Today on the show, Craig and Zeona are joined by Matt Giovanisci—CEO of Swim University and Brew Cabin, website designer and developer, AND music producer! He used to be terrible with money but with a little help from his mom (!) and reading the usual suspects, he has achieved FI through pure creativity and good old fashioned hustle.
Real estate investing is only a fraction of what this guy is up to! Matt talks about his pool cleaning business-turned-digital-media-company and his year-long immersion in learning personal finance. He also dwells on his personal beliefs and his WHY.
You don’t want to miss this exciting episode because this jack-of-all-trades explains why his decision to buy a condo was a bad one, how he paid off his credit card debt, and why it’s okay to not have hard and fast goals.
Listen to the podcast here
Swimming, Brewing & Rapping His Way To FI With Matt Giovanisci
We’ve got a cool guest on the show, Matt Giovanisci. He is making money in a lot of different ways. The interesting thing about this episode, and I want to leave a little nugget, is that he is extremely successful but does not set goals. You can understand why later. It’s a very interesting take that we all should read and at least think about. Anything you want to ask, Z, before we bring him on the show?
Let’s bring him in.
Matt Giovanisci, welcome to the show. How are you doing?
We are excited to have you on the show and we want to kick it off like we kick it off every week. How did you hear about financial independence? Where did you all get started?
With Mr. Money Mustache back in 2013 when I was starting my podcast with Andrew Fiebert. We started a podcast called Listen Money Matters. Pete was one of our first guests in 2014. Through him and his blog, that’s how I had to have learned it. I don’t know if it was called FI at the time or had the short cool acronym that it does, but that’s where I first learned of the concept.
Where did you find out about Mr. Money Mustache? His blog or Google search?
I had friends that recommended him to me. I was in the financial space. You know him.
Matt, I’m wondering, what are you drinking? Thinking about Listen Money Matters, they were beer aficionados, so they always had a cool drink.
I am drinking water.
Is it cool water because that would be cool?
I’m Italian, so I get it. I’m drinking La Croix.
It’s 2014. You find out about financial independence or you already knew about it. What action steps did you take from there?
I started my business probably in 2008 and then I wasn’t full-time until 2011 and I was only forced to be full-time. I was laid off because I was able to collect unemployment. At that point, my whole life leading up to 2008, when I bought my first home, I was terrible with money. I was a garbage person when it came to money. In 2011, when I was let go of my job, I was collecting unemployment. I took that as the government is giving me a small business loan that they don’t know about. I’m going to use this one-year runway of collecting unemployment to get my business off the ground and never work for anybody again.
It was during that year that I started to look at my personal finances and say, “I’m dumb.” There was a point in my life where I even tried to hire my mom as an adult to take my money from me and then give me an allowance as if I was ten because I was so bad with it. I was like, “I’m so sick and tired of being this guy who constantly tells himself, ‘I suck with money. I don’t get it. I don’t understand it.’” I throw my hands up.
I ended up knowing that I was going to start my own business, knowing that I was in full control and I knew that I was going to have to learn QuickBooks and all of these things that I was interested in. I decided to start reading and understanding how money works. The first two books that I read were The Simple Dollar by Trent Hamm, which was the name of the site at the time, and Ramit’s book, which is I Will Teach You To Be Rich. Those were the two books that got me into it.
I hate that book.
It’s a douchey title and he will even admit it. That book, to sum it into one sentence, humans are bad with money. Robots are better. That changed everything for me because I was. He said, “You suck with money. Automate it and let the robots give you an allowance.” It’s like me hiring my mom if my mom was a robot.
A lot of people don’t recognize that they’re bad with money. They don’t know what they don’t know, but at least and the first step to fixing any problem is at least recognizing that you have a problem. The fact that you even asked your mom to give you an allowance, I know it sounds silly and we joke about it and it is pretty funny.
I owned a home at the time.
You owned a home, but your mom was giving you an allowance.
I had a mortgage and I was asking my mom to give me an allowance of my own money.There are people whose business is the driving factor behind almost all of their decisions. Click To Tweet
That whole idea is you recognize it, that’s a short-term solution and then you went to go fix it.
I was starting my own business. I had an incentive to want to do that. Otherwise, if I was working a day job, I probably would still be living paycheck to paycheck, but because I was starting my own business, I can’t be an idiot.
What is this business that you’re starting? This is 2011?
My website is Swim University and I teach people how to take care of their pools and hot tubs. I’ve been doing that ever since. It’s my main flagship business.
You teach people how to take care of pools and hot tubs.
It’s a digital media company. I’ve been in the pool industry since I was thirteen and that was my day job, which is why I didn’t go to college because I worked and made plenty of money as a kid. I was able to buy my house at 25 years old, which most of my friends were still trying to find a job out of college.
This pool and hot tub cleaning company, you don’t obviously do that. You teach people to do it. I can’t wrap my head around it. Is it harder than I think?
