strict setting that you can expand it, that it can be more organic. What are your interests? Because there's a benefit just in so many ways you learn and grow from each other on that.

We can meet people outside of conferences, but let's talk about conferences because that's still a big part.

I know like in our space to meet potential partners. Again, learning about what's going on in the community, great way to learn new things, trends that are going. How do you do it without one being exhausted, and two, how do you choose the conferences?

You said, you're not gonna be going every year to the same conferences. You're being very thoughtful and discerning.

How to Choose Which Conferences and Events to Attend

Elle Martinez: A lot of in my community are parents with kids and quite frankly, it's like if I travel, I want to make the most out of it. I do wanna enjoy it. How do you do it? I'm just curious about your thought process.

Michelle Jackson: So I am at the point in my online content creation career, if you will where there are certain things I'm really looking at. Does this event make sense for me at the point that I'm in with what I'm doing?

Like, have I heard that the content will be at a level that, that I will learn something. If I go there, will the attendees be great to to meet?

They're all the attendees of every conference are almost always like amazing. But for me to get on a plane and to fly across the country or whatever, It takes a lot of energy and so it just, there's just certain things I have to make sure I check before I say Yes.

Is it affordable? I am not trying to pay thousands of dollars to go to conferences. My goal is to make money when I attend a conference and to always be in the black. So any financial investment that I make when I attend. I have to recoup that money within that week or within a month of attending. Whether that is like a business partnership or something has to happen.

I just don't go to go. I go and it has to make sense. Is the audience aligned with the audience that I wanna be front of? Is there someone speaking that I'm like, wow, this is a really good opportunity to get in front of this? Like to see this person and hear what they have to share.

Do I like the community? Do I like and resonate with the community? I typically like most of the communities, but sometimes it's just like it's not quite the right fit.

Yeah . And so that's something to kind of be aware of as well.

Are there opportunities to highlight and share your expertise and that could be as a speaker, that could be if you decide to host something unofficially outside of the window of the event. So there's a lot of different things that I kind of look at.

One event that I'm attending this year, it will be the last time I go because I've been attending this event for a really long time. I see the people all the time. It's like family.

And so I think there's another thing to consider, which is like the life cycle of the event. I have done side hustles at conferences and it's interesting because they're some of the best side hustles, by the way. But it's interesting because you'll meet people who are like, yeah, I've been going for 15 years and I'm just like, you know what? Like you don't need to go for 15 years. Like this could be, maybe

Elle Martinez: at that point they should give you a free ticket. , you're like the

Michelle Jackson: mascot.

Oh my God. So for me, I don't wanna be doing anything for 15 years in a row. We're good.

I wanna also say that in 2024, I've decided not to attend any conferences partly because when I experimented with alternating years, it was just like phenomenal. And also it didn't really impact my business at all.

Like I had the capacity to implement what I was learning at these events, and then also to deepen the relationships that I was making with the people that I met.

I think that that's something that we don't talk enough about, which is going to conferences is , but there's a lot of information that we're taking in and I feel like most people don't give themselves enough time to actually implement what they're learning.

I think some people are kind of addicted to going, and so to me, it's like, again, I have other places I can go without like, all this, the obligations that come up with attending a conference.

I think the other thing too, to the second part of what you asked, which is how are you meeting people and connecting, you have to make these events small and quite frankly, if you're doing it right, you're still gonna be because meeting people is tiring.

Like this idea that you're not gonna be tired, I think , is not realistic. You're traveling to a new state or place, that the travel alone is tiring. You're talking with people you know throughout the day. Even introverts who talk to just a few people, they're gonna be tired.

Even extroverts, like everyone thinks that extroverts don't get tired. They get tired. And there's a point where you're like, where'd the extrovert friend go? They're taking a nap. You know, or, or

Elle Martinez: they lost their voice. .

Michelle Jackson: Yeah. Or they lost their voice. Which I have done. And so for me, what I tend to do at, at large conferences in part, especially I make it small.

I go to coffee meetups, like they always have these fun little things you can do if they're, if they're designed well conferences typically will have all these, smaller things that you can do, like a coffee meetup or a run or go to happy hour with a really niche group within the group.

I really focus on those things. This is the other reason why I'm so picky because a lot of people will arrive early to a conference and by early, I don't mean the day that it starts.

