Tim and Amy were frugal—or so they thought. They spent less than they earned, so they figured they were doing it right. Then one day, they happened upon the concept of financial independence.
Turns out, they had a LOT of room in their budget to cut back. Once they did, it took them less than one year to hit their financial independence number. They’re now able to retire (if they so choose)!
What catapulted them down the path to financial freedom? Namely, it was downsizing their 6,000-square-foot home.
Once their daughter graduates from high school, they’ll rid themselves of their current 1,800-square-foot home and house/pet sit around the world full time. They plan to stretch their retirement dollars even further by travel hacking their way between cities.
Tim and Amy have combined their passion for travel (and pet sitting) into a full blown retirement plan. In this episode, the couple shares tips for getting started as a house or pet sitter, so you can stay for free when you travel, just like they do.
We also explore different options for post-retirement life. Tune in to hear what Tim and Amy cut out of their spending to make early retirement a reality.
Welcome to the BiggerPockets Money podcast show number 57 where we interview Amy and Tim from GoWithLess.com
‘Tim: Most people’s standards looking in from the outside, ‘We were doing all the right things. We were sort of living this American dream life. We live well within our means. We had a nice house, we had nice cars, we had nice things, we had a nice savings account. We were saving towards this goal or potentially retiring when we were 55.’ Then once we found the FIRE movement, we realized well we do not need all of these things that we have had in our life. We realized well maybe if we just reduced our lifestyle and sort of deflated our life instead of inflating our life like we had been doing historically, then we could get down this path almost immediately. I mean as soon as we found this FIRE thing, I would say within a year we were selling our house.
Amy: Retired. No, even less. We were actually retired within a year of learning about the FIRE movement.’
It is time for a new American dream, one that does not involve working in a cubicle for 40 years, barely scraping by. Whether you are looking to get your financial house in order, invest the money you already have or discover new paths for wealth creation, you are in the right place. This show is for anyone who has money or wants more. This is the BiggerPockets Money Podcast.
Scott: How is it going everybody? I am Scott Trench. I am here with my co-host, Miss Mindy Jensen. How are doing today, Mindy?
Mindy: I am super excited about today’s guest. Tim and Amy, I have known for a few years now, and I am so happy that we are finally able to get them on the show. I really loved their story. They were high income earners who were also high savers. Thought they were frugal, discovered that they could be way more frugal and have turned this idea of a babysitting other people’s houses into this amazing like travel hack that they use to travel the world for pennies.
Scott: Yes. Tim and Amy are just a quite clearly responsible, capable folks that have had a very successful career were on track for that. Even an early retirement before that age 65 benchmark that a lot of or most people plan for. But they realized that the track they were on could be dramatically accelerated if they just kind of changed their mindset and they were able to within a year of discovering the concept of financial independence make the changes necessary to actually leave their jobs. I think there are now set to be homeless.
Mindy: Yes. Soon to be… Are they our first homeless guests?
Scott: They might be our first homeless guests, yes.
Mindy: Homeless yet they travel the world.
Scott: No, they downsized their 6,000 square foot home. We are going to hear about that and how that kind of dramatically changed some of the picture for them. Then they now house sits around the role which is an incredible hack to travel. You can combine travel hacking to get a free flight or really cheap flights and then also be able to stay at someone’s house for free at the expense of just maybe walking the dog or tending the garden. You are looking at a really phenomenal way to see largest parts of the world. I am really excited to hear they are living this and it is awesome to hear.
Mindy: Yes, it is the quintessential living local.
Mindy: Yes, that is awesome. Okay, before we bring in Amy and Tim here, a note from today’s show. sponsor.
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Scott: Alright, big thanks to today’s sponsor. Tim and Amy, welcome to the BiggerPockets Money podcast. It is so good to have you on here. Mindy and I both know your stories but it is going to be great to share that with everyone who listens to the show. Welcome, how is it going?
Amy: It is going great, thank you. This is actually a bucket list item of mine. I am super excited to be here, thank you.
Tim: Yes, thanks for having us.
Scott: Awesome. Well, let us jump right into in your minds, where does your story with money begun?
Amy: I think it starts getting exciting once we started earning some of our own money and that really happened when I had my first job out of college. I grew up in a family that treasured experiences over stuff and I did not know it then. I did not think it was so cool then. Actually, I have had a complete 180. But when I had my own money, I started buying stuff and I started using credit cards and I had an income and I was able to still save a little bit of money. I got started with buying a whole bunch of stuff and I was on that path for about 25 years.
Tim: I think as soon as I got a real job, as soon as I got out of college, the job I had had a 401k plan. As soon as that, I saw the opportunity there to save, I was saving money. Growing up, I was sort of beat into me if you do not do the right things you are going to be on the street. I started saving early on and started moving towards, I guess, this path right out of college as well.
Scott: Walk us through kind of when you kind of began aggressively pursuing financial freedom.
Amy: Well, we stumbled into it by accident. Between the two of us, we made a nice healthy income as a couple and we had been decent savers. We also were good about not getting in debt so even though I used to buy a lot of stuff, I did still stay within my means. We were good savers, we were good earners, and we still spent a lot of money. Now, looking back, it was too much money. But we had a realization once we learned about the FIRE movement and learned about others who were able to retire early, that we started looking at our spending. We tracked our spending, we did all sorts of things the right way. We thought we were being frugal.
We were spending $115,000 a year thinking that that was a frugal life. Some people looking at our spending would maybe even thinking that it was a frugal life and some of the things we went to the movie matinees and just bought our own candy. That is not all it takes to live a frugal life now. But when we learned about the FIRE movement, we learned that we do not have to be spending $115,000 every year for the rest of our life. Once we kind of had the click of if we could dial in our spending, we do not have to work ever again if we do not want to. That was the big shift, it just is really learning about the FIRE movement.
Scott: Okay. Your situation was basically we are having great careers, strong income generation, building up a solid nest egg for retirement, but hey, we can do this much much much sooner if we make some drastic changes in the spending front, right?