It’s videos, articles and courses, teaching homeowners that own these things how to get their pools and hot tubs clear without having to become backyard chemists or to hire a company to come out and do it for them. Some people don’t have the luxury to hire somebody, so they turn to somebody like me and learn. I charge for it, but not a ton of money. It’s a service. What I own is a digital media company.
You niched out this market of the hot tub and pool owners and how do you clean them. How do you go about monetizing that? You’re not going to pay for a video, are you?
We have a YouTube channel and our website, all the content there is free. We have four courses that are all video-based courses that are all $49 each. One for winterizing your pool, one for taking care of your pool, soup to nuts. One for taking care of your hot tub and then one for how to save money on taking care of your pool.
How to not spend a ton of money on chemicals and unnecessary things and how to cut corners with when to run your pumps so that you can save money on your electric bill and stuff like that. Plus, we do affiliate marketing, so you come to the website to learn about how to take care of your pool, how to get rid of algae as an example, and we recommend the products to use in order to do that. We get a commission from Amazon or whatever.
Every time I deal with a hot tub because I manage a few high-end rentals, I think of you. It’s such a pain in the butt. Matt says, “Never own a hot tub and this is why,” whenever I’m struggling.
I don’t own a hot tub or a pool. I know too much.
That goes to show you. You probably should not own a hot tub or a pool if you’re the guy.
You should own a hot tub and a pool and if you do, visit SwimUniversity.com to learn more. The year of COVID was a huge boom for the industry because everyone was stuck home. Everyone invested in their house and bought spas, pools, above-ground pools and ground pools, all of that. It’s leaning more towards that area. I don’t think pools and hot tubs are going away, but I personally don’t want to deal with it. I also own ponds and I wouldn’t recommend those either.
I want to go back to this first deal of yours because we do talk real estate here and I know personally that it wasn’t a great deal, but I’d love to hear about how dumb Matt was before he learned all about money invested in real estate versus your plans nowadays.
I wouldn’t call it investing at the time. I called it clout. I wanted to own a home and I did not have a down payment. I had no money. I was living paycheck to paycheck, but my mom worked for this real estate company that was building new condos in our town, which we’d never had before. Our town is very rural, so we didn’t have condo complexes. They were building one and I got to tour one and I was like, “I want that, mom. I need you to get that for me.” She’s like, “Do you have any money?” I was like, “No, you know I don’t have any money.”
It was early 2008, so before October and they were giving out loans like it was candy at the bank. Anybody who walked in was like, “Here is a loan.” I got alone and I put down 0% and I bought a condo for $180,000 with zero down. I lived in it for five years. It wasn’t meant to buy to flip. It didn’t need flipping. It was brand new. I didn’t buy it to one day eventually rent it out. I wanted to live there.
Where was this place located?
Southern New Jersey. Twenty minutes outside of Philadelphia.
You are not a real estate investor. You want to own a house. Twenty-five years old and you want to feel like you want to own a house. That’s a perfectly good reason. Why was that a bad decision?
The day I signed the contract was October 3rd, 2008, which is known as Black Monday, when the stock market completely tanked. The housing bubble figuratively popped. What happened was the following year, early 2009, my property value went down to $140,000. I lost $40,000 almost immediately. I’m not still underwater, but if I were to sell it right now, I’d probably break even and it’s been years.
You were buying a property because everyone and their mother was buying a property at the time. You seem to be the last one to do it.
It was an FHA loan. I got a grant from the county, so I got $10,000 towards the house. I was the youngest person I knew that owned a home and again knew nothing about real estate or anything. This was before I got better with money. When I went to go rent the truck to move into my new house, my credit card got declined at the truck rental place because I had bought the home. I had way too much activity on my account. American Express said no. My credit score was 620, maybe less, maybe 580 at the time. When I bought the house, that was my actual credit score and a bank gave me a loan. Shame on them and then shame on me.
They lost a lot more money than you did.
I have no sympathy.
You bought the house in 2008. You’re still working at W-2 at that time because you started your business in 2011, which is the pool cleaning business.
That’s when I went full-time. I had started the business technically in 2008. That’s when I started the LLC and I had been doing the website since 2006. There was always side money. I could never go full-time with it. That’s that to give it a timeline.
2011, you go full-time and you aren’t buying property at that time because you don’t have a W-2 and that makes it harder for you. You find out about this whole financial independence thing. It sounds like you start getting your money house or financial house in order in 2014.
I started paying off all my credit cards. I did the debt avalanche method. The debt avalanche method, there are two. There is the snowball and avalanche. They have similar names. Dave Ramsey is the one that did the snowball method, which I don’t like because it’s not based on any math. It’s based on emotion. The difference is with the avalanche, you pay your highest interest rate card off first and then you work your way down based on the highest interest rate because, over time, you end up paying less to the banks.
