Category Archives: Financial Independence

Cashing Out: Creating a Flexible Financial Plan That Fits Your Family

Looking to pursue financial freedom on your terms? See how Rich and Regular founders Kiersten and Julien Saunder's new book Cashing Out can help you lay out a path!

Why Your Family Needs a Financial Plan

When I mention this idea of having a financial plan, people tend to imagine is only for those who already have some money. But that’s not true.

There are many families that can benefit from creating a financial plan. 

Here are a few that come to my mind:

  • you’re feeling under-appreciated and underpaid at work
  • you want to have flexibility, leverage, and options when it comes to how you work
  • the pandemic really threw your finances for a loop and you’re looking to get back on track
  • you’re sick and tired of the opportunities (or really the lack of them) that are out there for your family
  • the idea of financial freedom and independence is something that excites you because it means you’ll have more time for the people and projects that matter most to you

These are all situations where having a flexible financial plan makes sense. The trouble is that financial plans seem complicated, unattainable, and well, boring. 

Here’s the thing – you can create one that reflects you. Your situation, your priorities, and your goals.

Kiersten and Julien from Rich and Regular are on the show to share some thoughtful points and stories from their new book Cashing Out: Win the Wealth Game by Walking Away.

It offers a framework and path based on key principles in financial independence and retiring early on how to build your family’s finances in a way that opens up options.

In today’s episode, we get into:

  • Why money matters and how to use it in a meaningful way for your family
  • The challenges and triumphs of changing financial habits and mindset
  • Aligning your finances to your priorities

Hope you enjoy!

Resources for Families Interested in Financial Independence

If you're looking to get ahead with your finances as a family, here are some resources to check out!

Join Our Thriving Families Community on Facebook to chat with other families and swap tips and stories about working towards financial independence.

Thank You to Our Sponsor Coastal!

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

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

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

Rollover Your 401(k) Easily with Capitalize

We’re grateful for wonderful partners like Capitalize. Not only do they support the podcast, but they help make managing your money so much easier. 

Did you know that it’s estimated that there are currently over 24 million “forgotten” 401(k) accounts? In fact, the average American changes jobs every 4 years

And because of the Great Resignation, you or someone you know might be changing jobs even more 

It’s an extreme case of out of sight and out of mind. Is your old 401(k) in there somewhere, left behind at a job you're no longer with?

One huge benefit with an IRA is you get to choose how your money is invested, not your old employer. 

If you want to consolidate your old 401(k) and have more options with how you invest, it may be time to roll them over into an IRA.  

With Capitalize, they handle the process from start to finish – for FREE. Yes, that includes calling the 401(k) provider on your behalf. 

Find out how and get started today

Financial Freedom By Cashing Out

Elle Martinez: Last time I chatted with Kiersten Julian on the podcast, we talked about real estate investing. One of the things I immediately appreciated was how they gave an honest account about the pros and cons of managing a property.

One of my goals on this podcast is to be honest about family finances so you can be better prepared.

With their book cashing out. Julian and Kiersten take a similar approach. Yes, it does address the mechanics of financial independence and freedom. But they don't discuss finance in a vacuum. There are a lot of ties into the real world. And that struggle of juggling all your different goals, taking care of your kids. And in some cases, helping out your parents.

That's actually how the book begins. Both of them had a parent get hit with a health crisis. That opened up their perspective about so many things including believe it or not money.

Kiersten and Julien Saunders: Those particular stories that we share are not just personal, but I think there's stories that a lot of people, especially working professionals deal with. I also think, unfortunately as one of those things that just continues to catch people by surprise.

Especially when you're parents, you are so like head down focused on your children. You kind of forget to think that your parents are aging, as well. As the age, they tend to have these health challenges that don't just disrupt their lives. They disrupt your life as well. Depending on their situation, you could impact how you spend your money, right?

It was really just a wake up call for us. In Kirsten's case, it was her father being a hit with cancer. In my case, it was my mom facing some pretty intense blood pressure issue and she wasn't quite able to kind of solve it. The good news is they both have got over the hump.

As we started thinking about that and asking them questions, what we really learned was that like, they come to what to do, right? Like they weren't surprised by any of this stuff. And it's not to say that they're bad people or that they irresponsible. I think what it really does is it just highlights that this is kind of, part of the human experience is certainly a part of American culture.

In many cases, we know what to do when it comes to money. We know that we're actually spending more. We know we should probably be asking certain questions, but all of the other parts of life kind of get in the way. And as a result, you kind of end up in a sticky situation. We just thought that there was an interesting parallel and something that a lot of people could actually identify with.

And so sharing that story we hope that people can kind of see themselves in that situation as well.

Family Finances Is More than Just the Numbers

Elle Martinez: I know reading it. I definitely connected with what they were saying. I mentioned before that during the pandemic, my mom moved Raleigh.

She wanted to be closer to the grand babies and us. Because she has respiratory and other health issues. I was the one physically out there with her real estate agent house hunting.

Thankfully we found the place within her budget not far from us. This decision in turn affects us and that we can drop off the girls for overnight stays with her. So again, Uh, family and finances are so much more connected than we realize. That's what I loved about the book.

It does take you through how to create a financial plan and have this vision. But the reality is finances, it's all in context. What's going on with your kids? What's going on with your parents. You have to have a certain amount of flexibility. 'cause you never know when you're going to get thrown a curve ball.

Another big moment I had while reading. Was seeing how their parents made significant changes with their habits. With both cases, a health issue was the motivation to get them to what they already knew they should be doing. With finances. It can be a bit of the same mentality. Change can be hard, especially if you're doing something significant, like working towards financial freedom or independence.

I was curious about how Julien and Kiersten themselves handled it.

Kiersten Saunders: I think for me, it was two of them because I'm in the camp of people who have always focused on income. And so earning money has never really been my challenge where I encountered challenges where some of them. That you're talking about now and then just the overall financial habits that I had.

My first one was unlearning the habit of always looking for validation from my friends and family. I would decide that something was a good idea. I would feel confident about and something like index funds or setting up a 529 for my son.

Then I go and tell people and I'd be really excited about it and they would come and express their doubts. I would take that as the idea of being less credible. So I had to unlearn the habit of seeking validation. Now I can share, and I really don't care if they agree or not, because I've already put this what I'm doing.

The second habit that I had to unlearn was my endless optimism. Not allowing me to save for things that I know inevitably would happen in the future. So it was more of a savings mindset. I think I thought of savings as like the absence of income. And so I was a good with an emergency fund, but I wasn't saving for things that would inevitably happen.

Needing new tires, needing to replace a refrigerator needing, like all the bad things that you can just don't account for that your goods and products don't last forever. You're going to need to replace these things.

As I started thinking about saving as money that I'm going to spend later, it became much easier to actually set aside for the things that I know I want to do. Take vacations. Update my wardrobe. So that's been hard for me to change, but that I've worked on.

Pursuing Financial Freedom in a Broken System

Julien Saunders: I'm in a similar boat. I actually had to confront my own issues with optimism. But mine wasn't necessarily around a habits. It was really around the workplace. I was very optimistic. You know, feel really good about the company or the department or company culture kind of based on some of these big splashy diversity messages.

I would always feel like change was coming. And I always felt like, things were just on the up and up and we were not going to be our parents' generation.

Then, life happens right? Really no different. It happens both outside of work and happens inside of work. And he starts to see and get confronted with things that you really have to do. I think for me, it was a huge reconciliation of uncomfortable truths.

The uncomfortable truth was that we'll be looking at the broader set of economic factors that were impacting the black community many of the those have not changed since the 1960s. So with respect to home ownership rates, like the same percentage of black people in the United States own a home today as they did in 19, in 1968.

There were studies that were coming out in the late 2010s that were talking about the pace of black wealth or median black wealth, which was actually slated to be zero by the year 2053.

Again, these were numbers that were slated prior to the pandemic. When you factor in the loss of homes, loss of income and all of these other things, it's pretty safe to assume at this rate, that things are actually going to accelerate that median wealth will be zero for the typical black family far sooner than 2053.

Very few people, wake up, wanting to talk about those things, but we really had to confront those things and say, all right, what does that mean for us? What are the likelihood that corporate America will continue to fail miserably at creating equality at paying people fairly for the work that they do and so on.

The effort for us, kind of all culminated Figuring out a way to ensure that we protect our finance to wellbeing and figuring out the way that we protect our relationship and our family in the event that history repeats itself.

Elle Martinez: Yeah. Honestly, it's frustrating in sad. This past spring, I was invited to speak on an online panel for mothers working to improve their family finances. And I looked at some similar data that Julian had mentioned. And I think this brings up a good point.

When we're talking about money. We cannot just focus on our immediate needs or immediate family, but look at the bigger picture in context.

This can help us to have more meaningful conversations about things that do need to change, but then also, how do we need to adjust our family finances to deal with the reality of the situation?

Why You Need Your Own Financial Plan

Elle Martinez: Every family is going to be different with what you're dealing with, what challenges you face. That's why personal finance isn't a one size fits all approach.

It's great to get information online and in books and podcasts like this, but just understand that this is just one piece of the puzzle. You really have to tailor it for your specific circumstances.

For example, in our family, we have two different cultures. Initially we didn't even consider this. But from there, we have different expectations about certain circumstances. For example, when our parents get older, what's going to happen.

And these are ongoing discussions. We try to be respectful and understand where each other's coming from, but that doesn't mean there aren't moments of some tension, some friction. That we have to work on until we find a compromise we're both happy with.

And we shouldn't feel like we need to avoid or kind of tiptoe around these difficult and maybe awkward conversations. In fact, this is an opportunity for real growth.

With our marriage and finances, they both improved. We were more honest and open about money and how we feel about certain things in the situation.

And yes, it does take time to work out a solution that you're both happy with. But it makes it more meaningful and it keeps both of you on the same page and on the same side.

I'm always curious about how other families handle their finances. So I had to ask Kiersten in Julian, how they approach their finances and talk about it.

Kiersten Saunders: I would say we're probably on a monthly cadence. Depends on the month. Sometimes as bi-weekly, when we're talking about the numbers associated with them.

