052 | FIRE State of the Union | Todd Tresidder | Risk Management

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Todd Tresidder from Financial Mentor comes on the show to share his perspective on the traditional way FI is taught ( FIRE State of the Union)  and where it could be improved. We discuss the unique characteristics of all three asset classes and the advantages and disadvantages of each. Create a framework for your wealth plan and understand the importance of risk management.

1500 days
In Today’s Podcast we cover:

  • An in-depth conversation with Todd Tresidder from the Financial Mentor on the State of the FIRE Union
  • The math behind financial independence and how traditional FI-thought is about lowering expenses and investing in low-cost passive index funds
  • Todd believes there’s more to the situation than commonly believed
  • Todd does not want to optimize relentlessly based on price
  • What is Todd’s definition of Fat FIRE?
  • There are multiple paths to FI such as pursuing the business and real estate asset classes to get you to FI quicker in Todd’s opinion

Where does Risk Management come into play?

  • Risk management also needs to be discussed in the FI community
  • A nuanced, dynamic, “Level 2” understanding
  • Finding the right plan for different people and different situations
  • The point of FI is happiness
  • What Todd values: Experiences not stuff, and buying conveniences
  • How Todd disconnects when he is on vacation with his family
  • Todd has focused on all three asset classes in his life and background info on his history
  • Todd is always focused on risk vs. reward at different points in time
  • Todd’s on the ground view of the housing bubble as an apartment owner
  • Paper assets do not lead to a “predictable” return
  • As an investor you always want to look for the “obvious thing nobody else is looking at.” Todd’s discussion of inflation
  • Todd doesn’t predict the future, but he manages risk
  • Manage the downside and risk management. Buffett quote on not losing money
  • What situation would it make sense for someone to invest in index funds, real estate, business, etc.? Everyone needs their own plan for wealth building
  • The business asset class – inventing equity out of ‘thin air’
  • The downside characteristics of each of the three asset classes
  • Hot Seat questions
  • Todd exercises and eats local and organic food to stay healthy
  • Todd’s lifestyle play to sell his hedge fund. He was already financially independent before the sale as he didn’t raise his lifestyle expenses after college
  • Todd’s safe withdrawal rate is higher than 4% due to his investment management and risk management skills
  • Todd would have went back and invested in rental real estate if he could advise his younger self
  • Todd wants to stay liquid with his assets

Links from the show:

19 thoughts on “052 | FIRE State of the Union | Todd Tresidder | Risk Management

  1. Great episode. I was pretty excited to hear it when you plugged it last week.

    I really like the site https://portfoliocharts.com/ just because it shows how not doing risk management with your investments you might not get a very good return or get a negative return over a period of time. And it show how, if you diversify your portfolios into different asset classes you can actually get a higher more stable return.

    I’ll definitely be checking out the resources today!

  2. I second portfoliocharts as a great resource for people who are interested in analyzing traditional asset allocations and experimenting with their own. Note that that site has nothing to do with Tressider — its constructed by an engineer named Tyler.

    I always find TT to be a mixed bag. His site has some great tools and things, but just when you think he is about to tell you something insightful, he goes all opaque and Kiyosaki-ish. It was very disappointing that he could not answer a simple question about his current asset allocations and why he holds them, and seemed to be consciously avoiding saying anything in response to the hotseat questions. It is for this reason that I don’t think I would ever pay for his courses. Even my insurance agent will have a more forthright conversation with me about these issues.

    His take on MMM’s blog as a business missed the mark as well. That that business was a success for MMM was a happy accident. It does not tell you anything about using a business intentionally to reach FI, and in fact suggests that you should play it like a lottery ticket and just keep trying things until you “get lucky.” It was also only possible BECAUSE MMM had already reached FI, and therefore had credibility in the space. Similarly, TT’s current business is not causing him to reach FI, because he was there a long time ago. So there is a disconnect.

    That being said, TT is obviously a brilliant and successful guy, so much though in fact that its difficult to believe that most people have the smarts and skills to do what he has done. What people more easily CAN do is follow that 70% savings rate that he was doing as a single person straight out of school.

    But do not think that everyone is cut out to be entrepreneurs or manage real estate. If you want some insight into that, I’d suggest chapter 1 of Eric Barker’s book “Barking Up the Wrong Tree”, which discusses what types of people do well in traditional careers and what types do well in other things. Hint: If you were good at school and can follow rules, you are probably better off on well-trodden high income paths like doctor, lawyer, engineer, etc. than striking out as a would-be entrepreneur or real estate mogul, at least in the first instance.

