From Broke Phi Broke to Financially Woke – PF Geeks
Today, I am excited to share with you the latest interview in the From Broke to Financially Woke series! The purpose of this series it to give hope to those struggling to escape from the not so secret group Broke Phi Broke. A group whose chant is, “We ain’t got it. Broke, Broke, Phi Broke! We ain’t got it. Broke, Broke, Phi Broke!”
To help me accomplish this goal, I have invited the best and brightest of the financial independence community here to share their stories. As you read their interviews, pay close attention to the mistakes they made. Take mental note of the success principles they used to turn things around.
When trying to apply these principles to your own life, realize that success in life is rarely linear. You will encounter some struggles. But stay persistent. Keep moving forward.
Our special guest today is Richmond from PF Geeks. Ten days after marrying the love of his life, he quit his job and struggled to find employment. As a result, he felt embarrassed and began to doubt himself.
How did he find employment and turn things around financially? I’ll let him tell you the story…
Introduce yourself. Where do you blog? What are some of your interests outside of financial independence?
Hey Peerless Money Readers! My name’s Richmond and I blog over at PF geeks about all things personal finance for recent college grads and people who are new on their personal finance journey. I love to write and create resources that will help people like you save money, make money, and take control of their finances.
I’m passionate about helping people figure out how to manage their own money so that they can reach their goals, plan for their future, and hopefully one day, use their wealth to bless and give to others.
In my day job, I’m a youth pastor. I’m also in seminary (grad school) getting my masters in theology! My faith is the most important thing to me and guides how I think about money. If you can relate to that, I’d love to get to know you!
In my free time I love to read, eat good food with my beautiful wife, and hit the gym! I’ve also become a bit of a bbq fanatic since I got a smoker.
Tell us about a time where you were a member of Broke Phi Broke. How did living paycheck to paycheck make you feel as a person? At your lowest point, how much debt did you have?
My wife and I got married in the fall of 2015. We were new college grads, eager to take on the world, and start a family.
10 days after we got married, I quit my job.
It was a weird & super unhealthy work situation. I basically put in my 3 months notice because they were so short staffed.
I thought I had a job lined up–I had great prospects, a put together resume, and all the confidence in the world.
I never imagined that it would take me 6 months to find a new job. But it did.
During that season of unemployment, we went from living the good life to being paycheck to paycheck. We went from rocking the dual-income-no-kids (DINK) status to just one income.
It was probably the most stressful season of my life.
When you first think about unemployment, it sounds kinda nice. You can relax, sleep in, eat healthy, spend time on your hobbies, etc.
But when you are unemployed, it is impossible to enjoy those things.
Not to mention the self-doubts and insecurities that are born.
If I’m being real, being unemployed for 6 months as a new husband and recent college grad was embarrassing. All of my friends were working great jobs and I was twiddling my thumbs struggling to get interviews.
Emotional struggles aside, we were also losing money every month. We didn’t have an emergency fund set-up yet, so we watched our savings slowly dip month over month.
We spent those 6 months slashing our expenses and cutting costs everywhere we could.
We downsized into an apartment half the size. We stopped eating out. We didn’t exchange gifts or travel. We skipped weddings.
Eventually I applied to grad school and in the same month landed a part-time ministry job at a church that I absolutely love. My position was part-time for 18 months and let me tell you something… being a part-time youth pastor doesn’t exactly pay the big bucks.
We spent another 18 months not living paycheck to paycheck, but we certainly were having to keep a close watch on our spending and savings.
Eventually my part-time job became full-time and after getting a few raises we’ve been able to rapidly grow our net worth from $40k in January 2018 to over $100k in early 2019.
I recognize that our season of “brokeness” was only temporary for us and others spend their whole life living on a bare-bones budget. I love this Broke to Woke series that Jerry is putting together here. I love reading stories about how people went from broke to financially woke because it’s motivating to see people making steps and taking action to move up in life.
What are some of your biggest financial mistakes?
There’s no doubt that quitting my job before having another job lined up could definitely be considered a mistake.
It was a huge setback financially. But I don’t regret it and I wouldn’t change it even if I could. Was it a hard season? Absolutely.
But it ultimately led to good.
It forced us to figure out our finances, learn how to manage a budget together, and cut our expenses. Once the income started to roll back in we had a system for managing our money that allowed us to quickly boost our savings.
The real mistake we made though was taking WAY too long to get on the same page with our finances.
Even during that hard season, we struggled to be on the same team.
I tried to budget, set goals, and allocate our savings all on my own. Looking back, I can’t believe how stupid I was.
I was trying to take control of our finances while in crisis when we should have been working together the whole time.
Lastly, we may have made a huge mistake two months ago.
We bought a house way out of our budget.
I’m super confident that it will end up being the right choice and a great investment. But I could be wrong! Only time will tell.
Describe your upbringing. Where did you grow up? What did your parents or teachers teach you about money?
I actually grew up wealthy and privileged.
I was and still am incredibly fortunate to have a dad who is savvy with money and open with me.
He taught me how the stock market worked when I was 14. He helped me open my first investment account. He explained the power of compound interest and the value of saving.
There’s no question that I grew up with a financial education that has given me a leg up in life. I’m incredibly grateful for the lessons he taught me and I’m doing my best to pass what I’ve gained along to others.
