Marcus, it’s early in your career and you find yourself in about $30,000 in debt. How did you end up here?
Although I never did calculate the interest and everything, I’m pretty sure it was over $30,000. I had to round down to get down to $30,000. There’s a long then there’s a quick. It’s available out there on Google. It’s how I got $26,000 in debt in a 72-hour period. I graduated to school with about $9,000 in debt across roughly three credit cards and I graduated school at 22. I don’t even know why they had given me three credit cards. My first credit card came with a t-shirt and a yo-yo. I’m convinced there was a yo-yo involved in my credit card accumulation story as part of the swag. I feel proud of that because I feel like most people only got t-shirts and frisbees. I walked away with a yo-yo and leave school with $9,000 of debt, which in retrospect maybe even now was pretty good for the average college student and I got what was then a consolidation loan, which is now everything and everywhere. I didn’t know what it was. I was like, “A consolidation loan. That sounds good.” The marketing looked cute. I was now a targeted victim and I’m thinking that they’re going to clear out the credit cards.
I’ve got this $10,000 check come in and this check arrived in the mail, a blank $10,000 check. It was almost the size of one of those Bob Barker checks. I was with an enabler at the time so we talked a lot about on the show. There are two personalities: spenders and savers. I’m a natural spender. That is my natural habit. That is what makes me the happiest. As I get this $10,000 check, I’m like, “Make it rain.” It only made perfectly logical sense to my 22-year-old mind. I went out of control, bought everything that I could get my hands on, bought my girlfriend at that time anything that she could get our hands on and somehow did not even spend all the money doing that. I went out and got a $13,000 used car. I know because I did not negotiate. I walked on the line and I’m like, “I want that one.” He’s like, “Do you want to step into my office and talk to terms?” I was like, “I don’t do terms.” I’ve lost my mind and I’m not supposed to have money. If you’re doing the math, that’s $29,000 in debt right there but I was not done. I had about $3,000 left over. I used that between the car payment, I did the car down payment. I did pay off one credit card. I paid off one of the three credit cards and it got me to $26,000 in debt. This is 72 hours later.
I wasn’t even done then because I’m 22, I just graduated from school. Everybody who graduates school makes six figures. Money literally grows on trees for me, that’s what I do. I went out and bought a flat screen 36-inch TV. This is my baby. I kept this TV well beyond its age in use because it meant so much to me. It’s the only thing that I kept from that relationship. She is like, “I’m going to take this. I’m going to take the TV,” and I’m like, “No, not the TV. Take everything else but leave the TV behind.” I kept the TV and then that’s how I got to $30,000 in debt with that flat screen TV. That’s what people don’t believe. The TV used to be $3,000. I spent $3,000 on this TV. I remember it was a “0% interest loan,” and would probably be a huge balloon payment at the end but I did pay it off on time. That is the three-minute version of how I got $30,000 in debt in approximately 72 hours.
Marcus, you’re not just a spender, you’re like an A-class spender. You would get top honors. You’re in this crazy debt. I love how you shared that you’re in this crazy debt but at some point, you get conscious. There’s a turning point where you realize, “I need to do something.” What’s that turning point?
I remember exactly what it was. It’s crazy or anyone that can relate to this who is either currently living paycheck to paycheck or struggling to pay the minimums. It’s impressive how long you can go floating the minimums. I used to pay credit cards with other credit cards. I played the track like the balance transfer game. I’m like, “I can’t afford this credit card this month so I’m going to balance transfer it over to this new card that I just opened.” It got to a point where my credit was getting so bad I wasn’t getting balance transfer offers anymore. One of the schemes of credit cards is money. Money begets money and good credit begets more credit. As my credit started to worsen, those schemes that I was running started becoming less and less frequent. I was getting to a point where I could not even afford my minimal payments. I was about 27 years old. I was back in Austin, Texas.
I had to get a roommate and work three jobs just to make minimal payments and I was struggling to live. I could not even live paycheck to paycheck. I was living under check to check. I remember near panic because I wasn’t even getting offers anymore. You know how your mailbox is usually flooded with offers. I wouldn’t get any of those. One came in and it had been months since I saw one. It was like tumbleweeds in the Westerns, where it’s just tumbleweeds waiting on this. I needed that fix. I need consolidation. I was living on credit. One came in and I try not to name this institution because I’m convinced one day they’re going to find me and give me the fade and they give me their hands if they get the opportunity. I reached out to them and I was like, “If they don’t extend me this line of credit, I don’t know what I’m going to do next month.” Fortunately, they did but I can only assume that story would have ended in bankruptcy. I was working three jobs with a roommate and I could not afford to pay my bills. That’s when I was like, “I’ll never put myself in this position again.” That was my turning point.
Did you ever think about selling that TV?
It never crossed my mind.
You’ve got this thing, your lifeline and now you need to take some more action. How did you do yourself out?
