ITF 40 | Financial Independence

 

People who start getting into real estate usually do so after learning about FI. It was the other way around for Mindy Jensen. She first heard about FI from her husband, Carl, but she had been doing live-in flips before she even met him. Now, she’s a community manager on BiggerPockets and the co-host of the BiggerPockets Money podcast.

In the previous episode, Carl revealed how he and his wife worked together to achieve FI. Tune in this week for Mindy’s side of the story—cute anecdotes about her husband and their kids, the trajectory of her career, and some insightful tips on real estate and personal finance.

Listen to the podcast here


 

Rocking The FI Game With The One & Only Mindy Jensen

I’m here with my co-host, Zeona McIntyre, Z-Money. That one is sick, Z. That’s your new name. How are you doing?

I love it. I am doing fantastic. I’m ready to go ride my bike in the sunshine. It’s going to be a great one.

It’s that time of year where you can ride your bike and it’s still sunny at 6:00 PM. Hello to Colorado. We have an awesome guest, my Denver mom, or you may also know her as a co-host on The BiggerPockets Money Podcast, Mindy Jensen, AKA Mrs. 1500. She’s got a cool story. It’s funny how she was investing in real estate before she even knew about financial independence. Her husband told her about financial dependence and she’s like, “I could do this real estate thing.” Now they’re financially independent.

I love that we heard Carl’s story in the previous episode. If you didn’t read the previous episode, go back to that episode. You can piece the nuggets together learning from both sides.

You can learn about both perspectives. It’s a funhouse to be in. They’re a super fun couple. If you haven’t checked out their blog and all of that, check it out. Carl has some great content as well. Let’s get Mindy on the show.

Mindy Jensen, the one and only, welcome to the show. How are you doing?

I’m not feeling any pressure at all with a welcome like that. I’m doing well. Craig, it is always lovely to see you. Zeona, it is always even lovelier to see you because you do not have that mustache. You have a beautiful un-besmirched face.

She’s growing the stache. When was the last time you shaved your stache, Zeona?

I need something to twist when I’m thinking of evil plans.

Some people don’t know but I call Mindy my Denver mom because she’s older than me and takes care of me when I’m home.

I am significantly older than you. I could be your mom and not even your teen mom. I love you. I want to make sure that you don’t mess up. I took you under my wing.

I appreciate you. You wash my jacket too, which is always appreciated. Let’s talk financial independence. Mindy, how did you hear about financial dependence? Where did you get started?

Those are two different questions. How did I hear about it? My husband had spent a horrible week at work with some weird bugs that could kill people because the software that he wrote gave people a unit of blood when they went in for blood transfusions or surgery or whatever.

He didn’t create COVID.

Renting is like throwing your money away. Click To Tweet

With a team, he wrote software that would choose a unit of blood that would be compatible with your own body, which is not super easy. There was a bug in the code and it could kill you and that was a little bit stressful for him. I’m sure you heard his story. Did he tell you about that?

He did tell us that he’s highly stressed.

He comes running downstairs and he’s like, “I read this website called Mr. Money Mustache. He says we can retire early.” I’m like, “Quit your job today. You’re stressed out. We have enough money to get us to the next thing. Quit. Stop. You’re stressed out.” He’s like, “I want to start a blog about it.” I’m like, “That’s a stupid idea. You can quit your job but starting a blog is dumb.”

Supportive.

That was because I had started a blog. Maybe a year before that, I wrote exactly one article. I can’t even remember what it’s called. I’m sure it’s not even up anymore but it was one of those free blog things. I then lost interest. I thought he would be the same. Now, over 1,500 articles in, he’s still kicking. I don’t know how many he has but that number comes up in our lives a lot so I’ll throw that out there. How did I discover it? It was through my husband. I’ve always been frugal. It was no big change when we decided to pursue financial independence. I’m like, “I’m going to continue to not spend a lot of money.” It was no big deal. Does that make sense?

Yeah. It sounds like frugalness was in your life inherently already. You guys weren’t super extravagant. Carl is making good money. That was the impetus that was like, “We’re going to go down this path.” Carl immediately said he wants to start a blog and you said that was stupid. What do you start a blog about? At that point, you’re nobody.

He was going to start his blog about his journey to financial independence because there was only one other one on the internet and it was called Mr. Money Mustache. He was going to do it too. This was 2013 or maybe 2012. There were more blogs. He didn’t know that they were there. Later, he said, “If I had known how many personal finance blogs were out there, I’d never have started mine.”

What was the blog that he created? What was the name? How’d you come up with that and all that? That’s a fun story too.

The blog is called 1500Days.com. Because he is a spreadsheet nerd like everybody else, he calculated that it would take him approximately 1,500 days to reach financial independence. He ran his 4% rule. His FI number was $1 million like everybody else. He ran the numbers and said, “It will take me about 1,500 days to get to this point.” That’s where the name came from.