I mean, a day or two before it starts. So a lot of the events that I attend, I'm going one because I like the location. That's huge and so I'm gonna attend for a week because I wanna experience the location I wanna build in time so that I can meet with people in a really like, relaxed way without being rushed because maybe they're gonna be speaking and they're really well known.

We have friends that people follow them because they have fans like that. And so if I know that about them, I'm building in the time to really network in a way that's really like relaxing.

A good example of this is last year, I feel like it was last. Was it 2021? I think it was 2021. I was at an event in Austin and Austin's amazing right? Eating tacos, hanging out. And we went to I wanna call it Barton Springs. I feel like that's, is that Barton Springs? Yes. No. Yes. It's this cool massive pool.

It's a massive natural pool in the middle of Austin and we just hung out and swam and, you know, slid along the, the like slimy bottom . Cause the bottom is kinda slimy, but it was just so, such a great day.

That's how you meet people. You go swimming, you relax, you explore. That's what you do. That's how you network and make really authentic connections that are, yeah, pretty stress free because how relaxing is it to go swimming and floating around and just like relaxing and then go for tacos and drinks, like that's what we did that day.

That was one of the highlights of the conference and those people are a big reason why my revenue grew actually over time because they shared some insights into their business.

Again, the moral of the story, the lesson is have fun with people and keep showing up.

Support the Podcast!

Thank you so much for listening to the podcast! If you enjoyed this episode and found it helpful, here are some ways to support it.

  • Spread the word! If you enjoyed this episode and think it can help a buddy get on the path to dumping debt and become financially free, please share.
  • Join our coffee group ☕: Get access to exclusive behind the scenes videos, chats, and more!
  • Leave a review. Honest feedback and reviews make a big difference and gets the word out about the podcast. Leave your review on Apple or Stitcher.
  • Grab a copy of Jumpstart Your Marriage and Your Money. My book is designed for a busy couple to set up their finances in four weeks. Get tips and tools that have worked for other couples on their journey of building their marriage and wealth together!

Cashflow FI: More Flexibility with Your Money and Schedule

Want more flexibility with your budget and life? Learn how mastering your cash flow brings you closer to financial independence and freedom!

How to Have More Options with Cashflow FI

It can be a challenge to break out of the paycheck to paycheck cycle. One recent survey found that 64% of Americans are in that cycle; that's nine and half million more than 2021.

You might be thinking that it is because of income and for sure that’s a major issue, but your income is only part of the equation.

Fortune reported that over half of Americans earning $100,000 or more are living paycheck to paycheck.

Again there are various reason why people are struggling even with a healthy income and we’ll cover a few of them here in future episodes, but one big factor is they haven’t taken the time to prioritize their spending.

Whether you’re looking to pursue financial independence or something in the more traditional time frame, you have to master your cash flow.

When you have a gap between what you’re spending and earning while still enjoying life, you’re giving yourself more options and flexibility with your budget and schedule.

It’s not automatic though, it’s skill you have to learn.

That’s why I’m happy to have Cody Berman on today’s show.

He's the co-founder of the Financial Independence Show and the co-founder of Gold City Ventures.

In this episode, we’ll cover:

  • why financial independence is more than just leaving the rat race
  • diversifying your income in a way where you’re not trading your time for money
  • why Cody is focused on cash flow FI vs waiting to hit a more traditional FI number

We have a lot to go over, so let’s get started!

Resources to Hit Your FI Number Faster

Ready to knock out your debt? Check out these tools and resources to easily manage your family’s finances!

If you want to chat more about creating better money habits, questions, or share your own tips, please join us at Thriving Families on Facebook. We’d love to see you there!

Thank You to Our Sponsor Coastal!

Support for this podcast comes from Coastal Credit Union! Come check out Coastal today if you’re living in the Raleigh Durham area and looking to bank better.

As a credit union, Coastal serves its members first and foremost including an annual loyalty bonus.

We've been members for years and love their service and competitive rates on checking and savings accounts!

Support the Podcast!

Thank you so much for listening to the podcast! If you enjoyed this episode and found it helpful, here are some ways to support it.