    Very few people can “do it all” like TT. But the good news is that you don’t have to, because there is more than one good path that leads to FI.

  3. I found this conversation very interesting. I almost automatically disagree with Mr. Tresidder and it is not because of what he said, but the way he is said it. He questions the questions he is asked and forcefully puts down other thinkers in the FI community. This makes him come of a bit arrogant to me. While he argues there are many paths to FI and a happy life, I still end up feeling like he is telling me that he knows better then everyone else.

    The natural reaction for me when I disagree with someone like Mr. Tresidder is to try to poke all sorts of wholes in their arguments and dismiss their thoughts based on the minor or major “errors” I find. I then feel better about ignoring them and can comfortably continue to listen to my echo chamber.
    For me this interview made for a perfect exercise in being open to, and learning from, someone I immediately want to disagree with. I may not be a 2nd level thinker like Mr. Tresidder, but I do find value in considering other asset classes. And just like Mr. Tresidder I am not able to predict the future. I can make my best guess based on analyzing the past and present, manage my risk accordingly and then see what the future brings. I don’t expect the US/world economy to go into a Japan style malaise, but I will give different asset classes a serious thought before I dismiss it. Just like I don’t expect my house to burn down, but still pay for the insurance in the unlikely event it happens.

    “Everyone” in the FI community seem to agree that Index investing is the way to go, which always makes me a little worried. Not because of the logic of index investing, but because looking at history is all seems to go downhill when we stop to question the common truths. This is why I think it was great that you invited Mr. Tresidder to the podcast. His communication style may not be the one I prefer, but he still brings valuable information to the FI table.

    Also, thank you Brad for asking the question about keeping the properties if he had followed his own advice to his younger self! I found it a bit puzzling when he mentioned the sale of all his rental units as a “big win” earlier in the podcast. Yes, he got money out before the crash, but I kept thinking about where he thought all people not able to pay for their mortgage were going to live. Seemed to me they would probably have to rent when they “lost” their house, hence he would still have rental income. With an inverse relationship between housing prices and rental income, it seems like it could have been just as big of a win to keep getting the rental income. Your question made it clear that the decision was based on the leverage he had taken on. Always interesting to know the thoughts behind decisions.
    TLDR – Thank you Brad and Jonathan for bringing on a different kind of guest, and thanks to Mr. Tresidder for all the information he shared!

    • I think he meant that when folks who wouldn’t be credit-worthy to rent to, were getting approved for a large mortgage, he knew the real estate market was doomed and he wanted out. I don’t thing he feared running out of tenants. In fact, it’s the opposite. When the wrong people getting high mortgages, as in this case, they subsequently foreclosed yet still needed a place to live so the demand for rentals goes up, as it happened in the last mortgage bust he referenced.

  4. Todd, if you had to give advice to a young person who would like to some day start their own business similar to Financial Mentor (once they achieve FI) what would you tell them?

    I’m graduating with a finance degree in May and have already started my career in enterprise risk management, after being fortunate enough to be offered a position this past summer. I really like the industry and want to give it a chance for at least a decade or so while I pursue FI (through index investing, real estate and frugal living).

    Once I achieve FI though, I want to seriously pursue other ventures like becoming an amateur musician and building a small financial coaching/mentoring business. Any advice or references you can give about how you built Financial Mentor would be greatly appreciated!!

    Also to Brad and Johnathan, I’m really looking forward to seeing you Camp-Fi Mid-Atlantic next April!

  5. Great podcast. God, Mr. Tresidder is one smart cookie. I love the concepts of Fat FIRE and the business asset class. These are two very viable arrows that the FI community’s quiver should never be without. Bravo to Brad, Jonathan, and Todd.

  6. This episode really got me thinking. I think of myself as a contrarian, so I understand that makes you controversial to many. But FI is in itself a contrarian way of life. Todd is very good at pointing out that risk can easily be overlooked in favor of selecting the highest long-term growth investment of the past.

    I am a big fan of Jeremy Siegel’s “Stocks for the Long Run”, but in spite of that, I currently have 2/3rds of my IRA portfolio in cash, and that is a lot of money. Some might consider this timing the market, but I’m slow to make moves and I’m just not currently comfortable.

    I do have 2 rentals that are completely paid for, so I appreciated Todd’s assessment that there was no reason to take action there because there isn’t a leverage risk.

    Great show! Thanks so much for another thought-provoking podcast. I really enjoy listening.