For example, you would pay the minimums on all your other credit cards and then put all of your money towards the one with the highest interest rate. It takes longer to pay off, but you don’t pay as much to do it. You get no emotional wind because it takes a long time for the high-interest rate card to come down. With the snowball method, you do the lowest balance card first. It does nothing to do with the interest rate. It could be a high-interest rate, but the reason for doing that is so that you can get that quick emotional win like, “I paid off a credit card.”
What I did was cut up all my credit cards, throw them in the trash and then have a big whiteboard in my office and wrote down all of my credit cards based on the interest rate, the highest interest rate at the top. I paid them off and then would erase it and then pay the next one and erase. It took me like a year and a half, maybe two years, to do it. I was debt-free besides the condo.
What debt did you have when you started? Did you have college debt? You didn’t go to college.
I didn’t go to college. That’s part of the reason why I was able to live on such a low amount. When I was starting my business, I was collecting unemployment and I was doing web design work on the side. I was living off of $40,000 and I had a condo and I had a car payment. The unemployment plus whatever I was making on the side couldn’t afford that lifestyle. I wanted my credit cards paid off. I didn’t have student loan debt. If I had student loan debt, a lot of what I was able to do would have been much more difficult, but I still would have been able to do it.
I ended up moving in with my younger brother and I was able to drop my expenses from $4,500 a month to $1,300 a month. I stayed home. I collected my little unemployment check. I worked as hard as I could on my website and then also did website design and other graphic work. Any money I could get. I used all of it to pay off credit cards for the most part, until I was able to get out of debt, but at least credit card debt.Financial independence is always a goal for anybody. Click To Tweet
How much credit card?
I hear about people having $50,000, $100,000 student loans these days. $10,000 seems like small potatoes.
$10,000 seems nothing, but that was maxed out of all the credit that anybody would ever give me. It was as much as I could be in debt.
$10,000 of credit card debt seems a lot because the interest rates are so high. Student loans were 5%, 6%. There is a pretty solid argument as to whether you should pay them off or not. I graduated with $90,000 of student loan debt. I wrote a blog article that did pretty well because everyone always said pay off all your student loans and then invested in real estate. If I did that, I would still be paying off my student loans. I invested in real estate. Real estate allowed me to make more money on my money. I wiped out my student loans in a year. It sounds like you got your credit card stuff in order. When did you pay off your last credit card?
2011 you started getting your crap together because you’re starting a business. You didn’t have that easy income coming in other than your mom’s allowance. It sounds like you were heads down paying off the credit cards, not doing much else with regards to money knowledge, but then you’re like, “What’s next?” You then found Mr. Money Mustache.
I love the idea of financial independence and that was always a goal, but it was how to think about it. I’m not a frugal person whatsoever. I don’t like being frugal. I’m more subscribed to the idea that I don’t spend money on clothes. I value things very differently than a lot of people. I used to be a very frivolous spender. Whatever was on Amazon, I bought it. I didn’t care. Now, I am financially independent. I still have that mentality. One of the tricks that I employed to stop myself from being so impulsive was to create a 30-day list. On my phone, if I liked something or I wanted something, no matter what it was, I had to write it down on my phone.
If I still wanted it after 30 days, I was able to buy it. If I didn’t, then I deleted off my list. I didn’t want anything. Everything was impulsive. Once you learn that, now I’m the opposite. I will sit and deliberate with myself for a month before I buy anything. It’s not even about the money. I don’t want another thing to take care of if you see a pattern. I could barely take care of myself. I don’t need another piece of my life that I have to drive somewhere or take care of in some capacity.
Sense of minimalism.
I am not a minimalist by any means. Sometimes I think, “We don’t need this extra pillow on this couch. I don’t want another pillow. Two pillows are fine. One for each person. We’re good.”
I’ve been battling. Those surge protectors, the ones that are a little strip, my charger to my computer is extended out and any time I move, it unplugs and it pisses me off. I’m like, “I don’t know if I need that surge protector.” I’m with you. I got to wait like a month before I bought the $13 surge protector.
That wasn’t me. I’m glad I’m like that now, but sometimes it can be annoying.
What made you flip that switch? Was that Mr. Money Mustache?
It was a combination of things. The business is the driving factor behind mostly all of my decisions, but then I was part of a business community called Fizzle. In that community, I was building Swim University behind the scenes. I wanted a place where I could talk to like-minded people because I lived in South Jersey. No one was doing what I was doing.
No one had their own business. No one started a blog, if you want to call it that. That’s how I was making money. I didn’t have anybody to talk to about that who would want to listen because they would hate me because they all had jobs they had to go to and I was working from home in what I’m still wearing, which is my black, Old Navy hoodie.
I joined this group and I met Andrew Fiebert, who lived in Hoboken and he still had a full-time job, but he had a site called ListenMoneyMatters.com. He admired the design work and what I was doing at Swim University. He was talking about personal finance. We ended up becoming friends and having Skype calls back and forth and being business friends.
The by-product of that was he was financially independent at that moment or if he wasn’t, he was damn close. We ended up starting a podcast together because he and I would have these Skype conversations and his wife would hear us talking and thought that we had good chemistry and that we should do something with that. I proposed the podcast and I did that for a full year.