I do believe it definitely was the final loan that I got so it had to be around $27,000 or $30, 000. Two things happened. I tell people that the first step was the mental change. When I was on that phone call, they were asking me basic questions like, “Do you know your credit score? What is your monthly allocation?” At one point they asked me my salary and I was working so many different odd jobs. I couldn’t even tell them how much money I made at the end of the year. It was such a depressing phone call that I was like, “I need to learn all the things that I now talk about.” I’m almost 27 years old but I’d never put a budget together. If I did, I’d never even stuck to it anyway. It would have been irrelevant and I had to become self-taught in all of these things that fall under the umbrella of personal finance. I started out with bank rate and I started reading and researching anything that I could get my hands on to learn what I needed to do to stop the bleeding, in this case bleeding of money.
What did you learn along the way that surprised you about this process or this journey that you were heading down?
For me, I didn’t even know my credit score was available to me. That seems like second nature now, which in some ways dates me. I’ve never pulled my credit report. I never know what a credit report was. They’re asking me if I was aware of my credit report, my credit score. I didn’t even know what these things meant. I didn’t know about the three bureaus. For me, everything was a surprise because I had to learn about everything for the first time, which is crazy because I got my first credit card at eighteen so I had a credit card for nine years and I never knew about a credit score or credit management or personal finance and I had never had a budget. For me, everything I learned was a surprise because I had to learn it all from the first time. They say trial and error but for me, it was all error and error and that’s how I learned from those mistakes.
Along this journey, this leads you to figure out how to increase your income. I’ve heard that you increase your salary by over 400%. I’ve got to imagine people listening in the WealthFit Nation wants to know how you did this. How did you do it?
First and foremost, I’d have to share that this is a journey over ten years. Keep that in mind. My first job while I was getting all those credit cards, I remember I thought I was going to make a $100,000 when I come out of school. I was a business major. I thought that’s why you went to school, you went to school to get rich obviously. When that didn’t happen, my first job was $19, 600. This is after school, after college. I went to college to make less money at my first job than I did hourly at Office Depot. I was working at Office Depot in a small town and I made more money by the hour in college and I did afterwards. I really felt like a failure. Because of that, two things happened. For me, money became very important to me because it had to be. It wasn’t a matter of negotiation. In order to pay my bills, I had to make more money. I learned a lot of it the hard way. Although this is covered in a piece that’s also out there about how I increased my salary, I did it in the inverse. I started chasing money first.
Every job that I looked for, I was like, “How much does this job pay?” That was all I was ever really particularly interested in. Although now in reflection and maybe even in person, I tell people that money does not buy happiness. It does buy a number of other things that can lead to happiness. I do agree that the quote itself, “Money does not buy happiness,” is true. Neither does poverty. I’ve done both. That pursuit actually taught me and led to every job that I applied. What I tell people is if you do believe that, I’m not going to try to discourage you. I’m not going to try to tell people which journey and path they need to follow. If you believe that money is the key, what I do believe that people do wrong as they try to find a hobby. They try to sell jewelry online. They try to make their dream, the money maker. I wish that were true across the board. I believe that is actually too often the advice it’s given. I think that’s something that can happen over time but the purest and probably proven route is to go after jobs that pay well.
I went after a job that did not pay well. I took the first job that offered me a job because I didn’t have a choice. What I wish I’d done differently is when I was in school and now they have so many opportunities out there, Glassdoor, PayScale using these opportunities to research my salary. I had to do it in the inverse. I had to chase after careers that paid a lot of money. I believe that’s one of the steps you can take. Once I got into a good career, which coincidentally happened to be auditing, I found a career where there really is no top out. I worked in a career field and many people do where you can do it forever but in addition to that and correlated with that, you can make a lot of money doing. There are people in my job who make six figures or are people who, in my job, make 250 figures. It’s one of those jobs that you could do forever if you want it to. What I think, and I saw over time, is having a job and aligning your passions is not one and the same and will tend to change for most people. As I move further and further into my career and I was awarded in accolades and money, I wasn’t getting that happiness that I thought would tie to the money I was making because I thought money itself bought happiness.
You can look at the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It’s amazing how much information is out there. It doesn’t really matter where you get it from. You just need to find a job where the median is super high and the percentage of growth is super high. You don’t want to be the worst-case scenarios. You’re in school four years from now for a job that won’t exist when you graduate. A lot of people can relate to that. I was fortunate to have a strong mentor and network where someone sat me down and said, “If you get the certifications,” and they were tailored to my field, “you will be set in this particular career field forever.” I ended up getting two of those certifications before I left the company and then I have three now and they increased my salary. About 50% of that, 400% came from those certifications. When I got my next job, that was one comment that the director made, “I was impressed that you demonstrated, that you were vested in this career field when I saw those certifications behind your name.”
While pursuing them meant nothing to me, in the long term, someone told me in this career field that I respected who happened to be a mentor of mine that, “This is what you need to do to get ahead,” and then it turned out to be true. If you’re in a field like that or whatever it may be, investing in yourself is probably one of the best return of investments I’ve ever had. Then number three would be to always negotiate your salary. A lot of people do not, a lot of people are uncomfortable doing so. As I moved up in my own career, I’ve seen that on both sides of the table and I’m sure Rich will speak to this a little bit later as well. I’ve been on the other side of the table where I know I can offer more money but I have to take the interest of the company. It is up to you, the individual. This is the advice I give to my mentees, individuals in my network, my friend of my peers.
