ITF 17 | Low Paying Jobs

 

If there’s a FI Team that helps investors with real estate investing, there’s also a FI Couple that is on the journey to achieve financial freedom! Introducing Joshua and Ali Lupo: a young power couple house hacked their way out of $100k of debt!

Joshua and Ali Lupo were getting married when they realized that they were $100k in debt from student loans. They knew they needed something different when they realized that their 9-5 jobs weren’t going to cut it.

So, they are house hacking properties while paying off their debt. Now, they are slowly able to settle their debt, and their cost of living is completely free!

Get to know them and relate to their stories as they share the details of their house hacking deals, the mental barriers they’ve overcome, and their favorite weird food combinations! They’ll also share their approach to financial freedom and how they are investing as a team. Listen and enjoy the show!

Listen to the podcast here


 

House Hacking Their Way Out Of $100k Of Debt With Low Paying Jobs With Josh And Ali Lupo

What’s going on, everybody? I’m here with my co-host, Zeona McIntyre. What’s going on, Z?

Not much.

You guys are here. Z is not Nick. Nick was great, but we thought that Nick and I were too similar of people and we wanted to make sure that there were different perspectives that you guys were learning coming on the show. Zeona provides a different perspective than what I have. It makes the show that much better.

There are no hard feelings with Nick. We all love Nick. That was the reasoning as to why we’ve got Z here to be fully transparent. We also have ourselves a great episode. It’s funny. Their name is The FI Couple. Josh and Ali, who I’ve been in touch with for a few years over social media, their stories are fun. They’re a cute power couple.

I love them. It was so much fun chatting with them. I’ve also found them on Instagram. These days, I feel like all my social life is on the gram.

Let’s get on TikTok too.

No, I won’t.

This is an awesome episode. This couple is extremely relatable. They didn’t have super high-paying jobs. They came out with a lot of student loan debt. They have a lot of the same problems that a lot of average Americans have. They’ve found a way to conquer them and start their journey towards financial independence. I know they’re going to get there probably within the next couple of years. It’s exciting to see them take action.

It sounds like they got some incredible house hacks. They tacked down that first deal. When I listen to it, I’m like, “I wish those are around here and do that all day.” I’m excited to see young people getting in on such a good head start.

This is an exciting episode. You guys will enjoy it. Read until the end. It gets a little bit funnier towards the end. With that being said, let’s bring them in.

Ali and Josh, welcome to the show. How are you guys doing?

We’re doing great. Thanks for having us.

Thanks for coming on. We’ve been chit-chatting for a while between Facebook, Instagram, and all the social media. Have we met in person?

We haven’t met in person. With the way social media is nowadays, it seems like we know each other.

That’s one of the positives of social media. We’re here to learn about your story about financial independence. We wanted to understand how you got started and how you heard about financial independence and then we can take it from there.

Ali had graduated from her Master’s program. We were on the cusp of getting married and we started for the first time starting to talk about our finances and that’s when it dawned on us that we were $100,000 in debt from student loans. We both knew it, but we never talked about it. Once we started talking about it and then saying, “We also have a wedding coming and maybe a house one day and stuff,” we started feeling overwhelmed by that. We needed to find a better solution.

At the same time, we weren’t six-figure income earners. We’re both in human services. It was like, “Our 9:00 to 5:00 jobs are not going to cut it if we want to get out of this debt and radically change our lives.” We knew we needed something different. Initially, we’re introduced to Dave Ramsey and all of his teachings, reading his books and all of that. Some of the stuff we resonated with, some of the stuff, we didn’t. It taught us a lot of basic fundamentals that we needed.

We tried out the Dave Ramsey approach for a while and it wasn’t working and didn’t feel sustainable. That’s when I came across BiggerPockets. I read Brandon Turner’s article all about how to hack your house and get paid to live free. I was like, “That’s a pretty cool concept.” I discovered Scott Trench’s book, Set for Life. It gave a good blueprint for how we can do all the things that we’ve been able to do. That’s how we got started down the path towards financial independence through house hacking.

Focus on paying off all your debt, and don't worry about investing. Click To Tweet

There’s a tale of two people with Dave Ramsey. What did you like about him? What didn’t you like about him?

We’d been together for over seven years and I don’t know if we ever talked finance. It was something we didn’t talk about. Going through The Total Money Makeover for the first time ever got us talking about money and understanding the psychology of money a little bit. That’s how we became aware of the position that we were in. The 7 Baby Steps works for people. That’s cool in its own respect. Ultimately, it felt like it was a little bit too restrictive for us. Would you agree?

Yeah. Josh was the one who took the steering wheel with this. He was the one that got into it and was listening to the podcast and reading the books. When he presented the Dave Ramsey approach to me, it was not like, “Do you want to do this?” It’s like, “This is the plan. We should do this.” We were radically cutting different things. I was like, “This isn’t fun.” I didn’t have buy-in to it at that time, so it was tough. What we have developed since that is a way more sustainable plan where we’re not greatly impacting our quality of life, but we are greatly impacting our debt and our financial goals. That was big for us.

