How This Couple Paid Off Their Mortgage In 506 Days

How This Couple Paid Off Their Mortgage In 506 Days

According to Jim Rohn, “We are an average of five people that we spend the most time with.” The older I get, the more that quote resonates with me. I’ve learned how to identify people that I want to learn from and be around and be influenced by; and those I do not. Nowadays, when I see FI characteristics in people, the gravitational pull does what it does naturally.

Introductions And A United Vision

Being intentional, as any motivational personality will tell you, is the key to getting what you want. With that in mind, we registered for The Legacy Journey class by Dave Ramsey to, hopefully, connect with some like minded folks.

John and Niki were the only other students in this class, so we were able to absorb their journey through all that they shared during the seven weeks.

Through what they shared in class, and now about a year into our friendship, we know that they have been together over a decade, have a genuine love for one another, and they had a united vision for their future. They also love dogs. Bonus!

The Beginning. The Catalyst. The Plan.

As their story unfolded, they mentioned that it took them 506 days to pay off their mortgage. Five hundred and six days.

Common to everyone’s story, there had to be a catalyst to making change in their world. After all, they were “normal” like most everyone else, until they had a few realizations.

John had been experiencing some instability at work. In addition to the unrest that he was sensing, the minimums on his credit cards totaled $500 a month and he knew that he had to do something about it. Not being married yet, they sat down together and decided to reinvent their financial situation. Behavior change is what they needed, and change is what they agreed on. John’s debt was upwards of $30,000 and about $25,000 for Niki.

John is a side hustle guy. Because of his widening reputation of having an innate ability to fix or fabricate just about anything, even do canvas work to reconstruct convertible tops and so much more, opportunities to trade his time for presidents’ faces found him. When he wasn’t working his regular job, he was in the garage. He even turned down work periodically, he was that busy. His stuff is that good! It helps that because of the quality, he could charge a super great side hustle hourly wage.

As for Niki, her job had unlimited overtime and on-call, so she took advantage of those bonus work opportunities. She is a dynamo in the kitchen so she optimized every penny that came in as a home economics whiz. She is an Instant Pot master!

To celebrate the paying off of their individual debt loads, they took a trip to Colorado. On that trip, John stopped on a bridge over the Animas River and popped the question. After being together nine years at that time, Niki said “YES”. They were married four months later, which was 2014.

These two are fans of Irish culture, so they made their next goal a savings goal, and decided on a budget friendly trip to Ireland. Three weeks were spent traveling the Irish countryside, loving the Irish music, learning about the country, the people, the music, eating the food and more. Can you imagine the peace of mind that would take over your soul on a trip like that? I digress.

When One Goal Is Accomplished, What's Next?

When they came back, they each had a paycheck just sitting in the bank account. Time to outline the next financial goals. It was clear: Pay off the house! For us non-geeks, it took a year and a half, but for the geeks, 506 days. They continued all of the work, in all of the ways, that had gotten them to this place. By applying that same attitude and work ethic, the mortgage was now gone, which was March 2017. In Dave Ramsey terms, they treated it as baby step 3B; if you could knock it out in two years or less, do it! They even kept contributing to their 401(k)s!

They made incremental goals for themselves on this $114,000 monster.

After paying off 25% of it, they would get tattoo wedding bands. Those tattoos ended up being free!!

After paying off 50% they would get a “new/used” Craigslist couch. How’s that for counterculture? Niki just couldn’t stand the idea of buying new when that money could go to the mortgage. Wisdom abounds!

They ended up not doing any celebrating at 75%, but when it was paid off, they threw a huge mortgage burning party that more than made up for what the monthly mortgage payment would have been. My hubby Alan and I didn’t know them at that time, but we would have liked to have been at that party! They hoped to be inspirational to others.

As for the actual nuts and bolts of paying off the mortgage, anytime they came across extra money, they would put it on the mortgage. They would make on average, six to ten extra mortgage payments on the principal every month. The tiniest, I mean tiniest, amounts of found or earned money would go into the bank and then on to the mortgage. They were crushing it.


There were three key things that led them to arrive at their destination:

  • Very tight budget: John said that they cut everything that they did not need. They went down to an actual need-based budget. They did include one date night every month because, of course, that is a need! Knowing it was a temporary situation really put the sacrifice in perspective for both of them. John and Niki knew it was very short term considering their lifetime together and so they lit the torch and got to work.
  • Selling everything in sight: They looked at all they had around them with a very critical eye and decided they would not miss most of those items. As you can imagine John had a few vehicles that he decided to part with and the money went straight to the mortgage.
  • The ever popular side hustle: A chunk of the money came from the continuous side hustle. Before he knew it, people were asking him to work on Mercedes from all over America and the world. He enjoys what he does, so why not turn free time into money time.

People around them thought they were crazy with every decision observed. It got to the point where Niki simplified their decisions for others as a goal of remodeling their kitchen. “I hate my kitchen” ended up being the abbreviated reason to go nuts on their debt.  She does really hate her kitchen, and it is the next major purchase, and after that, John will be getting a large workshop in the backyard. But having the money to pay for it, is always the plan. So counterculture.

Even now, a year after meeting them, I pick my chin up off the floor after looking at their Excel spreadsheet. They averaged $223.26 paid off per day. They averaged $6,921.86 per month! I knew that these were two people stood out from the crowd in every way that was important. If I’m going to be an average of something, let these two be in my group!

Having the mortgage burning party was a good reward, but the more personal one was taking a second trip to Ireland earlier this year with double the budget of the first trip. Staying in castles and buying a whole lot of jewelry speaks to the valuist in all of us. Well done!

What The Future Holds

As for long term goals, John wants to retire early, mainly for the purpose of his time to be his own; allowing him to work on any and all projects. Niki wants to keep working for a good long time, at least for now.  She loves what she does and as long as she is in a good environment and feels productive, she’ll keep at it. More travel is in their future, including Scotland, Cornwall, Wales, Canada, Nova Scotia and many more. You’ll get there, my friends!