Tim: I think most people’s standards looking in from the outside, we were doing all the right things. We were sort of living this American dream life. We live well within our means, we had a nice house, we had nice cars, we had nice things. We had a nice savings account. We were saving towards this goal or potentially retiring when we were 55. Then once we found the FIRE movement, we realized, well, we do not need all of these things that we have had in our life. Our income just allowed us to have all these things. It was the right thing to do to sort of to buy a bigger house, to buy fancier cars, et cetera and we were able to save all the while and then we realized well maybe if we just reduced our lifestyle and sort of deflated our life instead of inflating our life like we have been doing historically, that we could get down this path almost immediately. I mean as soon as we found this FIRE thing, I would say within a year we were selling our house and…
Amy: Retired. No, even less. We were actually retired. Within a year of learning about the FIRE movement.
Mindy: You were spending $115,000 a year spending, frugally spending a $115,000 a year.
Amy: Yes, frugally.
Mindy: I am not judging, I am totally judging, but for the purposes of the people listening, I am not judging. Where are you at now? What is your average spend now and what does that include and what did you cut out?
Tim: Yes. When we were spending $115,000, and by the way that $115,000 that does not include taxes. That does not include principal on the mortgage that we have. It does not include…
Tim: It does not include savings.
Amy: That is all spending. That is not investing, that is spending.
Tim: I do not want to say… That is right. We were flushing this money down the toilet. Right now, we are spending roughly $36,000 a year and we live in a town home. We do not have any debt. We own the town home outright. We do not have any car loans, we have zero debt. Our life now is on an order of magnitude better than it was whenever we were out spending $150,000 a year.
Amy: As far as we cut out. Number one, actually, I had heard Scott on a program and it really clicked. We had already been retired but he talked about, look, it is not your coffee necessarily, it is your house, it is your transportation. These are huge. That was it for us as well. Once we sold our big house, we had a 6,000 square foot house that we had to… our heating bills were over $400 a month in the winter and I had to wear layers and the hat. I was freezing in my $450 a month heating and like this is ridiculous. Once we got rid of that big house with the property taxes and the maintenance and all of it, we had to pay someone to professionally clean it because we had busy jobs and we did not have time to deal with this big house and clean it. We have to pay for that.
The house, getting rid of the house was huge. We had a rental property that was a small 1800 square foot for three people. We moved in there, it was perfect for us and now we use every inch of it. We had a kind of a gas guzzling car, we got rid of that. We had a car gifted to us by my parents and a five year old Toyota Corolla. We now use that card because it is much cheaper to gas, it is cheaper to maintain. It is just an easier and cheaper car. We looked at some of the big things but we really cut everything. When we cut $6,500 a month from our spending, everything was under the microscope.
Mindy: $6,500 a month is what you cut?
Amy: Cut, a month.
Tim: That is right.
Amy: Not a year. People think I like had a typo. No, a month.
Scott: I assume that the housing was the biggest factor in this, right?
Tim: Far away.
Scott: You walked through that and you have a child, right? That is in school.
Amy: We have three kids. One is still left, she is a senior in high school, but we have three kids. Just to clarify, Tim has three kids. They are my three step kids but we have been real active.
Scott: But you did this while, at least, your youngest is still in school, right?
Tim: That is right.
Scott: Okay. Let us walk through this. Can we kind of walk through maybe the math on the housing transition? Like how much of a difference did that make? Did you purchased the town home outright or did you do that with that? What was it like moving from a family perspective?
Amy: That is a good one because we had a teenage daughter. She is now 17, this was four years ago when we downsized, I mean here she is like a mid teen. Our old home was like a big giant… It was a fancy house. She would have friends over. Her bedroom was bigger than some of my old apartments when I was living in New York City or in Boston. Her bedroom at seven years old was gigantic and it was kind of like a cool thing. Like our friends come over, she has like this fancy house in this big room and whatever. I did not know how that would be for like a 13 to 14 year old to make this big transition. She has been phenomenal. Not only has she embraced it, she is really good.
Lessons being played out, we talk about this like every day, but now in our old home our big house was a ranch house. We could scream from our bedroom to her bedroom, she could not hear us. That is how far away her room was at like seven years old. Now, we share a wall and it actually made our relationship closer, which as a teenager, I think that is pretty extraordinary. Kudos to her for rising up to it. But it has only helped us because instead of being so spread out around the house, we are now, like people say when they have tiny houses and certainly this 1800 square feet is not close to a tiny house, but the less space really made us closer.
Tim: Yes and our big house was almost 6,000 square feet. Just to give you some perspective, we went from 6,000 to about 1800 square feet.
Scott: What did you do with all your stuff?
Amy: We gave most of it away and I am sure we will be talking about this. That was one big purge and downsize. We are doing another one in 2019 for our next chapter.
Mindy: Oh, well, I am very excited to get to that next chapter. But before we do, I want to kind of talk about the emotional aspect of quitting your job early, downsizing so significantly. I downsized from 5,000 to 1800 and I have hoarded tendencies so it was a huge shift for me but I also was like I really want to get rid of all my stuff. It is empowering to finally like rid yourself of all that, like I have, as people who have listened. Before, well know I still have a lot of stuff. As you guys know, you have been to my house, you see all my crap.
Amy: We still have a lot of stuff.
Mindy: But let us talk about the emotional side of it. Were you ready to quit when you discovered? Because you were on this path to quit when you turned 55. When you discovered, oh we could quit now, were you ready? Was that easy to quit?
Tim: I am going to say this real quickly. I did not leave my work at the same time Amy left her work. I walked away from my job November of 2015 then I worked part time for about 18 months. I was a little afraid to let go of my income completely and we both were a little afraid to just cut the ties from all our income. When we did leave our work, that happened to be the biggest earning year that we had.
Amy: As a couple.
Tim: As a couple. We earned a lot of money that year and we decided to walk away. But we thought that my part time work could actually support our life. It could certainly support our life, just working part time and then I decided that I was just going to give that up completely.
Amy: He looked over at me and said, ‘I want the life that you have. I am out of here.’ I completely supported that because we had had that one more, just one more year syndrome. Even though I had
pretty high confidence that using the 4% rule, et Cetera, our numbers are going to work and Amy had a different take on that.