For the readers, could you guys tell us a little bit about the high-level overview of what Dave Ramsey’s seven steps are?

It’s the 7 Baby Steps. You start with saving an emergency fund, $1,000. I agreed with that. Thereafter, it says, “Pay off all of your debt. Focus on paying off all your debt. Don’t worry about investing. Once your debt is done, then you can focus on investing.” You can go through those seven steps. It works well for a lot of people. It makes sense for someone who maybe is on a traditional path but wants to do traditional retirement in their late 50s, early 60s. That’s cool. That isn’t us, though. We’re trying to beat that clock by 30 years. We needed to find a path that made sense for us and that’s where the 7 Baby Steps didn’t align with our values.

That’s what I find, too. Dave Ramsey has got something. He’s built a tremendous empire. If you know nothing about finance and you want to be as safe as possible, Dave Ramsey’s great. He’s not going to steer you wrong. You’re not going to be hurt by Dave Ramsey. You’re just not going to hit your expectations if you follow Dave Ramsey. You’ve got $100,000 in debt. You realize that’s a problem. You find Dave Ramsey. What year is this? What year did you guys graduate?

I graduated with my Master’s in 2017. I’m a school social worker. I started my school job that fall. We discovered Dave Ramsey in 2018. I’m working on my career for half a year and that’s when we discovered it, early 2018.

There were some cool synergies. Set for Life came at the end of 2017 and I had heard about it, but I was like, “Doing Dave Ramsey’s approach, this is what I got to focus on.” I got burnt out on that, at the end of 2017 and at the beginning of 2018.

When did you find out about Set for Life? When did you move away from Dave Ramsey? 2018?

Quickly.

You didn’t last there. You didn’t stick around too long.

Maybe 4 or 5 months. The thing is, it started positive, but then I discovered BiggerPockets. I started hearing stories like what you and Zeona were sharing and I was like, “That sounds fun. That doesn’t sound like what Dave is telling us to do. What else can we do?” That’s when we transitioned out.

At this point, first, my fiancé at the time is telling me, “There’s this guy, Dave Ramsey. Let’s do this.” I’m like, “What are you talking about?” A few months later, it’s like, “Just kidding. There’s this thing called house hacking. Let’s be landlords and move out of our nice little apartment.” I’m like, “Who am I marrying right now?” Our wedding was four months away at that point. I’m like, “What’s going on?”

Check out this guy, he’s living in a basement behind a curtain and he’s saving so much money. That’s the secret.

What was your first deal? What got you started in the house hacking?

We discovered the concept of it in early 2018, but we knew we had the wedding coming up at the end of August 2018, so that became our focus. After the wedding, we took a three-day, little mini-moon. After that, we started looking for deals.

We were looking at deals even before that, but we were having a tough time. I would say we probably put in ten different offers and all of them, we weren’t competitive enough. We were looking to do a 5% conventional loan. We had these properties where people are coming in with all-cash offers, they have $50,000 over asking, and we were like little tiny fish in a big ocean. It felt discouraging. It was tough. At that point, we thought the market was hot. It’s funny because look at where it is now.

Eventually, that first deal came to us by luck, by chance. I don’t know what you want to call it. The realtor that we were working with at the time knew of a couple that was owner-occupying a duplex. They were due for their second baby. They were like, “We don’t want to do this anymore. We want a single-family home,” and because they had owner-occupied it, they gave a lot of TLC. It was a super sweet space to move into. It radically lowered our cost of living. It worked out because it was an off-market deal. We were having a hard time putting in bids on properties.

ITF 17 | Low Paying Jobs
Set for Life: Dominate Life, Money, and the American Dream

That sounds like our market. Everything’s cash, and everything’s like, “That sounds like a good price, but it’s going to be $20,000 more.”

It was a cool and unique situation. They didn’t want to list their property because they didn’t want to sell it to some out-of-town investor or whatever they wanted to sell to a couple like us because they could relate to us. They also needed like six months to close because they needed to find the dream home out in the country. We were like, “Take as long as you want.” We knew this could be fun for us or cool for us. It was off-market and we feel like that completely changed our lives.

How much did you buy this one for?

$158,000.

Are you guys in Buffalo, New York?

No. We’re in the capital region. We’re near Albany.

You’re near Albany, New York and you have a property for $158,000. Was it a duplex?

Up and down.

Did you live at the bottom or the top?

Down.

You took the place that was worse. You heard the footsteps and all of that.

We moved into the unit that the owners were occupying. It was a three-bedroom, one-bathroom. It was beautiful. It’s nicer than the apartment that we were renting. The unit upstairs was occupied. The rents were below market, but the guy had been there for four years. We were like, “Why change anything?” We moved into that unit as a natural transition.