John loves Thomas Edison‘s quote: “Opportunity is often missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”

To find people like John and Niki, take a look at where you can find a ChooseFI Local Group near you.

Want to read more from Vicki? Check out the rest of her articles here.

How This Couple Paid Off Their Mortgage In 506 Days

094R | Transitioning to Entrepreneurship | A Case Study in Estimated Taxes

094R Transition to Entrepreneurship

The logistics of estimating and paying taxes as an entrepreneur, Brad’s frugal win of the week, and emails from the ChooseFI community.

  • Brad and Jonathan are at FinCon in Orlando, Fl.
  • Brad describes his family’s frugal win of the week at Old Navy.
  • Review of the tax implications of winning a non-cash prize.
  • How do some entrepreneurs put themselves in a position to fail because of taxes?
  • Case study: how to make estimated tax payments as a new entrepreneur.
  • Brad wants to pay the least amount of money in taxes, but ensure that he definitely pays the minimum amount to avoid incurring penalties.
    • Knowing due dates and technicalities is important.
    • It’s key to have money set aside in case you do owe more at the end of the year.
  • What is the safe harbor provision?
  • If you have blended W2 and non-W2 incomes, you do have to estimate based on previous pay stubs.
  • Why would someone owe payroll tax?
  • Brad uses a different bank account to reserve money he thinks he’ll need for taxes, and uses an account to submit his taxes.
  • It’s important to know that you’ll owe a lot of money on April 15 every year.
  • Email from Ally reporting two life wins:
    • Keeping an inventory for what’s in her freezer by writing on the front like a white board.
    • Using checkboxes to keep track of the three things she accomplishes every day.
  • Is FI getting to the UK?
  • Playing with FIRE documentary has been submitted the film to Sundance.
  • Scott, writes an email, to explain how pursuing financial independence and information from ChooseFI has changed his life.



“How to retire in your FORTIES without earning a fortune” – Daily Mail

My Top Two Instant Pot Soup Recipes For Fall

My Top Two Instant Pot Soup Recipes For Fall

Is there an appliance more versatile than an Instant Pot? Whether you're a single person or need to feed a big family, Instant Pot is a must have. You can make soups, roasts, a whole chicken, and even bake a cheesecake!

One of my favorite ways to use it is to make soups. Nothing beats the one pot convenience and ease of cleanup. You can sauté vegetables, sweat onion and garlic, add your liquids and seasonings, set it, and walk away. Soups are super easy and inexpensive meals that could feed a crowd, so you're saving money and time every time you cook with an Instant Pot.

Here are a couple of my favorite soups; I’ve adopted the recipes for the Instant Pot and never looked back. I make these soups year round but they are especially comforting in fall and winter.

Vegan Sweet Potato Soup

I love sweet potatoes. I love to roast them, love sweet potato fries, love them in a potato gratin (made with half white and half sweet potatoes), and love my sweet potato soup.

All the ingredients here are so basic, you probably have them in your pantry right now. The recipe makes a lot of soup, and it tastes even better the next day.

I'm using coconut milk in this recipe because I have a dairy intolerance. I promise you, the soup does not taste like coconut at all. I'm not a big fan of coconut and I can’t even taste it! Coconut milk just makes this soup silky, smooth and luscious.


  • 2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and in large dice
  • 1 can light coconut milk (you can use regular coconut milk but I prefer the more delicate taste of light coconut milk)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1.5 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 garlic clove, finely diced
  • 1 small shallot (you can use ½ of a regular onion, but I like shallots, they have a more mellow taste)
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon turmeric
  • ¼ teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 1/8 teaspoon dry thyme
  • A dash of freshly ground nutmeg
  • A dash of cayenne pepper if you like spicy food.


Set your Instant Pot to Sauté and heat up the oil. Sweat shallots and garlic until softened and fragrant. Watch your garlic and shallots closely, you don’t want them to burn or even to become too dark.

Combine all the remaining ingredients, seal the Instant Pot and set to Soup. When the timer beeps, do quick release if you are in a hurry, or natural release if you aren’t eating right away. I’ve tried both ways and I don’t see a difference in taste. When the soup has cooled slightly, you can use an immersion blender or you can transfer the soup to your regular blender and blend it until smooth and creamy.

Taste for seasoning and add more salt if necessary. To add color, chop some fresh parsley and sprinkle on top right before serving. Roasted pumpkin seeds would also be a great garnish. If you like your food really spicy, add a bit of sriracha for the extra kick.

Serve with crostini or freshly baked crusty bread.

Note: If you aren’t obsessed with sweet potatoes like I am, you can use butternut squash. When I make this soup with butternut squash, I add a small apple for some sweetness. You can’t really taste the apple, but it adds a bit more complexity.

Clear Chicken Soup

This is not your traditional chicken soup made with vegetables and chunks of chicken, it's more like broth but richer and much more satisfying. That’s how my mom and both of my grandmothers used to make it and that’s the only version of the chicken soup I’ll eat.

Growing up in a Jewish home it was called “Jewish penicillin”, and you had to eat it at the first sign of getting a cold. Apparently, chicken soup has magical properties and can help with all kinds of alignments.

Obviously they didn’t have the Instant Pot, and in the dark ages before we had this wonderful machine, you had to watch your chicken soup like a hawk and skim the grey “scum” that would form on the surface, as it was coming to a boil. I have it easy, Instant Pot doesn’t boil the liquids so there’s nothing to skim.

If I'm making this soup for company, I serve it with matzah balls. I can’t eat gluten so I eat it with quinoa. Yes, quinoa. It's so neutral, it goes perfectly with practically anything. Just cook a cup of quinoa and add it to your chicken soup right before serving. You can also serve it with any small pasta, like orzo, egg noodles or grains like farro and rice.