Amy: I did. Now, I retired at 46, that was four years ago. People do not talk about this in the FIRE movement. On the other side of it, we did not have any income. For the past, about a year and a half, we have not had any income other than earnings from our investments. Getting too close to 50 and being on the other side of my career threw me into somewhat of a midlife crisis that I did not expect at all. I still think I am like 25 years old and my head, but I am not. To think that just being on the other side of my career was kind of a mental shift of like oh, I am old enough to be on the other side of my career, I am not 25. Then hitting 50 this past summer was like, whoa. I think I am still kind of grappling a little bit with that. That was kind of part one of the mental, Mindy. But the second thing was we left our house and had this plan that we would live on $50,000 a year.
We did not know if we could live on $50,000 a year. We had hoped we had planned, but we did not do it. We were selling our house with the intention that we would hopefully love it and that we could do it, but we did not know. We used to review our numbers together. Tim track everything but we review it twice a year. One day in the car, I had a bit of a meltdown toward the beginning. Like when I had already left my career I had a bit of a meltdown and said, ‘Tim, we are living so extravagantly. I cannot wait for five more months to have our semiannual financial review. I think that we are going to be blowing through this money. It feels like we are spending $115,000 a year.’ I am like kind of panicked, that we got to go back to work immediately. We sat down with our numbers. It turns out we needed to be a $50,000 and we turned out that we were closer to $36,000 and I am not joking, like our life feels extravagant at $36,000 a year and I would have not believed it until I think I lived it.
Scott: I think that, to me, that seems like the number one shift that made this possible for you guys, right?
Scott: How did that affect the schooling? Which school your child went to?
Tim: Yes. My daughter actually spends part time with me in part time with her mom and so the school district that she is in now and then is her mom’s district. It was just a few miles closer. It was not a huge shift for her in terms of school.
Amy: She was not in the school district anyway in our home so we just moved a little bit further. We still have to drive her to school like normal.
Scott: Okay. I see. I do not know, these are questions that are kind of…
Amy: That was a good question. That is a great question.
Scott: Because I am thinking like hey if you are listening to this and you are in a similar position, you are thinking about doing that, those are the challenge I think that people are facing. Hey, great because we were moving forward. We are ready to go now if we make some drastic changes, one of the consequences of those. It sounds like you kind of were able to work around all of those things that I think a lot of folks think this is impossible for me for whatever reason.
Amy: We stayed in the same town.
Tim: You asked the question and I do not know if we had answered this either, but the $6,500, I am guessing at least $4,000 of that came from housing related costs. Whether it is the mortgage or the insurance or the ridiculous utility bills that were four times higher.
Amy: The housekeeper.
Tim: Or the housekeeper or those yard work or just the things that come with having a house, far away. The molds.
Amy: The molds.
Tim: Fired away, that was the biggest expense that made up that $6,500.
Scott: Got you. My next question in this is in the process of leaving your jobs, how did you design your portfolio to produce income for you in your early retirement?
Amy: Well, we went with low cost investments. Low cost mutual funds. Most of our money is in stocks and international stocks. Some of it is in bonds. Pretty much all of our money is invested in low cost mutual funds.
Scott: There you go.
Tim: About 25% of our assets are, I always get this post tax, money that we have already paid taxes on were, most of that is Amy’s. Most of my money happens to be at our tax deferred accounts and so we have this mix of tax, as most people would, a mix of tax deferred and taxable accounts. We are currently living off mostly Amy’s money that we have been saving. Whenever Amy went back to work after we got married, she did not work for a little while.
Amy: I was actually raising his kids.
Tim: We were saving every single penny that she made in her job. Not a nickel of her money where we spend that. We were only saving every nickel we save.
Amy: That was in our big spending days. That was just like an idea. We were not… Even though we were spending a lot, we were not just completely crazy with money. Every single dollar I earned went right to investing.
Scott: Personal finance is personal and that was a percentage of your income is the way to kind of move forward this. If you have a high income, you can spend a lot and still save a huge percentage of that income, right?
Amy: That is right.
Mindy: Okay. I know that you alluded to a second chapter in 2019 after your daughter graduates from high school. You do this thing called house sitting which is a job, a vacation. Let us talk about that a little bit. Who is letting you watch their houses? Do you just have friends all over the world?
Amy: Wow, that is like seven questions in one.
Mindy: Answer them all.
Amy: Number one, it is a job? no. It is a vacation? No. We do not make any money at this. This is not a side hustle how we are doing it and we are doing it internationally. Even if you wanted to make money at it, if you are coming into another country and making money, there are tax issues and work visa issues that you would need to consider. We are not interested in making any money at it, first of all, but even if we wanted to…
Tim: But we are always interested in making money.
Amy: That is not our goal. Our goal is not to make any money at it, which is good because we do not make any money at it. Number one, like I said, is not a side hustle. We call it the best travel hack in the universe. We are both travel hackers and Tim is an expert travel hacker but this is the best hack out there and this is going to be our big chapter.
In 2015, when I left my work, we started doing part time how sitting in the local Denver area to build up references so that when sits in places in the world that were really like fabulous. We just did a sit in Manhattan, or actually in Brooklyn, just two weeks ago. We spent… I turned 50, that 50th year birthday, we had that in France. When they won the World Cup, we were in France at a house sit that was extraordinary. We have been doing this part time. But in early 2020, we are downsizing our stuff again to get rid of our home and our cars, stick our stuff, our few remaining things in storage and traveled the world like forever until we are sick of it, which may never happen and may happen in six months but we are expecting it to last for a long long time and we will be primarily how sitting around the world for strangers.
Mindy: For strangers. Why do…
Amy: For strangers.
Mindy: Why do they let… I mean I know you guys, I would let you house sit for me, but why do strangers let you just come into their house?
Amy: Is not that amazing? It is an amazing world. Do you want to answer that?
Tim: I will give it a go. I think it is all about the sheer economy of things, people love their pets and so they need somebody to come in and tend to their pets and try and make their pets feel like they are at home when they are away. The other option would be to board your pets or try and find some situation for them. People are looking to have their pets be taken cared of also their home. If you are gone for a month or two or three months, your home just sitting there empty. There can be issues with that. There are sites out there. In fact, we use one specifically. It is called Trusted House Sitters.
Amy: It is the biggest one in the world. They vet you as a house sitter and also they vet the homeowners a little bit. You know that the people that are coming into your home are going to be somewhat trustworthy, they have reviews, et cetera. It is just like why would anybody let somebody come and stay in your house as Airbnb? It is similar.
Amy: Same idea.