A lot of times we're talking around money, we're talking about the larger factors that contribute to the way that we earn or the way that we spend. Those conversations are happening almost daily. We're talking about, the ads that we're seeing, we're talking about how credit cards are now positioning debt and new and innovative ways and how these new financial institutions are creating. Concepts that are really just old concepts you know, change names.

And so we're always talking about money and then we probably look at our personal finances bi-weekly or monthly on a regular basis.

I'll say we've never been lazier with respect to budgeting the name. I feel like that's a bit of an earned privilege. You just reach a certain point where so many of these things become Muslim or just flat out on a wearable.

I'm sure there's some, there are savings opportunities that we could uncover if we were to dive back into the budget, but to Kirsten's point, we're very fortunate in that a lot of these problems or challenges that we face are whatever my pop-up can be solved through income.

And so the business that we have and the position has allowed us to to tackle that problem by focusing in, on another part of the equation.

Yeah, it's an interesting, I'd never really thought about it. So you asked that question, but it is a by-product of not being under the fixed cadence of every other week.

I get a paycheck and it's the same amount. And I got to figure out how to pay the bills that I have within this month, within this fixed amount. We now understand that our upside, our earning potential is basically unlimited.

When we anticipate that there will be higher expenses, we've been turn up the income dial. When we anticipate that the income dial isn't doing what it's supposed to do, then we can turn down the expenses, but it's a very fluid relationship. I would argue to Julie's point. It is an earned privilege of being a business owner.

Better Conversations Around Money

Elle Martinez: Yeah; And if there was a time or reason to pay attention to your finances, I think these past two years were it. If you were making great progress with your finances before the pandemic hit. You were typically in a better position to have more leverage and make decisions that were best for your family.

Unfortunately, if you were just starting off your financial journey. From conversations with friends, family, and some of you in the community. It really was difficult. You almost felt like you were forced into these situations.

It literally was a matter of we're living paycheck to paycheck, and I need to take care of the necessities and take care of my family.

Many times on the podcast I say money is not the goal, but it's a useful tool. And I hope you see it that way. We shouldn't be chasing a particular number, but really looking at, ‘Okay. If I have my finances in a good spot. What are the options that I have to help me make better choices for my family?

Again, it loops back to having better conversations about money, making them more meaningful and deeper, focusing on your values and priorities and also consider what's going on with your day to day.

Julien Saunders: It's something that we actually talk about pretty regularly. Even within the black community, there's a lot of diversity that a lot of. I think people don't even really acknowledge this.

What I mean by that is while I do identify as black culturally identify as Caribbean and specifically I'm from Jamaica, which brings it's entirely different set of nuance conversations and beliefs.

And in some cases, even languages and approaches to managing money and respect and caring for elders and all of those things that Kiersten proves family is mostly from the south, from Texas. She didn't have any of those challenges. Right.

Then on top of that, you have the fact that we both come from two different socioeconomic backgrounds.

So she comes from an upper middle class, a dual household earning family. Whereas I come from a working class, borderline working poor single income family. I was raised by my mom for the most part. And so there's a lot of backstory there that obviously influences how we are in how we think about our lives.

But when we even look at our lives today we financially support my mom. She's sort of built into the budget. We've gone to the extent of bringing her closer to us so that she could have a better quality of life and such now. I see our son, her best friend only grandson. As often as she wants, she can pick them up from daycare.

She can come back for dinner, she can hang out with us on the weekends and she's literally just five minutes away. But that doesn't mean that it's always rosy, right?

Like it very much, it's still a part, a point of tension, just being honest. It's something that I struggle with because again, We know that we would just pull back just a little bit, right, and invest that money. We could expedite potential plan. So we could really put that money to, to other uses.

But having had a lot of conversations with people elders, mentors, it's one of those things that I think is truly priceless. So right now we categorize it as giving our son, the benefit of building experiences with his grandparents, which is something that we did not have.

I have entire sets of grandparents that I'd never even met, whereas our son has met his great-grandmother. We have video of that. We have video of his, Grandmother and great-grandmother being there at the moment he was born.

So all of these different things to take trips and, you know there are financial implications to it now, but I think in our book of our family, it's considered money well spent.

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Simple Money, Rich Life: How One Couple Dumped Debt and Became Financially Free

Learn how one couple came together to pay off $400k of debt, become financially free, and give over $1 million!

Simple Money, Rich Life

Let’s start off with some good news: You don’t need a complicated plan to achieve financial independence or freedom. 

In fact, that’s probably either slowing down your progress or keeping you from even starting.

I’ve seen and personal experiences how a simple plan can be an effective way to keep you moving in the right direction. 

Bob and Linda Lotich are on the show today to explain how. They’re the creators of SeedTime and the authors of Simple Money, Rich Life: Achieve True Financial Freedom and Design a Life of Eternal Impact

Linda and Bob are coming on the podcast to discuss how families can reset things and have a rich life.

I had a chance to read their book and loved how it had s money great takeaways. 

I thought Bob and Linda did a really good job of balancing the head and the heart with this. You have this story of getting out of debt and showing the bits and pieces, but more importantly, those conversations they were having about the purpose behind this journey.

Besides working towards financial freedom, the book also examines doing something meaningful with the money, especially on the giving side. 

In this episode, we get into:

  • how Bob and Linda synced up with their finances and goals
  • tactics and strategies they used and recommend to pursue financial freedom
  • creating an easy to manage financial system that allows them to live debt-free and be generous givers

Hope you enjoy!

Resources for Families Interested in Financial Independence

If you're looking to get ahead with your finances as a family, here are some resources to check out!

Don't forget we have the free course 5 Days to $5K. It's a week-long email course designed to help you find, save, and earn extra cash so you can reach your family and financial goals faster!

Thank You to Our Sponsor Coastal!

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

As a credit union, Coastal serves its members first including an annual loyalty bonus. We've been members for years and love their service and competitive rates on checking and savings accounts!

Rollover Your 401(k) Easily with Capitalize

We’re grateful for wonderful partners like Capitalize. Not only do they support the podcast, but they help make managing your money so much easier. 

Did you know that it’s estimated that there are currently over 24 million “forgotten” 401(k) accounts? In fact, the average American changes jobs every 4 years

And because of the Great Resignation, you or someone you know might be changing jobs even more 

It’s an extreme case of out of sight and out of mind. Is your old 401(k) in there somewhere, left behind at a job you're no longer with?

One huge benefit with an IRA is you get to choose how your money is invested, not your old employer. 

If you want to consolidate your old 401(k) and have more options with how you invest, it may be time to roll them over into an IRA.  

With Capitalize, they handle the process from start-to-finish – for FREE. They handle the process from start-to-finish, and yes that includes calling the 401(k) provider on your behalf. 

Find out how and get started today

Syncing Up on Money and More

Elle Martinez: In case you miss Bob on an earlier episode, discussing forming new habits. Here's a quick overview of how he started his financial journey with Linda. Those initial conversations, not only began setting the tone for their money but their marriage.

Bob and Linda: I think we need to start with the shoe box. All right. So we would explain the shoe box. It was kind of our first money conversation. I'm not great at setting up systems or organizing things, right?

Or spreadsheets. I I'm bored by it. I get lost in it. I get distracted easily by shiny objects. My filing system was a, well, it was actually like a file folder that I had in a drawer. That was not meant for filing.

Once that got overloaded and about yay thick, I would start putting things in a shoe box and then that would go in my closet. That was my official filing system.

So we are engaged and it is what it is. I know, but it's helpful because we're not like this anymore and it's valuable people were there. So we were engaged. We're not like this. I'm still like that around so much. So we're engaged and we get to that point where it's like, all right, let's have the money talk.

Where we both kind of like show our cards and reveal what's on the table and, Come and tell her, I was like, all right, I've had a lot of credit card debt, but I'm working to pay it off. I'm making some progress. I got a plan, blah, blah, blah. Then I say, all right, so show me yours. What's going on?

Then she takes a shoe box and just slides it across the table. I'm like, oh, what's this? I pop it open and we'll tell her to test. A lot of credit card on envelopes in there may be some of them on opened. Hadn't been looking at that is why at that point, you're getting calls from debt collectors in your parents' house while you're living there.

It wasn't a great start. So, yeah, so that was her start. I mean.

I was in a similar situation, does about three months ahead where I was living off of a credit card, living off a macaroni and cheese, you know, I had nothing else. And I had just kind of come to my financial head where I was just realizing I was a complete mess.

So we didn't have great beginnings, you know, and we came from middle-class homes and, you know, just buried ourselves in debt and doing silly things but that's where the journey began for us.

Talking About Money (without the Judgement)

Elle Martinez: I can definitely relate. When we had our first chat about money. I also, after we got engaged. It was an eye opener and to be honest, a bit awkward. Part of it is you're coming at it from a perspective of. This way of handling money makes total sense. But your other half is also thinking that.

What's interesting and encouraging from reading Bob and Linda story is how they felt comfortable enough to open up about finances because so many couples who are married or getting married. They have the shame and a lot of guilt and that stops them from really opening up and getting on the same page.

Uh, having a judgment free space where you can go over more than just the numbers. I can be a game changer. And this may be a new thing for one or both of you.

Bob and Linda: I mean, for me, honestly, I didn't grow up in a judgment free zone so it took me a little time. He was not judgmental. He wasn't trying to put shame or guilt on me for the mistakes that I had made in the poor decisions that I had made, but it did take me a while to get that off of me, because that was something that I grew up with.

It was like, well, you just kind of hide all this stuff. If you don't want anybody to know, you just hide it. And I think part of this is just growing in my relationship with the Lord where he doesn't put that on us and he doesn't want us to feel ashamed in front of him.

And Honestly, that was kind of the journey that I went on and I, a big part of it for sure was Bob not trying to put any of that on me.

I think just walking through all of that. I think it really came down to what was already in my heart. I don't know if you've ever heard that analogy. It's like, if a glass is full, here we go. This glass has a chai latte in it. If Bob bumps into it, chai latte is going to come out. If I'm already filled with shame and guilt and, tension around a subject, what's going to come out.