Pre-wedding, every day, every weekend, we were looking at houses. I was bringing Ali to some of the worst neighborhoods because I was like, “These are where the great deals are, Ali. Look at the Excel sheet. The cashflow is going to be crazy.” I thought we weren’t going to make it to the altar because they were bad places.

Initially, it was like, “We can’t possibly find a place. We either have to way overpay and the numbers don’t make sense or it’s a place that we don’t feel comfortable with.” We didn’t think there was a happy medium. We found this place and we’re like, “The numbers can make good sense. We can live in a place that’s bigger and nicer than the $1,200 a month apartment we are living in. We can save a ton of money doing it.” It was a win-win.

What was your mortgage payment on that? What were you getting for that top unit?

It was $1,384, including taxes and insurance, as well as PMI. The guy upstairs was paying $750. We knew we could get a lot more for it, but we didn’t want to deal with turnover or vacancy as new landlords. We were super happy to let him stay on a month to month because we wanted to get into a deal.

People always think that when you think of house hacking, you need to cover your mortgage fully, but that’s not necessarily the case. You went from paying $1,200 a month and getting no equity to paying $600 a month. That’s $600 in savings right there, plus the appreciation, plus the loan paid out, plus all the other things. It’s a tremendous vehicle, no matter which way you look at it.

Ali was a school employee and I worked in the nonprofit realm. We knew we weren’t going to make Silicon Valley types of income or anything like that. By saving $600 a month from this property, that $7,200 a year of after-tax income that’s back in our pocket. That is almost a $10,000 pay raise for us. We would have to work hard to get the $10,000 pay raise from our jobs. We got that in one deal. That was the game-changer.

How’s that debt doing?

Be super intentional with your acquisitions. Click To Tweet

We started 2018 with $100,000 and we are under $50,000 now.

We’re trying and it doesn’t feel fast enough. When you have that debt, it can bring you down. It’s something that you’re constantly aware of. What creative things can we do to get out from under it? Cue house hack number two. By doing that, we were able to lower our cost of living to zero eventually. We’re not paying for the mortgage. That hopefully will help propel our debt payoff even more, for sure.

House hack number one was done in 2018. In 2019, you bought a second one.

Something to note about the first house hack, after we were there for a year, the term tenant moved out. We did some updates to the unit, nothing crazy, and we were able to raise rent to $925, so we’re then reducing our cost of living even more. We move out. We rent our unit out for $1,350. We then were able to actualize that.

2018 was like, “We need to get in. It doesn’t have to be a home run. Base hits win baseball games too.” 2019 was like, “We need to learn real estate.” We figured out how to house hack, but we didn’t know real estate. We needed to learn real estate networks, understand how to analyze deals, and so forth. It was paying off as much debt as we could in 2019. That’s what we did. We crushed a lot of debt in 2019 and learned a ton.

Coming into 2020, we knew we wanted to buy another house hack. We came out of the gates rolling. We’re paying off student loans. We’re like, “We’re going to crush some more student loans and maybe mid-year, switch gears,” and then everything shut down. That thing threw a monkey wrench, but it gave us an opportunity to be like, “Let’s keep pushing forward with our goals.”

With our house hack number two, it was also an off-market deal. We’re active members of our community. We go to local community meetings. We know our neighbors. It happened that one of our neighbors right down the street owned a duplex. We had spoken to him months before and he wasn’t looking to sell and then plans changed, then he was. We were able to secure this duplex that we now live in off-market again, which made a nice transition. We also self-manage our properties. It’s super nice to walk from my duplex to the first duplex if we need to do whatever.

What were the numbers in the second duplex?

In 2019, we wanted to understand real estate, how to get value, and so forth. We bought this for $150,000. We knew it was probably going to be worth quite a bit more than that. It ended up appraising for $169,000. That was a nice $19,000 made in one day type of scenario. We moved into the bottom unit again. Both units are three-one, off-street parking. It’s a solid property. In our market, we have a lot of old buildings.

One hundred and twenty years old.

We have old buildings but super structurally sound. We always admired it because we were walking around the neighborhood. We were excited to get in here and finally achieve that goal of living for free.

Now you’re living for free. How much is the other one cashflowing you?

The other one cashflows out $420 a month, the mortgage is $1,280 a month and we get $975. We’ve got a super-low interest rate, 2.7%. The cashflow from the duplex up the street pays for the remaining balance here plus a little extra to put off in reserves and everything. That allows us to save even more.

For the second property, we used a 3.5% FHA loan. The first one, we did the 5% conventional. All-in, cash to close everything, we were less than 15%. We were in 13%.

Going back to when we first started, we thought you had to have millions of dollars to buy real estate or a lot more than we had.

We didn’t have anything, so I’m glad it worked out.

That was a real eye-opener for us, too.

I’ve got two questions for you guys. The first property you bought was a duplex and you were able to do 5% down conventional on a duplex. Was that a first-time homebuyer thing? Can anyone do that?