  • Spread the word! If you enjoyed this episode and think it can help a buddy get on the path to dumping debt and become financially free, please share.
  • Join our coffee group ☕: Get access to exclusive behind the scenes videos, chats, and more!
  • Leave a review. Honest feedback and reviews make a big difference and gets the word out about the podcast. Leave your review on Apple or Stitcher.
  • Grab a copy of Jumpstart Your Marriage and Your Money. My book is designed for a busy couple to set up their finances in four weeks. Get tips and tools that have worked for other couples on their journey of building their marriage and wealth together!

How to Be Happy with Your Money and Enjoy Life

Do you have a huge financial goal you’re chasing, but you’re not sure how to fit it in with everything you have going on right now?

Learn how you can be happy with your money and your life!

Finding a Healthy Balance with Your Money and Your Life

One of the biggest challenges when working on family and financial goals is finding that balance.

It can be easy to go from one extreme to another without even realizing it.

Before we started knocking out our debts, I wouldn’t say I gave much attention to finances.

However, there’s another extreme where you’re completely focused on your financial goals. It can get to the point where you say, ‘We’re going to do this when we pay this debt off, or have this much invested, or XYZ‘, you get the idea.

This approach can rob you of joy of the journey and can add undue stress to your family.

Taking care of your family and financial goals can be enjoyable. It can also be more holistic, improving different areas of your life, including social, mental health, and more.

That’s why I’m thrilled Jason Vitug is on the show today. He’s the author of You Only Live Once, and his new one one, Happy Money Happy Life.

In this episode we’ll:

  • look at finances through a holistic lens
  • share how you can make sure that you're enjoying the journey
  • how to take care of yourself and your family

We have a lot to cover, so let’s get started!

Resources to Find More Balance with Your Health and Wealth

If you’re ready to jump into the year and knock out some of your health and wealth goals, here are a few of my favorite.

If you’d like to chat more your money system, please join us in our private and free Facebook group – Thriving Families.

We’re families looking to support and help one another out.

Hope to see you there!

Thank You to Our Sponsor Coastal!

Support for this podcast comes from Coastal Credit Union! Come check out Coastal today if you’re living in the Raleigh Durham area and looking to bank better.

As a credit union, Coastal serves its members first and foremost including an annual loyalty bonus.

We've been members for years and love their service and competitive rates on checking and savings accounts!

Happy Money = Happy Life?

Jason Vitug, the author of “Happy Money, Happy Life,” emphasizes the importance of financial wellness, which goes beyond just achieving financial goals and milestones.

Financial wellness is about living a purposeful life that aligns with your values and desires. He believes that financial wellness is not just about wealth, but also about mental, emotional, and social wellbeing.

While money is a tool to build a life you love, it should not be the sole focus of your life.

The pandemic has highlighted the need for a conversation about financial wellness, and Jason hopes to start this conversation by sharing his story and the stories of others to help people understand that money is just one component of a happy life.

Here's a transcript of our conversation, edited for clarity and brevity. You can also watch our interview on YouTube!

The Intersection of Money, Health, and Happiness

Elle Martinez: I do think there needs to be more conversations about that intersection of money, your health, all facets of that, your life and how it fits in.

On one hand, I feel like in the personal finance space, there's a little bit of an extreme, and I get it. Like many of us have started with debt, and so we have that intense focus at first, right?

But then you get into the cycle and you're almost just chasing the numbers. At a certain point it's like, well, what are you chasing? Are you chasing your FI number? Are you chasing, I need to have this amount in my bank account. Why?

What I've always appreciated and respected with what you've done, Jason, is you've highlighted. ‘That's good. Get your finances in good spot, but always remember your why.'

Even in this book you talk about financial wellness, but then also I love this a purposeful life.

Like what is your money doing for you? I say on the podcast, money is a tool and use it like such. It's not the goal, it's a tool to build a life that you love.

Let's just start off with that term, financial wellness. What does financial wellness?

Understanding Financial Wellness

Jason Vitug: I love that because when I started talking about financial wellness over a decade ago, people looked at me like I had 10 heads. They're like, financial wellness, like how does that even, like, how are those two words together?

I knew back then that it was much more than financial numbers, that it's much more than these milestones associated with money that ultimately, we set these financial goals, these milestones.

because we wanna live a specific life and we tend to take away or take out that conversation of like, what type of life do you actually want to live? And that has a lot to do with cultural, societal marketing pressures on kind of setting these goals.