I think is helpful for me growing in this whole thing, because we got into this and again, I'm the spreadsheet guy. I'm the math guy and So I'm looking at the numbers. I'm like, all right, this is right. It's like, this is very black and white, you know?

This is a quantitative thing. It's like, this is right. This is the answer. This is the thing, what you are doing the way you're spending money, whatever, like that's wrong, that's wrong filing system, whatever the thing is.

The thing that I grew to realize that helped me a lot and helped our marriage a lot and I think bring a lot of healthy balanced is that she isn't wrong. And that I'm not necessarily right. This, honestly, this is really funny, but helped me just kind of understand that God creates people differently.

He wires people differently, and everybody has different strengths and weaknesses, and they're oftentimes offsetting and corresponding, with the person you're marrying. I was able to, and I'm really thankful, but I start to get an understanding for some of the value that she brought to the table and how I needed it.

I needed what she brought to the table, instead of just assuming that her way is wrong, my way is right, because I have the numbers, you know. That I think a lot with all of this and with our marriage health when it comes to money.

Yeah and that also gave me confidence to say, I actually do have something to say, I actually have value to add. Instead of, for a long time, I just thought, well, he knows what he's doing and I don't so I'm just going to do whatever he tells me to do.

I started going well, instead of coming out at well, like, wait a second, I'm going to do I want to do it this way? I didn't have to come at it from an anger point of view. I could come at it like, actually, what if we did it this way? Have you ever thought about that? You know, because he was treating me with so much respect in this area.

Simplify Your Money with this Framework

Elle Martinez: I'd love the honesty about the give and take with working with one another respectfully. Because sometimes it is difficult when you have such different approaches. After working on this foundation. Linda and Bob were able to get some real momentum with getting out of debt and building up their finances.

A huge help was systemizing things with what Bob likes to refer to as the straight a approach. Attention. Automate adjust an accountability.

Bob and Linda: One of the things I'm always trying to do with money, and I've been in this world now for over 20 years from banking to financial services to now being a whatever online blogger podcast or all that stuff, just talking about money for so long. I'm always obsessed with trying to simplify things and like trying to pull them out of the complexities and make them digestible and put them in a little package.

That was a big part of what we tried to do in this book. As I was taking this big picture perspective of right. How would I start over now, knowing everything I've known, everything I've learned from these last couple of decades, how would I start over now? How would I talk to myself in my mess and say, all right, this is the simple little path you can follow to get out of that and to get on a firm footing?

So the first one, like you mentioned is paying attention. This is something that I think, for people like you and I, and honestly, probably a lot of people are listening to a financial podcast, probably already do this, but most of the world doesn't.

We have to actually pay attention to what's going on with the money. This is the same thing what'd you hear with nutritionists? Have you ever been a nutritionist and you go talk to them and say, all right, I want you to write down everything you eat every day. Let's do a food journal and see what you're eating, see where the problem spots are and whatever. Simply by writing everything down, you suddenly start eating better.

It's like, you don't even have to try to eat better. You literally just write everything down and because you see clearly what's actually going what what's actually happening. Like, you'd get your behaviors begin to shift and change.

You know this, but it's the same way with money. Like when we actually see what's going on, when we actually are paying attention and some people do write everything down and that's a great exercise. It works well, but, but even simply using a tool like mint or personal capital just to actually be able to look back and say, all right, the last 30 days we've spent this much on groceries, or we spent this much on eating out because so many people, like Starbucks have no idea how much they're actually spending.

Right. So to be able to do that, like, it's just such a headstart for so many people. I don't know how you really succeed with your finances. If you're not paying attention to what's going on. You know what I mean?

Elle Martinez: I think most people will be shocked by certain areas with their budget. Like, you know, there are certain ones where you look at and you go, okay, that makes sense. And then there's always one where you're just completely surprised.

Bob and Linda: Something's wrong. Somebody hacked my

Elle Martinez: that's not right.

Bob and Linda: yeah,

Elle Martinez: It seems small, but just being aware of how your money is being used. Can shift things in a better direction. Another key way to get more control over your finances is by automation.

The Power (and Ease) of Automating Your Money

Bob and Linda: I remember reading probably four or five different books that just talked about automating, saving for retirement, building up savings, emergency fund or giving or whatever the thing is. Okay. Like, I'm like, oh yeah, that's fine. That'll probably help a little bit.

I'll get to that eventually and I just kept on putting it off and, and I don't know why it's like a five minute thing. It takes like no time. But I kept on putting it off, but if I trace back my trajectory like there is a clear inflection point from the day. I decided I'm going to automate this to not because again, so many of us depend on our willpower.

That's the thing that financially successful people like they don't have more willpower than everybody else they just learned to automate. Like, it's just that simple. They automate the things that are most important that they know they need to do. They don't depend on waiting till the end of the month to see if there's enough money to see if they remember if they feel like it, whatever any of those things.

And so automation is such an important key and it's the way to like set it and forget it and make your life easier. So you don't have to think about it. Like it's just a no brainer. This is super important for people like me who want to have it together, but just don't is it's like you just make it so that you don't have to ever think about it again.

You think about it once and then you're done. Yeah. Yeah, cause for me, there's no way I could remember, or it just wouldn't happen for one reason or another. Yeah.

Elle Martinez: Automation has always been helpful for us, but in all honesty, These last two years with everything going on. It's been a huge time saver.

During the pandemic, we were taking care of things: switching the kids to remote learning work, had shifted for both of us, and then my mom in the middle of the pandemic wanted to move closer to us. So we had a lot on our plate. What gave us some peace of mind is that we knew that our system was mostly automated.

All we had to do was check in with it once a week, just to make sure everything was paid off.

So you might think of it as a small thing, but it can have a huge impact. It can help you have the space to focus on the more important things instead of stressing over the bills. Again we're trying to go with a effective yet simple plan.

Keeping One Another Accountable

Bob and Linda: That's the thing it's like, so many of these things are just quick and simple. It's a one-time decision that you make that will pay dividends. I mean, literally and figuratively, you know, for years and years to come.

Elle Martinez: I definitely appreciated how Bob and Linda also covered adjusting things. You have to have a flexible financial system. Life happens and you need to be able to change. And switch numbers as needed, or as you were getting more comfortable with your new budget. You might find ways to further optimize.

And then of course, accountability, which is kind of built in when you're married, you're encouraging one another. You have someone you're accountable to.

Now I know sometimes people hear accountability and they think this is another word for the blame game. But Bob and Linda have a different approach with that.

Bob and Linda: I think the thing I would add to that is just again, like I'm always looking to systematize things as much as possible because it's how I roll. With that accountability, it's like yeah, we do have an accountability factor with each of us, but at the same time, like we both need external accountability.

This is where having a budget that actually will hold you accountable is so important because I think, you know, one of the things that we struggled with for so long was we were using budgeting tools. The extent of the accountability was that the number on the screen would turn red and it would let us know.

And it's like, is that really, at least in our case that did not keep us from going over it. Didn't like, it's just, now we're just like, well, we'll fix it next month. We just keep on kicking the can down the road in any way. We just found that wasn't holding us accountable financially. It wasn't giving us a wall to actually bump up against.

So finding that finding tools that actually help you stay accountable are just really, really important.

Staying Balanced with Financial Independence

Elle Martinez: between how they communicated and the system they built, Bob and Linda were hitting some major goals, including financial freedom and independence. Many people get excited about this part.

This idea of, I don't have to work again. I'm free. I can appreciate that, especially if you're not happy with work and how things are handled at your company or in the industry you're in. However with financial independence. There's so much more to that.

One of the things I appreciate about the journey.

Is how it helps you become more aware. It can also nudge you to prioritize your goals and start shifting your habits so that you can reach them. This framework can be a game changer, but as Bob and Linda noted in their book, There's a balance to keep.

You have to be careful that this path to financial independence is not just focused on the numbers and optimizations. I've seen conversations online, hearing from others about how it's all focused on getting to a million dollars or whatever that number is. Or trying to get to this number as fast as possible.

There's no mention of quality of life, maybe shifting your work schedule so you can have more time with the family and no discussion of what you're actually working towards. It's simply getting out of the rat race.

I thought Bob and Linda had some fantastic thoughts about that.

Bob and Linda: A lot of people forget, and I know that I forgot this or never realized it and it's so common sense, but you have to be wary when you have moving goalposts.

Oftentimes with a lot of these financial goals, especially when it's an arbitrary number or whatever. It's like when I have a million dollars in the bank, then I will do X or Y. Then it will be at peace. Then I will be comfortable. Then I will give more whatever the thing is.

Those goalposts it's just always move and so this was one of those things.

Giving has always been a really important part of our journey and just something that has always been done in our heart and how it's been the big motivator for us to actually try to earn more. It's been that. And within that, even though we had that kind of desire, We still have the desire to spend too much money on ourselves and to whatever. Like, so both of those desires are there. They kind of fight against each other.

One of the things that we began doing that has helped this a lot, was we at age 31, we began giving basically giving our age. So we've been given a 31% at age 30, one of an increase in that a 1% every year when we turn we're the same age, you know?

That has been so great for us because it's forced us to grow in the direction that we want to grow. Our giving is automatically growing. Presumably our income will hopefully continue going up as well. And and it just puts us in a position where we're doing the thing kind of automatically, that is most important to us.

We found that to be really, really helpful to kind of handle tension of not getting too hung up on whatever the financial goal is at the moment and keeping first things first, you know what I mean?

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Choose Your Own (FI) Adventure

Want more options and time to do more for the people and projects you love? Learn how to create a path to financial independence that is flexible and fun!

Finding the Right Pace and Path to Financial Independence

As a kid, one of my favorite kinds of books to read were those choose your own adventure stories.

Do you remember those? No, it's pretty much began the same, but based on the choices you made you could go on so many different adventures.

Some of them had dozens of different endings. You could discover buried treasure, time travel, go to space, whatever the adventure was.