  7. This was an excellent episode and a much needed one. I have given much thought in the past to Mr. Money Mustache and the fact that he earns hundreds of thousands of dollars per year with his blog. As with the guest, I don’t think MMM is a hypocrite in any way. But I think many people would have a better chance at starting a business earning hundreds of thousands of dollars per year than living on just $20,000 per year.

    I would be interested to hear the thoughts by Brad and Jonathan on this and relate it to their own personal lives. I know Brad is very good at pointing out certain frugal wins and life hacks, but I feel like there is an elephant in the room. I believe he was able to quit his job because of his travel rewards website. Therefore, you could say that Brad is close to FI or living FI because of his creativity in starting a website that provided great value to others. So while Brad’s ability to manage money well and live below his means is an important piece of the puzzle, would he still be in an office job if not for his entrepreneurial endeavors?

    Also, it would be interesting to hear how both Brad and Jonathan think about their successful podcast and how that fits into their journey to FI at this point. In such a short time, it has become a very successful podcast (hat tip), and at some point will earn them significant money, or at least lead a path to other things. I would be interested to hear an episode dedicated to their story of starting the podcast and handling any roadblocks. What spurred them to take action when so many people come up with ideas only to do nothing?

    Thanks for the great episode.

  8. I think an assumption exists that most FI and future FI’s are frugal and index fund investors. Maybe yes, maybe no. On other asset class communities I am active in (bigger pockets, for example, a real estate community), the stated destination for many is to be financially independent. The difference is that the focus of the community is on the many sectors (classes) of Real estate that is used to take them there. ( flipping, lending money, buy and holds, multi family, wholesaling, etc.) It is NOT on becoming FI, per se, that is the topic, but the method.

    (Several people I know buy a house a year, reap tax advantages, positive cash flow, and face NO required minimum distributions. It’s akin to a pension or dividends, in this scenario. As I always say, everyone has a risk tolerance and everyone has an asset class. Within each asset class are risk tolerances. )

    Here, at Choose FI, it is all about the destination and it is accepted by Jonathon and Brad that we all take diffferent paths to achieve it.

    And there exists a huge difference in being value-conscious and being frugal. It is somewhat just semantics. Always passing up a dinner in a nice restaurant , is vastly different than budgeting it in occasionally, if warranted and desired, iow, if that is what is valued.

    I think Todd make over arching conclusions with those statements but then again, this community is new to me and I won’t ever claim to generalize to such a degree.

    I did think he bent over backwards to say “not that there’s anything wrong with it” one too many times. It reminded me of a Seinfeld episode. And that turned me off initially but I enjoyed the dialogue.

  9. As Mr. Groovy said, “Bravo to Brad, Jonathan, and Todd.”

    Gosh after reading the comments I almost didn’t want to post as I absolutely loved this episode! 🙂 But it’s only because my thinking aligns with Todd more than others in the FI community. I’m defintely on the Fat FIRE end and my whole investment strategy revolves around risk management, not chasing returns. I’ve found that I make more money by managing risk. Most need to really consider what Todd said about how the math works when you lose money. Understanding that was the key to me achieving FI earlier than planned.

    There is no growth unless you are willing to have your own thinking challenged. Selah…

  10. Awesome episode. Todd’s podcast was the first one I discovered in the FI arena and I was hooked. He has so much knowledge and experience and he’s a great communicator. I also loves that he’s a contrarian in some ways and keeps you thinking about these concepts.

  11. The view from a few years older than Todd is that: 1) his reflection shines in the rearview mirror. He appears to have achieved FI when that meant getting rich through work & investment, without the FI emphasis on “annual spend” and the accompanying choices that increase the odds of success; 2) within the context of FI, if this is “level 2”, it is too complex for any but professionals and anti-KISS; 3) and, therefore, stick to individual improvement, paper assets, real estate, and possibly a side-hustle.

  12. I loved that he mentioned different ways to FI. I am 41 years old and I’ve made so many mistakes and right now, I’m focused primarily on paying off debt so my living expenses will be less with the side investing of course. I like the people that bring up different ways to FI because it gives us hope for those that started late and can’t afford to put 50 % into savings.

    I did wish he would have delved into Business asset class a little more than he did.

  13. It’s fascinating to read these comments. I suppose it’s to be expected given I intentionally challenged many closely held belief structures about FI during the interview. Whenever we are pushed the first response is to push back so there should be no surprise.