ITF 17 | Low Paying Jobs
Low Paying Jobs: We can live in a place that’s bigger and nicer than the $1,200 a month apartment we were living in, and we can save a ton of money doing it.

 

We did 5% down conventional and I was the person that bought the property. It was different because they were looking at my income. For our second duplex, we wanted to replicate that. We didn’t want to deal with FHA. We couldn’t do the 5% down because we were going to buy it jointly and our income was too high to qualify. They wanted us to either put like 15% or 20% down. We’re like, “Let’s do FHA instead.” That’s how it worked out.

I was always under the impression that you couldn’t do 5% down on a duplex. I always thought it had to be FHA. Maybe I’m mistaken there.

That was a big game-changer. I’m self-employed and stuff. Back in 2018, originally, it was like, “We’ll both buy it in our names.” We wouldn’t qualify if we both tried to buy it. The first property, we put in Ali’s name. That allowed us to do the 5% conventional lower PMI, fairly competitive rate. It was 4.8%, which made sense years ago. This property, doing the FHA, we put it in both of our names.

I want to give them a little tip. I know you’re married, so it’s exciting to buy stuff together. I don’t know how crazy you’re intending to be. I don’t know if you know this, but you can only get ten loans in your name conventional. You could do ten in Ali’s name. You could do ten in Josh’s name. I don’t know if you want to do them all together because that messes you up in that realm.

That’s something that we’ve talked about. We go back and forth a little bit on how crazy we want to get as far as a portfolio and stuff. We love real estate and we love what it affords us, but we also invest index funds, traditional retirement, so on and so forth. It’s multiple pillars of our financial independence. As far as how many mortgages we want to take out and how leveraged we want to get, time will tell, but it’s something we’re mindful of.

One is maybe 8 to 10 doors. It’s another house hack or two under our belt. We’ll see where that takes us and go from there. Plans are fluid and they may change. I don’t want to hold myself to anything, but that’s where we’re at.

One thing I love about FI people versus traditional real estate people is FI people are conservative. They’re like, “I’ll see five properties.” The real estate guys are like, “Give me 100 doors.” It’s cool. I appreciate that. It’s a good plan.

A conversation we have a lot is knowing you’re enough and that is hard because wouldn’t it be cool to be fat FI and have everything we want? All of this is awesome, but knowing what we need, what we live on, we’re pretty conservative people that we have used cars that are paid off and we’re fine with that. We like to travel. We have some certain quality of life aspects that we’d like in our future. For us, if those properties are able to cover our needs and then we have some other work that brings us joy that can cover our wants, we’ve won the game, in our opinion. We’ll see where it takes us. We’re flexible with it.

I network a ton. I studied and I listened to a lot of people who know a ton more than I do. Sometimes it’s that bell curve and you’ll get people who are like, “Accumulate, accumulate, accumulate.” Eventually, they’re like, “Whoa.” Either they start trimming off properties or be like, “This no longer aligns with how busy my life has gotten.” They have this big portfolio and this Frankenstein scenario. We try to always think of Josh and Ali 5 or 10 years from now, whatever that life looks like, and set those people up for success because life’s probably going to be busier. We’re trying to be super intentional with our acquisitions.

I have one more question for you guys related to buying your second house hack. You guys are aggressively paying down your student loans. How do you come up with the money to do both the house hack and the student loans? Is there a priority you set? What works?

With student loans, we have a multifaceted approach. We’re making our minimum payments. We’re on ten-year payment plans. We’re both in human services. Originally, we were on that public service loan forgiveness training. When statistics are coming out with like 1% of applicants are cashing in on this, we’re like, “Let’s get rid of it.” That was our choice. That may not be the right choice for everyone.

For us, we’re making the monthly payments, but then we chunk out the student loans too. We’ll build up our savings and then we’re like, “Let’s throw $5,000 at it.” We do that to make sure that we have enough cash on hand that’s liquid if a deal comes our way or if an emergency happens above our emergency fund. If things are okay and the property is on the horizon, we chunk it out. Honestly, when we’re close to a property, we may be like, “We don’t have all the money we need for this property, but we can hustle for three months and make it happen.” We’re scrappy with that. We have a plan, for sure.

She says scrappy. In my mind, I’m like, “I have 3 or 4 Excel sheets.”

It’s scrappy for me.

I try not to be super analytical. I have a whole bunch of rationale and reasoning behind how to chunk out money.

The best thing about a couple is you guys balance each other out. I was in the same position as you. I had $90,000 in student loans and paid those off. In Denver, I needed about $30,000 to house hack. I would save up to $30,000. Anything over $30,000, I would be paying down my student loans with. House hacking is the best return on your investment. Everyone’s doing strategies for that. I wanted to share mine.

Honestly, I’m glad you said that, Craig. One of the reasons I always connect with your story specifically as everyone has different strengths and things that they walk into situations with. One of the big things for us that sometimes we felt was hard for us is we’d be listening to podcasts every night on the way home from work, at the gym, or whatever, and we’d hear stories of people who are like, “I was fortunate. My parents paid off my student loans.”