Tim: You are not looking to make an income per se but you are looking to just have your house taken care of in a way that you would want it to be taken care of. Also, one of the questions that you ask was about is this a vacation? We were asked this question often are people think when Amy says it is a great travel hack, it is. However, it is certainly not a vacation and we would not want to put it out there that this is something where you would want to… If you have one week a year, you are going to go get a sit in Maui and it is going to be this great sit. It does not really happen that way.
Amy: Plus, it works. When you are in a house sit, you are taking care of a home, you are walking the dogs. I think this is an amazing. Why would someone have you in? First of all, it is free. If you are gone for two weeks and you have two dogs, imagine or maybe of a horse and a cat and the cat is not going to go to a kennel and you do not have someone to come in every day to take care of your cats. We have had cats that have been fed very specific things four times a day. We have had cats and have needed diabetic injections at 7:00 AM and 7:00 PM exactly. This is like, that is kind of who was going to take care of this? The kind of cool thing is that people love their pets. I had a house sitter come in, sometimes we met someone in the parking lot of somewhere, I had her come into the house.
I am a pretty trusting person but I loved my pets so much that I did not want her routine disturbed. It had nothing to do with my house. I wanted my pet to be happy and she would have been so miserable in a kennel and I paid to have someone come in. We are free. For people who are naturally trusting people who love their pets, it turns out there are a lot of them and thankfully we find a whole bunch of them and have really good experiences as a result.
Tim: We watched some cats last year. I think the cats had four meal times a day. A very specific topic.
Amy: The cat was fed better than you are.
Tim: Exactly. We had to mix in pumpkins and…
Tim: Probiotics. People that have that sort of level of interest in making sure their pets are taken care of are the sort of people that are looking for house sitters I think.
Amy: They generally are really nice people.
Tim: Very nice.
Mindy: Are you always taking care of a pet?
Tim: Almost always. There is a rare exception. For us, it has been exclusively pert. However, there are places that on a rare occasion we will see on trusted house sitters, somebody is looking for their… Their house in South America is going to sit empty for three months and they want somebody to be there, making sure they are not going to have squatters come into their house and things like that.
Amy: Or tend garden or things like that. We love pets and it makes it more homey. It is kind of a nice thing. When people talk about living like a local, I think that is why Airbnb is so popular because people like that idea of living like a local. This is the ultimate living like a local. We have done a lot of Airbnbs as travelers and we love that too. That is when you were really out doing long travel days. But when we are house sitting, you are kind of supposed to stick around quite a bit because many of the pets are very social. Dogs, you are not leaving a dog for 16 hours a day in most situations. We are supposed to be hanging around home. It is nice because we really encouraged to stay home and catch up on our Netflix shows. Again, like you are not going to do this as your one week vacation, but if it is your lifestyle, fantastic.
Mindy: How does somebody become a house sitter? Did you say I want to be a house sitter and you just get on?
Amy: Then the genie comes and you are granted the house sit. That is right. We did get on a site, like Tim said, it is kind of like a dating site. We made this huge profile that talked all about us as a couple, talked about our experience, showed videos and photos and all of that. Then what we started to do was local sits. We did maybe up to 10 local sits so that when one was advertised, we would say, ‘Hey, they will come right over too. Like immediately. Normally, they are around the world, you cannot go meet them.
You have to do an extra level of trust because this is not like a face to face meeting before you commit. But in Denver, we can do a face to face meeting and we are hopefully pretty trustworthy people in person and people book us immediately. We say like we are just going to come in and start that right away. That is a really good way to get started is to do some local sets so that you can get references. We also have a background check. Getting on a site where you have this matching, getting some local sits so you get some references. This is the way to get started.
Scott: How much do you think you save relative to like… If you wanted to go someplace for three months in South America and rent is a comparable place.
Tim: Yes. I guess one of the things that I think that we have realized is that we think we can be on the road cheaper than we can be here in Colorado.
Amy: How cool is that? We think it costs us about our house that is fully paid for our town home that is fully paid for. It costs us about a $1,000 month just to be there and this place that is fully paid for between utilities we would not have at a house sit.
Tim: HOA and taxes and things that just cost money, to live in a place that is paid for, we spend about a thousand bucks a month. We were in Europe this summer for…
Amy: We estimate that we saved $6,000 just in July. We had a month in France, we estimated that that would have cost $6,000 because it had the pool. We had their cars. It was a beautiful house in a great area of Alsace, France. We are estimating to save, and we have been in some extraordinary homes, we just… We have been in a 10,000 square foot home that is not necessarily our goal is to be at these big giant homes. We just did a studio apartment two weeks ago in Brooklyn. That was great and it was really easy to clean. But we like to pick kind of expensive places to how sit.
Like Manhattan is a great one, France is a great one, London, Australia, they are all over the world. But we kind of pick more expensive places where we might not be doing our Airbnb because if it is kind cheaper in Airbnb, maybe we will not have the responsibility and we will just go stay in vacation. We will see in a year or so when we hit the road what that really looks like, but we know that we have saved significant money. I mean just last week, we had four nights in Brooklyn. I bet we saved at least a $1,000 on a hotel room. It was a great doorman building and very convenient and safe and we got a great cat.
Scott: That is awesome. You are living an incredible lifestyle when you go on these trips and it has really prepared you to really full time go into this in about a year from now. Maybe we can shift back to some of the kind of emotional aspects of the leaving your job, the transition you are talking about there. Specifically what I want to know is you guys both had high powered careers, earning tons of money, living the American dream, why do you think your peers that you are working with maybe did not undergo the same shift? Why are not they pursuing the same kind of change that you guys went and pursued?
Amy: That is such a good question. On our YouTube channel, we say we are speaking to an audience that has no interest in hearing our message which makes it really hard to speak to an audience. But it is tough. People, our colleagues, our friends, our peers who are doing well now that they are at the peak of their income, they look at us often like we are crazy. The reason now that we do our YouTube channel is to meet our tribe. Our tribe might be 25 years old, they might be 75 years old, but it is people who have said, ‘I am opting out. I understand that I do not need to work until I die. There is some value in having your freedom young enough when you could do something fun with it.’
