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166R | It’s A Small World After All

Find out more about the upcoming ChooseFI documentary series, Andrew and Zach’s experiments in Financial Independence, and community corrections.

  • Andrew shares his experience selling plasma as the first of ChooseFI’s experiments in financial independence. Andrew and Zach will be sharing their experiences on YouTube as they document their attempts to earn money through side hustles such as taking surveys and selling blood.
  • Brad and Jonathan discuss the rising costs of healthcare and how to factor that into your FI plans.
  • MK brings in a correction from our community to clarify a TSP question for military members. Essentially, the money that military members earn while deployed in combat zones is tax-free and it stays tax-free whether it goes into your traditional or Roth TSP.
  • The PopUp Business School is coming to Charleston, South Carolina from February 17th to the 28th. Consider attending and learning how to build your own business. Plus, the Charleston ChooseFI local group will be hosting a meetup with Brad and Jonathan on the 25th at the Rusty Bull Brewery. Please come if you can!


Related Episodes:

Table Of Contents

Experiments In Financial Independence

Jonathan: Congratulations. You made it to the weekend. This is your Friday Roundup. Welcome to ChooseFI.

All right everyone, very excited about today’s episode. We’ve got a lot to cover, a lot of questions, a few corrections from the community, which is my favorite. And to help me with this, I have my co-host Brad here with me today. How are you doing buddy?

Brad: Hey Jonathan. I am doing quite well and yeah, here we have some experiments in Financial Independence going on with some of our team members here, right? You had the thousand dollar challenge a couple of weeks ago that you talked about.

How can you raise $1,000? Either by side hustling or selling things, and sounds like Zach and Andrew have picked up the torch here and ran with it.

Jonathan: What’s great about that is that when you and I started, that was actually the tagline for the show, experiments in Financial Independence. And as the show started taking up more and more production time, we were left with less time to actually get out there and do some of these things. And so we handed that challenge to Andrew and Zach and they’re doing it.

Well, we came up with this, there’s a list of hundreds of ways on the internet that it markets, here’s ways to make money. Instead of just saying here what they are, what if we could actually do those? Andrew and Zack, here’s the list of a hundred ways that are marketed as the best ways to make money. If you’re looking to do side hustles on a small scale without significant front-load investment, go through these and grade them. And so they look through the list this past week and they picked …

Brad: Oh, I’m frightened to hear what the first one was.

Jonathan: I think they picked selling plasma this week.

Brad: Oh, my.

Jonathan: So, okay. All right, let’s find out how it went. So the way it was marketed as you can make up to $400 a month by donating blood, effectively what we’re talking about is donating blood. And Andrew, why don’t you come over here for a second and catch us up on the update, is this as good as was marketed?

Andrew: Yeah, it was an interesting experience.

We went over to the plasma donation center and we heard, “Oh, $400 for a donation.” Well, there’s a little stipulation there. It’s probably $400 over the course of the month. So for the first two donations I got 80 bucks.

And the difference between donating plasma and donating blood is that when you’re donating plasma, it takes a little bit longer. It goes through this whole machine and the process takes up to about an hour and a half at the most. And yeah, it was a pretty unique experience as they just hooked me up to this whole thing, drained out my blood, took the plasma, which is like kind of the fluid in between the blood cells, took it out, filtered it out, and then put the blood back into my body. So yeah.

Brad: So Andrew, $80 each time or $80 total?

Andrew: It was actually $75, but then they gave me a $5 bonus the first two times, so 80 bucks. And then the next few times I go, it’ll be 50 bucks. And then the last time I think it be based on my weight.

Jonathan: Which at that point, it will be less.

Andrew: Yeah. Significantly less.

Brad: All right. So while this might be a little extreme example, what’s cool here is that we have Zach and Andrew who for everybody who doesn’t know, they are our video team and they are going to document all of this on the YouTube channel.

All right. So while this might be a little extreme example, what’s cool here is that we have Zach and Andrew who for everybody who doesn’t know, they are our video team and they are going to document all of this on the YouTube channel.

So there are, as Jonathan said, hundreds of different ways to make money and it’s going to be cool to see two guys in their 20s who like you said Jonathan, we have families, we are busy with all the goings on with ChooseFI. While we would love to personally do these experiments, it’s cool to have these two guys as proxies for us basically. So they’re going to do things like sit down and take surveys. You’re always here, right?

Jonathan: Everybody wants to do a survey.

Brad: How could you not make money making surveys?

Jonathan: You would think this is the secret to being a millionaire everywhere. Just do surveys.

Brad: But I mean seriously, I’m curious how long will it take to make $100 taking surveys?

