163 | Finding FI | Liz and Braden

163 | Finding FI And Getting A Reluctant Spouse On Board | Liz And Braden

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.

College Scholarships

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.

Related: How To Apply For Scholarships And Win

World Travels

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.

Finding FI

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

FI Levers

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

Favorite Blog, Podcast, or Book: ChooseFI and BiggerPockets

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

Drop your comments and questions below on college scholarships. We will answer them and aggregate your tips for an upcoming episode.

Related Articles

New to FI? Be sure to check out Episode 100: Welcome To The FI Community!

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11 thoughts on “163 | Finding FI And Getting A Reluctant Spouse On Board | Liz And Braden”

  1. The timing of this episode couldn’t have been more perfect for us!
    During the last several months, my husband, son and I have scoured the internet for scholarships to assist our son in his pursuit of a bachelor’s degree in conjunction with professional pilot flight training. We fall into the bucket of not meeting many of the need-based scholarship requirements, but also not having enough wealth to cash flow all of college tuition. On average, flight training adds $20k annually on top of T/R/B, so receiving scholarships will help substantially to reduce the amount of student loan debt he acquires.

    Although our son is well-rounded with several extra curricular activities, and he has a good GPA, he’s not at the top of his class, falling flat from most merit-based scholarships offered directly through the colleges/universities. As we work our way through a long list of scholarships that we think he might qualify for, what is your advice for obtaining letters of recommendation when the sheer quantity of scholarships you’re applying for will exhaust the dozen or so people he feels comfortable asking for a recommendation from?

  2. I’m just listening to episode 163, and would like to contribute an idea for college that I don’t think has been brought up.
    My daughter is a Starbucks barista, working 20 hours a week. Starbucks will pay for her to attend online Arizona State University and graduated with a Arizona State University diploma. She will take the same classes taught online by the same professors that teach on campus. She is under no obligation after graduation to continue working for Starbucks. Some of the beautiful parts of this plan are:
    The scholarship based on the fact that you are an employee and not on any track record of grades that you may have gotten in my school or previous college courses or on financial need.
    The scholarship is for everyone who works a minimum of 20 hours, on average, per week at Starbucks. You do not have to compete with fellow employees get it, everyone is eligible.
    As you may know, a bachelors degree is based on 120 hours of college credit. Starbucks understands that not everybody excels all the time in every class, and their program will pay up to 135 college hours, giving a bit of cushion in case life throws you a curve ball, or you just have a bit of trouble in a class along the way. If you have to drop a class, or you don’t do well enough and you have to retake it, Starbucks will still reimburse you for the cost of that class, up to 135 hours. They do not require that you take a certain number of classes each semester, you can progress through the coursework as quickly or slowly as you need to.
    There are other benefits I would be happy to get into, if you are interested.

    There are a couple things to keep in mind. Anyone who already has a bachelors degree is not eligible. Starbucks will pay tuition and mandatory fees and you will pick up the cost of books and other supplies. The tuition assistance is provided in the form of a 40% discount when you pay your tuition each semester and then a payroll reimbursement upon completion of each semester of the tuition and fees that you paid. There are some small tax implications to keep in mind, but they are very small.

    ASU offers a multitude of online degrees to choose from and assigns a success coach to each SBUX student to help handle any issues that may come up along the way. Also, if you cannot quality for acceptance to ASU, the SBUX program will put you through the prep classes at ASU to get you up to speed so that you can be accepted to ASU.

    Big wins here are that you don’t have to be an out performer in your high school and you do not have to prove financial need.

    My daughter just started the program, so I will report back on how things go. At this point, we are impressed with both the SBUX program and ASU.

  3. My question regarding college scholarships is regarding the impact on FAFSA and federal financial aid. I intend to be FI by the time we’re facing this dilema so will have a low AGI which should look pretty good for the FAFSA (per some of your other episodes). Having our kids crush scholarship applications sounds like a great idea, but, given the financial aid eligibility FI will offer, will they just offset the easier path to free financial aid by getting these scholarships? Thanks for what you do at ChooseFI!

  4. This episode could not come at a better time as I have twin boys that are high school juniors and we have been saving in a 529 plan since they were born, but we need every merit scholarship actionable hack we can. They are both top 10 in their class and scored high on the PSAT with an engineering leaning for college at this point, so merit based offers are key for us. We are looking for the most successful paths for merit based scholarships as there is so much information on the internet and finding the best ROI for this process would be huge.
    Has anyone ever incentivized their kids to get maximum effort in their applications with an incentive/rebate for scholarships used for undergrad years? Example: Student finds 10k in scholarships and the child gets $500 for whatever they want? This seems like a win/win for the family and the child.

    I am super excited to hear Jonathan and Brad mention that they are putting together a group hack on this subject!!!!!!!
    Love this FI community

  5. I went through college on a Navy ROTC scholarship that covered full tuition. We also got small stipends for books and uniforms. I’m sure this is not for everyone as you agree to join the Navy for a minimum 5 years after college, but some would say that’s just good job security! I commissioned in 2013 and am still in the Navy, since I went the pilot route. It’s not my favorite thing in the world, but I am grateful for the many benefits it’s given my family and I so far! If you are considering becoming a Naval Officer, this is the best way to go in my opinion!

    My husband went to college on a SMART Scholarship, which I think you’ve touched on before! He had two years of college fully paid for, an internship, a stipend, and a guaranteed job working for the government for two years after school.

  6. So my big state University that I completed my top 50 undergrad at, had a weird thing with majors. I was a dual sciences/foreign language major. I declared the language so I could get into the classes with priority. Little did I know, I saved $1000 per semester because the science majors paid an extra fee per semester. I added the science major at the last semester and saved $4k.
    Tip #2 for grad school. A lot of people look to go to international medical schools. They’re expensive and you have to take really hard tests to practice in the US. Why not go to a US medical school that has a half decent name, cheap and easy to get into? I switched state residencies by moving in a gap year to a less competitive state, saved $200k from in state to out of state, bought a house, and got a great degree. I have half the debt of my colleagues. Feel free to contact about the details.

  7. I went to a college that had co-ops and was paid over $60k from them while at college. I graduated a year earlier than expected & had a job offer from my co-op. I don’t work there anymore, but I was able to leverage the 18months of internship when I applied for jobs/salary negotiation.

    Also, high school kids should opt for college credit classes instead of AP. I paid less than $2,000 for 28 college credits. Books were included in this cost. The classes were at my high school. I was given a college transcript from the community college. This saved me a year of time at my college. The AP classes were $95 for the opportunity to take a test that a college MAY accept the grade. Much higher stakes with the AP courses and much lower chances of them satisfying college requirements. My college only gave general course credit for scores of 5. Meanwhile, my college gave credit towards core classes when I had B’s on the CC transcript.

  8. Hi my name is Sean Buchner, I am a senior civil engineering student at the University at Buffalo. Unfortunately I have accumulated about 30k in student debt thought my 5 years of undergraduate (double major in physics and civil engineering). I am staying for one more year at the University at Buffalo to get my master’s degree in Structural and Earthquake engineering. I applied for two scholarships from UB that apply to a graduate level student in my field of study but even if I get both it will probably only be around 1-2k. I wanted to see if you knew of any other scholarships I could apply for?

  9. For the up coming show in scholarships, if I haven’t missed the chance. My niece is wanting to attend lincoln tech in indiana for diesel mechanics and welding. She is taking a year off to save money, but i would love some information on scholarships that are for trade schools. Thanks for any help you can offer.

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