We did a daily show every day. Once I got into that and I was doing the website and I was writing articles, I got into producing personal finance content and learning from guests and Andrew and being a layman, being somebody who didn’t understand these concepts, but I knew how to interview people. I knew how to ask the questions because I was genuinely interested in the answers because I was trying to become better. The show did so well was because I was in the same position as every single audience member and I could ask the questions they were all thinking without even having to do any market research because I was like, “What is this? How does this work? I’m a dumb-dumb. Tell me again.”
I learned by doing, creating content and becoming friends with Pete, Mr. Money Mustache, becoming friends with these people. I live in the same town that they’re all in. That’s by accident, but I ended up starting to be getting to the personal finance space. I was attending FinCon. I met my girlfriend, my future wife, at a Personal Finance Bloggers Conference. I was very immersed in this world and being immersed in the world. It’s like learning a language. You end up becoming that.
I want to highlight that you’re talking about having business friends and I don’t know if this is true for Craig, but it’s very true for me that I have what I call my unofficial counsel. I’ve got two friends and anytime I’m going to do something risky in real estate, I call them up and run it by them. It’s like a little gray area, a little sketchy or trying to get creative about something. It’s so important. If you don’t have a partner in your business, at least reach out and get a community because it’s helpful to have those people to bounce off of.
It’s because your mom’s not going to help you because she has no idea what you’re doing, either as your dad. I didn’t realize the value of that until conversations like this, when I think back and go like, “That was valuable.” Especially Andrew, because we were talking about money every day. It was front of mind. It was constant. I had to read books because the next day we were going to have a guest on and I had to read their book fast.
On the show, I never gave advice. I did later on because then I was like, “Now I know what I’m doing.” That immersion is part of the reason why I’ve gotten to where I’ve got. Plus, he was a business friend. We were both trying to build our businesses to make our own money. From there, it was like a rocket ship, but they were very slow ones. That’s back in 2014. It’s been a lot of years.
Is 2014 when you started the podcast?
We started in November 2013 and then I quit in November 2014 because we were doing it every single day and I was editing, publishing and booking guests because he had a full-time job. It was just me and I burned out hard. It should have been a little bit better with my time management.
In one year, you were able to gain all that financial knowledge. You lucked into meeting Andrew and he took you on this show. Why did he set you on the show?
It was his wife’s idea to even start a show. He doesn’t put himself out there as an entertainer in any capacity besides the podcast, but because he could talk to me and we can be comfortable with each other, it worked and that’s the chemistry we built. I have a background in this media space. For me, it was second nature.
2014 you quit the podcast. It’s something that is starting to understand financial independence, at least. When did you start making moves with your money? What happens? How do you get all this?
2014 was the first year that my website, Swim University, made $40,000 and the year before I’d lost unemployment. The way I survived was through website development work and then the website started making enough money and I quit the show. I was 100% in on working on Swim University and growing it. I had another whiteboard behind my desk with a thermometer and I had it set at $100,000. My goal was to make $100,000 a year because, to me, that was a rich person. In my life, I have never been around anyone who made more than $100,000 a year.
I thought, “If I can get there, game over. I win.” During that time, because we had started the podcast together, Betterment was pretty popular. I started to invest in Betterment because it was the easiest thing I could do. It was dollar-cost averaging. It was like a bank account. I could put $100 a month and then $250 a month, $500 a month. It started to keep growing.Goals can be motivating and just as equally disappointing, especially when they're related to numbers. Click To Tweet
Did you like Betterment because it was a robot?
Yes. I had bought stock in Sirius Satellite Radio when Howard Stern moved over, thinking, “I’m going to be rich.” When Howard Stern took over, that tanked. I was like, “I don’t know how to pick stocks. That’s a dumb thing to do.” I learned about dollar-cost averaging. Betterment came out and then they made it seem simple like a bank account. I’m like, “This, I understand.”
Dollar-cost averaging, I’ve heard you mentioned that a couple of times. Can you explain that to the readers?
If you had $100,000 of your money, you could take $100,000 and you can put it in the stock market. I don’t know what the market is right this second, but we could be in a very bullish, booming market. If we were to put all of our money in, five years from now or whatever, that money could drop or it could get larger. It’s super risky is an example there. People are like, “I can put $100,000 and in five years and make a ton of money.” Sure, but you could also lose.
With dollar-cost averaging, you are taking that $100,000 and stretching it over time and investing in low points and high points of the market on and on. As you do that, the average rules in your favor of mostly going up. You’re buying a little bit when you’re down. You’re buying a little bit when it’s up. You’re losing some, you’re winning some, but for the most part, you’re winning.
You’re mitigating a lot of market risk.
I wish I had a better analogy than that, but it’s been a while.
Maybe many of our readers and many of you guys out there probably aren’t getting lump sums of $100,000 to funnel in the market. If you are going to sell a house and you don’t know what to do with the money and you want to put it in the market, it may be best not to take the $200,000 you got on your house and funnel it at the market. At what point did your business grow to that $100,000 a year mark?