We’re like, “That’s cool, but that’s not us.” It was hard to connect or resonate sometimes. We go back and forth on our approach as far as to chill on student loans for a little bit and let real estate pay it off. Your story helps us a lot because it was someone we can relate to. It’s like, “He’s got student loans too and he can still do it.” That helped a lot not.

If you have debt, add zero to the gap between your income and expenses and make that your priority. Click To Tweet

Not to knock people that had the financial benefit of their loans paid off. If that was us, that’d be amazing. We’re not knocking that. Those folks were relatable to us, but it was like, “We want to invest in real estate, but we have a $100,000 mountain of debt on top of us. It makes it feel impossible.” That was a big mental barrier for us to overcome. When you hear stories of people that did that too, it’s like, “We can do that.” That was cool.

I don’t know if you guys have heard of this person, but there’s a blog called No More Harvard Debt and this guy went to Harvard and had $90,000-something in debt. He made this whole game to pay it off in a year and he ended up earning high money, but he took all these side jobs. It was an interesting blog to follow. Hearing all the trials and tribulations, all the little hacks he had to do, and all the things he skipped out on and stuff is a cool story. I remember following that a few years ago.

If you guys follow Financial Samurai, he has a cool article where he finds that happy medium. He maps out like, “For people who want to know what to do, this or that, this is that approach.” His whole thing is whatever that gap between your income expenses, if you have debt, whatever that interest rate is, add a zero to it and make that your priority. For instance, our student loans are at a 4% interest rate. Sometimes it’s hard because our house hack returns are way better than 4%. The math of it says, “No way. House hack and we’re going to be fine.”

We also know that it’s offense and defense and paying off those loans and so on is our defense. For us, the whole 4% interest rate, we add a zero to it. Sometimes when we’re in heavy debt focus, we’ll pay 40% of our disposable income. We’ll throw it up in debt. That also leaves 60% of our disposable that we can put into other real estate, index funds, and stuff like that.

That’s a cool approach. I never heard that before.

I can send you the article.

Thanks.

That is an interesting way to do it. I went to the same thing. My student loans are cheap. My house hacks are so much better. Once you make that final student loan payment, you clear the hump. All of the money that you were making to pay off your student loans now goes into your bank account. Once you clear that hump, there’s no turning back.

We talked to many people that were 10, 15, 20 years ahead of us, making good money, thriving in real estate, and all of these things. We were like, “What do we do? Do we pay off our loans? Do we invest in real estate?” At that point, I was like, “You can’t do both.” It’s trying to figure out what basket to put our eggs in. A lot of them said, “Invest in real estate. Don’t pay off your loans.”

The huge thing that we’re talking about here is the mindset and mental component. For us, maybe it makes more fiscal sense to invest in real estate and slow pay our loans. The mental burden of having student loans has on us is like, “I want to get rid of all of them.” We’ll still invest in real estate, maybe a little less aggressively than we would otherwise, but we want to still be pretty aggressive with the loans.

Sometimes we’ll say, “If it wasn’t for the financial hole we are in starting off, who knows if we’re even on this podcast? Who knows if we even start thinking creatively? What’s house hacking?” I’m not going to say they’re a blessing. At the same time, everything happens for a reason in a way and we are where we are because of them. It is what it is.

The challenges shape you.

It sounds like neither of you guys was talking about finances in your relationship. Maybe you didn’t come from a family that was super into finance or super financially savvy. Do you feel like you’re influencing them now in the ways that you’ve changed your life?

In short, no. Maybe we’ll disagree. When I discovered FI financial independence house hacking, I was a FI evangelist. I was trying to tell everyone and their brother, “You have to learn about this. This will change your life.”

He was too much, though. It was a little overwhelming.

He was like a vegan.

We had to preset before family gatherings or friends. I’m like, “I’m not going to talk about this here.”

It’s like FI vegan CrossFit, “Let’s talk about all three of them.” Whether or not we’ve impacted our family directly, I don’t think so. We think it’s cool what we’re talking about. When we talk to family or hang out, we’re not talking about this stuff. They’re going to live their own lives. Do you disagree?

ITF 17 | Low Paying Jobs
Low Paying Jobs: We were excited to achieve the goal of living for free.

 

I’m sorry to do this publicly. I disagree with you. The change is small. When you have people that have been living their life a certain way their whole life, you’re not going to have one conversation with them and radically change their perspective. We have been able to drop a lot of nuggets of information to the people that we love. In Josh’s family, having conversations with your family, they’ve thought more about retirement, saving, and being responsible with credit cards. We’ve had those conversations.