Just like when you talked about all these people, with tremendous amount of debt.

I was in a tremendous amount of debt and I figured my way out of it and realizing achieving debt freedom isn't the answer to kind of like what is missing in my life.

Certainly that was a distraction from what I wanted to accomplish, but once you achieve your financial milestones, it's so essential for us to understand underlying why, and so when I go out there and I talk to people about financial wellness.

It is about your health. It's about your wealth, it's about the overall quality of the life that you are living so you can be the richest person in the world.

Some of the richest people in the world are suffering mentally and emotionally. They're suffering socially and, and all these other aspects of their wellbeing.

That is the message that I have spoken about for over a decade. And I continue to talk about, but now I'm adding layers because more and more.

They do wanna talk about money. Yeah. But they also wanna talk about how money relates to other aspects of their life. And I think this is like primetime, especially what we've all gone through in the last couple of years. With the pandemic and the shutdowns and, and how that's affecting so many aspects of our lives.

I really wanted to kind of hone in on this conversation and say, Hey, listen. There's a foundation that we can start with and let me share my story.

Let me share the stories of other people so you understand that you're not alone and that money is just one component of this happiness piece that you're searching for.

Once we can fully have this amazing conversation about your finances, we can then dive deeper into these other things.

Enjoying Your Financial Journey

Elle Martinez: Yeah. Oh, there's so many good points there. I think for me, like in in my community, a lot of us are parents with young kids, and so something that resonated with me and with others and that I appreciate about you is getting your finances a good spot, but enjoying the journey.

You talk about milestones and reaching it, and I cheer on any family that they're paying off, the unnecessary debt or working towards financial independence.

But sometimes I feel like in the personal finance space, the way we talk about it, it's almost like an on off switch. Like, oh, my problems will go away. Or if you have this, you'll have the life you want.

What you've been doing is saying, Hey, as you're getting these pieces in place, options open up, opportunities to say yes to things that you really wanna do, and also you have a little more freedom to say no.

Just thinking with the pandemic, unfortunately, if a family was not in a good financial space, many of them had to make choices like their physical health and, and risking, while going to work. Or taking care of their family.

I love how you go with the nuances and as you say, the layers. Cause I think finances are – I know it sounds cliché – it really is personal.

What is important to you in that season of life? What is your priority right now? And having those conversations with yourself, with your family, that way you can kind of hone in on what is the best next step for you.

I'm really thrilled about how you're approaching this book.

Change is a Part of Life

Jason Vitug: Absolutely. Because that's a key thing, is that our lives changes and it changes because of the decisions that we make and the choices that we make, but also with external factors we have no control over.

I think it was a wake up call for the majority of people in this world in terms of there are things that we can control and things that are out of our control, but people who had their finances in order were able or better suited to weather the pandemic.

Now, that doesn't mean they had it all together because I have spoken to so many people and I've written their stories in happy money, happy life, those who were financially well, who weren't mentally or emotionally prepared wow.

Or who became socially isolated, how that affected their happiness and their wellbeing, and ultimately affected their finance.

So they came in going, ‘I'm in a good financial situation and eventually finding themselves in a financial mess because mm-hmm. , other aspects of their wellbeing wasn't taken care of.'

Then there were others who were suffering financially, but they had a strong social network, a deep connection with their family deep connections with their friends, and they were able to weather it quite better in other aspects of their wellbeing.

So for me, getting the book out and getting this message that finances is really just one component of our wellbeing. And then there are other aspects.

It's the eight dimensions of wellness. So when we talk about your wellbeing, it's not just finances, it's mental, emotional, physical, environmental, spiritual, occupational and social wellbeing.

In the book actually wrote about these wellness dimensions and how money weaves itself. Yeah. Through, through all of it and how we can utilize money to improve different aspects of our wellness.

And so like the whole premise is that money can buy happiness when we spend on wellness.

One thing I want people to understand, Wellness is what you do today. It's not what you're thinking of what you will do five years from now, 10 days from now. It actually is, how are you taking care of yourself today?

So when you're talking about my first book, yolo, which is, you know, that whole premise that you can have a good life today while planning for a better tomorrow.

This is part of that conversation to say, well, yes, we need to take care of ourselves today. Wellness is really about an active pursuit and so we can't say,' okay, I'll take care of my mental health later on once I get my money together. I'll take care of my relationships with my parents later when I get my money together.'