Fast forward a few years and now my favorite type of video game to play include RPGs. Why? Because you have some room to craft out your own adventures.

I feel like financial independence is like those books and games. You decide how you're going to go through it.

Yes, there is an end point, which is when you hit financial independence or financial freedom but in the middle, you have flexibility not just the goal but also the journey .You want it to make it work for you and your family.

It doesn't always feel that way though. There's this narrative that gets pushed, that there's a certain type of way to fi- specifically as fast as possible.

Yes, sorry, but no thanks.

I think that the journey is just as valuable as the destination. If you've been turned off by that segment of fi, or you just want to have more flexibility with your plan, I think you'll enjoy today's episode.

To help me out is Diania Merriam. She's the founder of EconMe who knows firsthand the joys and challenges of carving out your own FI path.

In this episode, we're going to jump into:

  • how Deanna paid off. $30,000 of debt and jump-started her FI path
  • how working towards financial independence opened up more options and allowed her to take risks to pivot her career plus more
  • we're going to get into how you can create a plan that fits you and your family.

Are you ready? Let's get started.

Handy Tools to Start Your FI Journey

If you’re looking to get ahead with your finances as a family and look at pursuing financial independence, here are some resources to check out:

Want to be a part of EconMe this year? Sign up for your ticket!

Because you're a listener, Diania was kind enough to pass on a discount code. Type in SIMPLIFYENJOY to save 10% on your ticket!

Thank You to Our Sponsor Coastal!

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

We’ve been Coastal members for a few years have been happy with their services.

They have wonderful services and accounts to make saving easier including their competitive money market accounts. Check out their rates here!

Financial Independence is About More Options

Elle Martinez: One of the joys to me about financial independence is that flexibility and freedom you have, but it's also a little confusing when you're first coming into the space.

There are certain voices that may be more popular or louder. So if you don't mind, could we kind of jump into what exactly does financial independence mean to you?

Diania Merriam: Financial independence to me is really about creating options. It's about having that financial security for you to explore what you want.

I think some people approach financial independence because, they know that they want a homestead, right? We were just talking about Frugalwoods.

That's the reason why they did everything that they did, or they know that they want to reach financial independence so that they can have kids and stay home with their kids. Some people have very specific goals of why they're doing it.

Other people I think – I fall into this camp – is like, maybe we don't know what we ultimately want. Maybe we're looking for financial bandwidth to explore.

I like to think of it as it's creating options. I'm very attracted to the idea of having full autonomy over my time.

And not really having to subscribe to the whole nine to five until you're 65. That's really exciting for me. Yeah, I think that that pretty much sums it up the way that I look.

Elle Martinez: I feel the same way. That was the initial draw for that. I know the idea of never having to work again is a pull for some people, but for my husband and I, it was like you said, having this bandwidth there, having these options available to us to see, Hey, is this something we want to do or explore.

Discovering Financial Independence and Dumping $30K of Debt

Elle Martinez: I want it go a little bit back in time, because I was looking at your journey and, the amazing accomplishments you had, especially paying off like $30,000 a debt in less than a year.

How did you, first of all, initially find out about financial independence and discover that?

Diania Merriam: Yeah. So it was the fall of 2015 and I was 28 at the time I'm approaching my 30th birthday, like it's looming.

I think 30 is one of those really reflective years where you're just like, what am I doing with my life? I actually ran a credit report on myself during that time.

It was the first time that I've ever done that because I knew I had debt, but I was just kind of paying the minimums on my credit cards and I had some student loans.

I never actually looked at my collective debt. That was like the real eye opening moment for me that oh, wow. I'm in $30,000 of debt.

I didn't realize like that just kind of slipped under the radar for me. I was trying to wrap my head around what to do about this.

A friend of mine had sent me a post from Mr. Money Mustache. It may have been the one where like your debt is an emergency. You got to treat this like your hair is on fire, but it really impacted me.

I think up until finding that blog, most of what I read about personal finance had this tone of struggle to it.

Like this is going to be so hard for you get to get out of debt. It's going to feel like deprivation to reduce your expenses.

When I read Mr. Money Mustache, there's just this tone of optimism to it. This kind of realization that I am so privileged and I really wasting my privilege. That's what really struck me.

You know, making my lunch every day to bring to work, that is not a hardship. That's actually a first world problem. I have a food, I have a roof over my head.

It made me really grateful for the things that I had and, and also to recognize that money is an incredible resource that can open up a lot of options.

Revaluating Priorities and Spending

Diania Merriam: I used to think that I was going to figure out my debt when I was making more money.

Right. I think the realization that I didn't have so much of an income problem, some people do, right. Some people really do need to increase their income.

I don't think that was my situation. I think my problem was the wasteful spending and being completely mindless about it. Recognizing that this isn't something that's going to get solved by increasing my income.

This is a money management issue. I had this realization that if I can't manage a thousand dollars, what makes me think I'm going to be able to manage a million dollars. Right?

Money management is a lot about habits and behaviors and so I really wanted to dive into that. At that point in my life, and I would say Mr money mustache really inspired me in that.

Elle Martinez: Yeah. I remember reading that article as well. It's funny how you say there's this undertone of optimism.

I would agree because on the surface level, though, he's very like blunt and direct and how he feels about certain situation, very strong feelings like, ‘Hey, your debt is like your hair's on fire, get rid of it. ‘

Kind of want to break it down a little bit further, especially like you said, $30,000 of debt. Was that like student loans, credit cards or a mix of everything?

Diania Merriam: So half of it was student loans, which doesn't sound too bad, right? Like $15,000 in student loans is nothing. However, I went to college on a full academic scholarship.

I should have had no loans, but the student loans were offered to me for living expenses. No one explained to me, you don't have to take this money.

I just thought like, oh, What I do, you know, like I'm just taking out these loans and so, yeah, that was half of my debt. The other half was credit card debt just from living beyond my means.

Again, I thought it was something that I would solve when I was making more money and I just didn't really worry about it too much in my twenties.

Getting Creative and Optimizing Budgets

Elle Martinez: Yes. Want to talk about that, how behind, you know, paying off that debt. Everyone has the choices that they make. Like where do I cut back?

You mentioned it wasn't an income problem. It was more your expenses with that financial independence mindset. When you were reviewing your budget, what were some changes that you made? So you're able to one, tackle that and then two, start making progress towards your FI goals?

Diania Merriam: Yeah. I would say probably my biggest area that I cut back on was going out. Like I was partying a lot in my twenties. I was going out nearly every night, spending money on meals out and drinking and partying with my friends. Right. So that was probably the biggest area that I cut back on.

I did adopt this kind of process, whenever I was thinking about spending money. So if I wanted to buy something, I would kind of pause and have a moment to think, is this a want, or is it a need? That's probably the hardest question, right? Because a lot of us think that we really need something when it's actually much more of a want.

So really meditating on that was like a whole new way of looking at spending for me. So I spent a lot of time thinking about that kind of stuff. Then I would ask myself, okay, if this is an actual need, Is there a more resourceful way for me to meet this need?

Can I borrow something from a friend? Can I repurpose something that I already have? If I'm going to buy it, can I buy it used at a lower cost? I would go through this mental process and then ultimately, we'll get to if I was going to spend money or not. I think that really helped open up my creativity and resourcefulness in a way that I had never experienced before.

For example we all have clothing needs, right? We need to close ourselves. During the time that I was getting out of debt, I wasn't spending any money on clothing, but what I did is I would host these clothing exchanges with my friends.

So we'd all clear out our clothes. We'd spend an afternoon in my apartment, like drinking mimosas, listening to music and trying on each other's clothes.

I walked away from that with like a full closet of more fashionable clothes than I would have ever bought for myself. Not only was that a more resourceful way of getting my needs met and that I wasn't actually spending any money, I would say that that solution was far superior than mindlessly swiping a credit card. It was more fun.

I got to spend time with people. I walked away with clothes that I probably wouldn't have thought to buy for myself. And I had a lot of experiences like that.

Example, I had a new neighbor that moved in the apartment below me and, I just see them passing in the hallway. I welcomed them.

They said, we're waiting, we're trying to get our internet set up. Do you mind if we just use yours for like a couple of days until they come and, and get our internet installed?

I said, sure, just figured, Hey, if they abuse it, I could change the password. Like no big deal. Right? So I give him the password to my internet. They lived right below me.

I just noticed that it didn't affect the functionality of the internet for me at all. It didn't slow it down for me. It was like, I didn't even notice that they were using it.

So I said to them, Why don't we just split my bill? Like, why don't you just stay on this? Don't get your own. Let's cut that bill in half for both of us, you know? That is probably not something I would ever think to do if I didn't discover financial independence in this mindset of really being mindful about spending and figuring out ways to cut back.

Exploring Options Because of FI

Elle Martinez: Yeah, I love that because the examples you've given, I think also speak beyond the financial benefits of looking at the FI lifestyle, which is one being more mindful and conscious of any spending that we're doing and then too, like you mentioned, with that clothing exchange, it's beneficial for the environment.

We're not producing, more goods. We're reusing in the best way, what we already have so I'd love that.

I know for different people, financial independence opens up opportunities either professionally or personally. You've paid off the dead and saving up like 60% of your income.

Yeah. Significant amount. What changes or opportunities now became available that you took advantage?

Diania Merriam: Oh, my gosh, my life looks completely different than when I was in debt. So a big motivator for me is that when I started this process is I really wanted to walk the Camino for my 30th birthday. And the Camino is a 500 mile Trek across Spain.

It was something way outside my comfort zone. Not only was that trip kind of intimidating, then the financial aspect of it was really intimidating, but wanting to do that trip kind of propelled me to figure this stuff out.

I was able to negotiate with my employer to take a leave of absence, to take a sabbatical that was unpaid. So I didn't get paid for two months. Plus I had to fund that trip. It, it probably cost me around six or seven grand to be able to go and do that.

But that was an incredible life experience that I wouldn't trade for the world. So that was kind of like my initial opening up an option that I don't know that I would have ever had the courage to even ask for that if I didn't have a financial safety net.