Tim: I think people are addicted to their things. I built this lifestyle, I have a lifestyle that I built. I need this income to support this lifestyle and I am addicted to these things that the money brings to the table. I can always buy a new iPhone, I can go eat Sushi whenever I want to eat Sushi, I can travel whenever I want to travel, I can live in this big house, I can drive whatever kind of car I want. All these things that that money buys, I think people… The idea of walking away from that and deflating your life is really unappealing to a lot of people. For us, I cannot tell you how amazing our life is, but it is hard. Like Amy said, our audience, the people who we were trying to like reach and say this is much better. The other side, just trust me. You ditch your job, it is a tough sell. I do not know, what are your thoughts?
Scott: I do not know. I have not spent that long in that type of crew. All I can say is that on a former life, in a former job, it seemed like people just spend up to their income for the most part. It is like however much income I make, I am going to spend 90% of that and like once you start learning a significant income over a $100K, $150K, $200, really bumping up. Like nobody that is earning in that range that I have come across really is totally irresponsible. You hear stories about doctors who totally in debt but they seem to be at least contributing to the 401K and that kind of stuff. Is that true? Am I wrong?
Scott: Okay, alright. Fair enough.
Amy: Again, this is our demographic. I have a lot of and friends have all kinds of situations. People have us look at their money a lot to kind of help them understand where they can go with it. I have friends who have made significant money.
Tim: Over half a million dollars.
Amy: Who cannot qualify for a credit card because their credits are awful, no joke. You will be surprised, clearly, you would be surprised.
Scott: I am surprised, yes.
Amy: I mean these popular blogs for physicians, I mean a lot of them are spending up to their income. Here is what is funny, because a friend of mine on Facebook is nearly retiring himself and we had talked just about, ‘Hey, we used to spend $115,000 and here is what we are doing.’ He fully assumes that because we were spending $115,000 that we were making $115,000 and he was a financial planner. There was no concept of you had extra money put into savings over and above this is $115,000. That was not even like… Like this was his job and he was a FIRE person himself. Not like maybe in the mentality of FIRE, but he had retired early because of his business. If anyone would understand that, he would be somebody who should understand like of course they were saving extra money.
Scott: I spend all day everyday talking to people who are interested in the concept of FIRE, working towards it, and so I literally never come and come in contact really in the ordinary course of my life with someone who is making more than six figures ever and his spending all of it.
Amy: I have seen people.
Scott: Very difficult for me to comprehend this.
Amy: I think that is awesome because you are surrounded by some amazing people and that has shaped who you are and I think that is great.
Scott: Well, okay, so, man…
Amy: Ask Mindy. Mindy, Mindy, what do you think, Mindy?
Mindy: I am going to go with the…
Amy: Do you know anyone?
Mindy: I know lots of people. I am going to go with that firm ‘No comment.’ I do know a lot of people. I actually read this really fabulous article. I will link to it in the show notes
because I cannot remember what it was called right now. It was on wealth simple or something where this couple was in massive amounts of debt. I think she was making 70 and he was making 90 and they had a house like their mortgage was 360. It does not seem like they had this huge insurmountable like mortgage debt or anything, but they had all these credit cards and they had all these loans and they spent every dime that came in plus they would use this credit card to pay that credit card off and or well pay the minimum payment on that credit card. They were saying like she was saying an attorney but I do not work as an attorney because I took a job that would allow me to stay home with my kids. Okay, great, that is perfect. Totally get that.
I was a stay at home mom, but as an attorney you could make a lot more money. Maybe now that your kids are all in school, you could transition over to a different career, make a lot more money and pay off your debt. But there is so drowning in debt. She even said, ‘I do not even know how much it is. I cannot look at the cards. I cannot look at the statements.’ Well, that does not make the credit card bills go away. Not Looking at them, the ostrich syndrome does not help at all. It was really hard to read this. Then somebody posted it in the Choose FI Facebook Group and people were really dogging on this couple, ‘I cannot believe…’ I am not really speaking highly of them either but that is a difficult thing to admit.
Mindy: It is going to take a lot to fix the problem. I would love for her to listen to this podcast so that we could help her with her issues. But the first step is to look at what you are spending and start with that. You said that you started tracking your spending, you are like, ‘Wow, we do not really need all this stuff. We can get rid of some of this stuff and we can retire instantly just because we have always been good savers.’
Amy: Scott also asked like why would not everybody kind of jumped in and do this? I think fear of change is a big one. We are making it that how sitting is this perfect rosy thing, not always. I moderate a really big house sitting Facebook group that I hear all the horror stories. There are horror stories out there. Maybe you go into a house of hoarders or somebody who is a irrational homeowner. I mean there are certainly, or maybe it is an aggressive animal, maybe the cat pees on your bed every day. Like there is all kinds of things that might make this not so great. How we look at that is number one, we have done a lot of screening. We have been very fortunate that we found great ones but we are ready. Like we know that we are not only going to have rosy fabulous.
Having that flexibility is just good as a traveler. It is good I think in life. Being flexible, I think, is our key to like… If it happens, our mentality, we are expecting at some point it will happen and we are going to say, ‘Well, we are only here for two to six weeks. Like maybe we are up at three weeks. This is not our life. Even if a cat pees in our bed every day, that is awful but it is over in three weeks and now off to something else and it is usually wonderful.’ Many people do not… They are like I have earned the right to not deal with that crap.
We get that and so think that is part of it. That people are like that is too uncertain, that is too inflexible. I want my coffee maker, I want my own bed, I want my life like I want it, that I have designed it, that I have worked hard to earn it. We definitely get that. But we are saying, like our old life, it was going to kill us because we worked really hard. I did not get to see Tim because he was on an airplane every week. Like we decided to opt out of that certainty for like some super uncertainty which has brought in great adventure to our lives.
Scott: I guess what I am having trouble comprehending in all this is I can understand, hey, I make a really high income and I want to spend pretty much all of that and enjoy a really really a nice lifestyle because I am earning that money. Like that is not like a concept that it is difficult for me to comprehend and I am going to put away a basic amount of money so I do not go broke next month if I lose it or reduce it, right? Like that is the basic reason. That is not even unreasonable, it is a personal choice that that person is making within their limits, right? What I am kind of having difficulty comprehending is someone in order to make $250,000 or $500,000, half a million dollars a year, you have to be basically competent, I presume for the most part.
Amy: No, you do not.
Scott: What is it?
Tim: You never heard of the Peter Principle?