  • 2 chicken leg quarters or 2 split chicken breasts
  • 1 big carrot cut into 3-4 large pieces
  • 1 whole large onion
  • 1 whole parsnip or celery root
  • 2 stalks celery cut into large chunks
  • 6 cups water
  • 1/8 teaspoon thyme
  • ¼ teaspoon turmeric
  • Kosher salt and pepper to taste


Place all the ingredients except for turmeric in the Instant Pot and set to Soup. When the timer goes off do a natural release. Once the soup cooled slightly remove the vegetables and discard.

Remove the chicken and set aside to make chicken salad later. Strain the soup through a fine sieve and add turmeric (it will add beautiful golden color to your soup) and taste for seasoning. Adjust seasoning as necessary and serve with cooked small pasta, egg noodles, farro, rice or quinoa.

Garnish with fresh finely chopped dill or parsley.

Let us know in the comments what are your favorite fall soups to make in the Instant Pot.

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My Top Two Instant Pot Soup Recipes For Fall

Cut Your Cell Phone Bill: Republic Wireless Review

Cut Your Cell Phone Bill: Republic Wireless Review

If you’re looking to cut your cell phone bill, you may want to take a look at the monthly plans Republic Wireless offers their customers. My wife and I are huge Republic Wireless fans and have been using their service for a few years now.

So what is Republic Wireless? Republic Wireless is a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) that offers service over the Sprint or T-Mobile network on select Android devices. However, Republic Wireless isn’t your typical MVNO. Here’s what you need to know about Republic Wireless and how you could save money by switching.

Republic Wireless Plans

Republic Wireless has a super easy to understand plan structure. First, you get unlimited talk and text for just $15 per month. If you want cell data, simply pay $5 per GB. If you run out of data during a month, you can purchase extra data at $5 per GB through the Republic Wireless app.

How Republic Wireless Keeps Their Rates Low

Republic Wireless was one of the first cell phone companies to explore WiFi calling. Essentially, Republic Wireless prefers to route phone calls and texting over WiFi instead of through cell phone towers. By doing this Republic Wireless cuts down on the cost it must pay the cell networks it contracts with for minutes and texts. In return, Republic Wireless offers amazing rates.

Republic Wireless customers haven’t typically been data hogs that prefer unlimited data plans. Instead, Republic Wireless customers were originally frugal types that wanted to save money by using WiFi whenever possible. As Republic Wireless has evolved, they’ve come up with a great way to purchase the data you need each month without overpaying for massive amounts of data you’ll never use.

For instance, I rarely use 1 GB of data per month. However, when I go on vacation, I might rely on cell data much more than usual. Rather than pay $30 per month for 3 GB of data just in case I need it, I can pay $20 per month for 1 GB of data and, when I need it, I can purchase extra data from the Republic Wireless app without worrying about paying any crazy overage fees.

Another way Republic Wireless keeps costs low is through their customer support. Unlike most companies, Republic Wireless doesn’t offer a direct customer support phone number you can call. Instead, you submit help request tickets through your Republic Wireless account. First, other customers that Republic Wireless has deemed experts take a shot at answering your question. These responses usually come within a few minutes, but complex questions could take longer.

If the customer experts can’t help, or if you choose to bypass customer experts, your ticket will get assigned to a Republic Wireless employee. Republic Wireless says their response time is typically under 24 hours. However, if you’d like to try out their online chat feature, you can chat with a Republic Wireless help team member from 9 am to 9 pm Eastern time. They list their average response time for chat at under 15 minutes.

While this can be inconvenient at times, you’re saving a lot of money on your cell phone bill. To me, the tradeoff is worth it.

Get Started with Republic Wireless

Republic Wireless Phones

Republic Wireless offers many phones to choose from that range from inexpensive to satisfy those on a budget to pretty pricey for those that want the latest and greatest technology. Unfortunately, Republic Wireless does not support iPhones at this time.

You can purchase a phone through Republic Wireless directly or purchase a SIM card from Republic Wireless and bring your own phone. If you want to bring your own phone, here’s a list of phones currently compatible with Republic Wireless.

  • Alcatel A30 (A576RW)
  • Alcatel A30 (5046G)
  • Google Pixel (G-2PW4100)
  • Google Pixel XL (G-2PW2100)
  • Google Pixel 2 (G011A)
  • Google Pixel 2 XL (G011C)
  • Huawei Ascend 5W (H1623)
  • Moto E4 (XT1768)
  • Moto E4 Plus (XT1775)
  • Moto G4 (XT1625)
  • Moto G4 PLAY (XT1607)
  • Moto G4 PLUS (XT1644)
  • Moto G5 Plus (XT1687)
  • Moto G5S Plus (XT1806)
  • Moto G6 (XT1925-6)
  • Moto G6 Play (XT1922-9)
  • Moto X Pure Edition (XT1575)
  • Moto X4 (XT1900-1)
  • Moto Z (XT1650-03)
  • Moto Z Play (XT1635-02)
  • Moto Z2 Play (XT1710-01)
  • Moto Z3 Play (XT1929-4)1
  • Nexus 5X by LG (LGH790)
  • Nexus 6 by Motorola (XT1103)
  • Nexus 6P by Huawei (H1511)
  • Samsung Galaxy J3 (SM-J320A) (2016 version and only certain build numbers)
  • Samsung Galaxy J3 (SM-J327U) (2017 version)
  • Samsung Galaxy J7 (SM-J727U)
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 8 (SM-N950U1)
  • Samsung Galaxy S6 (SM-G920T)
  • Samsung Galaxy S7 (SM-G930U)
  • Samsung Galaxy S7 edge (SM-G935U)
  • Samsung Galaxy S8 (SM-G950U1)
  • Samsung Galaxy S8+ (SM-G955U1)
  • Samsung Galaxy S9 (SM-G960U1)
  • Samsung Galaxy S9+ (SM-G965U1)

For Motorola phones that you do not purchase through Republic Wireless, the phones need to be the North American unlocked version and on software channel RETUS or AMZ to be compatible with both of their cellular providers.