Because, you know, anything can happen. And so part of that is saying, okay, well, not to overwhelm. But if we can focus and understand and quantify all the aspects of what makes you, you, you can then utilize your time, your resources, your finances in a way that will positively affect your experiences, your joy, your happiness.

Building Flexibility Into Your Finances

Elle Martinez: absolutely. And I love that because like you mentioned, we all go through like different seasons and cycles and one thing I Appreci is when you have a certain area in a good spot, you can kind of take your foot off the pedal and give attention to this.

For example, we'll use finances, like when you have your financial system mostly automated, right? So you can take care of the bills, your investments, your savings, whatever. That gives you time.

Okay. I need to have time to focus with, for example, like our kids when we had to do the remote learning, that was an adjustment. But it was good knowing, I took care of this so now this season let me take care of this.

It is a bit of shifting and changing but tho those are good things cuz you grow from them, you learn from them. A lot of times is as you're improving this, you take something from this that will help you in this other area. But I love those dimensions that you brought up with your heart, your relationships, social for you.

You've seen people who've done tours and believe you wrote like it took five years researching this and looking into this. Yeah. What were some of the bigger mistakes you noticed or patterns and habits people were having that was sabotaging their progress?

Whether it's finances or just overall their wellness?

Focus on Your Why, Not Just The Goal

Jason Vitug: Yeah, so one of the key things, I think we, we talked about it earlier on, which is just focusing solely on financial numbers.

Mm-hmm. . So people have this idea that once we reach a financial goal or that milestone, it solves everything. And it does not.

I've talked about couples who believed that once they achieved their financial independence number, that they were golden, like everything was gonna work out.

So I shared a story of a fi couple. They're quite popular and I won't name their names cuz they did talk to me in anonymity but one of the key things was they talked about achieving this fi fine number, sacrificing all the joys to reach it sooner rather than later.

And then coming out in the last couple of years that they were getting a divorce and realizing that their focus on achieving financial numbers. Took them away from actually developing their relationships, getting to know one another through the process.

And so both of them said, if I can take this back, because they both care about each other. Mm-hmm. .

It was just realizing that if we can take the time back that we wouldn't be as aggressive in trying to achieve this fine number. We would've spent time to go out, explore. We would've gone out on more romantic dates so they can get to know each other through the process.

They realize that they had all these financial dates. And I think a lot of money people talk about you need to have a financial date with your partner and have these discussions. I think that is essential. But all your dates shouldn't just have to be about numbers. yes. We should not be about numbers.

I think that is the general kind of consensus within the personal finance space. Like everything has to be filter solely by finances.

When you get your finances in a way, and I'm not talking about achieving financial independence, I'm talking about when you get to your finances where you feel comfortable, you feel a bit secure.

We need to get to a point where we need to start addressing all these other aspects of it. It's like the romantic aspect of a relationship, not just the financial aspect. And so that's one of the stories that I shared because it was really important.

I think we highlight these financial milestones and we see it in social media, and we see it in traditional mainstream media.

And you'll say, oh yeah, someone who's 28 achieved financial independence and then when you go and you have these one-on-ones, and I mentioned to you that, and you mentioned that I've traveled all across the country.

I get these private conversations with people and they know I'm the guy who talks about happiness and joy and money, and they tell me, I don't know how to be happy and I achieve the numbers, but how do I let go of it?

That's part of the programming and an obsession. And I get it, money is stressful and yeah. But there are other things that, that we can do. So with that said too, like I really bear it all in this book.

Like , you thought I shared things during my talks or my first book. This one, I really bear it all.

When we were talking about family and finances, I really wanted to share very specific story that relates to money and trying to filter everything through money.

So my mom and I, we were planning to go to the Philippines to go visit my grandmother, my Lola. Yeah. And this was before the pandemic 2019. And so we were gonna go around the holidays and my parents being in a very specific like fixed finances, they're retired and their preexisting conditions and things like that.

Well, I told my parents,' oh yeah, we can go. I can go with my mom and we'll travel the 24 hours to get to the Philippines.'

And of course during the holidays it's very expensive to travel, you know? Yeah. 10,000 miles away and I decided kind of blindly, it's like, ‘oh, we can, we can kind of push it.'