As an applicant for this job, I can’t tell you, “We’ve got $30,00, $40,000 more on the table.” You need to come in and know your value, know your worth that can be informed by Salary Wizard, as I mentioned earlier, Glassdoor, PayScale. Honestly, Google. I’ll go old school, a Yahoo search. I’ll be universal out there but it’s up to you to conduct that research so that you know your value before you walk in the door and do not expect the hiring manager or the recruiter to negotiate that for you. That’s your job. Your job is to research the job. My job is to be fair, negotiable and offer you a fair salary and we can go back and forth to what that means but if you want to negotiate for that higher rate you need to tell me what that looks like.
You’ve got amazing confidence now. You’re now hiring others. In that first one that you did, were you nervous going in saying, “I’m going to do this?”
I wasn’t nervous. I was ignorant and ignorance is bliss. I knew I was going to ask for more money so the job that I was going to get turned out to be a 40% pay increase. I went back and calculated the numbers. I was going from 50 to 70 at that particular time for I remember correctly. What I knew was I was not going to take less than 70 because I was taking all the risks. I was going to move. It had a six-month probation. I knew that 70 was not unreasonable because as I said, “I’ve already obtained these certifications.” The reason I wasn’t nervous per se is because if they didn’t offer the job, I was like, “I didn’t lose anything here.”I was making decent money. I asked for the amount of money I thought I deserved, the amount of money that I had researched.
The reason I wasn’t nervous and because I was stupid enough talk to Rich about this on the show, I based my salary negotiation off a movie I had watched. It wasn’t even a particularly good movie or a popular movie. I saw this movie and this guy said, “I make $70,000 a year,” and everybody was shocked like it was like a big amount of money. I was like, “I can ask for $70,000 a year.” That was my entire research plan. The reason I bring that up is it’s haunted me all the way up to the present day. They accepted that amount so quickly that for the rest of my life, I will wonder what I could have asked for.
I share that story because one, do as I say not as I do and to tell people it’s helpful to be well-informed but you don’t have to be. A lot of these things I made are not trial and error, they’re error and error. I tell people all these things and regress like, “Here are the lessons I’ve learned from my mistakes. Here’s how you can avoid them in your journey.” I also share them to show people that you know I was able to negotiate and grow my salary 400% without being particularly smart or well-informed. I will say as I moved forward from that negotiation, that was my first time doing it. I’ve done it every time since then and now I do it the right way. I do a lot of research. I do a lot of negotiation. If I have access to it, I see what they’re offering other individuals and things like that. I go into these negotiations very well-informed and really what I tell people even for the first time is to come up with an amount that you think you’re worth and you’d be comfortable walking away from because if you get it, you’ve gained and if you lose it, it’s a net profit. There’s no loss there, which is why we also talk about not being in a job that you’re miserable in presently so that you don’t have to make that move when your back is against the wall.
Do you press for a quarterly review
For me personally, it’s usually when I’m applying for another job. I work in a particularly unique industry. I tend to be in the public sector. I’ve worked in private before. One benefit is there is a lot of this transparency in everything that most people are talking about now for the first time in the private sector. That’s always been my reality. I’ve always known what every ladder makes. There was one day that I sat down, it was a depressing day and I forecasted that if I stayed in that role what I was going to make over the next 25 years with just simple cost of living adjustments and I allocated 2% for inflation. It wasn’t a big amount. One thing that I feel that I do differently, and I’m big on mentoring now because the people who reach back to help me climb my way up the corporate ladder, is being clear on my purpose and it’s my responsibility.
I can reach out for help but it’s up to me to acknowledge that I need that help and I think that’s very important. A lot of people just let life additionally but their jobs specifically happened to them and they’re like, “It’s unfair that my company did this or they offered me that, and I didn’t get this.” I see why people feel that way. I’m much bigger on, “What did you do to change that trajectory? What did you do to encourage that conversation? What did you do to change that pathway in which you don’t like?” I put that back on the individual to at least take responsibility for that. For me, that gives me comfort and confidence like you talked about because I’m more comfortable in my role. I feel like I have more control over my life than the individual who chooses not to at least make those decisions and take that pathway.
You also talked about how you can earn an extra half million. I saw that online and I had to ask, is this the same thing?
On our first episode, which is Paychecks Plateau
, that’s PB 1. I don’t know why we came out to gate fire like this and I’m very surprised anyone returned to listen because it was a good subject matter, which is important but it was a very depressing figure. They had done research that found the difference between salary negotiation of starting at $50,000 versus $55,000 was $630,000 over the course of your career. We bring that up a lot so it’s more than half a million, just that limited inability and that’s 50 to 55. Think about the individual who’s talking 70 to 75 or 100 versus 105 or whatever the case may be. That little fifteen-minute uncomfortable conversation like you talked about is a half a million-dollar difference over the course of your career. Sometimes you don’t get that opportunity again to correct. Let’s say, in that example, you start at $50,000. You like the job. There’s nothing wrong with that. We don’t job shame on the show.