Jonathan: Right. So there’s two main ones that I hear about. It’s Survey Junkie and Swagbucks. Those are the two that I see everywhere on the internet. We’re just going to have them sit side by side. We’ll have a timer behind them. Go make 100 bucks from doing surveys. And don’t get up, don’t eat, don’t drink, don’t do anything. I’m just kidding guys. But seriously, it’s a race, right? There’d be a prize for the winner.

Brad: So go quickly.

Jonathan: Whoever gets $100 first. Those are the results that the world needs. That’s the secret to being a millionaire. It’s to find out which one of these platforms is more effective.

Brad: No. But the cool thing is that we will experiment, right? And we’ve always talked about actionable tips. So these guys are going to dive into these things and find those little force multipliers, right?

There might be some answer to surveys that some of these things work and give you outsized results, and they can document that. So I’m super excited to see them really blow up this YouTube channel with amazing valuable content that is just not what we would put on the podcast. Right? That’s what’s cool about YouTube is you can actually see them go through these experiments. So yeah, I’m really, really excited about it.

The Thousand Dollar Challenge

Jonathan: So speaking of making that first, that $1,000 challenge, right? That’s what we posited for the beginning of February. And I actually have this crazy anecdote that I want to share.

So we were getting an extra microphone for our mobile podcast set up. We’re actually going to Charleston, we’ll talk about a little bit here. We’re going to do some recording down there. So I needed to get an extra microphone for that setup. And I ordered a used one on Amazon and I received it a couple of days later. And I noticed as I opened up the used package for this microphone, which actually resembles the one that I’m using right now, a handwritten note at the bottom and it’s from Jess.

And Jess said, “Hi Jonathan, thank you for your order. I’m part of the FIRE movement and a fan of your podcast. I know you’re going to put this microphone to good use, keep up the good work, and thank you for all the great content that you give to us.” I did not purchase this under the ChooseFI.

Brad: Right. So this was just from Jonathan Mendonsa in Richmond, Virginia. And just saw that and said, “Okay, it’s probably a 99% chance this is that Jonathan.” And she wrote you this handwritten note. That’s amazing.

Jonathan: Jess, thank you. The microphone is great. We’re going to use it in Charleston. It’s going to be fantastic. I was going to message you back, but I thought I would just hit you up on the podcast and let you know.

Brad: Yeah. It really makes you realize it’s astonishing how far this Financial Independence movement is spreading. Right? And we see it. It’s this viral thing. We see it spread person to person, and that’s just so cool. I know you sent me a screenshot of it the second you got it, and that’s amazing. It really just-

Jonathan: And Jess is working on our $1,000 challenge. There’s a couple hundred dollars there.

Brad: I’d love to link up her store, her Amazon store if she has one. I’m not sure how that works precisely, but if we find it, we will definitely put it in the show notes unquestionably.

Jonathan: So as we kind of proceed through the month of February and people start to share their wins with us and how they’re going about … And by the way, people have taken that mantle on and they are sharing in the Facebook group what they’re doing to spend less and earn more.

And I think it’s important to point out that while you could go do surveys and donate plasma and all sorts of other side hustles, it could also be spending less and categorically setting the money that you save aside as part of your thousand dollar challenge. And I know you and Laura have a saving money story to share from this past week.

Healthcare Challenges

Brad: Yeah, this was kind of a cool one, and it actually ties into this Monday’s episode with Court. And she’s talking in this episode and I literally, I listened to it probably five times and I pretty much cried essentially every single time about hearing the Canadian healthcare situation and just how amazing it is.

And I mean, I think she describes a situation where unfortunately obviously her wife had meningitis and she was in the hospital for five days. And she described them essentially just walking out of the hospital. Everything was fine. The only bill she had was $35 for parking. So a $7 a day parking and that’s it.

And then she described another one where I think she got in a car accident and her elbow was all messed up and the doctors kind of sheepishly asked if it would be okay if she paid $18 for a sling for her elbow.

I mean, Jonathan, you’re just shaking your head. I mean, it’s crazy. I know unfortunately both of our families have had significant medical bills recently and it just makes you realize, all right obviously, we know this, but our system is kind of screwed up to put it mildly. Okay. Anyway, that’s the kind of backdrop to that-

Jonathan: Thank you, Brad. You’re taking me to a very dark place.

Brad: Yeah. I’m trying to keep it happy here, trying to keep it happy.

So the win here is that I talked about, unfortunately my wife was in the ER about a month and a half ago, and she had this terrible reaction to an antibiotic and it was scary, but the ER was fantastic. They treated us extremely well. They kept her for observation. Okay?

So she was kept overnight for observation. There was really no medical issues at that point, it pretty much cleared. But they wanted to be safe. And clearly, obviously, Laura’s health is the only thing that matters. Luckily we’re in a position that we have financial resources, so this didn’t destroy us, but I suspect for many people it would have because the bills came out to be over $5,000 in total.

