From Broke to Financially Woke – Trip of a Lifestyle
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 Steven from Trip of a Lifestyle. At his lowest point, he and his wife, Lauren, pulled almost every penny out her bank account to purchase a 1994 Nissan Sentra.
They eventually recovered and saved $100k in two years on teacher salaries. How did they do it? I’ll let Steven tell you…
*After reading their story, check out the story on their blog of how they spent very little while honeymooning in Hawaii for six months.*
Introduce yourself. Where do you blog? What are some of your interests outside of financial independence?
Hi, I’m Steven! My wife, Lauren, and I run a travel and personal finance blog called Trip Of A Lifestyle, where we focus on enjoying the journey to financial independence by taking extended travel breaks along the way. This year, we took our biggest adventure yet and visited all 61 US National Parks in 8 months while increasing our net worth at the same time.
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?
We count ourselves really lucky because while we’ve certainly been broke before, we have actually managed to squeak by without carrying any debt. I think the “brokest” memory we have together was probably the day we went to the bank and pulled almost every penny out of Lauren’s bank account to buy her very first car, a 1994 Nissan Sentra from Craigslist. Lauren was 18, and the car was $1,200, which Lauren managed to scrape together hosting and waiting tables at Chili’s.
What are some of your biggest financial mistakes?
The one that always sticks out at me is when we decided to go see an investment advisor who was paid based on commissions. We were really eager to invest our first $10,000 shortly after college graduation, and we got talked into investing in this high-fee, actively managed bond fund by an advisor at Chase. It was a dumb move, and it really taught us to always do our own research rather than just trusting a single authority figure.
Describe your upbringing. Where did you grow up? What did your parents or teachers teach you about money?
We both grew up in the suburbs near Tampa, Florida.
My parents are what you’d call middle-class Americans, I guess. My mom has worked as an optician (selling eyeglasses) for as long as I can remember, and my dad has always owned his own small business selling window treatments like blinds and draperies. I think seeing my dad run a business and just knowing that it was possible to make money outside of a prescribed “job” made an impact on me, even though I am a full-time employee right now. I’ve always had “side hustles,” from photography to tutoring to eBay and more.
How important is becoming financially woke to you? What steps have you taken to increase your financial knowledge?
Shortly after college, Lauren and I started getting interested in investing and discovered Mr. Money Mustache and the financial independence movement. Once we learned that it was possible to eventually save enough money that we wouldn’t have to work for a living, we became pretty obsessed with the idea.
For the next 2-3 years after that, I spent basically all of my free time reading about personal finance. I started to believe that in the long run, our money could work harder than we can. Once I really understood that, I realized that every moment I spent optimizing our money situation was even more valuable than the time I spent at work earning a living! It’s really important stuff, and that’s part of the reason we started our blog. We wanted there to be a spot where people (especially in their 20s and 30s, when it matters the most) could come to get all the right information in one place.
What are some of the key principles you have used to improve your financial life?
There’s really one key principle that has guided all of our financial decisions. That is the idea that money can either be used to buy stuff, or it can be used (invested) to buy freedom.
It’s normal for anyone to overspend when the only use we see for money is to buy things. But when everything you buy can be compared to a little chunk of added freedom and flexibility in your life forever, the choice suddenly becomes really easy.
How often do you consume personal finance information? Name 3-5 of your favorites sources (books, podcasts, blogs, etc.).
Between Facebook groups, blogs, news articles, and books, I’m definitely consuming some amount of financial literature every day. My favorite blogs over the years have been Mr. Money Mustache and Early Retirement Extreme. My favorite books have been The Simple Path To Wealth and Your Money Or Your Life.
Where are you on the path to financial freedom now?
We’re definitely not done saving money, but every single day, we feel freer to choose our own adventure going forward. We don’t subscribe to the idea that financial independence comes all at once when you hit a magic number. Every additional dollar opens up more options and relieves a little bit more stress and worry about money. At this point, we’re feeling really good, so we’re slowly trying to focus more on helping others to feel the same way.
Is there any advice/encouraging words you can give those who are struggling to escape Broke Phi Broke?
Honestly, there are just so many angles to take on that topic, and every person resonates with something different. I really hope readers will check out our blog and decide on their own favorite money-saving, money-making, and life-enhancing tips there.
How can the readers contact you?
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.
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