I grew up in a middle-class family. My mom has a state job and a pension. We have the state benefits and health insurance, which is subconsciously what led me to a stable and secure career myself in the schools. With that, my mom was like, “I’m never going to be able to retire. I’m going to have to wait until I’m 68.” By talking to us and going through the numbers and talking about modifications she can make, she’s like, “I can retire in three years.” I love you but I disagree. We have had some impacts on the people we care about.

Josh, you have to know that females are always right.

I used to hear people say the whole happy wife happy life thing. I was like, “That’s baloney. That’s something old husbands say to be nice.” It’s true. This has been a cool experience for Ali and me too. We always wanted something our thing. I had my job and she had her job. We always dreamed of, “How cool would it be to have a thing together?”

We couldn’t figure it out because we were always like, “She has to come to my job.” We always put our dreams and ambitions and other people’s circumstances. Real estate and financial independence, we have our thing now. We are super passionate about doing it together. There are challenges working with your spouse.

To go off of what he said, that’s a big reason for pursuing FI. How unfair is it that we live in a society where our coworkers get the best of us and the people that we choose to spend our life with get the scraps? Our loved ones in our family get the scraps. When I get home from work, John does not get quality Ali. He gets like, “I’m tired. I want to chill. I don’t want to talk. I’ve been with kids all day.” Regarding that, we wanted to see if we could do it differently. I want to get Josh at his best and I want him to have me at my best. I want to enjoy that quality of life a little more. That was a big thing for us.

I love hearing that part about influencing your mom. It’s sweet. It’s coming full circle. That’s awesome. I want to put this out there to give you a little accountability, Josh. Word on the street is you’re going to become a real estate agent. Tell us about that because we’re trying to recruit you over the FI team. What does it take?

Our big thing is life by design. Everything that we build and everything that we design is all about how this aligns with their value. Our number one value is time with each other and with the people we love. I talk real estate all day, every day. I have a job. When I’m not at that job, I’m either talking to people, texting people or I’m on social media, in some fashion, connecting and discussing real estate and stuff.

We started talking about, “This is something that you’re interested in and passionate about. You’re already helping people indirectly. What if you wanted to get paid for it?” As if it was like Batman’s logo or the symbol or something, ten different brokers from different agencies were like, “Let’s get coffee. Have you thought about, fill in the blank?” It’s something I’m interested in. I can see myself in my situation a lot of what Craig was saying about going from the stable, secure job, starting off part-time. Growing that does seem like that’s in the stars moving forward.

I say this all the time. One of the best things about financial independence is once you hit that baseline financial independence where your expenses are covered, you’re no longer playing not to lose. You’re playing to win. You’ve probably heard me say that before. You have that ability to go all out at one thing and you’ll make extreme amounts of money. You guys are young, but you’re going to hit your goals way sooner than you expect. Its exponential growth. It’s going to be amazing. You guys are off to a great start.

Thank you so much. There are some days when we’re like, “We have such long ways to go. We only own 40 units. We’d own 8 to 10. We’ve only paid off $50,000.” We think back. We crunched a lot of our goals in two years. We’ve gone a lot faster than we thought, even I, and I’m a big goal setter. Hearing those types of stories is inspiring for us and it gives us a lot of hope.

What’s been important for us, too is comparing Josh and Ali now in 2020 to Josh and Ali in 2018 and 2015. We’re going to hear people that are doing way cooler things than we are and people that are struggling a lot more than us. To maintain that perspective, when those negative thoughts creep in and that self-doubt, it’s like, “We’re doing great. We’re doing so much better than the past us could ever have predicted. Let’s hold on to that.” That’s our mindset for a lot of this.

You can get to those goals next week and then what are you going to do with yourself? That’s happened to me already where my goal was like, “I want to be retired.” It’s what I called it at the time. I got to 28 and it only took me two years when I thought it was going to take me ten. I’m like, “What do I do with my life now?” You get to reinvent yourself, which is awesome. I wouldn’t try to race through your life either. All of this stuff makes you stronger.

Another thing is comparison is the thief of joy. Have you ever heard of that? There are going to be people that are light years ahead of you and people that are light years behind you. It’s amazing to try to compare yourself year over year. How much better are you on December 2nd, 2020, than you were on December 2nd, 2019? You guys are doing amazing.

I would never wish 2020 on anyone ever again. It’s been a hard year. That being said, at least in our life, it’s also been a testament to why we’re on the path we’re on. Due to the decisions that we’ve been making, house hacking, paying off the car, living frugal, and everything like that, when everything shut down and got hard, we were good. My business took a hit.

If we were maxed out on a giant mortgage and had too big car payments and had a lot of credit card bills, we would not have been good. When Josh says good, he doesn’t mean we were thriving because there’s a global pandemic. It’s insensitive to say we’re thriving. What we’re saying is we were okay and we were able to meet our goals. It is directly because of the choices that we made. I feel fortunate for that, for sure.