So $5,000 out of pocket because we have an ultra high deductible healthcare plan. It would have been up to I think $6,600. That’s what it actually would have been out of pocket because that’s the top max, but Laura had already spent some money out of pocket in 2019 so that was our one saving grace, if you will.

We still paid in the 6,600, but just for this ER visit, it wound up being roughly $5,000 out of pocket. So now of that, so I have the numbers, not about $4,105 was related to you just basically lounging in the ER. And I use that word jokingly of course.

Jonathan: No, when you said she’s paid overnight, my first thought was that sounds expensive.

Brad: Yup. Just for the facility fee. So $4,105 for what the hospital provided for facilities. So this wasn’t doctors, it wasn’t any type of anesthesia or anything like that. It was just the facility fee, $4,105.

So they actually called me up, I got the bills and I hadn’t paid them for a couple of days. I was thinking about going back and listening to the RIP Medical Debt episode and trying to come up with a strategy. But they actually reached out to us and gave us a call and they said, “Hey, you know you have these bills coming due.” And I said, “Yeah, I’m pretty well aware of that.”

I don’t exactly forget $4,100, but I’m like, “What kind of discount could I get if we were to pay it in full today?” And I don’t suspect many people are in that position, unfortunately, to pay $4,100 out of pocket. But I figured I would ask the question.

Brad: I think we talked with Craig and Jerry from RIP Medical Debt and they said, “You’re probably going to get a discount.” And I think I had gotten 10% in the past when I asked that question. But the woman just said right off the top, “We’ll give you a 15% discount.” So on $4,105 that amounted to a $616 question.

Jonathan: Oh man, you are getting very close to your thousand dollar challenge there with all that savings.

Brad: From one question. And really obviously guys, it’s not just that one question, it’s being in a financial position. It’s having done all these things on the path to FI to get in a position where we have some financial strength because like I said, what percent of people can pay that? Very few. Right?

So because I was armed with the knowledge, “Is there a pay in full discount?” And with all this financial stability I was able to get that discount. So $616, check it off the list, I’m almost two-thirds of the way to my thousand.

Jonathan: Yes, we’ll work on the rest. I got some ideas for you man. We’ll talk about Swagbucks in a few minutes here. All right.

So I think if someone’s listening to this, I mean we have definitely gone into depth about this topic before, but just for context here, I think it’s important to understand why you really need to ask.

This is a reactive situation where the hospital which is going through patients at this point, I don’t mean that in a bad way. I just mean there’s a lot of patients that come through hospital doors. They have a billing department with limited capacity. They do not have the ability to handle all their collections themselves.

So on average, a hospital will handle the collections in house for about the first 30 days. That’s what Jerry told us from RIP Medical Debt.

At the end of that 30 days, they’re moving on to the next round of patients. Right? And so they bundle this off and they give it to a collections department. Now the collections department, why would the collections department take that on? The collections department is offering them maybe 70, 50% of what they actually think they’ll receive. But the hospital gets all that money now and doesn’t have to actually worry about collection.

Then collections goes off and tries to get as much as they can. If they can’t collect, it keeps on going on down the line, down the line.

So for you, what does that mean?

If this is something that has happened because of an ER visit, because of an unexpected emergency in your face with a hefty medical bill, it’s been sitting at the hospital or the doctor’s office for about 30 days. The doctor’s office, the hospital is now very excited about collecting 90% of that bill.

Now you got to realize that if your insurance is already negotiating these … there’s all sorts of negotiating happening on in the background anyways. And so what you see is that top line. When the insurance pays a certain amount, they’re not really paying anything. They’ve just negotiated down the rate.

So if the doctor can actually collect from you 90% or 85% of that bill, they are doing way better with you than they are when they send that off to collections. They’re taking a fraction of that amount.

So there really is an incentive when you’re talking about a bill that happened, you know, it was outside of your control. It’s not a planned thing. You’re going to be able to negotiate 10 or 15% on these larger bills if you can just offer to pay it in full.

I’m still trying to figure out if it works on electives that you’re like, “Hey, I have this bill and it’s due … ” I don’t know how much you can negotiate on the other side of that. That’s actually a question worth investigating.

But on that end, hopefully you have time to plan and you can actually get some competitive rates. I mean, I think what we understand is the medical system here in the States, it is fundamentally broken. Now some individuals may like it, they benefit from, may be sheltered from the cost because an employer’s picking up a pretty significant tab, but entrepreneurs, and small business owners, and individuals that are outside of that, there are people that are falling through the healthcare cracks and I think it’s going to have to be solved one of two ways.

The industry is either going to have to self correct somehow. I don’t really see that happening. It’s either going to be government regulations or it’s going to be technology and the free market basically saying, “This cannot stand.”

But it can’t keep going this way. It can’t keep going up for forever. Medical bills are bankrupting people and in its current course, it’s unsustainable.