How important is becoming financially woke to you? What steps have you taken to increase your financial knowledge?
Over the last few years I’ve taken a number of steps to increase my financial literacy! When we were struggling to get by each month, I read a ton of frugality blogs and content on cutting costs. Once we were back on our feet with a growing income, I focused on investing and retirement strategy.
Now that we have our system in place, I’m working on trying to increase my income! My goal with my website is to generate $5k a month in residual income to completely cover our living expenses and give my wife the flexibility to work as much or as little as she wants by the time we have kids.
What are some of the key principles you have used to improve your financial life?
In the last 18 months, our financial progress has started to snowball! All of the small improvements, habits, and choices were finally starting to compound and build on each other.
Looking back, there are two key principles that we used to improve our financial life.
- Implementing keystone habits to accomplish outcome goals
About two years ago I started focusing on setting process goals instead of outcome goals. A process goal focuses on the actual things you need to do in order to reach the outcome goal. If your goal is to write a book, then focus on writing 1000 words a day.
Instead of your goal being to lose 20 lbs, your goal would be to work out 4x a week.
A keystone habit is the essential habit that will help you accomplish your goals. These get to the root of improving your life.
For improving our financial life, the key habit we focus on is tracking our spending so that we can stick to our zero based budget! We have systems in place that help us automatically save and pay down debt. All we have to do is make sure we don’t spend too much each month!
That one habit is all we have to do to keep our finances on track and growing.
- Focusing on Return on Effort
The second idea that has changed the way we think about our finances is by focusing on ways to get a better return on effort.
There are a million things you could be doing to save money and cut expenses. But the key is to focus on the ones that will have a long-term payoff and are easy to implement. These are your big wins!
For us, this was signing up with a new bank that would pay us a higher interest rate. You can check out our CIT Savings Builder Review to find out how we’re making about 200x more interest on our cash holdings.
This is one small switch that took us about half an hour to make but will provide long-term results!
How often do you consume personal finance information? Name 3-5 of your favorites sources (books, podcasts, blogs, etc.).
I’ve always been a huge reader and once I found the personal finance blogosphere, I dove right in!
I used to read a bunch of personal finance blogs and had several podcasts that I listened to each week.
Over the last year or so the amount of content I consume has actually dropped dramatically. I found myself researching and learning about ideas that weren’t relevant to where I was at. And I was spending more time consuming content than I was creating it.
My favorite blogs are:
- Ramit Sethi, I Will Teach You To Be Rich
- Shane Parish, Farnam Street
- Zach, Four Pillar Freedom
- Adam, Minafi
Where are you on the path to financial freedom now?
My wife and I have been hustling hard for the last few years to grow our savings! We’re still a LONG way away from true financial freedom, but we’re getting closer week by week. We’ve got just over $100k between our savings and home equity.
When it comes to our long-term financial freedom, we have three crucial goals:
- Save $250k by the time we turn 30.
- Build up my blog to bring in $5k profit every month five years from now.
- Pay off our mortgage by the time we’re 40.
My dream is to use the blog income to save for retirement and use our day job income to pay down our mortgage. If we can do this, we should reach financial independence by the time we turn 40!
The key to this has been the financial discipline we’ve developed over the last few years. We’ve saved more and given more each year.
Is there any advice/encouraging words you can give those who are struggling to escape Broke Phi Broke?
The best advice I can give to all of those who are trying to escape the cycle of being broke is to follow a three pronged strategy to building up savings and financial security.
- Reduce expenses
- Increase income
- Optimize the difference
Why this order?
Usually the easiest way to get really quick wins is by cutting costs. If you truly are broke and struggling to get by, cut everything you can. I’ve got a huge list of ways to save money (150 of them!) that can help you get started!
Personally, I think the easiest place that most people can cut costs quickly is by cutting their food spending. Groceries and eating out are some of the biggest pieces of most people’s monthly spending. Meal prepping can reduce your food waste, lower the amount you spend on food, and help you easily avoid mindless takeout.
Once you’ve got your expenses cut, it’s time to increase your income.
Increasing your income usually takes a bit of planning, You might have to change jobs, negotiate a raise, or develop some new skills to start a side hustle. Once you have your expenses cut to a reasonable level, increasing your income will make a much bigger difference.
Then all you can do is focus on optimizing the difference. How are you saving, investing, paying down debt, and securing your financial future in the most effective way possible? Regardless of your strategy, you need to be putting your dollars to work for you.
How can the readers contact you?
I’d love for readers to follow me on twitter (@pfgeeks) or shoot me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) if they want to get in touch! I love talking to people about money, especially people who are trying to break the cycle and become “financially woke!”
Read more interviews in the From Broke to Financially Woke Series.
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Jerry is a Business Insider Contributing Writer who is obsessed with personal finance. He believes you can improve your financial situation by applying principles taught by the financial independence community to your financial life.
If you are having trouble saving, he recommends that you join the SaverLife Savings program where you can get a $60 reward after six months (no income requirement). All you have to do is put a minimum of $20 a month into a savings account. Easy, right?
For a fun read, check out his article 10 Signs You’re a Personal Finance Addict to see if you are a personal finance nerd.
Before you go, check out the new From Broke to Financially Woke Interview Series.
Also, please subscribe below if you found his content valuable and want to continue following him as he documents his own journey from Broke to Financially Woke!