It was 2015.
You went from $40,000 to $100,000 the next year. What happened?
I made products. I started selling my products because in 2013, 2014, I was working with Andrew. I wasn’t putting a lot of effort into Swim University. I was diversifying my time, but the good news is as I had worked on it so hard before teaming up with him that because of the seasonality of my business, in 2015, the traffic exploded because I had put all that work in place. I took a year break while I was doing the podcast. In 2015, it was booming. I started working on it exclusively and started selling sponsorships, started growing my email list, going insane with it. I broke $100,000 that year. That was it. In 2015, I ended up moving from Jersey to Colorado.
I’m curious about the whiteboard because it seems like that has been your projection. It’s in your office. You see it every day. For me, I’m a big believer in visualization. How much do you think it influenced your ability to get there? Do you have that boulder woo-woo idea about it?
The whole idea of out of sight, out of mind is very real. I have post-it notes, but at a certain point, post-it notes become blind to them. I constantly change up the visualization and I don’t like to overcrowd it. It’s been a long time since I’ve had a legit goal. I had a goal to buy this house. With that, I didn’t use a whiteboard. I used Mint as my visualization and I had a thing in a sauna where it would pop up a daily task every day to go in and check Mint. Every week I was looking at my money and that was my overarching goal. I was like, “Buy a house.” I certainly believe in whatever you want to call it, but having something top of mind to remind you that what it is that you’re working towards. That could be for any type of goal.
The affirmations, visualizations, all that stuff is so big. I know how Hal Elrod talks about that in Miracle Morning. I’ve been doing The Miracle Morning since 2017.
I interviewed him a long time ago. It had to be our first year. It was 2014.
Hal Elrod is a baller. That book changed my life and the affirmations, the visualizations, I do five minutes of each every day and it changes your life. It does.
I want to ask you about your goals because you were saying you haven’t had a goal in a while. That’s interesting because a lot of people act like goals are the end, all be all. If you don’t have a goal, you’re never going to get anywhere. Your life is happening and you’re blowing in the wind, but I personally don’t love goals. I was curious about that conversation for a second because I imagine Craig’s full-on goals. He got his daily, weekly, monthly goals.
I don’t know how long you’ve been doing this, but I learned that goals can be motivating and equally disappointing, especially when they’re related to numbers. I don’t know what would have happened if I got to $100,000 or if I didn’t get to $100,000, what my next year would have been like. There are so many texts out there of what could be in its place of goals. I have these overarching mental ideas that I want to not even achieve but become. I’m trying to give you an example. I wanted a house, but there was no deadline for it. It wasn’t like I wanted a house and I wanted a car. I want this, I want that. It’s like, “I need to be a millionaire when I get to whatever.”
Here I am saying that, like I used to do that. Don’t get me wrong. Nowadays, it’s more like, “I want this feeling.” This maybe sound like border woo-woo, but it’s not. My goal in 2021 is generosity and creativity. If I can spend every single day of my life doing something generous for someone else or a group of people and doing that creatively, I feel like it pays off in a way that you can’t quantify. Yet, at the same time, I have my individual small little things that I work on in my business.
I’m working on increasing the conversion rate of my sales funnel, but I don’t have a number to increase it to. I have a, “I want to make it better.” I don’t have this hard and fast rule. It’s like weight loss. If I wake up every day and weigh myself, I would feel disappointed after eating a salty snack because I’d wake up and I’m three pounds heavier. I’m like, “Fuck this goal. I’m out.” It’s so disheartening to always have something that’s based on hard numbers. It changes. In the beginning, you need stuff like that. Over time, it starts to become another reason other than the number.
I’ve got a question for you. Let’s use the example of Swim University. You’re trying to increase your conversion rate. How do you know when you’re there?
You are better.
Better could be 0.1%. Is that satisfactory to you? There has to be some satisfactory number.
No, because anything better is better. There is no better than. What happens if my goal is a full percent, but I can’t get it there? I will feel like a failure even though I got it to 0.9%. It’s like, “That was hard to do and you are not giving yourself any credit because you need it because you in your own mind created your own dumb goal of being at a full percent.” It’s arbitrary and it means nothing. It’s based on zero points of reality.
To me, $100,000 was rich. That is a stupid arbitrary number for nobody except for me and it was emotionally based because I lived in South Jersey. People didn’t make a lot of money which I grew up around. For me, $100,000 is like I’m the king of the world. Truthfully, you are. If you look at happiness, $70,000 as the annual in the United States. Making anything over $70,000 is you’ve achieved it. I’m sure that number has gone up. It’s going to go up every year. To me, that was the real number to get over. If I’m between $70,000 and $100,000, I win no matter what. I have to not feel shitty for not hitting the $100,000.
You and Grant Cardone should go head to head on your tip of 10 X stuff.
I don’t want to go die in any capacity.