There are patchwork fixes, but it’s becoming increasingly obvious how bad they are. And the only thing that I think is keeping some people okay with it is that some of this cost is being hidden by employers. And so I’m glad that employers are picking up the tab, but it’s a very disparate approach to healthcare at the moment.

And to watch, I’m not even advocating for Canada’s system, but I am saying that this is not going to keep going the way it is. It just simply can’t.

Brad: Yeah, I agree. It certainly does seem unsustainable, but I think people ask us the question, “Okay, I’m looking to reach Financial Independence and maybe, maybe leave my job at some point.” Right? Retire early, whatever you want to call it. “What do I do about health insurance? How do I consider that in my FI number?”

And I think we have to realize, okay, let’s look at … while Jonathan, I probably personally do agree with you that this is unsustainable, right? And something almost by definition will have to change at some point in the future.

But I think we have to look at the reality on the ground and say, “Okay, what’s the worst case?” And add it in as a line item to your budget. Right? So there’s no secret here. It’s just knowing, okay, health insurance and in all likelihood bills for that actual medical care are going to be a line item in your budget. So you just have to factor that into your FI number. Right? So in my case, unfortunately our premiums, so Jonathan, this is not-

Jonathan: I think it’s entrepreneurs and small business centers that are the most bitter about this.

Brad: I know. Yeah. Yeah.

Jonathan: So you’re getting an extreme example. But, hey, your situation mirrors my own, so go for it.

Brad: So, right, so it’s $1,000 a month in premiums for our family of four. So that’s $12,000 a year. So you just very simply add that into your yearly expenses, right? I mean, it’s an astronomical amount, obviously, and that’s not counting then the $6,000 out of pocket.

Jonathan: At least when you go to the doctor’s office, it’s all covered, right?

Brad: Oh, if only, if only.

So, yeah, I mean, again, I’m not painting a happy picture here. I wish truly the reality was different, but it isn’t. And we have to know the rules, we have to understand reality, and we have to deal with it. Right?

So at the very least, we have $12,000 a year that just simply goes into our budget and we multiply by 25 for that total annual expense to reach our Financial Independence figure. And before we could declare we were at Financial Independence, we had to consider that.

So there’s no secret here, but also Jonathan, at least as of today, there are subsidies for people who maybe are at that Financial Independence figure. Now obviously I have businesses, right? So I am not qualifying for those massive subsidies. I’m just not. But there probably will be a time in the future where I will, but many people who are reaching Financial Independence and aren’t earning an income, they can qualify for these subsidies.

Jonathan: Yeah. And I don’t want to do a whole healthcare episode today. We’ve done it several times over the past year. We’ll have them linked up in the show notes for the episode. But it is important to point out, this is in the context of being a small business owner. So you’re responsible for paying for healthcare. You have income, hopefully, significant income, that’s preventing you from getting any level of subsidies, freelancers, contractors, all those.

Those are things to actually keep in mind. We’ll have linked up in the show notes an episode where we really went into depth, certainly individuals. The thing about the ACA and the subsidies are if you are making lower income levels, and I believe even up to 400% of the poverty level, the subsidies are there and they do work.

So there’s a gap, but a lot of people are receiving benefits. And so I think we’re painting a dire brush right now based on our own personal experience, which this year has been … But I may not reflect everyone’s experiences.

Brad: Right. And again, for me it’s just knowing the rules. So if those subsidies exist based on your income, then just know the rules and factor that into your FI number. I think that’s the larger point of what I’m trying to get across here is you just have to understand reality, and know the rules, and if you can benefit.

In my case, I cannot benefit from those subsidies currently, but many people can and you factor that into your FI numbers. So I think there’s no surprise. There’s no secret here. It is a line item in your budget and you have to deal with it accordingly.

Community Corrections

Jonathan: All right, so I want to go and bring in the third member of our team here. MK, how are you doing today?

MK: I’m doing great guys. Happy that it’s Friday. Happy for the weekend.

Jonathan: Congratulations. You made it. Yeah, absolutely. All right. So we have a cool opportunity here. One of the things that we did early on is … this doesn’t sound cool, but in retrospect it’s built on itself. We admit when we’re wrong or when there’s something to add to the conversation.

We’ll just call it constructive criticism or a correction. And there will be those. That’s the amazing thing when you’re reliant, when you’re not limited to Brad’s knowledge base or my knowledge base, but rather you can crowdsource information from hundreds of thousands of people that are experts in their respective fields. You can add the nuance to the conversation.

So last week we highlighted a question … actually MK, tell us what’s going on.

MK: Yeah. So last week we received a question from Eric about how a military service member who is deployed and they received tax free income can maximize their benefits in their TSP.