And me talking to my mom and she's like, ‘yeah, I think that's too expensive to go during the holidays. Mm-hmm. let's wait a few months. Let's wait in April. ‘

Oh. And we all know what happened in March of 2020. Wow. So 2020, everything closed. We were unable to travel.

My grandmother passed away in July, 2020. And so for me that was a reminder to stop filtering everything based on finances and the last conversation and I recall having with my mom was like, ‘oh yeah, we, we got a good deal to go in April versus going in December.'

And I can tell you right now, I would be willing to pay that thousand, $1,500 extra per ticket to be able to go hug my Lola one last time. Yeah.

That was kind of one of those things where I, I push back and I remind people, I'm like, listen, I understand we all have financial constraints.

We all have financial goals and, and finances. Mm-hmm. , whether we agree with it or not, is woven into our society in a way.

It's very hard to extract ourselves from it, but when we get to a point, we really have to assess things, not just through the financial lens.

I tell everyone, I'm like, oh, yeah, I value family above all else. But I'm gonna tell you, in that decision, I put finances over family values. Mm-hmm.

I share that and continue to hold that in my heart and my spirit to hopefully remind people that I understand that there are financial predicaments.

But if we can have a more holistic conversation when it comes to your life, let's have that.

Because there, there are, and I've learned this, there are many ways for us to, to earn back the money. Mm-hmm. Might not be easy but certainly we need to get away from filtering every decision solely based on money. Yeah.

Elle Martinez: Wow. I really appreciate you sharing that. I know that's, that's incredibly tough.

Mm-hmm. . But it's a reminder for all of us, to prioritize. I know I've struggled with that. Writing about finances over a dozen years, you're around people who talk about finances but not forgetting the important things, the people that matter in your life is absolutely crucial.

That lesson that you learned, do you think that motivated you to take this trip that you most recently, like, don't wait, don't put it off.

Jason Vitug: Yeah, it, it, it did and I think, mm-hmm. Part of that was me going on my last trip to a place, to a location on Mother Earth that I've always wanted to go.

I love history going to Greece, going to Istanbul and Israel and, and Petra and Jordan and the pyramids in Egypt.

Like all this were, were childhood dreams and for some reason I held off doing that. Don't ask me why. Like I have been to so many parts of the world and I love to travel. Don't ask. And I'm still asking myself like, why did it take me this long?

I think part of it was something I've always wanted to do as a child and being able to do it. I was like, okay, I'll, I'll, I'll get to it. I'll get to it at the perfect time. I'll get to it when I'm not working so much.

I'm not going around and doing speaking gigs, or I'm not writing a book or what have you. And I said to now is the perfect time.

And it may not be, quote unquote, the best time because it's right in the middle of launching my second book, but it was like the perfect time because I needed the mental, emotional and, and physical Focus in terms of like taking some time off so I can, I can kind of process things.

So yes, that definitely did play a role in it. I still did get a bargain on this trip. I mean, seven countries four or five weeks traveling and it didn't bust the budget. So those things are still really quite possible.

But my whole aim and goal was mm-hmm. . when, trying to find the time to do the things that matter and that's most important. And that reinvigorating me to go out there and, and share this message of holistic wellness and reminding people that, yeah, the perfect time is often the time that we just choose to start.

Elle Martinez: Yeah. I know sometimes it gets lost in a shuffle when you're talking about like financial independence or financial freedom because it's not about the money goal, it's buying back time or getting that time so you could decide how you're going to use it.

I think that's incredible. When I was looking at your pictures, first of all, you know, definitely Instagram worthy for the trip. I was like, oh my goodness. It's so gorgeous the pictures you were taking. But I sense, you know, I didn't know the story with your grandmother or anything beforehand, but I sense like it was a deeper trip that other than, Hey, look at me.

I'm here, I'm taking the picture.

there was joy with yours, pictures, there was this all. I mean, you were just like there taking it all in and it somehow like just came through the comments and the posts that you were putting there. I was definitely inspired. I was cheering on.

Jason Vitug: That's awesome! Can I tell you, when I walked up the Acropolis in Athens and being one of those like reading so much ancient Greek mythology through the years and. I couldn't stop smiling, and if you look at my photos and videos, I just, I couldn't stop smiling and I'm still smiling right now.