Scott: No. Please explain to me. Maybe this is another thing that I think listeners and I would love to. How does one go about making $500,000 a year without being good at anything or having a particular skill?
Mindy: I want to jump in here really quick.
Amy: It does not mean they are not good at anything.
Mindy: Does not mean they are not good at anything. Think about, Scott has…
Scott: You have to be good with money? No, but it seems like you cannot be smart enough or capable enough to command that kind of income and then so incapable at just basically managing your finance? That is what is difficult for me. I want to know who this person is.
Mindy: Think of all the people that you used to work with at the other company you worked at.
Scott: None of those people were incompetent or no one that I have worked with, I would say is like, ‘Oh, I am going broke from all of this stuff.’
Mindy: No, they will not say it.
Scott: I am not free. I do not have the ability to free.
Amy: Guys, she is right.
Scott: Okay. Alright, go.
Amy: She is right. They are driving their Mercedes, they are not saying I am broke.
Mindy: They are driving the Mercedes, they are making their monthly payment with their credit card. Their lease payment, not their payment. Then they pay this credit card with that credit card and that credit card with that credit card and then somebody offers them alone so they take that out or they take out their 401K loan or they do not even contribute to the 401K. I mean I feel really super judgmental right now but it is just so easy to do it right. But I also think that there is this perception that being frugal means you cannot have anything. Being Frugal means you shop at a thrift store and you eat beans and rice and you have peanut butter jelly sandwiches…
Mindy: Ramen and you were miserable all the time. Sure, you could do that, but personal finance is personal and you can do whatever you want. You spend money on things that matter so you can save on things that you do not care about. I mean, do you care about how fashionable you are?
Scott: Nope. Look at this, look at this shirt.
Mindy: Scott has got a hole in his shirt.
Amy: Actually, I met somebody at FinCon this year and he was in his young thirties. He sold his company for something like $30 million shared between him and a partner and there was no assets so he did not have to pay anything, he did not have to pay anything off. He got like $15 million, it was all gone. He is now back in, he is doing other things and back in the workforce. But he is in his young 30’s. He said his ex wife used to have a fashion problem and she would buy high end fashion and it just went away. I think if you are, and there was plenty of people, and he was very successful and astute to be at in other things to be able to grow a company to $30 million but I think that it is interesting. There are people that can be great at lots and lots of things and be awful at money. It does not mean that they are bad people, it just means they are awful at money and then hopefully they do discover down the road that there is a better way or different way hopefully.
Mindy: That is where we come in.
Amy: Yes, exactly.
Mindy: Is there anything else that you want to make sure we share about house sitting? About getting involved in this because it seems really awesome but it also like I really want to make sure that everybody knows that this, it is sort of a job. It is not like 40 hour a week job. I guess you could probably find like work my farm.
Amy: Yes. The cool thing about how sitting is that it kind of can fit anybody. If you are a solo man or woman, there are sits that are perfect. There are many pets that are skittish around men and only want one person. Maybe they have a small hall, one person, and maybe they need a kind of a handy person. Maybe they a guy who is like a good handyman. Maybe a woman obviously could be a good handyman too. Some have like maybe they have two dogs and they are not good on the leash together so they are looking for a couple. Some want to share their home with a family because maybe they have kids and their pets like the energy of children. I think it fits kind of everybody. You could be… We have millennial friends we have turned onto this that are doing well. I have friends who are traditional retirement, each were in their seventies who are doing it to great success. It really can fit all kinds of people, which I think is just amazing.
Mindy: Okay. I had a question that I wanted to ask you before we move on to the Famous Four. Do you miss anything from your $115,000 a year life that you want to add back or that you feel is silly to add back?
Tim: Not very many things. However, there is something that just based on something that happened yesterday that I want to ask back to our life. I spent like three hours vacuuming the floor yesterday. I have a blister on my hand from vacuuming. I want a housekeeper. I am trying to figure out how to fit this back in our budget. Amy mentioned we have roughly $50K a year that we could be spending and we are spending about $36K. I am pretty sure this next year we are going to add a housekeeper back into our life.
Amy: Actually here is the cool thing. It is probably going to be kind of cheap because we do have a really small place and because it is a small place, we live very clean and tidy just day to day but it is just like the deep cleaning. Cleaning the toilets and vacuuming. We do have extra money. I could see, yes, professional cleaners clean your house a whole other level. I support that one.
Scott: Alright, confession time. This is something that I had added into my life in the last three to six months here. It is very huge perk and not very frugal, but I definitely definitely definitely enjoy that. Not Having to scrub the house clean once a month, as in once a month cleaning.
Amy: I think that is great.
Mindy: Tim, were you looking to add back a daily cleaner, a weekly? Bi-weekly?
Amy: A full time live-in maid.
Mindy: That might be a little bit more than $15,000 a year.
Scott: That is called a house sitter.
Tim: That is right exactly.
Amy: That is exactly right.
Tim: Every other week, I think.
Mindy: Every other week. Okay, that is not like hugely expensive. If you have them on a schedule, is not there like some sort of discount. If you just have them come in once, it is not really a discount. But if you have them come back like the more they…
Amy: I think it will take about three hours every two weeks. How much could this be? If we hate doing it, why not just outsource that because we hate it?
Mindy: That is the thing.
Tim: I hate it more that.
Mindy: That is the thing. My husband has talked about getting a house cleaner. I am not the best cleaner in the world. I also hate it immensely and I was in a mastermind group with a whole handful of people and one of them had asked us, ‘Hey, do you think it is okay?’ Everybody is like, yes, whatever. It is your money. Personal finance is personal. If you want a housekeeper and you can afford it and you are not going into debt for it, then get one and I will join you.
Amy: Wow. Tim, made me do it. Ten years ago, he had one when I met him. He had three children on his own. He had one and I am already a neat tidy person. I did not think first of all that they could do that much better of a job and I did not think it was a big deal. I just did not want people like dealing with my stuff. The first time we had it done, my clear glass shower, looked like brand new. I looked at it and said I am never going to be without a housekeeper again. That was when we were living large. But it was such a difference and it took one time to say they cleaned the trash cans. Like they polished my trashcan.
Scott: This is the BiggerPockets Money podcast show number 57 where we are responsible with our money in every aspect imaginable except when it comes to housekeeping.