The question was should it be traditional or Roth? So thankfully we have a lot of really great military members in our community and even on our team who are able to come back and say, “You were right, but there’s a bit more to it.” And I think that’s the great part about this being a crowdsourced show is that we have so many people who are able to say, “I have done all the research on this. Here is all the nuance that you need so that way we can point people to the right conversation.”

And I think that’s the great part about this being a crowdsourced show is that we have so many people who are able to say, “I have done all the research on this. Here is all the nuance that you need so that way we can point people to the right conversation.”

So Steven reached out, Steven Heptig, he is one of our co-creators for the FI101 course in active duty in the air force right now. And he was able to fill us in that while the money that is paid to a service member while they are deployed is tax-free, that stays tax-free. Whether it goes into the traditional TSP or a Roth, it is the earnings on it that could be taxed at withdrawal.

So that is where the potential benefit for the Roth TSP would come in. And then Airman Mildollar or Military Dollar, but when she’s on Facebook, it’s Airman Mildollar, you’ve all seen her on our page and on the ChooseFI military group. She was also on episode 95. She wrote in with some additional nuance for us and said that for the vast majority of people, it makes more sense to put deployment contributions into the Roth TSP side because your pay isn’t taxed while on the combat zone tax exclusion area, and then your earnings and withdrawals aren’t taxed because it’s a Roth account. Everybody wins, right?

However, one big thing to keep in mind is that while you are deployed to a CZTE, is the acronym, military members are also allowed to exceed the elective deferral limit of the $19,500 in 2020 and contribute to an annual addition limit, AAL, $57,000 in 2020. The AAL limit is your combined member and employer contributions. So if you fall under the BRS, make sure you account for the government automatic and matching contributions as well.

So there was a lot of great nuance here and she posted this in our main ChooseFI thread and any ChooseFI military thread.

And we also had Dustin write in, one of our great listeners, who added that same nuance. So it was really great to have three people speak up right away to say, “Hey, you’re right, but there’s a little bit more to it.”

And I was so excited to see the conversation continue on Facebook. So if you are listening to the podcast and you’re getting information, this is a great jumping off point for your research, but definitely continue in the community. Continue doing your research by reading Military Dollars’ blog, by reading Grumpus Maximus, the Military Guide with Doug Nordman.

All those great voices in our community who have so much experience and that niche information for you to be able to find the right solution for your exact situation.

Jonathan: So Brad, in one of our first episodes of the year, we talked about how with our show, with our platform, we are going to be making a slight pivot and we’re actually going to be finding ways to use the resources at our disposal and our team and the different ways that we make media to actually highlight what people in this community are actually doing.

And so I only say that to say that MK, I know that we are rolling out kind of a documentary series and I’d love more information on that for our audience.

MK: Yes. So we have been working behind the scenes for a couple of months now to figure out how we can bring the stories of people who are new to FI to our audience. So one of the great thing about all the interviews that we’ve done to date is that these are people who have gone through the process of they’re frustrated with their finances, they discover FI, they make the changes, they iterate, they optimize, and years later they have this amazing story to share with us of their journey as they’re now waiting to hit their FI number or about to leave on their huge world vacation or whatever it is that they’re about to do. They’re at their finish line. They’re excited.

But we wanted to follow people from the beginning because from our point of view, having been on this journey so long, it’s really hard to remember all the things that you go through those first few months, those first few years of making these big changes.

And it feels like there’s a big change coming every month, every couple months. And so we wanted to highlight people who are new to the journey and follow them as they’re going through it so we can cheer for them along the way. We can offer guidance to them as they are getting stuck on something. They are like, “Okay I’ve cut what I can. I’m stuck on this part.” That we can offer that help to them as a community, but also through our resources of knowing some of these great experts in the fields.

So we wanted to be able to highlight these six different households ideally across the spectrum of geography, around the world where people are, around the country where people are, different types of households, whether it’s a single young person, entrepreneur trying to get things going or is it a large family with multiple kids.

We hear from so many people, so many different walks of life, they’re into FI and we want to be able to highlight a good cross section of them. So if you are relatively new to FI, if you are getting this thing started, we want to hear from you and we want to feature you on this documentary series.

So if you go to, you can apply, there is a written application and then a short video application as well because we would be doing regular video check-ins with you. We want to see that you’re excited to be on camera. You’re not shy to be on camera and share your experience with us.

So we want to give an opportunity to highlight people as they’re going through the journey. And we can follow them, and get excited for them as they hit those big milestones, and give them the advice that they need to keep going.

Jonathan: Right. I see the smile spreading across your faces. This is announced.

Brad: Yeah. Yeah. This is something we talked about probably almost a year ago and I just was incredibly excited about this.

I think, like MK said, it’s amazing to hear from people who have done it, but even myself, it’s hard to remember those first couple of steps, those first couple of changes, those first couple of challenges. Right?