I like to say that if they would have denied my request for a leave of absence, that, I would have just gone anyway. Who knows if that was true, but I told myself at the time that my financial resources and the savings that I was doing would have made that option possible if I wanted to exercise that option.

So not only asked for the two months off, but I also asked for a remote working arrangement, which was not the norm. This was in 2017.

So now let the pandemic, it's a lot more common to look for opportunities to work remotely but I was in New York city and I just felt like I wanted to try something else.

I felt like, look, I had no debt, no man, no kids. I had the kind of freedom that people dream about and I wanted to go explore and do something with this.

I had a friend who I was really close to in New York and she went to school in Cincinnati and then ended up moving back to Cincinnati.

I visited her like three times in 2016, and I just really liked it. Cincinnati is obviously a much smaller city, but to me it has all of the benefits of a big city with like none of the downsides.

It just felt like time slowed down when I got here and not in that maddening way that new Yorkers hate where there's no sense of urgency. Like it wasn't like that. It was like a good slowing down.

I just thought I want to try this. So I negotiated with my employer to let me work remotely. So let me take the two months off. Then after I got back from the Camino. Working from home allowed me to I've always wanted a dog, you know? And so I adopted my best friend. He's like the love of my life dog named, buddy.

And I also bought a house, which is something I never thought that I would do.

Led to funding my own business, which I know we'll talk a little bit about the economy conference and ultimately this year I actually quit my job in January. I quit my full-time job without being financially independent.

I think that FI opens up a lot of doors when you're separating, like your need for your livelihood to come from your work. That is like the ultimate right. To reach FI.

But I actually think there's a lot of freedom that opens up along the way that I don't think is talked about enough.

I think at a certain level of savings so I reached coast fi which means that I have enough money in my retirement vehicles that I no longer need to save for traditional retirement. That's a level of opening up a level of the game, I guess you could say.

I also have something I like to call peace out money for the polite among us, which means that I personally have two years of living expenses, liquid that I could easily access.

So I've got a year in cash and a year in an after tax brokerage. When I came to this crossroads with my employer, it was like, okay, I still need to work, but I no longer need to work somewhere.

That's not ideal. Yeah. That is an option that is opened up to me even though I'm not yet FI.

I like to talk about this because I don't think enough people do that. I think people are waiting for five. Oh yeah. Take these risks. Right. Or to walk away from a job that no longer serves them, which I don't know that we necessarily have to wait that long.

Elle Martinez: I completely agree. I know again, there's like different flavors and they come up with different names, you know, in the five space, a slow where I believe I was talking Brad from ChooseFI about this. Like it's not an off on switch.

I think that's the misconception is like, okay, when I reached this, then all this opens up.

It's like, no when the debts paid off, you have a little bit of freedom here. You've built up that savings.

The FI Community and EconoMe

Elle Martinez: I want to talk to you a little bit about your business, because comes from this space of financial independence and spreading it.

Starting any business is a lot of work. Live events are like another layer up for me the way I see all the logistics and then to run a conference. First of all, why did you start economy and what was your reason behind it? What do you hope people can get from it?

Diania Merriam: Sure. Well, economy originated from me dreaming up, like what would I want to do with my time if I no longer needed to work for money?

I mean, When people would ask me, like, what is your, why for five? And like, what are you going to do when you reach five? I used to say, I'm going to create this party about money. Like, that's what I thought that I would do. I just got so excited about it that I couldn't wait.

That's why I did it sooner, but I'm actually really glad that I didn't wait because I think starting a business has a lot of risks to it.

There were a lot of things that I couldn't anticipate like a global pandemic. And so I ended up taking a huge loss on the business in the first year. And I think if I didn't have my 60% savings rate and my good income. It would have probably been too much of a risk for me to handle if I didn't have that.

I was able to really kind of self fund this startup phase because I had an income while I was building this.

I would say really what inspired me is I love to go to in-person events. There's this one event that I go to every year called the world domination summit, which sounds crazy right?

Like who produces that pinky and the brain, but, but actually Mr. Money mustache spoke at it one year and that's how I found out about.

For someone that's as frugal, as I had learned to become through getting out of debt, you know, a ticket to a world domination summit is like $700. I will tell you that it is worth every penny.

I don't think the pursuit of FI is about right. Not spending money or spending as little as possible. I think it's spending it on things where you get the most value and just being very critical about where those dollars are going.

Every time I would go to world domination summit, I would leave feeling like my life is so full of possibility. I would meet these incredible people that were living very unconventional lives and being surrounded by that energy. Just, it has an effect on you and you start to like, think more expansively about what, what you could do with your time.

I wanted to create something that gave that feeling to other people, but about their money. That was really exciting to me.

I think economy and what people get out of it. Now as far as tactics and how to manage your money and how to pursue fire, there are so much many blogs, podcasts. There's so much out there for free that, that you can learn how to do this. Like you don't need to go to a live event for that.

I think the live event is much more about inspiration and community. One of my favorite quotes is if you look at your inner circle and you're not inspired, then you don't have a circle. You have a cage.

I think a lot of people feel this way on their pursuit to FI. They can't talk to their friends and families about this. People don't understand them.

When I was first getting into this, I was making my own facewash and laundry detergent. Like people thought it was so weird. Right? And so to be able to connect with other people that have a similar interest on this taboo topic, I think is really important for the journey.

I look at the people that I've met from going to like camp fire, camp mustache, and even world domination summit, like my social circle today, or like all people that are pursuing fi and there are some of the smartest, most generous people I've ever met. And I just feel like my journey is richer because of the people that I've surrounded myself with.

First of all, if I could say like, there's any kind of dream for EconoMe, I would love for someone to meet their spouse there, honestly, like that would just thrill me that like either someone met their best friend or their spouse at economy, that would be so much fun.

But yeah, we have main stage speakers that are talking about FI from the tactical side of things. What do you do about student loan debt? How do you approach credit card hacking? What do you do when you get a big medical bill?

There's those kinds of tactical topics, but then there's also a lot of inspiration, like the most popular speech. The first economy, which was last year, one week before everything shut down was from Jackie Cummings Koskie and she was a single black mother who found the fire movement at 38 and she never made six figures and she was able to retire before.

She did it in like a decade and her presentation was called the real numbers behind firing and she showed all of her numbers. Like she showed specifically how she did it.

I think it was really inspirational for people because fire can feel unattainable for a lot of us, but when you see people that maybe have similar circumstances to you doing it and succeeding and thriving in how they're able to save and invest, it just makes it feel more possible.

So yeah, all of that and more at the economy conference. Wow.

Elle Martinez: I know there's going to be those listening. They're like, I am ready to go plus after this year that we've had, they're ready to connect. So if they wanted to learn more, what's the best way they can do that?

Diania Merriam: Yeah. So if you go to economy, conference.com and that's economy with an M E not an M Y I, if you look at the spelling of that, Name you'll notice that I, I really enjoy misspelled words.

So anyway, economy with an Emmy. There you can check out the speaker lineup. You can buy tickets. They're on sale.

Now the event is actually happening at the university of Cincinnati on November 13th and 14th of this year.

You can also go to just search for economy conference on YouTube. And all of the speeches from last year, I put up there for free. I've got professional videography, just like Ted talks where you can watch a Ted talk on, on YouTube.

It's a similar idea. So yeah, you can check out the speeches from last year and kind of get a feel for the vibe.

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.
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How Your Family Can Become Financially Free

Despite popular opinion, you don’t need a million dollars to be financially free. We’ll go over how you can create a financial independence plan that fits your family and is actually fun!

How Much Do We Need as a Family to Be Financially Free?

Simplify and Enjoy is about families working toward financial freedom using core ideas from financial independence and minimalism. 

But how does that work in times like these? 

Can we take this foundational question we talked about in an earlier episode – finding your FI number – and actually craft a plan for a family now going through the pandemic?

Let’s be honest, depending on where you were in your own financial journey, the pandemic could’ve shifted things in so many directions for you.  

I think it’s reasonable to acknowledge that a family who’s carrying debt like car payments or student loan is going to experience things much differently than a family whose paid off their

Non-mortgage debts and are using that money to invest. 

So how do you create that path for those families? Is it possible to work towards financial freedom and perhaps independence during times like these? 

First off, let’s start off with the good news. 

You don’t need a million dollars or more saved to achieve financial freedom. In fact, with some planning, you can really open up a lot of options for your family in a relatively short amount of time. And you know, what it can be rewarding and enjoyable. 

I want to show you how. 

In this episode, we’ll get into:

  • Making financial independence approachable by doing it in phases
  • The key numbers to watch 
  • How to craft a plan that fits your family

So we’re going to start with concepts but then go into some real numbers so you can see how the process works.

Ready? Let’s get started!

Handy Tools to Start Your FI Journey

If you’re looking to get ahead with your finances as a family and look at pursuing financial independence, here are some resources to check out:

Thank You to Our Sponsor Coastal!

Support for this podcast comes from Coastal Credit Union!

If you live in the Triangle area of North Carolina and you’d like someone to work with you on your goals, you really want to check out Coastal’s Wealth Management team.

They’d love to help you start investing for retirement and more!

The Phases of Financial Independence

One of the biggest barriers families have with tackling FI is the feeling that financial independence is an all or nothing deal. 

You have to go all-in until you hit that number and then you can quit that job you hate and never have to work again. 

And look, for some people that’s their path. 

But that doesn’t have to be yours. 

You can approach your finances through levels or phases. With each phase, you can adjust your plans based on what’s currently going on and give yourselves more options to improve your quality of life bit by bit. 

And if I had to break it down to the most basic stages, I would say that families typically progress from:

  • Financial Stability
  • Financial Agency
  • Financial Freedom

An idea I picked up from City Frugal really clicked for me. It’s switching from “enough money” to “enough money to”.

‘Enough’ is this nebulous term that can be hard to pin down.

But ‘enough to’ can allow you to get a  number (ballpark or not).

And it also gets you into this mindset of money serving a purpose rather than being the goal. 