Get Started with Republic Wireless

Other Republic Wireless Innovations

Republic Wireless is constantly trying to innovate when it comes to how we use our cell phones. For instance, they came out with a product called Relay which is sort of like a cell phone walkie-talkie with no screen. It allows kids to stay in touch with their parents and select others without having a screen to stare at all day.

Republic Wireless has also come up with Republic Anywhere app, which allows you to make calls, send text messages and find your contacts information anywhere. It works with Android devices, iOS devices, Windows PCs or Macs. They’ve even invented a smartspeaker that doubles as a phone to use when you’re at home to make calls, called Anywhere HQ.

14 Day Money Back Guarantee

If you’re on the fence about giving Republic Wireless a shot, it’s worth noting they have a 14 day money back guarantee if you buy through the Republic Wireless store. All you have to do is contact Republic Wireless within 14 days of joining. They’ll cancel your service and provide instructions for returning your phone. You get a full refund after receiving your phone.

You do have to return the phone in like new shape with all of the original packaging and components. If you’re missing anything or the phone has been damaged, you’ll be charged for missing or damaged items. Accessories can only be returned if they are unopened and undamaged.

So, what are you waiting for? If Republic Wireless sounds like a good fit for you, give them a shot. If you don't like them, you can always use the 14 day money back guarantee.

Get started with Republic Wireless here.

Cut Your Cell Phone Bill: Republic Wireless Review

How Chase Ultimate Rewards Actually Work

How Chase Ultimate Rewards Points Actually Work

If you’re new to earning credit card rewards, you may not have a complete understanding of the ins and outs of rewards points. Today, we’re going to focus on the ins and outs of the Chase Ultimate Rewards points rewards program. Here are the major rules you need to understand to make sure you use your points in the best way possible and to avoid letting your points expire.

How to Earn Chase Ultimate Rewards Points

Not all Chase credit cards earn Ultimate Reward points. If you want to earn Ultimate Rewards points, you’ll need to use one of the following credit cards:

In addition to earning points on your everyday purchases, you can earn a sign up bonus on most of these credit cards if you meet the requirements. You can also earn Ultimate Rewards points by shopping through the Chase online shopping portal.

How Chase Ultimate Rewards Points Expire

Technically, Chase Ultimate Rewards points don’t expire as long as you have a credit card open that earns Chase Ultimate Rewards points. Chase also notes you’ll lose your points if your account is closed due to “program misuse, fraudulent activities, failure to pay, bankruptcy, or other reasons described in the terms of the Rewards Program Agreement.”  The problem comes when you close your last card that earns Chase Ultimate Rewards points. If you still have points remaining, you’ll lose the points if you don’t use them. Rather than give your points away, consider redeeming your points using the redemption options we’ll cover in just a little bit.

If you’re just closing a Chase card you no longer want but still have other Ultimate Rewards earning cards in your household or business, you can transfer your Ultimate Rewards points from one card to another. In order for the transfer to be legitimate, you need to transfer the points to yourself, a household member, or a business co-owner. Otherwise, Chase may think you’re trying to sell your points, which is against the terms and conditions.

You Can Transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards Points Between Cards For Maximum Value

Don’t only consider transferring points because you’re closing a card and want to transfer points to avoid losing them. In fact, transferring points from some Ultimate Rewards earning credit cards to premium Ultimate Rewards earning credit cards can increase your redemption value.

For instance, points redeemed for travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal are worth 1.5 cents each if you redeem them through a Chase Sapphire Reserve card or 1.25 cents each if you redeem them through a Chase Sapphire Preferred card or the Ink Business Preferred Credit Card. If you’re going to book travel using the Ultimate Rewards portal, you should definitely transfer points from cards like the Chase Freedom to your premium account before booking travel to get maximum value.

You Can Transfer Points to Travel Partners

The same premium credit cards mentioned above offer yet another option to redeem Ultimate Rewards points. Rather than book travel through the Ultimate Rewards portal, you can transfer Ultimate Rewards points to certain travel partner rewards programs at a 1 point to 1 point ratio. Here are the current travel programs you can transfer points to:

  • Aer Lingus AerClub
  • British Airways Executive Club
  • Flying Blue AIR FRANCE KLM
  • Iberia Plus
  • Korean Air SKYPASS
  • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
  • Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards®
  • United MileagePlus®
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
  • IHG® Rewards Club
  • Marriott Rewards®
  • The Ritz-Carlton Rewards®
  • World of Hyatt®

Keep in mind, sometimes you’ll get a better value by booking through the Ultimate Rewards travel portal and other times you can find better redemptions through the individual rewards program. Unfortunately, once you transfer points out of Ultimate Rewards, you can’t transfer them back. Make sure you want to transfer points before you pull the trigger.

Compare Chase cards to see which is best for you.

You Can Cash Out Points If You Have No Other Use for Them

Finally, if you don’t have a premium Ultimate Rewards credit card, you can always redeem your points for cash at a value of a penny per point. If you’re going to close a card that still has a remaining points balance, make sure you cash out any points you have remaining so you don’t give them back to Chase.

Chase Ultimate Rewards Points Are Amazing Once You Understand How to Use Them

Ultimate Rewards points are some of the most valuable credit card rewards points you can earn due to the great flexibility you have to redeem them. If you’re big into travel rewards, you can explore the various points transfer partners to find insane values on a value per point basis.

That said, you can still get great value for your points by using the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal, too. Just make sure you use your points on the card that gives you the highest value per point for the cards you have. Finally, never let your points expire by closing a card with a points balance. Cash them out.

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How Chase Ultimate Rewards Points Actually Work

The Aggregation Of Marginal Gains

The Aggregation Of Marginal Gainsv

The aggregation of marginal gains is a concept made famous by British cycling coach Dave Brailsford, who eventually lead the British cycling team to take home 10 gold medals at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Previous to this victory, the team had not been able to pull off any significant wins.

Brailsford believed that victory at the Olympics would be achieved by focusing on a 1% margin for improvement in everything they did. He decided that he and his team would focus on improving every aspect of performance and these aggregations would add up.