A lot of people are moving toward entrepreneurship and everything now, which we encourage if that’s right for you. Let’s say you stay in that role for the next ten years and you started at $50,000. Every single raise or not raise you get is based on your previous lack thereof in salary negotiation. I don’t think people are thinking like that they’re like, “I’ll get it next time. I’ll have that conversation next time,” assuming that next time comes. Let’s say you move out of that career field or you move into another job, I’m going to look at if you offered up the salary that you make right now. It haunts you for the rest of your career, particularly because you didn’t want to have that awkward five minute or ten minute or fifteen-minute conversation or you didn’t want to do that additional research to find out how much are you truly worth and ask for what you’re worth.
I’m curious how did you guys meet. What’s the story there?
In a past life, we were both relationship bloggers which we don’t talk about in the podcast for multiple reasons, mainly our relationships now. We’ve been working together essentially since 2010. There was a website that Marcus and I were a part of. We eventually became business partners behind that website with a few other folks and we’ve been working together ever since then. There was a part where Marcus was like, “I’m going do something different.” I stayed on the website for a bit and then it got to a point where I said, “I could say in probably ten minutes what it takes me two hours to write on top of that. I want to talk about a different topic I want to talk about something that feels a little bit more meaningful and relevant to where I am in life.” I reached out to him because I know he was going through the process of getting out of debt. He was also someone that really resonated with the audience that we had at that time for that particular website and was also someone that was very dependable as well. We set about the whole podcast journey in November 2013 with our first podcast. There are people who know about Paychecks & Balances but don’t know that this is something that we’ve been doing for five years together overall.
We did the first show for probably about two and a half years. We realized that there were a lot of things that we could improve upon. Part of what the first podcast, since we were used to talking about relationships and even on that site, we would try to talk about money or careers and it wouldn’t get the right reception, at the time I don’t think we realized that it wasn’t the right audience for that particular content. We felt what I would call pressure to talk about other topics around the personal finance and career topics because those were still topics that people shied away from, even though now it seems like talking about money is finally cool in many ways. It’s about a number of personal finance sites and podcasts that are popping up out there. We ended up launching Paychecks & Balances in 2016. It wasn’t until the FinCon Expo Conference in 2016 that we actually met in person for the first time. We did everything digitally and virtually for over six years before we finally met in person and then we’re like, “You’re real, you’re not a catfish,” and it’s worked well ever since.
Were you thinking monetization out the gate?
No, not at all. It wasn’t something that we even thought about in some ways until the last eighteen months and we’ve had some sponsorships and things like that along the way. One thing that I’ve learned just from having done blogs, websites, things online since 2008 is that when you start something with monetization in mind, particularly something like a podcast or a blog where you’re trying to build an audience and people that are enjoying your content and you’re trying to create a great experience is a lot of times, that compromises the quality of the products. Some folks might take on a sponsor just because even though it’s not much money, they just want to say that they have a sponsor on their podcasts and that person is in a particular fit or they have somebody on as a guest because they’re thinking about the money angle of having that person as a sponsor and that person isn’t a good fit.
There are other decisions that you make along the way that could benefit you but they don’t ultimately benefit your audience. We spent a lot of time focusing on how can we create a show that’s relevant to people who are interested in the type of content that we’re interested in. We don’t want to be bored to sleep. We don’t want to be talked down to. We don’t want to feel like we’re being lectured by some middle-aged dude in a suit. No offense to middle-aged dudes in a suit but we wanted to create something like that that we knew that people would enjoy and that we would enjoy listening to ourselves. That’s a lot of the magic of the podcast, is just our ability to be relatable. It’s not something that we try to do. It’s just like, “These are our experiences. We know other people have these experiences. We want to laugh, we want to joke, we want to be fun. We also want to be informative so let’s do that,” and the people who have that interest, they will find us or somebody will listen to the show and tell them about us, and then our audience will grow that way.
Monetization is something that we’re thinking about more now and I’d say this particularly for myself. Mark has mentioned that we’re moving forward in terms of the entrepreneurship path. There are a lot of folks who are moving toward entrepreneurship within our audience but about for myself and the timeline that I want to have an exit plan to be out of Corporate America and my job does know this. If I’m going to put in over a thousand hours and we’re going to be putting in this money every month to create something that people enjoy and something that people benefit from, then it only makes sense that we start thinking about ways to make some money off of that, not at the expense of our audience but to help us get into a position where we can reach even more people and help even more people along the way.
Rich, from what I understand, you’ve got a great flexibility and Marcus, maybe you too. I heard you talk about it from a stage that you have a lot of flexibility in that you can go record a podcast or that you can do something like on the side. Your place of employment knows it. How did you engineer this deal?
For me, I started my whole online thing anonymously. It was the same thing with Marcus as well. I got to a point where I was just like, “This is such a big part of my life and a big part of who I am that it’s not something that I want to hide from people.” If I go to work and I say that I have a podcast that helps thousands of people and my job isn’t near as that or tells me that I can’t do that, then that’s not the place that I want to be. I’ve also seen a lot more folks over the past few years who have day jobs in various places and they spout off on social media saying all sorts of things and we joke on the show about going viral on Friday and fired on Monday.