So let’s look at finances through that lens – ‘enough money to’ and line them up with a few big milestones families strive towards. 

  • Phase #1: Enough Money to Cover the Bills: It might seem like an obvious goal, but many families are now experiencing hardship because they realize with even a small drop of income that they are not able to pay their bills.
  • Phase #2: Enough Money to Ride Out a Financial Emergency: Look, no one could have anticipated this global pandemic, but the truth is emergencies do happen to all of us. So this would be the stage and phase where you're trying to build up a financial cushion.
  • Phase #3 Enough Money to Start Investing: Now we're gaining some margin. You're able to cover your bills. You do have money that you can put towards building your financial cushion a bit more. Or paying down your debt. It's not a bad spot to be in, but there's still more phases that you can continue with.
  • Phase #4 Enough Money to Switch Careers/Negotiate: Here is where your quality of life starts becoming more of a factor. You're not just trying to survive, but now you're opening up some options. You're feeling a little bit more secure and confident that when you do come up for a promotion, you can push back maybe a little bit more for better pay or better benefits.
  • Phase #5 Enough Money Where Saving More is Optional (CoastFI): You've done really well. You've invested enough money to have a traditional retirement. So now you can decide, do we want to go all-in and speed up the date? Or are you looking for more quality of life choices?
  • Phase #6 Enough Money to Where Work is Optional (FI): You can live off the money that you have saved and invested and your covered.

This list isn’t meant to cover every point, but instead, give you a guide of progression a family can make. 

Key Numbers to Watch to Become Financially Free

Last week we talked about credit scores. While your credit score can affect your finances, it’s not really a key metric to hone in on. At best it gives lenders an idea of how likely you’ll be able to pay back.

In the grand scheme of things, you’ll better off putting your energy towards numbers that give you a picture of your financial health. 

As you work through financial stability, agency, and freedom, you’ll see a few crucial numbers pop up. 

  • Net Worth
  • Cashflow, in particular, essential and typical expenses
  • Saving Rate

Phase #1: Enough Money to Cover the Bills

  • Your Cash Flow: How much are you losing or having at the end of the month? 
  • Your Essential Expenses: How much money do you typically need each month to provide the essentials and stay current on your bills? 

Phase #2: Enough Money to Ride Out a Financial Emergency

  • Your Cash Flow: How much are you losing or having at the end of the month?
  • Your Saving Rate: How much can you sock away in your financial cushion? 

Phase #3 Enough Money to Start Investing

  • Your Net Worth: Big picture view of your finances. 
  • Your Cash Flow: Look for opportunities to optimize your expenses. 

Phase #4 Enough Money to Switch Careers/Negotiate

  • Your Net Worth: Big picture view of your finances. 
  • Your Cash Flow: How will it be affected during the transition? 
  •  Your Saving Rate: Do you need to crank it up? 

Phase #5 Enough Money Where Saving More is Optional (CoastFI)

  • Your Net Worth: Big picture view of your finances. 
  • Your Cash Flow: How will it be affected during the transition? 
  • Your Saving Rate: Do you need to crank it up? 

Phase #6 Enough Money to Where Work is Optional (FI)

  • Your Net Worth: Big picture view of your finances. 
  • Your Cash Flow: How will it be affected during the transition? 
  • Your Saving Rate: Do you need to crank it up?

Creating Your Family FI Plan

So how do you create your own FI plan? 

Let’s go through the process to give you an idea. 

The first thing I would suggest is to talk it over as a family and define what kind of lifestyle you’re going for and getting a really rough estimate of the annual expenses. 

And if you don’t have an anchor point, you can use your own spending. Would you say you’re pretty happy with things? Now imagine if you had no debts, how would that affect your financial needs and expenses? 

It’s interesting because some families realize that just the debt payments alone were hindering their lifestyle.

But let’s continue…..

You can then take that amount you feel is reasonable for what you want and multiply it by 25 to get your ballpark FI number. 

  • So if you need $30,000/year -> $750,000
  • $40,000/year -> $1 million
  • $80,000/year -> $2 million
  • $100,000/year -> $2.5 million

Now it’s time for some analysis and reflection. 

If you haven’t already, look at your annual expenses for the last couple of years. Where are you in those phases? Are you financially stable? Do you have some wiggle room with your cash flow so you can save and invest? 

Do this exercise – take away all the debts. If those were gone, how much do you need now?

Now as we’ve discussed plenty of times on the podcast. It’s definitely a smart money move to go through your expenses and see where you can lower them, but keep in mind you don’t want to compromise your quality of life

Sure you can live on the bare minimum, but it wouldn’t either be enjoyable or healthy.  

Let’s say you can pay the bills, but you’re worried about being able to ride out an emergency. Like the one we’re in now. How much is enough to be able to do so?

So now you can craft that budget so you’re meeting that more immediate goal of getting your financial cushion solid with an eye towards that long term goal of FI! 

Support the Podcast!

Thank you so much for listening to the podcast!

  • 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.
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This episode was originally released in July 2020.

Enjoying Financial Independence and Parenthood

Can parents pursue financial independence with kids at home? Today we’ll go over the five biggest myths and show how you can enjoy parenthood and FI!

Are CoastFI and Parenthood Compatible?

Even before we were familiar with the term financial independence, we were intrigued about this idea of gaining flexibility and freedom.

When we were first married, we had two immediate financial goals – getting rid of the car loan and building our emergency fund.

Our car payment wasn’t a huge burden, but seeing that money going out month after month..ugh..

Not having that weighing our budget down was one benefit, but then there was also this potential in the future.

What if we used that money for things we actually enjoyed and really wanted – travel, a house, or starting a business?

So I started digging into personal finance blogs and found books like Total Money Makeover, Automatic Millionaire, and The Money Book for the Young, Fabulous & Broke.

Taking what I learned, we came up with a plan to pay off our debts and grow our financial cushion.

Don’t get me wrong, seeing our net worth go from negative $30,000 to the positive side felt great. The real pull for us, though, was not how much money we can stash away or how fast we can hit.

We loved being in a position of having options. Like leaving a bad job. Becoming an entrepreneur.

During this time, we discovered financial independence, with that classic book – Your Money or Your Life.

There are some wonderful benefits with discovering the FI community. Many in the space love swapping ideas about what’s worked for them.

Hopefully like you’re doing now, we listened to stories and picked a few ideas to try out.

Some worked really well, some needed to be adjusted for our circumstances, and some didn’t work. Either our situation was too different or honestly, we didn’t enjoy it.

The ones that didn’t resonate with us usually came from this segment in the community who had very specific ideas about financial independence.

Both with what it was and what it wasn’t. One complaint I kept seeing was how hard or in some cases impossible for parents to hit FI.

I believe that belief is not just discouraging to parents, but really misses the actual resource financial independence is about – time.

Finances can be a tool, not the goal. We're more focused on quality of life and having options.

So today I want to wrap up this series of episodes before our summer break and discuss how you as a parent can work towards your FI goals while enjoying the journey with your kids.

In this episode, we’ll get into the five biggest myths around financial independence and parenthood.

Are you ready?

Let’s get started!

Resources for Parents Interested in Financial Independence

If you're looking to get ahead with your finances as a family, here are some resources to check out!

Thank You to Our Sponsor Coastal!

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

Slash Your Phone Bill with Republic Wireless!

Special thanks also to our new sponsor this season -Republic Wireless.

If you’re looking to hit your family’s financial goals faster, optimizing your expenses is the way to go. Chances are you’re paying too much for your smartphone and not getting the value you deserve.  

Same thing happened to me years ago. Wanting to become debt free faster, I switched to Republic Wireless and saved big time. 

Nationwide coverage, fantastic phone options like the Samsung Galaxy and Moto g, plus seriously affordable prices (plans start at $15/month!) make it a smart choice for families looking to save without sacrificing value. 

See all they have to offer at Republic Wireless

5 Biggest Myths About Financial Independence and Parenthood

Although I believe that all families can benefit from including key FI principles into their finances, it’s not a one size fits all approach.

These myths that I see and hear can be discouraging and stop people from even trying to pursue their dreams.

In some cases, it’s debunking, but it also clarifying some concepts.

I’ve seen how this focus on making things short and catchy for social media distorts or confuses people about financial independence and making it their own.

Myth #1: You Have Live Like Paupers to Retire Early

I think this is a huge turn off for many families.

You have to cut things down to the bone to be able to retire early. And that's not the case. The truth is however with financial independence it is a mindset shift. You absolutely have to be more mindful of your finances, schedule, and goals.

That means you're going to make decisions that are different from other people.

You do need to be conscious of your spending.

  • Your Essential Expenses: How much money do you typically spend each year? What are your usual monthly expenses?
  • Your Savings Rate: How much are you saving and investing each month?

When you're aware of both numbers you can then start on a plan to build up your savings rate and get you to FI faster.

Myth #2: Raising Kids Will Make It Impossible to Pursue FI

USDA estimates that it takes $233,640 to raise one child to an adult.

Not counting college.

Breaking it down annually, that means according to the USDA you’re spending around an additional $13,743.

Years ago, I wrote an article that challenged some of those assumptions. You can read my take here, but here are a few key points.

  • Assumptions about food, housing, and
  • The biggest chunk of money for most parents I spoke to is daycare.

Parenthood and financial independence aren’t mutually exclusive. It does take mindful prioritization and budgeting.

Myth #3: Only Rich People Can Become FI

First off if anyone tells you that income isn’t a factor, that’s a lie. Having more income can certainly help. However there are plenty of people who:

Make some good money, but still live paycheck to paycheck
Have more modest income, but have done a fantastic job stashing away

While income is a factor, it's not the main one when it comes to financial independence. It goes back to your savings rate and that gap between your income and expenses.

Myth #4: College Savings Will Kill your Retirement Savings

Two things to consider:

You don’t have to pay for your kids’ college.

Thank you for coming to my TED talk.

Seriously though. I’m not that old, but the price of some universities has gotten ridiculous. And for what?

One study found that 43% of college graduates are underemployed in their first job.

The second thing to think about is how college may not look the same or be the path your kid takes.