To quote the man himself:

We hired a surgeon to teach our athletes about proper hand-washing so as to avoid illnesses during competition (we also decided not to shake any hands during the Olympics). We were precise about food preparation. We brought our own mattresses and pillows so our athletes could sleep in the same posture every night. We searched for small improvements everywhere and found countless opportunities. Taken together, we felt they gave us a competitive advantage.  (Source)

His belief was that if you improved every area related to cycling by just 1%, then those small gains would add up to remarkable improvement. In Brailsford’s case, this meant focusing on optimizing in areas of exercise, rest, nutrition, team management, morale, and equipment–not just time spent on the bike.

To anyone taking on any large goal–whether it be reaching FI or trying to secure gold at the Olympics, it can be an overwhelming task simply to get from where you are to where you want to be. But applying small changes along the way and accumulating optimizations, is where we can truly strike our own Olympic gold on our path to financial freedom.

First Understand the Power of Marginal Losses

Making sweeping behavior changes can be overwhelming and often, unrealistic. For someone who has battled obesity throughout their life, weight didn’t simply happen overnight–but often was the result of small choices, time after time that lead to a weight gain I wasn't happy with.

Avoid “lifestyle creep”

We often see this correlation with what we’ve termed as “lifestyle creep” where families slowly and steadily get off track as their incomes improve.

Instead of staying the course and saving money, they start spending just a tad more when they earn more–and the aggregation of all these small increases really add up to bust a budget.

Eating out just once or twice more during the course of a month, making less than stellar decisions with an increased credit limit, or simply telling yourself you “deserve” a brand new luxury car because you got a raise, are all small losses that paint a big picture of debt.

It’s one problem that most FI’ers recognize, or may have even found themselves in at one time. While the aggregation of marginal losses can paint a bleak picture, it also paints the way out to an achievable, FI-friendly path forward.

Understanding the Power of Marginal Gains

It’s easy to spend time on the ChooseFI message boards, or read about bloggers who have achieved FI and lament their wins–surely, they had a stroke of luck, were far smarter than you or, perhaps they had a rich uncle who recently died. Seeing other people’s accomplishments sometimes leads us to think that some big “make or break” moment lead them to hitting their financial goal.

Yes, it may absolutely be true that some folks hit FI because they had a long lost rich auntie who gifted them a mansion, and others did work hard, but pulled in $150,000+ a year as a nuclear engineer.

While these factors are important to consider, the truth behind any success–FI or otherwise–is that it happens as the result of the smallest decisions we make over time. Each decision can put us closer to or further away from where we want to go. That's the compounding power of 1% improvement.

Choosing to focus on even the smallest gains, when done consistently and in tandem with other positive efforts, yields results. Aggregating marginal gains makes it happen.

Applying the Power of Marginal Gains

Using this philosophy towards a victory on our path to FI, applying a 1% improvement means looking at not just the money we invest or how we invest it–but everything that impacts the goal.

For us, it means looking at our entire lives as an ecosystem that is interrelated–our health, social lives, where we live, our work and career, what we eat, what we do for entertainment and where we spend our time.

Here are some areas that can be regularly evaluated and optimized to take advantage of marginal gains:

Home: Moving to a lower cost area/closer to work, energy efficiency, refinancing your mortgage or getting a roommate.

Career: Negotiate for a raise, switch jobs that’s closer to home or has a flexible work policy, take advantage of a 401(k) match.

Health: Cut your grocery bill and eat better foods, exercise regularly, make strides to deal with stress, visit your doctor and dentist regularly.

Personal: Read finance and personal development books, surround yourself with people aligned with your goals, develop a side hustle to earn more income and build your skill set.

These are just a few examples (more to come on the ChooseFI blog) but none of them are related to investing tactics, yet they all help you move the needle forward towards FI.

Reading a book a month or joining a running club to get healthy may not seem like it moves the needle much, but combined with your other efforts to live financially free, you may make more progress in your portfolio than you think!

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The Aggregation Of Marginal Gains


094 | Solo 401K vs SEP with Waffles on Wednesday

Mr. and Mrs. Waffles on Wednesday (WoW) talk about winning on a TV game show, starting their own business, learning the tax code to maximize 401K contributions, and volunteering internationally.

  • How did Mr WOW win on the Price is Right, and what did he win?
  • What were the tax implications of his winning?
  • How was Mr Wow's experience at the IRS building in Los Angeles?
  • Why did Jonathan receive a tax penalty last year, and how did he respond?
  • How did Mr. and Mrs. Waffles on Wednesday decide to start a blog, and how did they decide on a name?
  • Why do we have to just live for weekends?
  • How did Mr Wow win-over Mrs. WoW to financial independence?
  • What decisions did Mr. & Mrs. WoW make after they chose to pursue financial independence?
  • How did the pursuit of FI change their careers?
  • What type of business did Mrs. WoW open, and how did she keep her overhead costs down and ultimately increase her income?
  • What is a Solo 401K and why did Mr. WoW choose that option?
  • What is the advantage of a Solo 401K for owner and spouse, and how does the math work?
  • How important is it to control your tax rate?
  • What happened to the Mr. & Mrs. WoW’s retirement accounts when they opted to bring on an employee?
  • What is a Mega Backdoor ROTH?
  • How did Mr. WoW find a plan administrator who could help him set up his accounts?
  • Does Mr. WoW manage his own taxes, or use an accountant?
  • What adjustments has Mrs. WoW made in the past four years that made a positive difference in her life?
  • How does someone volunteer for international aid organizations?
  • Do Mr. & Mrs. WoW add some site seeing or vacation to the volunteering they do?
  • How do they plan for these trips?