And I think it’ll be really cool for the audience. I think it will be great for the podcast and I think there is that level of accountability, right? For these families and also you’re going to see yourself in their story. That’s what’s cool, is only six families are going to get selected, but there are going to be tens upon tens of thousands of other people, individuals, families, couples, whatever it may be, who can see their own lives in a piece of each of those stories.

And as Jonathan, you and I have figured out from the very beginning of ChooseFI, stories are what make the world go round, right?

People see themselves, they think, “I can do this. That person is just like me or that person is facing the same challenges that I am. Maybe I can do this too.”

And I think this is a huge step forward for ChooseFI. I could not be more excited and I can’t wait to celebrate those wins. I can’t wait to help them through tough times and questions they have with the help of our community, our in-house experts. This is going to be amazing.

Jonathan: It’s literally going from that, “How is this even possible?” That moment where that’s the frame to, “Oh, I got this.” Right? That mental transition when you realize that forward progress, you’ve become this person that is on the path to FI, to be able to be there and see that, yeah, it’s going to be pretty cool.

All right, so everybody hearing this, you’re listening to this when it goes live, hopefully on Friday. So February 14th, applications are now available from the 14th of February through the 29th of February. If you want to enter your application again, go to and once we have aggregated those applications, we will start keeping you updated on those stories. Very excited about this.

PopUp Business School

Jonathan: So Brad, we actually talked about this at the beginning of the episode, but Charleston South Carolina PopUp Business School. It’s coming.

Brad: Yeah, it’s coming up really, really quickly.

So, like you said, this episode is going out on Friday, February 14th and the PopUp Business School in Charleston is starting this coming Monday.

So it’s February 17th through the 28th. It’s 10 days, so Monday through Friday for those two weeks and it looks like they have a four hours of sessions each day, which is amazing and this is a free PopUp Business School. So as Jonathan likes to say, if you are within a seven hour drive-

Jonathan: You keep expanding it. I used to say six.

Brad: … an eight hour drive of Charleston-

Jonathan: If you are on the on the East coast.

Brad: Yes, right. Then head on down there. Alan Donegan is running this personally and his team’s coming in. It’s going to be amazing.

And you and I are actually headed down there, so we’re going to be there for Monday through Wednesday of the second week and it’s just going to be cool. We have Zach and Andrew coming down with all the film gear.

And it’s just going to be a lot of fun meeting these people who are looking to start up businesses and to go through Alan’s entire concept, which is really a rethink on the stodgy old, “I need to raise capital. I need to have a business plan.” Right? It’s how many of these people are going to walk out of there with businesses or businesses that they’re going to start imminently.

Jonathan: Yeah. So Alan asked me to record a promo trailer for something that I’m not announcing right now. I’m just telling y’all maybe something’s in the wind. But let me just tell you, Alan said, “Jonathan, can you record one or two sentences for me about why this is so important. Why you get so excited about pop up.”

And I was like, “Well, first of all, Alan, I’ve never been able to say one or two sentences about anything in my life.” So 10 minutes later, right? But yeah, if you’re willing to take my 10 minute version, let me talk about it. Let’s talk about that. So but at its essence, what it comes down to is when I was like growing up, entrepreneurship is scary. I knew that small business owners fail all the time, “I knew”, right?

And the idea of starting business meant that I would need to get a brick and mortar location that I would need to get raise massive capital, have to go heavily into debt, have to have a 20 or 30 page business plan and get a bank to sign off on it.

That’s what entrepreneurship looked like to me. And the same way that it’s like the more, right? When we talk about personal finance, we talk about Financial Independence, the more you know, you realize that it’s replicable, that it doesn’t have to be scary, that it’s accessible, that you can do this. Alan is showing exactly an iteration of those same roles. What does it look like when you apply that creative mindset, when you replace venture capital with creativity, what can be accomplished. Right?

And it’s incredible. What they find is the individuals that really throw themselves at pop ups … I mean they go in, they show up for most of the days. They really embrace the content and most importantly they take action. By the end of the two week period, they’ve started their business and made their first sale.

And my case would be that for many individuals, what I’ve experienced personally is that when you can create a business model around the concepts that Alan is teaching, you can have your cake and eat it too. You can get most of the benefits of Financial Independence on the path to Financial Independence while taking something that you’re interested in and turning it into a way to fund your lifestyle and feed your family. And you could do it at no risk, no risk at all.

And my case would be that for many individuals, what I’ve experienced personally is that when you can create a business model around the concepts that Alan is teaching, you can have your cake and eat it too. You can get most of the benefits of Financial Independence on the path to Financial Independence while taking something that you’re interested in and turning it into a way to fund your lifestyle and feed your family. And you could do it at no risk, no risk at all.

So this is one of my Alan’s favorite quotes and I think he got it from someone else, so I won’t give him too much credit for it, but it’s how do you know what flavor of ice cream you’re going to like? You try all of them. And that’s what you get to do with Pop Up and you get to do it without this headwind of having this massive business plan and raising venture capital, come join us, PopUp Charleston, South Carolina. It’s going to be an epic two weeks.