I see people get away with some pretty crazy stuff. I got to a point probably about a couple of years back where I was like, “This particular podcast.” The first one probably was a little bit different. There were some swearing and other things that I probably wouldn’t want my job to hear. With this particular show, we’re talking about personal finance and career advice. We’re empowering people and we’re helping people. I made it very clear that it was something that I was a part of. Also, the nature of where I work, I’m a recruiting manager at Google by day. It’s a company where a lot of people leave there and go on to start their own companies. There are a lot of people who work there now who have all sorts of interest outside of work and they’re able to partake in those interest and have that balance. In many ways, balance is something that the individual has to create.
I saw a lot of what was happening around me and I was also thinking about the experience of who I am and being able to bring my full self to work. It was something that I didn’t have an issue vocalizing and it’s something that I continue to vocalize. I walk in wearing a podcast T-shirt and walk in wearing a P&B hat. At this point, I don’t really care. I would say it’s not a situation where I’m just, “I’ve got to record this episode at 1 PM. John, Jim, get your work done. I’ll be back at 4 PM.” It requires more of how I manage my time throughout the day to ensure that I get everything done. Even there are some privileges around the team for people being able to work from home a day per week but that’s all based off the how you perform in doing a good job at your job, so that your manager doesn’t feel that they have to micromanage you or ask what’s going on in a consistent basis.
For podcast tasks, we’re not typically recording episodes from 5:00 to 8:00 AM or 6:00 to 9:00 AM on weekdays but I also know how my energy works and I know that when I leave work because I’m someone that’s naturally an introvert. When I’m at work during the day doing an extrovert’s job managing a team, talking to folks all day when I get home, I don’t necessarily have the level of energy to do some of the higher-level tasks like an interview. Since I have the energy right now, you could try to figure out what time this is. For me, it’s working around that schedule. How can I ensure that this passion and this dream keeps going along without it impacting my day job? There are a lot of things we’ll do on the weekend. There are a lot of things that I’ll do in the morning and there are some things that I’ll do in the evening when I get home from work that are more basic tasks that I can do without too much thought.
There also have been times where I’ve burned vacation days to do something podcast-related. For example, the FinCon. Every year that I go to that and then we go to that, we’re essentially burning vacation days from work. When I go to Podcast Movement for a week over the past four years now, that’s burning vacation days for work. That doesn’t sound great because it’s supposed to be a vacation but at the same time, it’s something that feeds the soul to be extra deep with it and it’s something that I’m comfortable doing and my job knows that when I’m off doing something podcast-related, I’m not going to respond. Some people don’t have the ability to disconnect when they leave work but I make it very clear. It’s on the calendar. I’ve been telling you for weeks now. When I go off to this conference that you think is a vacation, I am not going to respond.
I’ve had cases where people have reached out and tried to ask a question anyway because I think that’s a lot of still what the culture is in Corporate America even if you’re out, you’re accessible. For me, I say, “No, I am at this thing that I told you is going to take a lot of energy and I need to give my 100% to it the same way I give my 100% to you all so you need to respect that amount.” It’s something that I’ve had to train people to do even when I started working earlier in the mornings where I would be on from 5:00 to 8:00 or 6:00 to 9:00. At first it would start with me doing more day job stuff, trying to get that out of the way so I would have more time in the evening. What I noticed is that the earlier that I would email people, the earlier people would start asking me for stuff or the earlier people would assume that I was available or that I was online and connected. I had to train people to understand that I have boundaries and that’s something that I’ve practiced and that’s something that really helps me in terms of being able to balance the podcasts to have that extra freedom and to not ever really feel like I can’t do this other thing that I’m excited about and passionate about. At the same time, be compromising the quality of my work by day.
I love the energy and the passion you bring. I don’t think we’ve ever explored that before, so thank you big time for sharing. I know a ton of Millennials listens into the show. I’m curious. What’s so different about Millennials in this context of money? What do you see?
For us, we want to be in control. We tend to be more idealistic and have values of what we want our life to look like and how we want to give back. We don’t want to be lectured or talk down to. We want people to meet us where we are. I think we joke a lot on the podcast about all these articles that are out there about all the millions of things Millennials are doing wrong, how the Millennials are causing the market to go down because we’re buying avocado toast and some of us were like, “That’s not our lives. We’re just trying to have the full realm of experiences, we’re just trying to find meaning and purpose. We understand that we don’t need to work at the same job for 25 to 30 years. We realize that there are a lot of alternative paths that are out there for us that can bring us happiness. We’re going to do things a bit different.”
I agree with Rich and maybe it’s because I’m biased by my own Millennial glasses but I don’t see the difference. I actually think it’s insane that we would be lectured to for wanting purpose, wanting to be fairly compensated and wanting to be able to leave our jobs at 5:00 after putting in eight hours or 40 hours or maybe 50 to 60 on a busy week. This idea that you’re really tethered to your job for 24 hours, you don’t pay me 24 hours money. Maybe if you did, we can have that negotiation but you can’t pay me these stagnant wages. I read something that the purchasing power of the dollar is the same as it’s been in 1978. You can’t pay me 1978 money in 2018 and get mad because I want to leave at 5:00. That doesn’t compute to me. If that makes me crazy or just a crazy Millennial, eat my avocado toast, then I’ll just be an avocado toast- eating Millennial then. It is what it is.
