Recently, Liz and Braden left a voicemail that detailed how they went from regular people to FI superheroes. They came on the show to share their journey.
Listen: Silver Spoon Or Skills
Liz And Braden's Story
Liz grew up with a single mom that struggled financially after getting divorced. Due to that, she had to learn how to budget at a very young age. She helped her mom pay off some debt over a period of years. As a team, Liz and her mom would budget on pen and paper. They just had to learn through a little bit of trial and error. Some months were easier than others, but they made it through together.
Braden had a completely different relationship with money while growing up. He grew up in a well off family, so he never had to worry about money. He did get a job at 16 because his parents wanted him to learn the value of hard work.
I would say that is one thing that both of us are super grateful for, is we were taught to work hard at a really young age… Growing up I would work the summers with my Grandpa and he paid me $3.oo an hour. We were living on a fruit farm with him, and he instilled the value of hard work in me…I learned that I am never above any task.
Liz and Braden are passing along the lessons of hard work to their children already. They pay their three-year-old 50 cents a day to empty the dishwasher. He has to save one quarter and he can spend the other quarter on toys. It is a way to start getting him excited about work from a young age.
Liz and Braden met in high school. At the time, Liz was completely on top of the scholarship game. She landed over $100,000 in scholarships for college. With the help of her mom, she spent 20 to 30 hours a week on scholarship applications throughout her senior year of high school. She received about 20% of the scholarships she applied to.
Braden was a grade younger than Liz. So she coached him through the scholarship application process. He landed one full-tuition scholarship through the Sterling Scholar award by playing to his strengths. You don't have to apply to all of the scholarships to win big, it is okay to focus your efforts on a single scholarship. If you can pull your passions into a single scholarship, then go for that one.
Liz says it was very important to visualize winning the scholarships she applied to. When she received phone calls letting her know that she won, she was never very surprised. That confidence helped her win over $100,000 in scholarships.
As you apply, you need to tell your story well. She would spin her story in different ways for different scholarships. Throughout high school, she made sure that her extracurricular activities tied into her future plans. The goal was to create a powerful storyline that made sense.
Before you apply to schools, make sure to do research on the schools. Importantly, you can find schools that will refund any extra money you receive for tuition. That can be a huge factor in your financial situation for college. Plus, going to a lower-cost school can help your funds go farther than a prestigious Ivy League.
Liz will join us on a future Friday Round-Up to take on your questions about scholarships.
After college, both Liz and Braden explored the world.
Liz spent a year traveling abroad and spent many of those months in India. At the time, she got caught up in a very materialistic mindset in India. Everything was so cheap, so she bought things she didn't need. On the way back to the U.S., she had three full suitcases of stuff she realized she didn't need. Plus, a few hundred dollars of consumer debt. That moment created a desire to simplify her life and think about how she was spending her money.
Braden spent some time in El Salvador on a service mission. It opened his world view as he saw how other people lived in deep poverty. On his return to the U.S., he wanted to employ a more intentional mindset to his lifestyle.
Building A Life Together
A few months after Braden returned to the U.S., Liz and Braden got married. They latched onto the concept of budgeting and effective money management together.
One pivotal moment was their wedding ring purchase. Instead of spending a few thousand dollars of inheritance on wedding rings, they stuck to less than $300. They chose to spend that money on building a financially stable future.
Neither Liz or Braden brought any debt into their marriage. They stuck to a budget and had started using travel rewards to explore the world for free. However, as they earned more money they started to experience more lifestyle inflation. They drifted away from budgeting until they bought their first home and started refocusing on finances. Then they found ChooseFI.
After Liz found ChooseFI, she listened to all 260+ episodes in a single month. As she listened, she started bringing many crazy ideas to Braden. The information was completely different than what she had previously been exposed to. Although they had worked hard to find useful financial information, they had never found this different approach.
You know, we were on the right path, we could retire at 65, right. But we were kind of stuck in this grind. And we didn’t want to do what we were doing yet didn’t know how to do it any differently until we found ChooseFI.
One of her first ideas was to move their family of four into a one-bedroom apartment. At first, the ideas sounded crazy to Braden but eventually, he started listening but only made it through episode nine.
Around this time, Braden transitioned from the workforce to a stay at home dad to their boys. His mindset towards life was changing and he was happier with the change. So when Liz asked him why he wasn't passionate about FI, he tried ChooseFI again. The episode that changed everything was 18 with Go Curry Cracker, which was a breakdown on how to harvest long-term capital gains.
At that point, I realized that there are so many investing methodologies, different hacks…different things you can do to just really optimize your life. I realized in that episode that I had a lot to learn and this podcast is a really good place to start in my learning journey
After getting on board, Braden and Liz are able to design their new lifestyle together. And they are happier than ever. Although they are reluctantly frugal people, they are focusing on their values more.
We know our numbers. We have a clear sense for the direction we’re headed and what our future looks like.
Staying At Home
Although they haven't reached FI, Braden made the leap to become a stay at home parent. It happened after Braden mentioned he was unhappy in his position. So, they looked at the budget and found a way for Braden to stay home.
After running the numbers, they have actually been able to achieve a higher savings rate now that Braden is staying home with their small boys. Before the switch, they were saving 10%, now they are saving 40%. With intentionality and an optimized budget, it was a completely possible transition.
Listen: Real Hourly Wage
A savings rate of 40% is not something that happens without becoming and being intentional. Liz and Braden have made adjustments in their life to create room in their life to save.
They started with house hacking and sold their second car. Now they have a single minivan. Liz bikes to work and takes public transport when necessary.
They paid off their cellphones and switched to a prepaid plan, minimized their grocery bill, switched up their life insurance, and eliminated a daycare cost. And they will continue to make changes to optimize their finances.
Two Dollar Eats
Two Dollar Eats is Braden's passion project. He is building recipes that stick to a budget of $2 dollars per person per meal.
How To Connect
Check out Braden's site Two Dollar Eats or follow them on Instagram @twodollareats. You can connect with Liz on Instagram @lizmjwoodfield.
Plus, Liz and Braden are active in the ChooseFI Facebook groups often.
The Hot Seat
An Inflection Point: For Liz, it was when she started to budget and value simplicity after traveling abroad. For Braden, it was when he lived in El Salvador. It was a great way to understand there is more to the world than just him. A second inflection point was starting to listen to ChooseFI.
Favorite Life Hack: Free yoga on YouTube, home births, and cloth diapers.
Biggest Financial Mistake: Driving an hour north to go skiing and buying a brand new GoPro because they forgot theirs at home.
The advice you would give your younger self: Braden would talk to his parents about starting a Roth IRA earlier. Liz would explain the rules of compounding interest so that it clicked at a younger age.
Bonus! What purchase have you made over the past 12 months that has brought the most value to your life? AirPods
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New to FI? Be sure to check out Episode 100: Welcome To The FI Community!