I’m a pretty big goal setter and I do try to reach for it. It feels damn good when I hit it and if I get pretty damn close, I’m not upset. I got pretty damn close and it was a stretch goal. Everyone’s got their different way of thinking and that’s what makes the world go round.
This is coming from a person who said I had a goal of reaching out. I did have numbers. I’m saying now I don’t. I also stopped paying attention to other people for the most part. I live at my own pace.
What are some of your passive income streams?If you can spend every single day of your life doing something generous for someone else and doing that creatively, the universe will pay off in a way that you can't quantify. Click To Tweet
There is no passive income in my life.
I thought you had mentioned earlier that you were financially independent.
I am, but there is no such thing as passive income. Everything requires maintenance. There is nothing that comes for free all the time. There is some maintenance to it. My income streams are my condo in New Jersey. I’m able to at least make some money off of that. It’s not passive. We had black mold in there, so I got phone calls and I’m setting up things. I’m not the property manager, but I’m still thinking about that constantly. I have Swim University, which makes money through digital product sales and affiliate marketing.
I have a site called Brew Cabin, which is a homebrewing website. That also makes money through affiliate marketing. I’m working on a course. I have a site called MoneyLab.co, where I have a community that I run and 6 or 7 digital video courses, all-around SEO and how-to editorial calendars and media company stuff. All of those things are definitely not passive. They may feel that way, but I work on all of them and that’s my entire business. I have a lifestyle business. I get to do what I want to when I want to, which is nice.
That’s the dream. That’s retirement. It’s having the lifestyle businesses. I have to ask. It sounds like a lot of your businesses aren’t super synergistic with each other. You’ve got the swimming company, the brewing company and the money company, which are different industries. Help me find similarities.
There’s chemistry in all of it. They’re all home-based businesses. You have a pool at your house. It’s called homebrewing and Money Lab is about working from home for the most part or working for yourself. All of the websites are based off of the same. They all have a similar design aesthetic, they all have a similar content schedule and they all have similar products, which are digital online video courses. I made them this way.
They are in very different industries, but the business model is exactly the same for all three. The reason that is because I had to get very clear a long time ago what it is that I do for a living. What is my actual job? I have a company called Ace Media and I only named it that because it was super generic and I’m like, “What is Ace Media and what does it do?” It creates digital education. It doesn’t matter what industry it’s in. I can create that and build a brand during that.
You’ve got the platform. The formula is buff and duplicate. I suspect if someone came up to you and they’re doing professional underwater basket weaving, you have them leverage your platform and sell a course on that.
This is exactly what Money Lab is. I had a coffee website that I had sold, which was based on the same thing. My homebrewing website, my swimming pool website, Listen Money Matters, I’ve done all these things. Every single thing that I’ve done and failed at or things that I’ve done and succeeded at became by products that I sell on Money Lab. We turned it into a membership where you can learn the exact same thing that I did to get to where I am now, but hopefully much faster. Learn from my mistakes.
Let’s zoom to the future. Where to now? You consider yourself financially independent. Earlier, we were talking a little bit about your idea of getting into real estate a little non-traditionally, but where do you want to go if you don’t have the real need to make that much money?
I achieved it, whatever it was. I’m here and I have it. I didn’t win life because life is hard, but I’ve reached a level of comfort. I was talking about this with Steph, who I live with, and we were saying that not having the reason to be scrappy or the reason to want to fight to get to whatever, it’s tough. My goal in life is to make sure that everyone I love is also taken care of because I’ve reached it and now, I can give it to them because I have more than I need. It’s a generosity cloud that I want to dump on everybody. I don’t know if they want it. They don’t have to have it, but making sure everyone is safe. It’s trying to make other people around me happy. That’s my goal. I don’t have a number.
You’ve achieved it. There are no longer these goals and numbers that can stress you out. You have a lifestyle business. You want zero stress from your lifestyle business. The only reason you’re doing what you’re doing is probably to find some sense of fulfillment because if you were to sit around and sit on the couch and watch Desperate Housewives all day.
My thing is creativity, and this is the whole theme for all the years that I have left on this Earth. One of the biggest life financial goals was to own a house and I called this the house that I want to die in. I felt that was romantic, but like, “I got it. Here I am.” I’m trying to get my parents to move out here and get them set up. I built a brewery in my house. I can do my hobby at any given time of the day, whenever I want to. It wasn’t like that. I wanted to build a big media company where I had multiple employees. I tried to do that. I realized that I don’t like working with other people and managing other people. I like being creative. I like being the person who produces these pieces of media.
Thinking about it and I’m like, “I need to hire Matt for stuff.” I love that you’re talking about this because I think that a lot of people put all their energy towards getting to FI and then they don’t realize that there is this conundrum that happens once you’re there. I call it the Dharma problem. It’s getting to the place of now having to figure out how to make yourself happy because you were spending all your energy getting to this problem and it’s not there anymore.