I also think that we see loyalty differently or maybe we don’t see it at all in some ways, at least that’s what some of the articles might say that we’re probably the most unloyal generation. Talking to my parents or talking to folks from previous generations who have logged 25 years somewhere, it’s crazy to me now when I hear that someone has somewhere for eight years. There are a lot of people who have been at Google for eight, ten, twelve years. I’m like, “That’s an eternity.” Even when I look at myself I’m like, “I’ve been here over four years. I’m a freaking dinosaur.” At the same time, I know that if there are certain things I want out of life or if I want to have a significant pay increase or whatever it is, then I may have to look around.
We’ve talked about that in the show too that the fastest way to increase your income is to move around and people will have contrary thoughts on that but I’ve seen from my experience in recruiting that people typically move around every two to three years and they look for something next. I also think for a lot of us, there’s this whole idea of pursuing your passion and having your dream job. For many of us, we find out over our first few jobs that what we thought we’re going to be, the dream jobs aren’t that. Our careers tend to move more in a squiggly line versus, “I’m going to do A, then I’m going to do B, then I’m going to do C, then I’m going to do D.” That may be more the case if you’re a lawyer or a doctor or something like that, but for a lot of people there on this constant quest to find purpose and to find fulfillment and we really owned it. We want to ultimately do something that makes us happy but also that secures our financial future.
What’s your vision for the show? You can only talk about finance so much and I know you guys have unique angles of coming at it. I’m very curious about what you guys are thinking about expansion and monetization to some degree.
The personal finance aspect of it is one piece. It’s probably the most notable piece but we also talk a fair amount about professional development and our individual journeys, career advice and a lot of that we leverage from how we’ve climbed the ranks into middle management. Then I also leverage from working in HR and recruiting for over a decade. There is that other element about it. Even when I tell the whole story of how I got out of debt, it’s not a scenario where I found myself eating water burgers. That’s not even a thing. I don’t know why I said that. I found myself doing whatever the cheapest thing was possible. For me, it was about calculated career decisions that put me in a position to make more money, have more opportunities if I wanted to go somewhere else thereafter.
For me, it’s worked out that I’ve been able to go from a sales job to a headhunter job first, staffing agency to a nonprofit where I made less to a tech startup to now working at Google. That’s all been about the career decisions that I’ve made along the way and that was something that we talked about on an episode. As we think about the greater brand, it’s about how can we help and reach the most people possible. Even when we think about our own interests within Paychecks & Balances, Marcus tends to be much more of a writer. He has more things in mind for the blog and beyond to help reach people that way.
For myself, loving the podcast side of things, there are things that I’m thinking about in terms of how can we present content in a different way, what can we do in terms of the format of the show and what people can we have on that maybe haven’t had as much of a voice that if they were able to get in front of an audience, they’d be able to help a lot of people. It’s thinking about how do we continue to convert this to more of a business versus a passion and a hobby that happens to make some money. We are formally an LLC. We were having a conversation about how do we stay in the black as opposed to as opposed to going in the red. For us, it’s how do we take the individual talents that we have and allow those to fully showcase themselves.
In my case and maybe Marcus’ case at some point down the road, that means being able to do something like this full-time so that we’re out there speaking without having to burn vacation days or without having to think about meetings that we need to move around the day job. We’re out there telling people our story about how we’ve gotten out of debt and also the many mistakes that we’ve made along the way, and even some of the quite frankly honest but stupid career decisions that we’ve made that put us in a bad position. Or we realized there was an opportunity to improve ourselves. It’s continuing to reach this Millennial generation but also knowing that there are people who are both older than Millennials and also folks who are in Generation Z, whatever this next generation is, who are benefiting from the content that we have out there.
There are also some things in terms of how we grow our team and how do we continue to create a bigger operation where we’re essentially reaching people across various channels between social, the podcast, the blog, video whatever else to make sure that we keep getting this message out there like, “You can do this, you can change your situation and it doesn’t have to be a situation where you’re being talked down to, you’re feeling like you’re just not getting there.” If you do feel that, we talk about that too. That’s part of what makes us relatable is that we talk about whether we feel like we’re not where we’re supposed to be or there was a part in our journey where we felt like we were in a screwed-up place. We want to be able to reach as many people as possible so that they know that they’re not alone and that they can change their situation if they put the intentionality behind it going forward.
As you guys both start to move towards entrepreneurship or making this a full-time thing, what’s your counter-intuitive advice for those that are in a similar spot?
It’s probably honestly the same advice that I give and it would be the debt management because it might be just thematic for everything. We had a young gentleman who I hope if he does listen to this podcast has started his podcast. That was specifically his question. He had a lot of great questions and a lot of people often do think this is a good question and then they don’t act on it because they keep information collecting. Then it’s the next year and they’re like, “We talked last year and I want to talk about this, I was thinking about that.” I’m like, “That sounds good,” and then another 365 days go by for whatever legitimate reasons they may have for starting but for whatever reason, they can’t get past that concept phase. They’re like, “I’ve got this great idea,” and a lot of people do but even better than a great idea is an execution of any idea. I’d rather deliver 80% of something than 100% of nothing.