Certifications can give them the skills and training they need. They may also want to pursue trade school, which can be both fulfilling and financially rewarding.

If you do decide to help your kids with educational expenses, it doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice your retirement or financial well-being.

It does mean guiding your kids towards being more mindful and intention with their education. Which I think serves them better in the long run.

Myth #5: FI is About Never Working Again

There is a big subset of financial independence called FIRE which is financial independence, retire early but financial independence iis a much larger space that group.

There are some who do want work after they hit their FI number. However they want freedom of choice in deciding what kind of work that is. It could be a profitable business, volunteer work, or something seasonal.

I did an episode on the different paths within financial independence, which I’ll link to in the show notes.

For us, CoastFI made the most sense. So the kernel behind it is that you’ve saved enough so you could retire at a traditional age even if you never add another cent again.

That’s money tucked away in tax advantaged accounts like 401(ks) and IRAs. With that milestone out of the way we have a bit of stress taken off our shoulders.

We have more flexibility with work and other choices. It was especially helpful last year as our girls did remote learning. With both of us working from home, we’re grateful we could make it work.

Not going to lie, there were days and weeks when we were trying to find our footing, but it was worth it to us.

So yes, you could retire early – if you want. There are plenty of options you can choose. Make sure that it's based on your family and priorities.

There you have it – the five biggest myths people have about financial independence and parenthood.

Key Takeaways for Parents Pursuing Financial Independence

Before we wrap up, I want to focus on a few key takeaways I got from preparing this episode. 

  • Define what financial independence means to you. 
  • Know your numbers. 
  • Develop your plan in stages and on the season of life you’re in. 

Ask questions, swap ideas, and talk about your progress for the year– don’t forget to join us in the Thriving Families group on Facebook.

We’re all about helping one another out with our family and financial goals. 

Hope to see you there!

How to Savor and Enjoy This Summer without Breaking Your Budget

Today we’re digging into how to live well and enjoy this summer without breaking your budget!

Enjoying Summer as a Family, Staying on Budget

Saving money can be a smart and practical move when it comes to your finances. Sometimes though, you can get caught up with savings that it becomes your goal.

In the personal finance space and in particular with the financial independence community, there’s a segment that is intensely focused on how cheap they’re living. 

They spend only $25,000 year or save half or more of their income. 

First off, I think it’s commendable to look at ways to save. You want your hard-earned money o go further. But I think it misses the point of it all. 

Instead of focusing on living cheaply, I think it’s more enjoyable and sustainable to focus on living well. 

As parents, we want to enjoy the time we have now with our kids. We can’t get that time back with them.

While working towards financial freedom does take getting our numbers into a good spot, it’s really to serve the bigger goals, savor the more precious resource time. 

So today we’re digging into ways we can find that balance that is right for us and whatever season of life we’re in. 

This is why I’m happy to have author, speaker, and podcaster Michelle Jackson on the podcast today.  

In this episode we’ll get into:

  • Defining your priorities and creating a budget that includes those while tackling paying off debt
  • Finding ways to live well (foodie, health, and more) while keeping it affordable
  • How to remove stress and automate your money

Let’s get started!

Resources to Help You To Reset Your Finances and More

If you’re ready to get your budget up and running this summer, here are some handy tools and resources you should check out! 

Thank You to Our Sponsor Coastal!

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

They not only have fantastic customer service but they also have competitive rates on their checking and savings accounts!

Michelle is one of those people you meet you instantly like; she's just so sweet.

I first met her about eight years ago in Denver at a conference. One thing that I respect and appreciate about her is how she's carved out this path where she is doing work that she loves, she's paying down her debt, and she still makes time for health care. 

With everything going on now, it can be difficult for you to find your footing when there are so many things that are changing. 

So I was thrilled we got together to chat about the art of living well and how to start making that journey and making those adjustments. 

And a heads up – Michelle was at a coffee shop while we were doing our chat. But I like to think of it as extra ambiance.

Shifting Finances to Free Up Options and Dump Debt

Michelle Jackson: One of the things that I would say is in 2020; we're all familiar with all of these ways to save money. 

I think that is the marriage of technology and financial goals. It's so interesting to experience and observe during this time, like really evidence. And it's because there are so many things out there that are created to help us win money, especially in those areas that we struggle with. 

As far as living our best lives and doing it for less… One of the things I spent a lot of time thinking about several years ago was how do I want to live my life?

I was commuting 30 plus miles a day. They were actually working on the highway at a time. So a 30-mile commute. It should be like 45 minutes or whatever was typically two hours each way.

Elle Martinez: Wow.

Michelle Jackson: I did. Yeah. And so I was commuting with the same people for years. And you would just sleep on the bus. This was really nice. Spread over and we'd both sleep and then wake up and be. And the town that I worked at, I was just like, what do I look like with this or want my life to be? But the problem was that I had a lot of debt. I had a lot of things going on.

And then finally, one day, I was just like, I need to start trying to figure this out because I don't want to live like this. And so I started and I should say I had a huge financial mess. I had thousands of dollars of debt. I just had a lot going on.

So what was the mix of it, if you don't mind me asking? Like, what kind of guy?

I had a zillion credit cards, like lots of little credit cards like that, and I had lots of large credit limits. So it's just a lot of them.

I had random little, you know, amounts of personal loans like my lunch money, just lots and lots of little things, things built up over time and became a huge financial mess. And for people who have never experience like having creditors call you or having more than one day. Horrible. 

I was getting at the height of it all; I was getting calls, text messages, letters, and emails, typically from the same creditor. Multiply it by like 30.

So it was a lot of stress that I was dealing with and work for things that I couldn't even remember.

Reworking Your Budget to Align with Your Values

So one of the things I thought about was like, how can I just lower my over overall overhead in general, like I'm paying all this money after like buying somebody to pay off the debt.

So I started methodically going through my budget. So I started going. I had to do a couple of things. One is I had it knowledge of who I was as a person. Like, I'm not a fancy person. I'm not going to do it to save money. I'm not playing to not live my life. Like there were certain things that I was unwilling to stop doing.

I believe with food and particularly that food is medicine and that it would make no sense for me to eat poorly and then get sick. And I was already stressed out like I was already genetically unwell. So to exacerbate that make sense.

I knew that I wanted to do this. I knew that I wanted to take trips within reason. So the richest certain things, I was like, OK, this is what I value.

This whole conversation, I look at your budget, how you value it. And then I was like, how can I do this for less? So, for example, with groceries, I started shopping multiple times during the week, which I just had a habit of shopping multiple times.

I just went shopping once. It was a small thing, it saved me a lot of time because clearly I didn't have a lot of time with. Four hours a day, you know.

So I just literally was like, this is what I need to pick up once a week. And that was it. And maybe I would go also to the farmer's market if it was during the summer season. So maybe it would be too tight.

But like, very quick, easy. And my grocery bill dropped significantly, actually, just by doing that one thing.

Focus on Living Well, Not Living Cheaply

Elle Martinez: I think that's fascinating. It was great. You pointed that out because a lot of times in personal finance, there's a lot of advice turn out and one that was almost a badge of honor.

We spend so cheaply, you know, whether it's food or whatever, and that's how we save and pay down the debt. But what you're saying is you pause to define your priorities.

Michelle Jackson: Yes.

Elle Martinez: And then honed in on that and then try to, you know, still what you valued with your health, with finding cheaper ways.

That's fascinating because I think we have a desire, you know, not to just spend money to spend money, but we're in such a rush to get that quick fix of dropping the spending that we don't look at -what are you working towards?

It is not just saving money. Align yourself and your spending on what matters to you. So I thought that was fascinating.

Michelle Jackson: I like align yourself. So I was out of alignment with all the debt. So where I analyzed a life with my values.

Staying Fit and Healthy with an Expensive Gym Membership

Michelle Jackson: Another thing I valued was fitness. And so I was like, OK, maybe right now I can't do a lot of classes or maybe I want to take classes are going to do that. So the city has three classes that teach provided by the city of Denver, like hip hop power sources like that.

Elle Martinez: I'm curious, how did you find out about that?

Michelle Jackson: Literally, I found it because I know my town. But a lot of times you'll find it by means of defense. Actually, it's a good place to start. Instagram right now, it's a little tricky because we're still finding our city to be copied.

Even now, recently I found a yoga studio here, Dufort, that this woman on black woman-owned and they have made it a priority. A part of the mission to offer free yoga for people of color. So now I'm going to be adding that to my fitness.

I also trade hours for this. How work even now. So I actually this is weird. Literally, like two weeks before the shutdown orders happened in my state, I had signed on to do like a work exchange. And literally, this looks like almost fescue is like relatively easy. Yes, occasionally. And then, like Slade claimed the studio every once in awhile, like every other super easy, then corona virus happens. And the scope of work change. And so I like crafting these letters. So I didn't have to write them. I just had to like, do the final, which looks like super bracing batch. And then I got our sprayed business since March.

Not no, but that's important because also to fitness can be expense. A lot of, you know, categories that people spend can be pricey, especially fitness. Sometimes we go overboard and get all this equipment, but you families to kind of hack it so that you still are getting the fitness, you know, and health benefits. But you're not spending a ton of money.

And also, I wanted to have the actual experience that I wanted. So I didn't want to. I like my can do YouTube videos, but I don't join them as much like … I value in-person classes. Those are a lot more interesting for me.

So that's the other piece too. It's like, yes, I could have just totally forgone classes altogether and just done YouTube videos. But for me, that was a bit. The other thing that I did was I signed up for speedups and this is very specific touring with. But we have a lot of fitness meetups in Colorado.

So at the time that recording this day as we work this, I'm going out backpacking weekends and I think like thousands of steps that I'm going to get Major. And so I did a lot of that. You instill fear. And those were freaks. And so I wish I would carpool with someone. Thought, you know what I mean? So it was just incredible. So if you're a person of color, I'm nervous about that because there are ships for that. So there are literally meetup groups for people of color. I like to go and be out in nature. I fly into all kinds of groups.