Amy: We have earned the right and so I have my own thing that I miss. I used to say I missed having like a massage every, I do not know, every three months or something and I still do miss that. I just added something back. I used to have like a group training situation for like fitness. It was not personal training, it was personal training but with like a group of 20 people so it was not the highest price tag and I used to have that back in my old life and Tim and I just signed up to do that for January, a 10 week challenge of what they call it an extreme body shaping. I am really excited. Tim is not so much but he is coming along for the ride. Paying for that, we actually got a fantastic deal so we have got a really good deal on it and I am realizing like we better be as healthy as we can be. That is worth spending some money on.
Mindy: That is absolutely right. I am going to end it right there and say let us move on to our Famous Four questions. These are the same five questions that we ask everybody, four questions and a command, the last one is a command. The first question is what is your favorite finance book? You can each answer this. We have got two guests so we have got two answers.
Amy: That is right. I am going to go with… I am going to answer one that is not a direct finance book, it is a Dale Carnegie Book and it is How to Stop Worrying and Start Living. When I would was younger, I did not have the… He is very well known for…
Tim: How to Win Friends and Influence People.
Amy: Thank you. Yes, this is a huge one. I have read that too. That was great. I was a salesperson my entire career but the How to Stop Worrying and Start Living. Like I said, it is not a finance book, but worry and that kind of emotion comes into finance massively. I read this and took his course, like a an in-person course in my 20’s. That was part of the required reading. The idea is that like how bad, like take your mind to how bad could something possibly be? I think money and fear is a big one, I am never going to hear that one on the list of best finance books but it is a goodie.
Tim: I am going to go with Amy’s Answer.
Amy: Tim has never read it.
Scott: You know what a worst case scenario sounds like to me? It is earning $250,000 to $500,000
and then still being in debt. Not an effort and…
Amy: I have changed. Scott now has nightmares as a result of this podcast.
Scott: Oh my gosh. Alright, what is your biggest money mistake?
Tim: This was our biggest money lesson and our biggest money mistake, I think it was buying the house that we sold when we downsized.
Amy: Not when we downsized, before we downsized.
Tim: Before we downsized, that is right, I am sorry. It was an over $600,000. I actually, I think it was $590,000 we invested in this house.
Amy: Plus a lot of extra stuff.
Tim: Then we spent a ton of money getting the house up to speed. We invested in the yard, et cetera, we spent another $50,000 or $100,000 in the house. I think we sold it for roughly what we paid for.
Amy: I think we lost money.
Tim: We lost money on this house. We probably lost somewhere between $50,000 and $100,000 on this house. It was a great lesson in that we realized that real estate is not always a win although it can be an amazing thing. For us, it was not a win and…
Amy: Actually, I had the same biggest mistake but I had a different lesson. My lesson is that I do not want to live in a big giant house. I thought that was my American dream and I was wrong. I like living in just the right amount of space. In that house, there were rooms that we did not enter it for over a year. Rooms, that is ridiculous for us. We did not need that kind of space and I realized I had to live it to know that I did not want it.
Mindy: That is so true. I bought a house in the same town and I thought that it was my dream house but it really was not. It had weird spaces that I did not really use. It had other spaces that I needed to be bigger. Yes, now I am in… I went from 5,000 to 1800 and I think 2000 is my sweet spot, but there is four of us.
Amy: It is right.
Tim: It was a huge mistake but a great lesson.
Scott: It is selfish of me. I want to kind of chime in about some housing thoughts. I have been house hacking for last four years since 2014 in various things. At this point, I feel like I can move on and potentially like rent a place that is a little nicer and not have to house hack. I love my current place, but I have always thought like hey I would love to live like in the apartment downtown and I think what I am kind of wondering from a lot of this stuff is that it would be a huge mistake to buy a condo and move in. Like it would not be that bad if you wanted to try it out. If you are thinking, hey, do I want to work towards the goal of early retirement living in that huge 6,000 square foot house? Can I rent it for six months to a year? Now, you can see and figure out if that is for you. I do not know if that is a good takeaway from what you are talking about.
Amy: Here is what I would do. I would house sit downtown in that unit.
Scott: Boom, much better.
Tim: There it is, yes.
Amy: That is where I am going. We do not know where we are going to end up. We plan to put down roots again in our future. We hope that it will be in Colorado, Denver. We love it here. We cannot imagine loving a place anymore but we are not winter people. It is nice to try on another life. Go house sit downtown for a cat and you have that answer for free.
Scott: Love it. Kevin, our podcast producer is chiming in here, he is ready to sit down. He said, why do not you just house sit and then hire a housekeeper. Get the house cleaned every day and then get the owner to pay for that if they have already got a housekeeper coming in.
Amy: We have plenty of house sit that have housekeepers come in while we are there.
Scott: There you go.
Amy: Plenty of them. This is a sweet suggest candy, a sweet situation.
Scott: Except for when you have the cat that pee’s in your bed.
Amy: We have not had that though. That is we are still so excited. It has been three and a half years.
Tim: We have had a dog that poo’d freely throughout the house.
Amy: That is a whole other thing.
Mindy: That is disgusting.
Amy: You know what? It is like your baby. Like when your daughter threw up on you, was it like discussing after two years? It was just life. It is the same with pets.
Mindy: It is so gross.
Amy: It is really… But is not as gross as when you were single thinking about it, right?
Mindy: True. But its…
Amy: It is the same. You will get used to it.
Mindy: Yes, kids are great, I think. Okay. What is your best piece of advice for people who are just starting out?
Tim: Do not fall prey to lifestyle inflation.
Mindy: That is a good one. I hear that frequently and yes, that is how you become a $200,000 a year earner who spends $200,000 a year.
Scott: Hey, from the guy who was going to get a housekeeper, right?
Amy: Who has a housekeeper.
Mindy: Live-in housekeepers, Scott?
Scott: I do not have a live-in housekeeper. What do I look like?
Amy: Not insane.
Scott: No, I use Task Rabbit maybe once every two months and someone comes in.
Amy: That is a good tip because we had the same person in our house. We were going to call her. She is great and it is nice because we know her but she might not want such a small job. Task Rabbit is nice because it is like a three hour job. You do not have to take up a whole day. It is a three hour commitment.
Scott: Exactly, yes.