A lot of people are comfortable delivering 100% of nothing because it’s scary. The idea is safe. The planning phase, you can stay in it forever, you can bother your friends or your family. “I’ve got this great idea if I put this out to make $1 million,” but the action and the institution of it, our implementation of it is the hard part. A lot of people never overcome that. My counter-intuitive advice would be to do it, whatever it is. I’m conservative by nature. That’s why I probably stay at the day job longer. I told Rich probably a few years ago now, it’s probably even truer, I could retire uncomfortably today. I don’t want to. I don’t know why would I want to be uncomfortable. Another friend told me the golden handcuffs, like if you ask me when I graduate school to put a checklist together of everything you would want from your career and life, I could probably check off everything on there with my twenty-year-old concept of what I thought would make me happy now. I’m about to turn 36.
It’s twofold. One, I’ve come to appreciate that it is the pursuit of happiness that actually makes me more happiness than the achievement of happiness or at least as far as the length of time that it takes to get there. That seven-year journey of getting out of debt was more impactful and meaningful than the day I got out of debt. I could say the same thing with the career. The ten-year career, although it had its headaches from each eight-hour day, I was complaining yesterday if not today. That’s more of a struggle. I now have the conceptual model to be like, “If it takes me two years to get out of this to be financially independent and free for 40 years, then I better work for those two years and not give up because these eight hours is difficult.” Someone told me years go fast, days go slow. I don’t think that really resonates to somebody. It’s really hard to explain.
I know some people who just aren’t there, I won’t say age-wise. They’re like, “That’s insane.” That makes no sense. I would have thought the same way probably quite possibly when people told me the exact same thing. Whatever words they used to tell me because it’s hard to believe when you’re going through it, it’s like, “No, money buys happiness. I know, because I don’t have the money right now and I know I would be happy if I had more money.” Then you get more money and you realize it was the pursuit of that money because you can only spend so much. You can buy a lot of things. I bought a lot but unless things make you happy, that’s only going to be futile. In the long run, it’s going to be very temporary. Then you had to find that next thing that makes you happy. Someone told me the human psychology is not meant to habituate, which means the human being on average does not like to be in a habit. That’s what we call a rut. By the very nature of achieving your goal, you have to figure out what the next goal is because that period of happiness is going to be more finite in the pursuit of that goal.
I would definitely say that the getting started piece is super important. Again having been doing things online since 2008, it is no surprise. It is no surprise that the one thing that really seems to be taking off is also the thing that I’ve stuck with as well. I think a lot of people when they finally do get started, they don’t get the results they want right away. They see what somebody else is doing and they aspire to have that level of success so they start molding whatever it is they want to do to be more like what that other person is doing. It is no surprise that we’ve got started with the podcasts. We did it for years. There were things that did not work. The audience did not grow the way that we wanted it to but we kept going and now we’re starting to see the result of all that effort.
I would encourage someone that even if you don’t have the perfect idea, there is no better time than when nobody knows you to get started. That is the best time to make all the mistakes to make all the screw ups versus when you finally do have an audience and then you’re worried about, “Am I going to lose 5,000, 10,000 people?” Whatever it is versus, “Am I going to lose ten or twenty by making this change and how I do things?” We encourage people to get started on your idea. Test it out. Stick with it for some period of time. Then if it doesn’t work and you need to pivot, great but consistency is the name of the game. Even when we look at our peer group of people who are also doing things from 2008 to 2010, those people who were getting the TV shows, the deals, the book deals and everything else, they’re the folks who have stayed with it for almost a decade. In some cases, it’s happened sooner. Right around five to six years where I’ve seen a lot of folks really start to take off, there are some people who do have the overnight story. The people who have tremendous success, you often don’t hear about it but it’s something that they’ve been doing for years.
Rich said it earlier but one point I do want to drive home is to the audience out there also that feels like they should be happy because they checked out some list, they went to school and they did all the things that you’re supposed to do and they haven’t achieved that happiness. The thing that I would say to them is, “You’re not crazy,” because I felt that way too a few years ago. I fluctuate every now and then. As you asked me where would I want to go with this brand or this company, this entrepreneurship, I don’t know but I do know I can spend hours working on a Paycheck & Balances. It doesn’t feel like work. It is true bliss. I’m eager. I’m excited.
I don’t know where it goes and honestly, I don’t care because I don’t get that type of enjoyment and fulfillment in return as I do in other avenues that I pursued before that I thought would lead to this type of happiness. To the person out there like, “I should be happy. People tell me I should be happy. I’ve got it all, that I put in on this facade. It feels like I do have it all.” If you’re not there, feel free to pursue what that next thing may be because that happiness that you truly are searching for may be on the other side of it, whether it’s entrepreneur, that next job, that next career, that next step whatever it looks like and you don’t have to formulate it. I think a lot of people are like, “I have to know exactly what the box looks like,” I just think that’s false. Just pursue the path and see where it takes you.
It’s WealthFit round time, which is essentially rapid-fire questions to both of you. What’s been your most worthwhile investment?