Brad: Yeah, and Jonathan, we will certainly put a link to the page in our show notes, but if you’re interested and you can just Google PopUp Business School Charleston. And as they note here, this is 10 days and they say, “You do not have to come every day. However, the more you come for, the more likely you are to succeed.”

So clearly people are hearing about this a couple of days in advance. It’s going to be hard to get two weeks off of work imminently, but come on down, come for a day, come for four days, as many as you can. And yeah, this is going to be great. I cannot wait to head down there

Jonathan: And while we’re talking about Charleston, we should say that there is a very active local group in Charleston, South Carolina and we are going to use the excuse of having pop up to pull us to that area to actually have a meetup, a courtesy of Sean and Alan.

They’re putting this together for the ChooseFI Charleston group. And if you are either coming to visit because you’re there for pop up or you are a member, we would love for you to come out and join us. It’s going to be on the 25th of February and this is going to be at the Rusty Bull Brewery.

So come out, hang out with us, get to know your local group. We’ll have the details for the show notes for today’s episode, that is episode 166R, you can find that

The FIRE Is Spreading

So when you guys are caught up on the show, you binge listen to the past archives, and you made it to this point, you basically are watching us do our best to advocate for the spread of this message of FI around the world. And one of the ways that we believe this can happen is through local advocacy.

And that basically involves you taking this message of FI as an ambassador to your friends, your family, and creating community around the idea that we can live and make this world a better tomorrow for ourselves and for those around us.

And one of the reasons that we feel like we’re in a unique position to offer this message at scale with the podcast, but we have to have your help. We have to have your buy-in in order to see this continue to be a grassroots movement. And so the local groups are at the Vanguard of that and there are new ones popping up each and every week. And MK, what’s going on this week?

MK: Well, this week we have quite a few events to highlight.

So tomorrow, February 15th ChooseFI New Orleans is having a finding food and finance meeting, which sounds amazing because New Orleans’ food is always good. So no matter what, they’re going to get something great with the food. And at least they’ll be talking about personal finance too.

And then next weekend on the 21st ChooseFI Manchester, UK has a presentation filled event and we’ll be focused on the FI journey and investing for FI. So really nice event they’re putting together there.

And then the following day, the 22nd, ChooseFI Northwest Arkansas has a meeting planned at the local library and they’re going to cover two topics, health insurance after FIRE and budget benchmarking to help make sure that you’re budgeting different categories.

So they’re going to have a lot of great topics coming up at these different events, a lot more local events going on too. But these are some of the big ones we wanted to highlight coming up soon.

Brad: Well, that is awesome. Yeah. MK, these local events, they’re just doubling and doubling. It’s like a compounding situation, right? It’s amazing to see them pop up.

There are roughly 300 ChooseFI local groups and I’d love to issue and double down on this challenge that I think I talked about a couple of weeks ago, which is I would love to see every single one of those groups have a meetup in one calendar month. So let’s say March or April, right? Just have a local meetup, get together, do a potluck dinner, meet up at a local brewery, or a park, go on a hike, just do anything. Have one of these amazing presentations if you’re really enterprising, right? But just get together.

Community starts with these individual events and people start forming relationships, friendships, and it just goes from there. We’ve seen it in our own local group. Finally, really Jonathan, the Richmond local group is just thriving and it’s amazing to see what Emily has done. Taking the reigns over recently from Stacy here, and you see stories like that across the country and across the world.

People want to be involved and it doesn’t also just fall on the admin. If you are a member of a local group, just set up a meetup and post in the Facebook group, it takes five seconds, “Hey, I’m going to go to this restaurant for lunch on Saturday. Who wants to meet up with me?” Right?

That is really, really easy to do and it starts with individuals. And really if you’re looking to get involved and if you haven’t joined a ChooseFI local group yet, just go to, find one of the groups. Almost invariably you’re going to find one in your local area. Like I said, there were 300 worldwide, and get involved.

Jonathan: And if you’ve been in a group, and your group is a little bit quieter, and no one has taken the reigns that raise their hand, and got in that first event, it can be you. I don’t want to say it’s not a failure. What has already happened is individuals of like mind have raised their hand and said, “I think there should be community.”

Now that individual that now is coordinated and organized, if that hasn’t happened yet, it’s not a failure. It took some time and it didn’t happen as quickly, but just the fact that you got to start and you gave people a way to find each other, you’ve already got the ball rolling and now you’re that much closer to having an active group. And really it’s probably just been waiting for you.

So take Brad up on his challenge, get started. And I think what you’ll continue to see is the spillover effect that people realize the benefits that happen when you can form community. And as soon as it becomes obvious what the benefits are, you’re going to get increasing levels of buy-in and I think it’s good for everybody when that happens.