And a lot of that had to do with as I mentioned, is just being immersed in it for so long and wanting do it, and finally being there and taking the moment to kind of just sit and stare at the Acropolis.

And yes, it, it did get emotional for me and just thinking about what happened in the last two, three years.

Cuz I go I like to tell people that, a lot of us that have kind of public facing personas and businesses mm-hmm. We tend to focus on the positive aspects of of things, and that has just a lot to do with also keeping ourselves going through, through the daily grind.

But I like to tend to share with people that I'm very reflective. Like I do a lot of self-reflection. I do a lot of reminiscing and sharing my thoughts. Yeah. So whenever I do travel, it's not just so, Hey, look at me at this wonderful site. It's, this is the experience that I'm having and this is the thoughts that are running through my mind.

This is the joy that I'm feeling in my heart. Yeah. And part of that too, . It's kind of to emphasize also my message and my philosophy with others that mm-hmm. things don't have to be going right all the time.

Everything doesn't have to be falling into place for you to do what matters to you and sometimes doing what matters to you puts everything right back where it needs to be.

You come back reinvigorated and the problem that you thought was insurmountable, the problem or the issues you thought you couldn't get through, now you have a whole set of new perspectives and so I'm a big believer in travel.

I'm a big believer in having conversations with awesome people like yourself and, oh, thank you and kinda listening to podcasts and reading books because it provides our mind new inputs, new data, where we can then assess our current situation differently.

I say this because one of the dimensions of wellness, Is mental health, mental wellness, which I call happy mind.

What I've learned is that it is essential for us to have new experiences. It's essential for us to push the boundaries of our thoughts to constantly learn, and we can learn through podcasts, through audio books, through reading books, through conversations, through workshops and seminars.

We need to keep putting ourselves out there and one biggest things that people can do is travel, and you don't even have to travel across the world, you can go to a neighboring city or town and kind of figure out, hey, what's this town known for?

Let me gain some experiences and have some conversations with some locals and, and things like that. So part of that is going, you don't have to wait for the financial number.

You don't have to wait for the perfect time. It's just a matter of prioritizing what's important to you and finding the time and the resources to make it happen.

Elle Martinez: Absolutely. Wow. This is a great way to end the conversation, but there's so much more to talk about.

But definitely grab this book. Happy Money, happy life. The theme this season of the podcast, Jason's actually living reaching for your rich life. Yes. And it's not just the numbers with it, but actually enjoying it and having those experiences.

As you mentioned, like everyone has something different. It could be travel. I know some people love to garden, write, read, you know, there's so many different dimensions to us besides, where we work at.

Jason Vitug: I do wanna add one thing and because this is, you talk a lot with family, and so I want pe people with families I think we all have families in some capacity whether you're in a relationship, you have kids, you have your parents I live in a multi-generational household. I think many of us Yeah, do as well.

One of the key things that I've realized, is that when we prioritize experiences, when we prioritize creating memories, when we prioritize things that that add value in our lives, it actually enriches the lives of the people in our household.

So when I'm traveling, my parents are excited. My siblings, my nieces are all excited and so don't look at treating yourself. And, and kind of following your dreams as being selfish.

Think of it as in a way of being selfless to yourself in terms of, okay, like you, you get that opportunity to live your rich life. Define what that rich life is. Because once you live that rich life, it actually starts affecting everyone else.

I want families to take that in and say, okay, well there, there are financial goals, but understand you want to figure out how to have those experiences with your families, how you can create more memories cuz memories appreciate, stuff depreciates.

Focus on the things that appreciate over time, the things that they can carry over with them because those things last forever.

Support the Podcast!

Thank you so much for listening to the podcast! If you enjoyed this episode and found it helpful, here are some ways to support it.

  • Spread the word! If you enjoyed this episode and think it can help a buddy get on the path to dumping debt and become financially free, please share.
  • Join our coffee group ☕: Get access to exclusive behind the scenes videos, chats, and more!
  • Leave a review. Honest feedback and reviews make a big difference and gets the word out about the podcast. Leave your review on Apple or Stitcher.
  • Grab a copy of Jumpstart Your Marriage and Your Money. My book is designed for a busy couple to set up their finances in four weeks. Get tips and tools that have worked for other couples on their journey of building their marriage and wealth together!

Photos by Daniel Torobekov and Tatiana Syrikova