My Son’s Father

Freedom is Groovy

The Art of Manliness

“How Not to Train for a Half Marathon” – The Happy Philosopher

“Alligators and Kittens” – The Happy Philosopher

I’m Qutting My Job To Write Comics

I'm Quitting My Job To Write Comics


As a kid, comic books were a popular form of escape, and they still are today. In fact, the industry is thriving, as can be evidenced with a new superhero movie making its box office debut every time we turn around. Whether we get them as hand-drawn images or video form in the palm of our hands, they hook us. The adventures of Batman, Superman, The Hulk, Thor, and so many others allowed us to escape back then; and allow us that same sanctuary as an adult.
Comics?! What if that could be a career?

Meet Alex; Turning Plausible Into Possible

I had the pleasure of Skyping with Alex of Owensboro, Kentucky. He has been working to change plausible into possible. At the age of 26, his long-term dream of becoming a cartoonist is slowly coming to fruition. With a lot of work ahead of him, he is determined to be the man that crafts the whole thing, but for now, he's the guy who creates the plots and the themes behind the stories.

To make a movie analogy; presently, he's the guy who writes the screenplay. In today’s world, there are only four positions credited with creating a comic book; the writer, line artist, colorist, and letterer. Currently, he feels that is artwork is not at the level it should be, so he is taking community college art classes and practicing those creative muscles so that eventually he can mesh the two. It is just a matter of time until he will be the creator of the stories and images that take us to a whole other place. After all, escape in all of its forms, will never go out of style. Is anything as secure as the entertainment industry? I think not.

A Strong Foundation To Build On

Alex came from a family that had worked in construction for generations. In his words, “they eat, sleep, and breathe construction, and would probably do it for free.” Although he was glad about all he had learned in the family business all those years, Alex didn’t quite share the same passion.

As a child, he was bound to have a bright future. Looking back, he knew how to work at a very young age. He had a dream job of being a soccer referee. For a teenager–that’s the pinnacle right there! He also worked in a restaurant, as well as, the family business. Learning to work, and learning self-mastery at an early age, he didn't have to be told to save some of what he made.

Saving came natural for him. Along the way, he listened to his Grandpa and his Dad because they did well. His Grandpa retired around the age of 45. At that time, Grandpa had closed the construction company, but kept the land company running and developed lots for Alex's father and uncle to build on, through their own new company. Every generation has started its own company. He has business in his blood.

His Grandfather had arrived at FI as a concept before it was a “thing”. Alex watched with a keen eye and knew he wanted that financial stability for himself. Soon, he found podcasts that spoke to this topic of Financial Independence, and he immediately knew that FI was the concept that had been building in his heart and soul for so many years. With the help of ChooseFI, Mr. Money Mustache, Early Retirement Extreme, and Radical Personal Finance, he saw new clarity for the strategic moves he needed to make, personally and professionally.

Strategic Future Planning

In order to facilitate the transition from the construction industry into fulfilling his dreams, he began his side hustle. He's devoting scheduled time to it; working strategically and efficiently. He's learned that it is going to take some time to make the connections and arrive at his ultimate goal which is to write a graphic novel…several graphic novels in fact!

He is tethered to this dream with clarity and vision rarely seen in the general non-ChooseFI public. Now, here is where I didn’t just see a young guy talking on a screen–it was as if in slow motion–he paused and I saw the expression on his face. There was no hesitation, there was no angst, there was no self-doubt. As sure as any resolute statement has been summoned up before, he said “It will take work, and time, but I'm committed to making it happen.”

Mic drop. I wish that kind of certainty could be contagious!

A Man On A Mission

He's managed to keep his annual expenses down to between $13,000-$14,000 a year. He's done some house hacking to keep expenses down. In homes he's lived in over the years, he shared a good chunk of those expenses with two of his best friends. He's got groceries under control as he buys in bulk and preps all at once. A well established system keeps a thumb on the food budget. He's also taken the Frugalwoods Uber Frugal Challenge. This is a man on a mission!

An Island Or A Village?

Since many of us on the journey to FI find ourselves on an island, I was curious if he'd found any like-minded people? A few friends from high school along with some family members truly “get it”. Good news is that he’s seriously going to start a ChooseFI Local Group in his rural area. So get ready Kentucky for a fresh movement in personal finance that is so counter-culture, it will make you go back to the basics and love every minute of it!

He’s stoked that his girlfriend is on the same page. As the smile beamed across his face, he recalled giving her The Millionaire Next Door by Tom Stanley in hopes that it would create a new dimension of their relationship, and it has! Just keep each other first, and that is going to be your first win every single day.

Being A Big Believer

To recap, goal number one is to do comics full-time. Being an entrepreneur, he quit his full-time job to start a freelance/independent contracting company to provide HERS Ratings (energy efficiency) to local builders. The profits cover his low expense lifestyle plus he's able to put some into retirement savings. Being a freelancer, the structure has freed up so many hours of every week so that he can hustle the dream into reality!

Eventually he wants to share his knowledge through a means such as a local innovation academy. He is a big believer that structured one-size-fits-all curriculum kills creativity. He wants to give back and inspire new ways to make things happen. Alex, you could do this on so many levels! Much later on, when the career transition is complete and well underway in its own right, he wants to bring his knowledge, experience, connections and enthusiasm for this art niche to the next generation of comic creating enthusiasts.

The next time you see a Marvel movie in action, know that it all started with one person and one dream. And you are witnessing a glimpse of yet another iteration of that right here. Besides, I think FI should be made into a super-power!

I'm Quitting My Job To Write Comics

093R | Other Mountains to Climb

093R Other Mountains to Climb

Brad, Jonathan and Joe Saul-Sehy, from Stacking Benjamins, talk about what is rewarding to your soul, give feedback to a ChooseFI community member who’s considering selling his business, and recap Harry, the Ride Share Guy’s strategies for becoming the center of a niche.