Your purpose in life has been fulfilled. That’s another reason why I had goals because I tend to achieve them because I work. I will sacrifice myself and my body to get whatever I have to do. At the end of it, I’m a terrible celebrator of achievements. I may get somewhere and I’m like, “What’s next? Come on with the next thing because otherwise, I’m bored.” I have to have this big unattainable, not unattainable as a goal. It’s not getting to Mars, but unattainable and it’s more emotional-based as opposed to financial-based or number-based.
We were talking about how you were saying like, “I want to buy these houses to park some money in so that I can either get tax benefits or have a place that maybe feels stable to keep my money.” I was wondering if you were thinking about it in this lifestyle investing way of saying like, “Why not buy a house that does some cashflow that you can give to people?”
For example, I bought a quad and I bought it for my nephews because they’re going to start going to school. That’s going to cost money. Later, they can sell it for their college tuition, but I’m going like, “What if it throws off $1,000 a month in cashflow? I can give that to them and it can be in a fund that’s tax-deductible.” Have you thought about that sort of thing?
Yes. When I’m thinking about buying houses, it’s for family and friends. I don’t want to be a landlord. I already am one and I very much dislike it. The reason I dislike it is because I’m so much more valuable as a person who sits behind a computer and makes a stupid YouTube video about homebrewing. That’s where I’m valuable. That’s what my skillset is.
Fixing black mold in a condo, no, I’m not good at that. To get where I am now with my digital media business, I would have to own 10 to 20 properties and do all that work myself. It’s not a skillset of mine. It’s not about is real estate a good idea, all that stuff. I do think it’s a good idea for that person with that skillset. I am a landlord, technically.
We should switch to the last four questions of the show. Question number one. What are you reading?
I stopped reading books years ago.
You’re the anti-Craig. Craig, are you squirming in your chair?
Matt enlightened me because when he said if he doesn’t like to do it, he doesn’t do it. That’s his lifestyle. If you don’t like to read, then don’t read. That’s the glorified part about FI.
One, I don’t like to read. I find it incredibly boring, but two, I also found myself constantly pivoting my wants and needs because I would read the book of the flavor of the week. I’d be like reading the book and going like, “That’s a great idea.” My brain would run and do it. All of a sudden, I’m left with like, “There are so many things I could be doing. All my business is screwed because this guy told me to do this. Then this book told me to do that. This is a great idea, so I’m going to implement that.” I decided to go on an information diet and I happen to not like to read fiction books because it takes way too long. If it sucks, I’m going to be angry. I go watch a movie in two hours and go that sucked, but it’s only two hours of my life.
The second question is, what is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
The best piece of advice I ever received is probably from Arland Crouch. This is something I wrote down many years ago and I always forget it and then I remember it. One, do what you love and the money will take care of itself and I’m paraphrasing to death. The other one is how do you eat an elephant.
One small bite at a time.
My dad taught me that very early on when I was still living with him and I was working on Swim University as a quick aside. I wanted to do a video, my first video for Swim University. I wanted this huge intro for the video. It was a first-person and it was a guy and he was running or a kid and he was running and jumping off the diving board and going into a pool and then the bubbles would come up and it would spell Swim University.
I’m like, “I have to go get a GoPro. I have to hire a kid to come out to the house. We have to get an in-ground pool.” He said to me, “First of all, no one wants that. You can achieve that later in life, but you can’t sit here and try to do this big audacious project all in one sitting. You have to take one bite at a time and you have to do things in incremental.”
That’s the whole point of like, “I’m not going to succeed in paying off my credit card debt tomorrow if I’m $10,000 in debt. I have to put little tiny actions over time consistently.” That’s probably why I also don’t have goals is because to me, that’s much more is they are goals. They’re little micro goals. Every day to do one thing to make somebody happy or put out a piece of content or make a video or whatever that little thing is. It compounds over time.
Goal setting to the now, which is what they call in The ONE Thing, which is a book.
I did read that. I’ve probably read all the same books. I probably read them all. When I say I’m an information diet, I was reading 60 books a year and they were all in this The ONE Thing, The Big Leap, the Getting Things Done, I Will Teach You To Be Rich, all that self-help stuff. The Mark Manson stuff. All the flavors of what we do. I feel like I read it all.
Question number three. What is your why?
This idea of I want to be a beacon of happiness for others. I don’t necessarily need to be that myself. Although it turns out that when I am helping others, I am also happy. Not even helping, but being a clown or entertaining somebody or making someone’s day at any point or helping somebody financially or whatever it is. The whole point of what I am trying to do in life is making things easy for people and make life better for other people. If I do one small thing a day to make that happen for someone or a group of people, I feel like I’ve done my “job” for the day. I do sound woo-woo.
I’ve been waiting to ask this question because it’s a pretty hard one and I’ve been stumbling over it, but I think you can handle it. What two normal things become weird if you do them back to back?