You mentioned the 4% rule. Can you articulate that real quick to everybody who may not know?

The 4% Rule is a fascinating article written by Bill Bengen in 1994. He went back to the beginning of the history of the stock market and ran numbers for years and said, “What is the minimum amount that I can withdraw from my nest egg and still have enough money to last me for 30 years?” This was back when people were retiring when they were 65. Ideally, he wanted them to live until 95 and still have money to do so.

He said, “If you withdraw 4% the first year and adjust for inflation each year, you should be able to have enough money to last you 30 years.” We talked to Bill Bengen on our podcast called The BiggerPockets Money. He was fascinating to talk to. He’s gone on further and said that 4% is the lowest. You could probably do 6% or 7% and that’ll be okay too.

Financial Independence: The 4% rule is that if you withdraw 4% the first year and adjust for inflation each year, you should have enough money to last 30 years.

ITF 40 | Financial Independence
Financial Independence: The 4% rule is that if you withdraw 4% the first year and adjust for inflation each year, you should have enough money to last 30 years.

 

Michael Kitces has extrapolated that data even further in some mind-boggling spreadsheets. He ran them and said, “There’s one year where if you would have retired, you would have run out of money by year 30. Every other year, you either have the same, slightly less, maybe a whole lot more.” The 4% rule is something that is a pretty fascinating study. Long story longer, it says that if you take 4% of your nest egg, you should have 30 years’ worth of spending.

I love that you knew who the original person was. I thought, “Mr. Money Mustache has a great article on that and that’s what you’re going to say.” It’s like, “No. Mindy knows the real deal.”

The article is unbelievable. It’s interesting if you’re a big-money nerd.

What I wanted to say about that is that in the Choose FI book, they said that the number one blog post that has changed people’s lives that had come on that show was The 4% Rule blog posts that Mr. Money Mustache did. It’s explaining that same concept. I love that you’re saying that that’s conservative. I hear a lot of FI people say, “I’m going to do 2% because I’m scared of 4%.” It’s saying, “Chill out.” You can do 6% and 4% is great.

Is that a shockingly simple math article? That’s a great article.

If you haven’t gone to Mr. Money Mustache and you’re into financial independence, you got to go check out Mr. Money Mustache. He’s got an archive of amazing articles. That’s where I got started going to financial independence. He was the second most interesting blog to the 1500 Days one, of course. You’ve got to know your audience. Mindy, you guys got into the whole financial dependence thing. You’re onboard. Starting a blog was your first step. What was your next step after that? What year are we in when you first take that first step?

We’re probably in 2012 when we took that first step. We didn’t start blogging until 2013. Our first one was on January 1st, 2013. We looked at our expenses, “How much are we spending? Can we live on $40,000 a year?” We started tracking it with a notebook and a pen on the countertop as I walked in the door. Carl was working and I was a stay-at-home mom. I would go to the gym every morning. As I drove to the gym and then as I would drive home, I would stop at the grocery store because I had to get one thing for dinner that night. One thing turned into five. The next day, I would go to the gym and stop at the grocery store on the way home, and 1 thing turns into 7.

When I started tracking my spending, I got to the sixth day of the month and I’m like, “Do I go to the grocery store every single day? That’s stupid.” It’s $10, $15, $20. Who cares? Every single day, that adds up a lot. The first thing that I did was start tracking my spending and that was eye-opening. I didn’t try to track it with any guilt, any shame, or anything. It was like, “I wonder where my money is going? To the grocery store, King Soopers, every single day.”

I love that you say that because there’s a big difference between budgeting, which people are scared of. It’s like, “I don’t want to limit myself.” Simply, the act of tracking changes your habits. Looking at it and not saying, “I’m going to do anything different.” Seeing where your money goes is enlightening. That’s a great thing to start people with.

It was huge.

Did you use any tools or anything like that to help your tracking? Would you track all your receipts and download your bank statements? How did you do that?

She said pen and paper. It was a notebook. They’re old school.

It was a spiral-bound notebook that I put on the countertop. The way that the house was set up, I always came in the garage door. I would walk in, put my groceries down, and then write down what I spent. It was simple, super easy, it’s a couple of columns, “Here’s the date, here’s the store that I went to, here’s what I got approximately, and here’s how much I spent with a running total at the bottom.”

With the running total, you’re like, “It’s day fifteenth of the month and I’ve already spent $2,000. I’m only supposed to spend $3,000 in the whole month. How did I spend 2/3 of it in the first half of the month?” It then became a game. It became like, “How little can I spend? I only need one thing at the grocery store. Could I make something else for dinner tonight? How necessary is that one ingredient?”