  • Hurricane Florence’s path didn’t go near Brad and Jonathan, but there were tornadoes.
  • FU money is better than FI money.
  • Meet up in Florida during the week of FinCon 2018.
  • How did Harry (from Monday’s episode) become the go-to guy for ride-share drivers?
  • What strategies would help someone become the go-to person in a particular niche?
  • How can you solve a problem that you, and other people, have?
  • Find people who like and trust you.
  • How is retail changing in 2018?
  • How did Harry pursue unusual opportunities to make extra money?
  • Could the “destination filter” as an Uber or Lyft driver and the potential to deduct you commute drop someone into a lower tax bracket?
  • How did Joe from Stacking Benjamins become a financial advisor?
  • What did the phrase “other mountains to climb” mean to Joe and how did it impact his career?
  • What did Joe value about going back to school to be a teacher, but not actually becoming a teacher?
  • What does it mean for something to be “rewarding for your soul”?
  • How did Joe need to adjust his business in order to sell it?
  • Where does financial independence stand within the personal finance world?
  • Is financial independence about playing defense or offense?
  • Voicemail from Jon, looking for advice about whether he should sell his business to become FI, or continue working with a few side hustles.
  • Could Jon restructure his business to reduce stress and create a more positive working environment?
  • What’s wrong with a life well worked?
  • Is there value in purchasing a business that is inextricably tied to a single person?
  • Coming up soon, Stacking Benjamins is doing live shows in Orlando, Kansas City and Ferndale, Mich.



Joe Saul-Sehy's Stacking Benjamins Show

Stacking Benjamins Tour

Profit First – book by Mike Michalowicz

Travel Rewards Credit Cards FAQs

Travel Rewards Credit Cards FAQs

Travel rewards and credit cards can be really confusing topics. If you are new to the world of credit cards read on. Here are a few of the most commonly asked questions about travel rewards credit cards.

Q. I don't have any debt, not even a mortgage, and I have a really good income. Why can't I get approved for a credit card?

Not having any debt is fantastic! You clearly are doing something right, you are responsible, live within your means and don't take out loans you don't need. Credit card companies, however, want to see a history of on-time payments, they want to see a credit record. They want to know that if they extended you credit you will be making payments on time. If you've never taken out any loans or had a credit card before, they don't know if you are a good or bad credit risk. They just don't know enough about you.

What you need to do is to build credit and get on the lenders' radar. Don't try to apply for a premium travel rewards credit card like Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. Your chances of approval are very low. Start slow with a credit card from your local bank or a credit union, where they know you. Discover credit cards tend to be easier to get for people with no or little credit history.

Another great way to build up your credit score is to be an authorized user on someone else's card. If your family member or a friend you trust has a great credit score and a long credit history, ask them to add you as an authorized user. They don't even need to give you the actual card. Just being associated with them will help build your credit history.

Q. I have a perfect credit score and I don't want to mess it up! Will applying for credit cards ruin my credit score?

OK, we know you are very proud of your score. However, this isn't your college GPA. You might be a perfectionist but you don't need to maintain a perfect 4.0 all the time. Your credit score is a very valuable tool, use it to your advantage! Put that perfect credit score to work! You will get the best mortgage rates, auto loan rates, and the best credit cards with your high score.

Make no mistake, you do need a good credit score to get approved for the travel rewards credit cards. In order to get approved for the best credit card, such as Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or Chase Sapphire Reserve, your score needs to be in the high 700s. These are considered to be two of the best and the most valuable cards on the market right now. So go ahead, apply for one of these and reap the rewards!

Q. My credit score is not that high, what credit cards can I get?

With an imperfect credit score you won't qualify for the best travel rewards credit cards. If your score is lower than 700, it will be hard to get good travel rewards credit cards. That's OK, there are still cards you can get with a mid-range credit score. Check out Discover or Capital One credit cards, they are easier to get for someone with a fair, but not high, credit score.

Start slow, don't get close to your credit limit and pay your bills on time and you'll see your credit score improve quickly. Also see my advice above about being an authorized user on someone else's card.

Click here to compare travel rewards cards and find one that's best for you.

Q. Will applying for multiple credit cards ruin my credit score?

This is one of the myths that keeps people with good credit from using it to its full advantage. The short answer is no, having multiple credit cards won't negatively affect your score. You might see a slight temporary dip, just a few points, right after applying for a new card, but the effect is very short-lived.

Let's dig a little deeper here. Your credit score is affected by several factors:

  • Payment history: do you make your payments on time? Have you ever been late on paying a bill?
  • Credit utilization or amount owed. How much do you owe on all of your accounts?
  • Length of credit history. How long did you have your accounts and how long since last activity?
  • Types of credit used: what kinds of accounts you have, including revolving (credit cards) and installment (auto loans, mortgage, student loans)
  • New credit: recent inquiries and newly opened accounts

Payment history is self-explanatory, you need to pay your bills on time. This is self-explanatory–pay your bills on time. Credit utilization is what might be confusing. Having more than one credit card lowers your credit utilization. Let's say you have one credit card with a $4,000 credit limit and you charge $2,000 every month. Your credit utilization is 50%, which is pretty high. If you have two credit cards, each with $4,000 credit limit, and you still charge $2,000 a month, your credit utilization then drops to 25%. Banks see low credit utilization as a good thing, you aren't abusing the credit extended to you.

Length of credit history is important but not as important as payment history and credit utilization. If you have a credit card you've had for a long time, keep it. Just use it occasionally or put a small recurring payment on it, like Netflix or your gym membership.

The last two factors are far less important than the first two. Lenders want to see a good mix of credit, they want to see you are a good risk across the board. Credit inquiries appear on your credit report for a period of time and then fall off. Some banks and credit card issuers pay more attention to newly opened accounts than others.

So as you can see, opening credit cards won't ruin your credit report. If you open and keep a card, it helps with length of credit. Your credit utilization will go down and you will gain length of credit history.

Click here to compare travel rewards cards and find one that's best for you.

Q. So I've got the card, met minimum spend, and received the bonus. What now? Do I close the card?

Ideally, you should sign up for cards that will provide long term benefits. But either way, you should never close a credit card right after meeting minimum spend and receiving the signup bonus. Look at this from the bank's perspective, they just spent a significant amount of money to acquire you as a customer, so they want to see you use the card for longer than three months. Keep the card for at least a year, who knows, maybe you like the card and the benefits it offers and would want to keep it long term.