Amy: I love it. That has given me a good idea. We are going to look at that up as soon as we leave.
Mindy: Yes, I am going to look that up too because I do not know how to…
Amy: Mindy. We are holding you to it.
Mindy: I do not know how to hire a housekeeper.
Scott: This show is brought to you by Task Rabbit.
Amy: Like a sponsor.
Scott: Alright. What is your favorite joke to tell at parties?
Amy: I cannot… The two of us, we do not have. I am going to talk your ear off at a party and learn about your entire life but we do not have, we do not have. How lame is that? We neither… I think that is why we are suited to each other because the two of us could not tell a joke to save our lives.
Tim: I am a little introverted because I am in the corner with a beer and the Amy is like working the room.
Amy: Is not that awful? That is the worst. I am sorry to your audience and to you guys.
Scott: I do not have any jokes for that. but I will say that proper prior preparation prevents piss poor performance. It is the seven P’s.
Amy: But I could not. Even if I was prepared, I could not deliver it. I just do not have that in me. I could be prepared and memorizing it. It would come out wrong and not funny.
Mindy: Hang on, I am going to look one up because I know somebody tweeted a joke that was horrible and Scott will love it. Why does the Swedish navy have barcodes on all the ships?
Mindy: You are going to love this, so they can ‘scan the navy’ in.
Tim: I could do that joke.
Amy: Is not your audience happy because I did not have a joke.
Mindy: That is from Military Dollar. Thank you so much for that amazing joke that everybody loved.
Mindy: Sorry, yes, the grown. Tell us where people can find out more about you.
Amy: We started blogging at GoWithLess.com. We did not sit down long enough to write so we moved it to YouTube so we are vloggers, video bloggers I guess, over at YouTube. Also GoWithLess and there is no spaces, GoWithLess. That is the best way. We do videos every single Wednesday about how sitting and travel hacking and our budget life, et cetera.
Mindy: Awesome. We will link to that in the show notes today which can be found at BiggerPockets.com/moneyshow57, that is moneyshow57. Tim and Amy, thank you so much for coming all the way downtown to Denver to join us today. This was super fun. I love hearing about this house sitting. I never considered doing it with kids but that sounds kind of cool.
Amy: It is super cool, it is changing our lives. Thank you again for having us. Bucket list item, checked.
Scott: Love it, thank you guys.
Tim: Thank you guys.
Scott: Alright, that was Amy and Tim from GoWithLess.com. Mindy, what do you think?
Mindy: I love their story. I love the whole house hacking or house sitting, which is I guess a form of house hacking. They get to go almost anywhere. What is it like Iran and North Korea, they cannot sit in? Then probably that is the end of that. That is super awesome that they get to go. It is nice to see the Eiffel Tower but it is also really nice to just see regular people who live in France and talk to them and or insert whatever tourist trap and country that you want to go see. It is really cool to get to know people on a personal level in a different country.
Scott: I think this is the second pair of guests that we have had on the show in a row who are using geographic arbitrage to really defray their cost of living. They did not even expect this, right? They went around and traveled and thought that they were going to spend a lot more than they ended up spending and found it to be really really cheap. Versus a Bryce and Kristy I think, who were really, they kind of really understood how much that would cost kind of going into it. I mean they were still surprises but I think that that is just a really big lesson. Like if you are interested in financial independence, there are so many ways once you have left that work environment to spend even less but still feel like you are living way more luxuriously.
Mindy: Yes, it has been true in my life as well. As soon as the girls are out of school in 11 years. I may be packing up this job too but that is 11 years from now. I am very excited to see… Like I turned it to a game really. How little can I spend? I have a phone tracker that I made with the help of the Waffles on Wednesday people and now it is a game. How little can I spend in a day, a week, a month, a year. My husband is on board too and that is really key is having your spouse onboard.
Scott: Yes, I mean it is clearly I joint partnership. They talked about how the money that they have each individually accumulated over the years is being allocated and spent and used to fund these adventures. Obviously, that is the number one thing with couples. It seems to be getting both parties onboard and really jointly working towards the goal and understanding what that life vision is.
Scott: By the way, I learned a lot today. I just learned that I know they are intuitively that there are people out there that cannot handle their money even though they earned a larger balance but it seems like that is limited to like really famous people who make it all really young and cannot be like handle it versus seasoned professionals who have been doing this, who have worked this way over a decade’s long career. That is amazing to me. It is just so hard for me to wrap my head around that level of irresponsibility.
Mindy: That is the new American way.
Scott: Oh, yes. I hope that one of the takeaways that people are getting from show after show, interview after interview, guest after guest, story after story is that this can be so easy. If you can generate the median to upper middle class income for the household, we are seeing it as a super simple easy process for almost every one of our guests.
Mindy: There is no magic source or magic formula for this. It is just spend less, save more and invest.
Scott: The hard part here, I think the part that really is the barrier that people need to break through is how do I get to that maybe upper middle class income in the first place to start earning that level of income? Once that is there, if you are listening into there, you know that you can make the changes necessary over a period of a year or two to really begin aggressively saving and moving very quickly towards this goal of financial freedom.
Mindy: Well, let us put a call out to people who have tips for increasing your income. Maybe not the side hustle that we did with Nick Loper. A side hustle is great, do not get me wrong, I am not saying that side hustles are great but how do you increase your income in your like main job in your actual job?
Scott: Yes, yes. Maybe that is a call for some guests to reach out that maybe have gone from earning in that 30- 40ish range, kind of seeming like it is a set career path, but then been able to transition to that 70 to 80 or maybe even a 100K plus a year income and how you did that. That might be really helpful helpful story.
Mindy: For me, I just got another job but that is not always repeatable.
Scott: Yes and generally speaking, let us hear your problems. Like our goal here is we want to make financial freedom as accessible as possible to every single person that is listening. If we are not covering a subject that you think is really important to a lot of people and that there could be a repeatable solution that can help people, we want to know that and then we will go and explore that.
Mindy: Yes, yes. Again, email me at [email protected] Okay, Scott, should we get out of here?
Scott: Let us get out of here.
Mindy: Okay. From episode 57 of the BiggerPockets Money podcasts, this is Mindy Jensen and Scott Trench. We will see you later, alligator.
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They rarely do anything like this but they’re doing it just for us!