    For example, Hard L’s first comment makes no sense considering the interview specifically stated that I saved more than 70-80% of my income to become FI. Claiming I didn’t emphasize annual spend is illogical. Similarly, his second comment that my ideas are too complex is unsupportable considering I have more than 300 people in my course from all walks of life and skills and countries and the support issues are remarkably nonexistent because everyone is simply “getting it” right from the instruction without needing any extra help. I’ve actually been pleasantly surprised that it’s turned out to be far less complex than I thought.

    Regarding Nancy above, I bent over backwards to say “there’s nothing wrong with it” because FI is my community and friends and I wanted to be absolutely clear that I wasn’t trying to make anyone wrong or criticize anyone. I told Jonathan and Brad repeatedly that I really cared about that, a lot. I have nothing but respect for this community and how they’ve had the courage to lead a non-traditional life and question authority along with so many closely held assumptions.

    My goal was to expand the conversation, not make anyone wrong, because I’m concerned that the singularity of viewpoint that’s getting popularized within the community has potential dangers. I felt that people could benefit from this expanded awareness of different angles on the discussion. But the very nature of that conversation has risk of being interpreted the wrong way if I didn’t make an extra effort to make sure other opinions were respected.

    That’s also why I was particularly careful with Pete over at MMM. When you’re the top dog everyone takes a cheap shot, and I wanted to make sure it didn’t come off that way. It’s too easy to be the critic. It’s much harder to create, and Pete’s community is proof positive of what he’s created. My only goal of using Pete as an example was to show the value of business as an asset class in your wealth plan, in contrast to his paper asset portfolio. That’s all. It’s fully proven out by the data of how people become financially independent. Business is mainstream, and frugality/savings is the exception. Pete’s life provides an amazingly illustrative example of a very important idea that there’s 3 asset classes and each has different characteristics and applications in your wealth plan. They saved their way to wealth as they taught, Pete’s wife worked real estate, and their business speaks for itself. That doesn’t make Pete’s teaching wrong and it doesn’t take away from Pete in any way. Instead, it’s a compliment and a deeply profound statement about the integrity of his teachings and beliefs that he still spends as little as he does despite his business income.

    Regarding Geoff above, YES, calling out the elephant in the room so everyone sees it rather than walks around it was exactly the point. Understanding that elephant in a deeper way will hopefully help a lot of people. Thank you for sharing that in your comment.

    Regarding Mr. Groovy, thanks for the kudos. Love your writing over at your site! I wish I could write half as well.

    Regarding Steve C’s question, there’s too much to the answer for a blog comment. You’ll have to corner me at a conference some day. In a nutshell, I probably wouldn’t do it the same a second time knowing what I know now. It’s more work than I expected to do it well. You may want to consider what part of the business that really interests you and figure out how to do it under someone elses platform. In other words, everyone thinks they have to build their own site. It’s not true. You might be better off contributing to an existing platform and working out agreements. Hope that helps.

    Regarding Rigmor, I went to great pains NOT to put anyone down in the community. So much so, that another comment in this thread took me to task for trying too hard not to make people wrong. If it came across arrogant then my apologies. My goal was to add something to the FI conversation and take it to the next level for everyone’s benefit. I suppose there’s some inherent risk of arrogance in that positioning statement. I guess I can own that.

    Regarding Frank Vasquez, I tried to explain my lack of transparency about my portfolio on the podcast but apparently it didn’t come through given his comment. My portfolio changes regularly. If I had shared my positions on the recording date it would have been more misleading than valuable because they changed by publication date and will change again after when others listen. That specific information would be an example where a little bit of knowledge (about my portfolio) would be a dangerous thing. You would need a much deeper understanding about how it’s managed and why to set a context for the actual positions and how they change. That level of detail is not within the wheelhouse of a podcast interview. Hopefully that helps clarify.

    The funny thing is I know there are positive comments to the episode as well because they wrote me. That’s how I knew the episode was live and came over to check it out. Maybe some will post in this thread as well…

    Bottom line is FI positively changes lives, and that’s important. Let’s all add to this conversation and take it as far as we can to benefit everyone involved.

  14. I’m sorry, that’s B.S., Todd. People here can understand portfolio theory and guests with integrity — see Doug Nordman and Jim Collins — have no difficultly in explaining theirs and the theory behind it they are using and what other well-known investors employ similar theories. If you cannot explain yours with any clarity, I suggest that you really don’t have one other than a finger in the wind, or at least not one that you would be proud of in terms of its performance and risk profile.

    So turn us on to some profit factors and Sharpe ratios a la Hedge Fund Market Wizards and the other kinds of metrics we would find at Fund Seeder if your portfolio was there.