MK, I see you trying to get a word in edgewise here. What’s going on over there.

MK: So I love this idea and I love this challenge and I know Jen, who is our admin extraordinaire, she is in every local group and she is our community manager. She keeps everything going and she makes sure all of these events get highlighted as best as they can with our limited time on the podcast.

But I know she would love it if we had one day, just one day, not just a month, one day where we tried to get every single local group to have a meetup because she would make it happen. And we would get photos from every group around the world that’s meeting and it would just be so nice to feel this global sense of community, and also then we can hang out with our local communities too.

So I’m going to talk with Jen right now. We’re going to figure out a day that we can make this happen and we will let you know when ChooseFI Day is going to be and we will all get together with our local groups that day.

Jonathan: That’s amazing. It’s like it’s a small world after all. Come to the podcast. Let’s do it.

Brad: I love it. Good idea, MK. Let’s make it happen. We will keep everybody updated here on the podcast in the future.

Book Winner

Jonathan: All right everyone, unfortunately that’s going to bring this episode to a close and as you know, we’d like to finish every episode by doing a drawing for a copy of a book that we have found useful. We had been doing our book ChooseFI, Your Blueprint to Financial Independence, but actually within the last couple of weeks ChooseFI Publishing has actually released its second book.

That’s The Simple Startup by Rob Phelan and actually that’s actually broken up into two options. You have an instructor manual and a student manual. The idea here being that if you want to work as an instructor student combination because maybe you’re a teacher or you’re a parent of a child and you want to help them build … we just talked about entrepreneurship.

If you want to prove a model that in many way reflects the ethos of the PopUp Business School model, start small, fail. If you’re going to fail, fail forward, right? And iterate that into something beautiful and you want to have kind of a linear way of thinking through this and teaching this content.

The Simple Startup is a fantastic book to consider and what we’re basically doing is with ChooseFI Publishing, these are the books that we’re passionate about, which is why we wanted to bring them into existence and the drawing is expanding beyond just a book, but really to a book that we think would be useful for you. And what better way than to highlight the books inside the publishing department? Pick one of them. You can either choose the instructor manual or the student manual or get the ChooseFI book, one of those options. And to enter the drawing, all you need to do just go to

Follow the instructions there, leaving us a short written review. Send us an email to [email protected], letting us know that you left your review and what screen name you left it under. We give away one book for every five written reviews that we get and we announce the winner on the Friday Roundup.

I mean, I think the odds are always going to be in your favor with this sort of thing. It’s a way for you to say, “Guys, I’m getting value from the show. I’m glad that I found you guys, and I’m sharing you with friends and family, and I’d love to win a copy of a book for free and help you out in the process.” Take us up on this offer if you haven’t already, leave us a review. It’s a way for you just to say, “Thanks, I’m glad I found you guys.” All right, MK, how many winners do we have today?”

MK: All right guys. Today we have one winner and this review comes from Greg. Greg writes, “As a CPA, I can be rigid in nature, but personal finance doesn’t fit in any singular box. I love how the guys are willing to take a look from a multitude of angles to solve a problem. This podcast aims to help you solve the puzzle of life from a financial perspective. Great job guys.”

EconoMe Conference

Jonathan: Thank you so much. Oh, we did have an announcement. MK with this book, I think both of these books are actually going to be available at an upcoming conference in Cincinnati. In the spirit of announcements, can you go ahead and help us out with this one?

MK: Yeah. So Diana, who was on an earlier episode of ChooseFI, who’s hosting the EconoMe conference, loved her story. So she reached out and said, “The university has a bookstore, they’re going to be selling books at the conference. Can we have the ChooseFI books available for sale?” And I said, “Well, you sure can.”

So if you are attending the EconoMe conference, be sure to check out the bookstore. They’ll have the ChooseFI book, The Simple Startup, as well as other great books in this space. And if you’re listening to this podcast and you want a ticket, you get a discount on your ticket, just use code ChooseFI when you go to checkout.

Yeah, so definitely check out this event. So not only will Jillian from Everyday Courage be there, but we’re going to have Lynn Frair, DocG, Jackie Cummings Koski, Julien from Rich and Regular, and Travis Hornsby, all these great people that have been on the show. So what a great opportunity to go and hear from them all in one place.

Jonathan: The link for that We’ll have a link in the show notes. The actual schedule for that is March 7th. It’s a one day conference at the University of Cincinnati. Starts at 8:30, goes through 6:00 PM with the various speakers, and it looks like it’s going to be pretty awesome time, so hopefully you’ll check that out.

All right, everyone, the fire is spreading. We’ll see you next time as we continue to go down the road less traveled.

Choose FI has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Choose FI and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. American Express is a ChooseFI advertiser. Disclosures.
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