Q. My card's first annual fee just posted. What do I do? Keep the card? Close the card?

There are plenty of cards that are worth keeping forever and paying the annual fee. Let's look at some benefits of keeping the card long-term:

  • Bonus points on account anniversary: This is a good incentive to keep the card long-term if the value of the bonus points is more than the annual fee
  • Bonus hotel nights: Most hotel cards offer a free night after your account anniversary. The World of Hyatt Credit Card, for example, offers a free night in category 1-4 hotels. There are many wonderful Hyatt hotels where you can redeem the free night that are a lot more expensive than the $95 annual fee. I've stayed at a fabulous Park Hyatt Saigon in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, a category 4 hotel, and the cash price at a time was around $300/night. Think about your travel plans for the next year and see if it makes sense to you.
  • Great spending rewards: Some cards have bonus spend categories. If you are going to spend a lot of money in these categories then it might make sense to keep the card. For example, Chase Sapphire Reserve offers bonus points for travel and dining. If you travel a lot or eat out often, you will get great value out of these high annual fee cards.
  • Great benefits: Some cards offer benefits such as no foreign transaction fee, travel protection, airport lounge access, and primary car rental insurance.

In short, keep the card if the bonus is more valuable than what you pay for the annual fee.

Click here to compare travel rewards cards and find one that's best for you.

Q. I've looked at all the benefits of keeping the card long term and decided I don't want to keep the card and want to close it. Will I lose the points and miles I earned with this card?

The short answer is, it depends. If the rewards you earned are airline miles or hotel points, such as United Miles or Marriott points, then no, they are already in your loyalty account. If your rewards are in the form of credit card points, like Chase Ultimate Rewards points then you will need to transfer them to hotel or airline partners, your spouse, or another credit card that earns the same currency.

If you have more than one American Express card that earns Membership Rewards points then your points are safe. If you want to close your only AMEX, you need to spend or transfer them to a partner airline or you will lose the points.

Q. Will closing the card affect my credit score?

It might. If you close a card with a high credit limit it can affect your credit utilization. To mitigate this, consider transferring your credit limit to another card from the same bank and make sure you don't have high balances on other cards. However, if you have other credit cards and have good credit, the effect of closing the card is temporary so don't worry about it too much.

If you are closing your oldest credit card, you will lose the age of credit. Therefore, if you don't have other cards that have been open for a while, consider keeping the card.

Q. What if I downgrade a card with a high annual fee to a no fee card? Will I get the sign up bonus for the new card?

First, consider the benefits of the card with an annual fee. There are many travel rewards cards that are worth keeping just for the benefits alone. Chase Sapphire Reserve has a high annual fee but it comes with awesome benefits, like annual travel credit, travel delay insurance, and Priority Pass airport lounges membership. Well worth it for someone who travels a lot.

If you decide you don't want to keep the card with an annual fee, downgrading it, rather than closing the account might be the best solution. When you downgrade, or exchange a premium card for a card with no annual fee, you are not eligible for a new card member bonus. There's also no application, no credit pull, and no wondering if you will be approved for a new card. For example, you can downgrade Chase Sapphire Preferred Card ($95 annual fee after the first year) to Chase Freedom.

When you downgrade, you keep the age of account and your credit limit–two important factors in your credit score.

Click here to compare travel rewards cards and find one that's best for you.

Q. What is 5/24 rule?

This is one of THE most commonly asked questions. The short of it, you can't get approved for a number of Chase Bank travel rewards credit cards if you have opened more than five cards (with any bank, not just Chase) in the last 24 month. Being an authorized user on someone else's card counts as one of the five slots. The most sought after Chase cards, such as Chase Sapphire Preferred and Chase Sapphire Reserve and Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Credit Card fall into this category. Other banks have their own application rules, but when people discuss 5/24 they are specifically talking about Chase.

Q. What if I am an authorized user?

Being an authorized user on someone else's card isn't always a bad thing and it doesn't mean you are automatically disqualified from getting the same card under your own name. Just beware of Chase's 5/24 rule (see above). You can ask the bank to remove you as an authorized user from the credit card. You can also ask the bank to remove authorized user account from your credit report. If you hadn't done that before applying for a Chase card and were denied because of 5/24, call and ask them to reconsider your application. Mention that you were just an authorized user and were not responsible for paying the balance.

Q. What if I wasn't auto approved?

The answer will depend on who you ask. Some people would say to call the bank right away to find out why, others say wait. I am, personally, in the wait and see camp. The bank might call you or send you a letter if they need more information. If they feel they had already extended you enough credit, they might ask you to reduce the credit limit on another card. Or your application might still work its way through the system and you will get approved a couple of days later.

If the bank declined your application, they will send you a letter with the reason for their decision and then you can call to find out more details and to plead your case.

Q. Best card to start with?

Because of Chase's 5/24 rule, it is always a good idea to start with one of Chase cards. If you have good credit, Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and Chase Sapphire Reserve are the best cards to start with. Which one to get will depend on your travel plans for the next year and your tolerance of high annual fees. If you aren't sure, Chase Sapphire Preferred Card is a sure bet. It's an  excellent card with great benefits, has no annual fee for the first year, and comes with 50,000 Ultimate Rewards sign up bonus after you spend $4000 in the first three months.

Click here to compare travel rewards cards and find one that's best for you.

Final Thoughts

Credit cards should not be feared, they are a tool in your path to FI and beyond. Treat them with respect they deserve and you will not be disappointed. Travel rewards credit cards open up a world of possibilities, they can take you and your family to places you thought were out of your reach. You can visit family more often, or you even treat someone who can't afford to travel. Whatever your goals are, there are strategies to make travel more affordable.

If you have a specific question, let me know in the comments. Chime in if you have any advice to offer to someone new to the world of credit cards and travel rewards.

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Travel Rewards Credit Cards FAQs