    If you up to it, of course, that is. Or pack up.

  15. There were 4 very key points that I did not agree with Todd at all on this episode:

    1.) @40:00 he states that everyone thought that Real Estate only went up in value prior to the recession.
    2.) Those pursuing FI are always denying themselves of any luxury.
    3.) Not everyone in FI just uses only low cost index funds as an investment vehicle.
    4.) His cautions about the 4% rule

    I am 10 years younger than Todd and can recall 2 times where there were significant real estate downturns. There was one in the early 80’s and early 90’s as well. I recall both of these very well as a child when my family moved during these times. There could be other downturn(s) that were regional or in between the early 90’s downturn as well.

    His other statements about how stoicism are simply not true. On my path to FI, I have enjoyed all of the luxuries that I have wanted on a very modest salary. I also do not waste any significant time on optimizing my spending. I’d still do this no matter how much money I had accumulated.

    Many in the FI community swear by real estate and acquiring an income stream through rentals.

    In regards to the 4% rule, anyone could acquire a part time job and or adjust my spending to offset any market downturns. Even when I reach full FI, I intend to work part time.

  16. Brad and Jonathan, thank you so much for continuously sharing DIFFERENT opinions on your podcasts! It seems in the FIRE community “There can only be one!” when it comes to correct ideas. And that itself is a dumb-dumb idea. Todd definitely shares some different viewpoints that, while I don’t always agree with them, I appreciate hearing. I wish more people would listen, think, and -then- decide on what they think is best instead of turning into lemmings. For instance, while I’m confident that he has no magic process for having a SWR substantially higher than 4%, I’m also sincerely interested in being proven wrong.

    Shouldn’t we all be?

  17. Unfortunately, I was a little turned off by this episode and follow up and felt the need to comment. Setting aside the unnecessarily combative tone of the interviewee, the main thing that bothered me was:

    If you are claiming some “level 2” knowledge of something and especially if you are selling a course on this knowledge as Todd is, you shouldn’t get a pass for using opaque language to describe it (e.g. “it’s ok that you can’t understand him, it’s just because he’s so smart” – and we’re dumb by implication). Opaque or jargon-y language is an unfortunately effective way to impress people – even when there is nothing to substantiate it – but propping it up is a disservice to the audience. There’s a quote attributed to Einstein that seems applicable, “You do not really understand something unless you can explain it to your grandmother.”

    Todd may well be very smart, but the interview came across to me as disingenuous at the least and salesman-y at worst. The FI community is a breath of fresh air for me because often the people espousing the message – particularly the ones who are already FI like Mr Money Mustache – have a theoretically lowered incentive to sell me something (e.g. ads on their blog or an information course) and thus have more of my trust. The internet is run amuck with people unscrupulously taking advantage of others who want to improve their lives (e.g. get a better job or get to FI) by selling over-hyped information products.

    Granted, there is always more to know on finance or getting to FI for everyone, and it’s important to constantly be questioning your own beliefs. But Todd’s pitch for his view points had the flavor of having your cake and eating it too (i.e. achieve FI while spending to your heart’s desire). This is likely not a reality for most people who are interested in FI and a little irresponsible of Todd in my opinion. It’s a bit akin to selling a course on credit card travel hacking to the general population without acknowledging that many would end up in debt.

    As a last note to the hosts, please be careful not to get hooked on routinely creating purposefully polarizing content without a great reason to do so. It’s all too effective to appeal to people’s lowest common denominators – fear, greed, etc. – and get lots of views/comments/likes. But it’s generally not in the best interest of the community – see the state of media in the US. This is not a criticism of the podcast up to this point – I have generally enjoyed it, especially the very good interviewing – just a request for the future.

    Hopefully, this isn’t too harsh a tone. I did like portions of the discussion and appreciate the efforts of everyone involved on this project.

  18. I am a student of Todd’s in his course. I very much appreciate the information he has shared and I also understand why it’s hard in 1 hour to explain it. If I had know this when I was much younger I would be even further ahead.

    Having gone through multiple bear markets and bubbles I understand the human reaction and how it destroys wealth. I made major mistakes during the last down turn. We know that both stocks and bonds are at all time highs. I wonder how many will react if they lose half their wealth in the next turndown.

    Diversifying across different models; business, job, paper assets and real estate can help to overcome a downturn. However you need to first understand your skills and how they relate to each of those. Not everyone can do each category or wants to.

    I do feel bad for MMM because now he has tons of money but he will have a hard time enjoying it based on his beliefs. I prefer the FAT FIRE concept!

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