Your story is awesome, starting from $100,000 of student loan debt, getting house hack number 1 and 2, jumping through all the hoops, and throwing a global pandemic in there. Now, you’re on your second one. I’m sure you’re on your way to your third one. Rinse and repeat until it happens. We are heading to the later part of the show. Any more spirits of wisdom you want to give to our readers or are happy to share? Otherwise, we can head out to the last part.

I want to thank you guys again. I’ve listened to your stories both probably a dozen times on the podcast and stuff. This is a cool full circle moment for me. I’m grateful to be here and happy to be able to share our story.

Living frugal prepares you for when everything shuts down, and your business takes a hit. Click To Tweet

Funny enough, talking about full circle, I forgot until right now that you know my college roommate. You’re friends with him.

I did not connect the dots.

That is crazy in itself.

This is dorky. I’m going to tell the story. I don’t care. I’ve heard you tell the Big Sur story probably a dozen times. We got married in 2018. We threw all of our money into our first house. We knew we wanted to take a nice honeymoon one day, but we wanted to pay off a lot of debt first. From house hacking, we’re able to go out to California for about two weeks. One of the places we went to was Big Sur. In my mind, I was like, “This is what Craig was talking about. This is beautiful.”

Isn’t it amazing?

It is. That’s another full circle.

Let’s head out to the final part of the show and we call it The Final Four.

What book are you guys reading? I imagine it’s probably not the same book. Are you guys readers? Are you reading something?

We’re readers. I’m more of the finance books, blogs, podcasts, and stuff like that. Ali has a lot of good books not at all related to finance, but more so lifestyle development and that’s beneficial for us. As far as books we’re reading. We’re going through Set for Life a second time.

Your dork is showing. I like it.

It’s an evergreen thing. Sometimes you come back to it a year later. The Josh that read that book the first time is not the Josh that’s sitting in front of you now. Now we’re reading it together.

Another book that we’re reading is called Life on Purpose. It’s from my mental health background that I found the book and it’s all about mindset and shifting your mindset to remove obstacles and reaching your dreams and goals. That’s a good one too.

I’m going to check that out. I read five books at once.

Life on Purpose, I haven’t heard of that one. I’m going to look that one up. The second question, what is the best advice you’ve ever received?

Someone that we look up to is my grandfather. He was a serial entrepreneur. He opened up different auto body shops while he was raising four kids and commuted from upstate New York to Queens every day. He’s the son of an Italian immigrant who came to the country not speaking English. A little backstory. My grandfather has done a lot in his life. They were FI before FI was a thing. They retired from their businesses at 40 and went to Hawaii for three months every year on vacation and lived off of the fruits of their labor, so to speak.

My grandpa, I called him and we were feeling down. We were having a hard time and he said, “Whenever you feel you’re having a hard time, think of the word push. Whenever I would wake up in the morning every day, I had a little index card and it had the word push on it. I reminded myself that I need to keep going and I need to keep trying. If today is not my day, tomorrow might be.” The word push is simple, but it encapsulates everything that we’re trying to do. We’re going to have great days and we’re going to have struggles, but the consistency and eating that elephant one bite at a time and knowing that we’re going to get there, it’s going to take time. That’s a great nugget of advice.

Consistency trumps intensity. Josh, what about you?

This is not at all real estate-related. Ali and I, before we started dating, we were good friends. I was like, “I want to date that girl one day.” Everything said that’s never going to happen, but I was like, “I’m going to keep pushing on that.” It probably took almost two years of texting and calling. Everything that I needed to do to get out of the friendzone, I scratched my way out of it.

ITF 17 | Low Paying Jobs
Low Paying Jobs: We are passionate about working together, but there are challenges with working with your spouse.

 

He wasn’t as stalker-y as he’s portraying himself. We were friends.

Either way, I had a lot of people. Every time, I was like, “She’s never going to see me the way I want her to see me. They told me to don’t give up.” None of this is possible if we’re not together. That advice to keep pushing to be with her is the best advice.

Question number three, you guys answered this earlier, but it’s what’s your why? You were talking about your values. I imagine you’re going to go back to that.

It’s 100% our values in the sense of being with each other and being with the people that we love. When we started this journey, we were sitting in our car in the middle of the winter. I remember that moment clearly. We listed, what are our top three values? What’s most important to us? The first time we did that, they did not align. We felt that in our relationship, there was a lot of friction. Through time, experience, and conversations, we eventually align that. Our top three values are each other, time with friends, and time with family.

Time is the most precious commodity that we have on the planet. We have limited time and we don’t know how much time we have. For us, we want to live a life that we love where we are spending our time the way we want it. Every day that it gets hard or we have long days and there are things we want to give up, we remember we’re doing this for such a bigger purpose and it’s to live our life by design and not by default. Ultimately, it’s to spend it with the people we care about the most. That’s our why.

I would say mine is similar. It’s being the owner of my time, the leader of my life.

The year that we’re having has further emphasized that for us.

Fourth question, what weird food combinations do you enjoy?