Find a good real estate agent—someone who doesn't sell you things but gives you information.  Click To Tweet

Nowadays, there are things that you can use like Personal Capital and Mint. I love that you gamified it. Gamifying anything makes things more fun. Usually, gamifying starts with tracking in some way. What’s the game if you can’t keep score? I love that you did that. Were you like, “I want to get it as low as possible.” Were you like, “I want to spend $2,000 a month.” What were your thoughts there?

It was to get it as low as possible. Carl was a software developer. He was making TecPro money. We didn’t have to track and we would still be fine. We wanted to spend less. We wanted to see if we could live within this $40,000 a year window that would make our FI number $1 million. It turns out that if you’re conscious of where you’re spending your money, you can easily live in that $40,000 window.

We had an expensive house, way more expensive than the current house. It was $300,000. Maybe that’s not so expensive years ago. It doesn’t matter. We had an expensive house with a big mortgage payment. We were still able to keep it under $40,000 a year. That told us that if we can get to financial independence and have no mortgage, we would be able to easily live off of less than $40,000 a year and we could have less than $1 million but in case we’re going to go for the $1 million.

You’re in this space now where you’re tracking your spending. Carl is still at his job because he wants to make that money to achieve that financial dependence quicker. It sounds like you took the approach of, “We want the 4% rule.” $1 million net worth or whatever it is. That’s $40,000 a year and you can live off that. I know you guys did a lot of real estate investing-type stuff too. You’re the queen of live-in flips. Do you want to maybe share a little bit about what live-in flips are when you started that journey and maybe just talk through a couple of them?

I started the live-in flip journey before I even met my husband. I had no money and did not want to throw away my money on rent. I had rented a place. When the lease was up, I moved back home with my parents and started looking for a condo. I didn’t know what rip-off condos are and I didn’t have enough money to buy an actual real house. I knew that I didn’t want to pay rent anymore.

I found a condo and I paid $49,900 for it. This was a long time ago. It was shockingly ugly, The Shockingly Simple Math Behind Early Retirement. It’s the shockingly ugly house that started my live-in flipping career. It was mine. I could paint the walls any color I wanted, which I did by going to Sears, which was down the street. They’re like, “We made a mistake when we mixed up this paint.” It’s a $1 section. I got a lot of different colors until I found those that I liked. I mixed them together until I found one that I thought would work and put it on the walls.

What else did you do to that house? Did you do that to the cabinets, counters, and everything, or paint and carpet?

Paint. It had a new carpet before I moved in. It had vinyl or linoleum in the kitchen. We ripped that out and put ceramic tile. The ceramic tile was $0.50 a square foot. It was some stuff that was on clearance. It was plain, old gray. It was nothing offensive. It was super cheap. We put that in. It looked nice. I painted all the walls. I might have put $1,000 into this house.

Did you end up selling it later? What was your story with it?

I met this guy who had a house. He was living in his grandmother’s house. She had passed and he moved in there to finish up school and to work because his parents had moved to Las Vegas. We ended up getting married. That was Carl.

Carl’s like, “What? Who is this person?”

We got married. Since he had a house, I’m like, “I am sick of throwing my money away on this HOA payment that I bought the house.” The next month, the HOA sent out a letter that said, “We need to replace all the boilers. We don’t have any money in our reserve funds. Everybody has to pay a double assessment for the next two years.” I was like, “What? It was $200 a month and now it’s $400 a month? That’s a lot when my mortgage is $400 a month.” I still have great credit but I had a 7% interest rate because that’s what was going on at that time. I thought I was a hot negotiator to get all the way down to 7%. Now you look at that and you’re like, “7%? Do you have a zero credit score?”

I want to highlight a couple of things that you said. First, you said throwing away money on rent. Can you say why you were air quoting that? I want to hear a little bit about your expert opinion.

Financial Independence: If you don’t like the neighborhood you’re in, it’s worth it to lose money just so you can move out. You can lose $13,000 and still be happy as long as you are out of that neighborhood.

ITF 40 | Financial Independence
Financial Independence: If you don’t like the neighborhood you’re in, it’s worth it to lose money just so you can move out. You can lose $13,000 and still be happy as long as you are out of that neighborhood.

 

I was 23 and I didn’t know anything. At the time, I thought it was throwing your money away if you were renting. My rent was $410 and my mortgage payment was $417. I’m growing equity when I make my mortgage payment of $417. I’m giving somebody else $410. Of course, I didn’t take into account that I would then be paying $400 a month in HOA fees because my HOA board didn’t know how to run their finances. When that two-year double assessment ended, we needed to redo the parking lot. We got another two years of double assessments.

That’s the downside to condos. There are these surprise HOA fees and people who care about them all the time. You met this dreamy guy with big blue eyes and a six-pack and all that. You sold your condo is what it sounds like. What did you sell it for?