Eating a banana and eating pickled red onions are both normal things, but when you put them on a sandwich is very strange. I know that’s not a good answer, but I’m trying to give myself an analogy to put myself in a different direction. I have this term that I tried to coin a long time ago and I was very unsuccessful at it and I called it passion mashing only because it rhymes. The whole idea was in my businesses in general or in my life. I try to take two things that I’m good at and put them together, even though they shouldn’t go together.
When you do that, you create something that’s completely unique because who the hell would have done that? In my case, I’m not a genius by any means, but I am a music producer. My dad was a musician, had his recording studio in our house growing up. It’s been something that has been with me my whole life. When I was in high school, my senior year, these kids were making this rap CD. They had this one rap song that they did. They were selling it for $1 in the hallways of the school. As a producer and a music lover, not necessarily rap, but I knew how to do it, I thought it would be funny to create a rap song, dissing them. A diss track because this is during Eastside, Westside Detroit rap battles.
I thought it’d be funny. I came out with a song, a diss track, the next week and they were crazy offended by it. The whole reason I bring this up is because then we ended up making an entire album and they had to come to me and say like, “I know you did this. You pulled this out of your ass, but we’re trying to make a career out of this.” I was like, “I didn’t know you guys were trying to be rappers because I was trying to have fun.” I ended up taking that skillset many years later and my knowledge of swimming pools and my website Swim University and I made at the time. I’m like, “What are two things that I’m good at?”
I put them together and I made a rap song about how to take care of your pool. I put it out on YouTube and honestly, it one of the biggest turning points in my business because everyone in the industry loved it and was sharing it. It got me a ton of back links to my website, which I hadn’t built prior to. All of a sudden, I realized, “If I take two skills or two different things that I’m good at and put them together, something magical could come out.” For me, it’s music and whatever weird hobby I’m into.
Do you remember the rap?
I don’t remember it. I thought I could remember it. If you Google pool care rap or pool rap, you’ll find it. It’s a whole music video and everything. There is a girl in it. I did a video all in one day. That was weird because again, I was talking to my dad and I was like, “I got to rent a boat and I’m going to be on a boat. There’s me a bunch of people and it’s going to be this huge rap video.” My dad’s like, “You have one day and you don’t have a camera and you don’t have enough money to buy a boat or rent a boat even.” I went into my friend’s backyard and grabbed my other friend, gave him a camera and filmed everything in one day and then I spent the next day editing it and then put it out. I tried to get myself two days to do it. It worked.
I’m still looking at your channel, Swim University, and you’re getting hundreds of thousands of views.
We’ve had it for a long time, but we doubled down on it. The crazy one is my homebrewing channel, which I launched in November 2021, there are only two videos on the channel and it’s got 3,000 subscribers because I put so much effort into both of those videos. They both have their own music videos buried inside those videos, the original songs that I had written. I can’t sing. I usually hire singers to sing the parts, but I do all the other instrumentation and arranging and stuff.
Where can people find out more about you?
The best place is MoneyLab.co. That’s where I live on the internet and you can follow me on Twitter @MattGiovanisci and that’s the two places I spend most of my time. If you’re interested in any of the business side of things, even the money side of stuff. I do have an article that I recommend for anybody who’s interested in this stuff. Even Mr. Money Mustache and Carl, Mr. 1500, all of these people recommend this article and it’s called The Lifestyle Business Manifesto, which you could go to MoneyLab.co/lifestyle-business. It’s there. It starts a little dark, but then it ends on a hopeful note.
It’s been awesome having you on the show.
I appreciate it.
Very high energy and knocked the hard questions out of the park.
That was Matt Giovanisci. What did you think of Matt?
Matt is a personal friend of mine. It was sweet to hear more of his story and see him on the show. I also appreciate people that think out of the box. I love that he is making money in a lot of creative ways and has found his niche of what he’s good at. He has replicated that. I thought that was smart. I also loved a couple of the little pieces in there where he is talking about finding his happiness and how that’s changed and being generous and creative every day. I resonate with not having such hard and fast goals and maybe going more off of an intention and a feeling in your life. I thought there was a lot of good.
I’m a very big goal-setter, but he did have me thinking when we do hit the point of like, “We have everything we need.” You have to admire he knows when enough is enough and he has enough. If one of his businesses starts to stress him out and he doesn’t like it, I guarantee you. He would shut it down. He has the ability to do that. It’s funny because it seems like he’s got this skill of building media companies.
He has an interest in something different and meshes the two together, whether it’s pools, brewing or money or whatever it is. It’s cool. I admire that. If you like this episode, please leave us a review, rating, comment or like, whatever you can do to help the show out. We try to look at all the comments, so we can get better. We can help provide everybody with awesome episodes going forward.
- Matt Giovanisci
- Mr. Money Mustache
- Listen Money Matters
- The Simple Dollar
- I Will Teach You To Be Rich
- Swim University
- YouTube – Swim University
- Miracle Morning
- Brew Cabin
- The ONE Thing
- The Big Leap
- Getting Things Done
- @MattGiovanisci – Twitter