I’m a bad person to answer this question because I eat bizarre food combinations and always get questions like, “Are you pregnant?” I’m like, “First of all, that’s a rude question to ask. Second of all, no, I have an interesting palate.” I do pickles and waffles, pickles with nacho cheese.

She’s a pickle lover.

That’s the first thing that’s coming to me, but I mix some precarious things together and I like it.

I don’t know if I have any weird food, but I used to eat basic food, no seasoning, anything like that. People used to think, “You don’t use salt or any kind of sauce or anything like that?” It wasn’t until we started dating that she was like, “This isn’t going to fly,” kind of thing.

The first time I went to his apartment and he cooked me a meal, he took tilapia out of a freezer bag and he threw it on a George Foreman, roasted it, shut it, and burnt it to a crisp. That was our dinner with three pounds of rice from his rice cooker. I’m like, “He is a savage. I cannot.” It was disgusting. No seasoning, no nothing. Honestly, I don’t know what brought me back for the second date, to be honest, because it was that bad. Clearly, I liked the guy.

There’s only one way up from there.

He set the bar incredibly low. His stock has risen so much. I can’t get rid of him now. He’s doing well for himself.

Buy low and keep forever.

Buy and hold before she knew the trend.

Where can people find out more about you if they want to reach out and hear a little more about your story?

Consistency trumps intensity. Click To Tweet

People can find us on Instagram. Our handle is @TheFICouple. You can also find us online at TheFICouple.com.

I love the name.

That’s why I told Josh he has to come over. It’s good branding.

You’re already there.

The stars are aligning. We launched The FI Couple not too long ago and we have been super excited to see the amount of support and outreach. This is stuff that we’re super passionate about and you guys are passionate about. We wanted to find a creative way to share the message and help out other people in any way that we could because it’s something that we believe in.

You’ve absorbed a lot. After you’re done absorbing, it’s time to squeeze that sponge out and start giving it back to everybody else.

That’s the plan. It’s been cool.

It’s time to pay it forward. Our first-time meeting you guys, but we’ve learned a ton. Now it’s a matter of how we can be a part of that quilt and share the stories as well.

Thanks so much for coming to the show. I knew what you look like from all the pictures and stuff. I’ve seen you, but it’s great to see an animated face to the name. Hopefully, one of these days, post-COVID, we’ll be able to meet in person.

That’d be awesome. We’ve been meaning to get out to Colorado.

We’d love to have you guys.

Maybe in Big Sur.

I’ll send you the coordinates. I still have them, the place that we went to. It’s hidden.

We went all the way up for a long time, so we may have gone past it.

We went to the midway point where McWay Falls is. We did all the little touristy stops. Big Sur definitely stole our hearts. Yosemite in the Redwoods is life-changing.

No offense to you East Coasters and New Yorkers, but anything from Denver West is incredibly beautiful and anything else is next level down.

I tell myself, “Maybe because I grew up here, it’s normalized.” When you go West and you see that stuff, it’s like, “Where are we living? We have melons, but they’re unimpressive.” Not to trash in New York, but it’s like, “Why do we live over here?”

It’s because you get a 150-duplex.

We think about that. Our taxes are super high. It all comes out in the wash because property taxes here are way high. Craig, you’re from Massachusetts originally, is that right?

That’s right.

Do you still at all relate to being an East Coaster?

I’m an East Coaster at heart. I have pride. I’m a Boston sports fan and all that stuff. Considering I was over the East Coaster, I like that. In terms of moving back East, it’s going to be hard.

ITF 17 | Low Paying Jobs
Low Paying Jobs: We want to find a creative way to share the message and help out other people.

 

Summer 2020 was life-changing for us. We had a big Southwest trip planned this summer 2021. Hopefully, we can make that happen, a lot of traveling to catch up on.

Lots of people.

It’s been great connecting with you, guys. Thank you so much for having us on the show. We’re so excited for it.

That was Josh and Ali, everybody. Z, what did you think? That was quite a compelling story.

It was so fun. I like them a lot. It’s so nice to have these relatable stories because sometimes, when you’re listening to just a typical real estate podcast, people can’t relate to 600 doors and they don’t understand how you get big apartment complexes. When you can see something easy to digest like their story, it makes you feel like, “Maybe I can do that.”

I love how they’re able to buy a house hack. That’s not necessarily cashflowing when they live in it and they understand that they’re still having a huge win by one, picking up the property, and two, reducing their rent. They talk about all the obstacles they had, too. The obstacles are what make you. The $100,000 of student loan debt is an instrumental part of their story. Once they conquer that debt and they’re 24, 25 years old, they’re going to conquer $100,000 student loan debt in four years is quite the story.

By the way, that money is going to keep growing and they’re probably going to hit that million-dollar net worth mark before they know it. It’s such a powerful thing. Z, I won’t keep you any longer. I know you’re a busy gal. Thank you for joining us. We’ll look forward to having you. This is going to be fun. With that being said, we’re out of here. We’ll see you next episode.

 

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