Mine is non-traditional and it’s something that’s become really important to me over the past probably fifteen months. It has nothing to do with personal finance. It’s been a therapist for me. I’ve had a lot of things that have come up in life. A lot of things that have happened over the course of years and it wasn’t until I got a therapist that I was able to make sense of some of those things and better understand how I can get to where I want to go. It’s not like you know ATF or anything like that. It’s by far the best investment that I’ve made of myself.
Rich, I want to do a follow-up on that. Have you always been a confident guy or do you think this therapist has helped you with your confidence?
It’s definitely helped with confidence. There are areas that I’ve struggled. I haven’t been the best in relationships and there are a lot of trends that I’ve seen that I wasn’t able to understand why those things happened, and why confidence and insecurity came out in certain ways until I talked to a therapist. In areas that I know well, like we talk podcasting, we talk business, definitely confident but for the areas where I’ve really struggled has been the most personal.
Technically you could say this podcast was an investment in myself because I, in some ways, still don’t know where it’s going to end or go but we took a chance. As Rich said, when no one knew us at least in this lane and we said we have this idea, rather than let it live and die there, let’s try it out. Then I wouldn’t say that it failed because we learned so much from that idea and it allowed us to pivot to the next idea. The advice that I got from that millionaire that I didn’t hit on earlier and it resonated with me was fail fast. I’d rather fail fast because that’s how I get to the end goal and to hear somebody who had “made it” say that it gave me a lot of peace that a lot of people are only worried about the successes and the victories and carrying the trophy at the end but not the race to get there. I don’t strive to fail but I tend to learn more from those failures that benefit me in those victories.
Marcus, what is that investment that you’ve made that didn’t pan out in the way that you thought it would and it’s the one that you don’t want to talk about?
There are probably two. I struggle with it because it’s all the ways that I spent that $30,000. At the same time, I struggle with that because I tell people that was some of the best times of my life was spending that money that was not mine, spending other people’s money quite literally. All the lessons that came from that, as maybe my father put it best, is that I was fortunate to learn those lessons and be in a position to come out on the other side fairly unscathed.
There were a lot of things that I had to do differently, a lot of things I had to change. As I said, I didn’t file for bankruptcy. I didn’t go off the edge, a lot of things went well. At the same time as things were going bad whether that’s good luck, opportunity, blessings or whatever you want to call those things, that allow me to be here quite literally, presently having this discussion. The other would be, and there may be a story coming out about this, I tried to do some mid-level marketing where I sold knives door-to-door. It continues to haunt me to this day. I was sure that I was going to take the industry over and some people may even recognize what company I’m talking about. That was my most regrettable mistake looking back in hindsight. I can’t believe I was dumb enough to think that I was going to sell weapons door-to-door in the suburbs. That would be probably one of my biggest mistakes.
Rich, what about you? What’s that investment you don’t want to talk about?
When I think about what’s not going well versus what just does. I am using the Stash app and I am invested I think in a marijuana stock and I don’t talk about that because I’m not sure people feel about it at work. I’m a marijuana ETF, but it might be the next Bitcoin or whatever people are saying out there. For me, is it my car? Is it the places that I’ve lived in? For me, I’m someone that just tends to drift to a lot of gadgets and I find ways to justify things that I need that I end up not using.
This is silly but like an example, I saw this smart pet feeder where you can feed your dog from wherever you are and see them on camera. I went and set this thing up and then I tried to feed my dog from work and I heard them start barking and crying and everyone was terrified of it. I never used that again. I’m like, “Did I really need to buy that thing?” I have boxes of gadgets and tech even stuff for the podcast like microphones that I justified at the moment and I’m like, “I did not need that.” It’s the combination of those small things where I’ve struggled with determining a want from a need versus like one particular bad investment that I’ve made.
Rich, is that your answer for your guilty spending splurge, is tech your kryptonite?
Tech and food. I’m such a techie and I also spend so much on food. I just got my report for my food budget for where we are in a month and there are days to go. I have well-exceeded the budget that I set for myself just because I love food and dining out so much. Yes, tech, gadgets. I caught myself buying this gadget and then I’m going to post a YouTube video.
Marcus, what’s your guilty pleasure spend?
Specifically, shoes. I like a nice pair of shoes. I’m a big dress shoes guy like Johnston & Murphy. Aldo is my shoe fetish, which is weird as a guy but maybe it’s okay now in this age. I personally feel uncomfortable about it. I said my natural nature, which benefits people around me is spending on others. I like to be the center of attention as far as spending goes, which people like but it’s not good for my financial well-being or personal side. As a solution to that, it was easier when I didn’t live at home. I was out of state in Denver, which is a great city by the way for about seven years. I stayed home because I know I don’t have the discipline to be out especially around adult beverages. It just makes that inner spender in me come out even more, which is why I dread ever being wealthy. Maybe that’s why I like it. I’m so consciously self-sabotaging myself because if I ever had the money like the fact that I don’t have it keeps me disciplined. I might need a spending coach if I ever do reach that true financial independence.
Rich, Marcus, you guys are raw, real, vulnerable. I love the energy and the passion that you bring to what you’re doing. Thanks for being on the show. I know the WealthFit Nation definitely appreciates it. I am curious where we can find out more about what you guys are up to?
Thanks, fellows. I appreciate it. The WealthFit Nation does too. Thanks again.