I grew up going outdoors, but I just hope for a lot of reasons to do the same thing for less. And then the other pieces, if you're like, well, what about the equipment? I have friends who left and they gave me their snowboard. And so I got a lot of free equipment.

But you got to buy goodwill and get very inexpensive equipment for companies that all they do is sell outdoors equipment.

The other thing I looked at was transportation because I'm not a car person. I actually offered to drive as the whole time it was. It was. It was, yeah.

Learning to drive. I'm proud of you.

I will. To anger preprint to my Russian brand, Midia and my Colorado friend who got in the car with the. How to drive my car out front, actually. And that saves you a lot of money, because if I paid for lessons, I would've been very, very expensive. But what I did, which was the same as I actually buy a used car catch for like fifteen hundred dollars. Yeah. And I had to learn to drive. I owned a car. And so my friends would get in the car and I would drive. Now I actually don't have that car. I use a car share instead. So I've found that as a single one without ABC, I. I don't need to have a car outside. I also do by light rail. And I bike. So for me, I was like, maybe I don't need to own a car. It's not a car person, clearly. And so I noun's car. Sure, I'm accessible by 2020. So far I think that I was paid for fifty dollars for transportation. Wow. Great. Not even. Not even. And that's including a trip that I'm taking a couple weeks from now for Camp five.

I upgraded my personal membership for the highest level insurance. So I have a million dollar policy that I'm paying into. So if something happens and I'm in the car, I'm coverage quite a significant amount of coverage. And I think that that's great. So this year, January and April, I think I spent 50 bucks on transfers.

And it's so cool because the program that I use is actually a nonprofit here in Colorado. So it's not a for profit. And they have hybrid cars that exist specifically focus on I care about the Earth. So it's really about alignment with how I like to live my life. I really care about my footprint. And so I'm really happy with the program. I'm like obsessed with the rap for that. I drove last week. That's my favorite car in the fleet. But it's not close to my house. So I have to I have to go downtown to get the rap sports. So I went on my road trip. I got the rap for it. And that was a lot of fun. And that's cool because you get to test out these hours before my. So, yeah, this is for the rest of the summer. I mean, I spend about two hour, 45 dollars for the next time they drive a couple of his mouth. And then in August, I'll take another road trip. It'll be another ten point five dollars. And then for the rest of the year, it's going to be like 30 bucks a month.

The average car payment right now for a new car is like five hundred and change. I want to say five thirty and I dunley for a used car. It's like three hundred and eighty five a month.

And that's not counting car insurance on top of that. And, you know, fuel and all that maintenance. So that's a really clever hack. I do want to kind of switch gears, because since I've known you, you have like built different income streams as a as a successful businesswoman. You're an author. You speak. You are running this course to help other people pursue their dream of writing. You have two podcasts, Square State about all about Colorado. And Michelle is money hungry. So you are managing a lot. I want to talk to you one. How do you step back and kind of recharge yourself so you're not burning out? And then like, how do you view self care? Because that's kind of like throwing around and I hate now that I see it more in advertisements than actual conversations.

So for me, I think with entrepreneurship, entrepreneurs will try a lot of things. And it's a really exhausting part of the journey, I find, because you're trying to figure out what's the right fit freedom, especially as a kid, to watch where it's very intangible, like there's a lot of love for you to experience. And it just took me a while to figure out what worked well, technically. And it was really tiring because it was a lot of things because well, to be honest, this year I haven't really any refinement mode. So, you know, when people are like, oh, that person's an overnight success. And they're like, dude, I've been at this for like seven years.

That's kind of the experience where I've been at this for eight years now. And so I'm at that point where I've just had enough lessons and I know what doesn't work. So, for example, what doesn't work is I don't do coffee. I don't do, like, take your breaks. Yeah, I don't do that. But that's time. I could be a money issue. I don't want so. So that's a boundaries that I set because I already create free content and podcasts and websites. You know, I do stuff on Mitsuse, my Instagram and all that. So I don't need to do this one one at once. So I started reading people when it came up to me. If you want to meet with me, you can just pay me like your boss. And then that's actually proven to be. So I got a payment this week. A person that I spoke to in China and stuff. Nothing crazy out of the conversation.

So just be really clear about the boundaries you set as entrepreneur. So, Keith, one of the easiest things, I think that the biggest impact is changing my email responder's. I cannot explain what a big difference I made because what I did was I was like, look, I'm available Monday through Thursday. I'm like 10 to 4:00. And then I'm on Friday. I'm available half the day and then I'm out. And what happened was it was very clear to people what to expect for me.

So it wasn't just that I was like, I'm not available. It was like I'm not available now. This is why during usually the mountains when I get back. This is where the next 24 to 48 hours. That one change has saved me so much hassle. I love that so much. And so that was an unexpected bonus result. Carrie, others thinks we're just saying, no, don't explain your no.

Like a lot of people are like, well, no. And this is why no one cares why. Just say no and move on. The other thing was there is I. Because I work online. I can choose where I work. And so I will make a point going into the mountains and staying for shootings, mountains just decompressing. So I think you need to make sure to get away. And we we charge. Energize yourself. It's so important. I think people just keep going and going and going. It doesn't serve them or their skill to want us.

Yeah, that's that's key.

I know as parents for us, we have to have like our alone time. And my husband, I are complete opposites. So I'm the morning person, you know, like straight up to morning routine that you read about like 5:00 in the morning.

But for me, that is when I can have that quietness that I need to to think whether it's for work, for relaxing, like for me to be my best self. That's my time. And my husband's more than night owl. And that's his time. So, I mean, finding the even if you can't physically get away, you gotta regularly scheduled some kind of time. To recharge, have that solitude, you know, it can also be outdoors, I've been doing a lot more walking in the neighborhood still. Of course, social distancing. But. You know, health care doesn't always have to be like buying this product, you know, taking this expensive, you know, retreat. It's finding pockets of time. You can use however you see fit.

And I should also mention about the retreat's, because this this is actually important.

They said when I go over to the mountains for my retreat. I still the hospital is like my favorite hospital ever. And I suspect that you've seen so many pictures of the. They are, actually. So I'd say that I saw my breakfast. They had a hot tub like it was awesome. They're actually opening another property in Telluride, Colorado. I can't not reach. So I will be reserving my space because of rotavirus. I don't feel comfortable, really. Same thing with people. So before I would be fine. Yes. Now I want to be a little more reserved, my own space just fine. So instead of a thirty five dollars, so it's significantly more. But it's so value to me and my well. So is he okay with it. It's not like I'm always new. It's like not always. But that's a different balance. Switch back to when I saw it. Yeah. Right now I have to spend this.

Yeah. I think that actually kind of circles back and a good place to wrap up because we see money, you know, as we've been writing about personal finance as a tool.

But I think a lot of times when you're starting it, some people see it as the goal. Right. Your you're paying down a certain amount of debt or if you're in the you know, if I space, you know, you're talking about how much you're saving. But at the end of the day, that's not really what you should be using to teach. I think you should look at time, you know how I was able to spend my time and I spend the time with the people in the projects that matter most to me. Even if you're not, you know, at your retirement number 10, you little by little make decisions with your money.

You bring one step closer, either, you know, more flexibility or more options when it comes to things that you need for self care and taking care of others.

Hopefully hearing Michelle's share, some of the ways that she's saving while still enjoying and taking care of herself has given you a few ideas for your own summer schedule and budget. So now how can we use that to craft our own plans for the summer and beyond? I want to share a few things to consider. The first is another popular idea within the personal finance space automation. Most of us have regular bills. We have rent, mortgage, utilities, cable, cell phone, you know, the deal. And they tend to be fairly consistent. Instead of worrying about the bills, his paycheck, you can automate much of it. Take advantage of options like free online banking features that can make your financial life so much easier. This definitely shifted things for us at the beginning when we were paying down debt. We needed a path forward and we needed something that we can maintain. So automating those payments with our bills car in student loan payments were so much easier. Taking advantage of free online banking can definitely make things simpler for yourself. And I do want to explain that there is a difference between automating on your side through your bank or credit union and then having someone a bill draft from yours. And I tend to prefer to do the automation on my side. I have more control. Should something happen. Because there have been times when I've had family members tell me that a bill took too much or they took it earlier than expected.

So I prefer to have that on my end. Now, there have been a few times when I've had it drafted, but in those cases there was some financial benefit to us. For example, with student loans, when you do those autographs. There was a reduction with the interest rate. So that definitely saved us money in the long run. And then with insurance companies, they tend to give you a discount if you do a semi annual or an annual plan. So keep that in mind when you're trying to decide between the two. And when you automate your finances that way, you free up time because your bills are set. Now, that doesn't mean that it's set in. Forget it. That's when that's too much of a good thing. And it can go bad. Just because you're automating your money doesn't mean that you're not still on top of it. Having monthly check ins to review everything that's been transferred and making. Sure, the bills are paid. Is a smart thing to do. It doesn't take much time. And you'll be able to catch any mistakes or if bills have been raised. And that's happened to us a few times over the years, especially with things like cable and insurance. Now, you have some free time because you're automating it and you can use that to maybe negotiate a better deal with your bills.

And if right now you're still overwhelmed, there's so much to do and you really don't have time to take care of the negotiation. There are options like trim where they can do that on your behalf, where they work to get you the best deal on cable, Internet, phone, medical bills and also cancel old subscriptions. Every dollar counts. So if you do it yourself, that can be fantastic. But realistically, some of us may need some help. So it's great that there are options like trim. Another way automating can benefit you is that it gives you more time as a family to focus on the big picture, just like we mentioned last episode. And Michelle brought up today. You need to define your priorities. And I totally get it. If now, with current circumstances, your energy is focused on just getting through 2020, but still try to find ways that you can move your money towards you and what matters most to you. This will pass. So laid the steps. Now you can then ramp it up as appropriate. And if you want to talk about this some more, maybe swap some ideas, stories. Please join our free and private Facebook group. Thriving families were there to support and encourage one another, no matter where we are on our financial journey. 

Just head over to simplifyandenjoy.com/fb. We hope to see you there! 

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