I was under contract, For Sale By Owner. I thought that was amazing. I thought I had hit the jackpot. He had verbally told me $64,000. When he wrote up the contract, it said $62,000. I was like, “$2,000? You big jerk. I’m not going to do this.” I asked a friend if he knew a real estate agent. I found a wonderful agent, John Hibel. If you’re in the Chicagoland area, he’s delightful.

He listed it and he’s like, “We could get a lot more for that. We’re going to list it at $74,000.” I was like, “This guy could have had $10,000 in equity if he hadn’t tried to steal $2,000 more.” It showed me that there is a little bit of value in using a real estate agent when you’re going to sell your house if you don’t know what it’s worth. Even after I paid the real estate agent, I still made more money than if I wouldn’t have.

Nice plug, Mindy, since we’re all real estate agents here.

I used him again. He is the only real estate agent that I have ever used more than once. I have used a lot of agents. I’ve used him three times and then I moved away. I didn’t stop using him because he turned bad. I stopped using him because he’s not licensed where I was living. He’s a nice guy. He knew his stuff and talks to me like a person. There are some pushy real estate agents out there. Don’t sell me anything. Give me the information. That’s my feeling.

I love that piece of advice in terms of looking for a real estate agent. Maybe I’m biased, but the real estate agent is the most important person in your real estate team. A great real estate agent is going to have good lenders. They’re going to have good contractors. They’ve seen through people and many different houses. If you’ve got an investor-friendly agent, they probably use those contractors themselves. They probably run the numbers themselves.

If there’s one good person on your team, a great real estate agent is going to be great. Anyone on this call is a great real estate agent. It sounds like you made about $25,000 total. With after fees and stuff, it might have been a little bit less. The great thing about this whole live-in flip situation is that you lived there for two years. Were you able to do that tax-free? Did you have to figure that out?

I had called up my attorney. In Illinois, it’s an attorney state. You have an attorney that goes with you and pretty much does nothing. My attorney never did anything. When he was sitting there, he’d be like, “That’s good. You can sign it.” Now title companies do that. This was a long time ago. I called up my attorney and I said, “I need to find another house, a bigger and better house.” He said, “You do.”

This was in 2002. The law changed in 1997. He was not up to date on the laws for five years. That was pretty shocking to me. Carl figured out that we didn’t have to do that. I got to pocket all that money. when I pocketed that, that was a year’s salary for me at the time. I made a year’s salary by owning a house. I went through it once and I did all the math. How much did it cost me to live there every month? I lived there for four years at this elevated price and I sold it. It turns out that it cost me $1,100 to live there, in total.

For over the course of four years, you paid $1,100.

I could deal with that.

Your real estate journey started before your financial independence journey, which is funny. Usually, it works the opposite way. It sounds like you got financial independence in 2012. You were starting your investing stuff in 2002. When you learned about financial independence, when did that click where you were like, “I could use real estate to help me get there.” Did it ever click?

Did it ever click before today?

Being a stay-at-home mom is the toughest job you will ever have. Click To Tweet

We were living in Parker when we discovered all of this. We did not like the neighborhood that we were living in. There was this unwritten rule in the neighborhood, how much money can you outwardly show your spending? You guys have both met me. That is not me at all. Everybody had a newer car than we did except for one girl who had some collectible truck from the ‘50s or something.

Everybody’s car was newer. We had a 2003 and 2010. This was 2012. We had the old cars in the neighborhood. They’re not that old. One wasn’t even ten years old and it looked nice. It’s such a horrible neighborhood to live in because everybody was spendy. I felt judgy. Everybody was spendy and we’re not.

We listed that house three months after we bought it. We looked at each other after living in this house for two weeks and we said, “Do you want to move back to Wisconsin? This is horrible.” We couldn’t sell it because when you buy a house and then list it three months later, it looks like there’s something wrong with it. It was on the market for a year. We finally got it sold and we moved up to Longmont. During that year, we discovered that Colorado has amazing weather where Wisconsin does not. We wanted to stay in Colorado but we didn’t want to stay in that city.

We lost money on that house. We lost $13,000. I even wrote a blog post, Happily Losing $13,000. I wanted out of that neighborhood so badly. Of course, I don’t want to lose $1. I would happily pay $13,000 to get out of that neighborhood. We moved to the next one and discovered that we can make a lot of money in real estate when you live-in flip and buy at the right time.

It’s important that you said that. You lost $13,000 and you were okay with losing that because, frankly, it was an experiment. You were experimenting with Colorado. Sometimes you need to scratch the itch and feel. It’s worth spending money to scratch the itch and see what you like. You’re like, “It’s not Colorado we don’t like. We don’t like this neighborhood. We love Colorado.” You’re able to pick up and move and still be happy.

I would bet that you probably saved more than $13,000 by not living in that neighborhood. There is some influence that you’re going to have. I know you’ve got two daughters that probably make friends in that neighborhood that will want the more expensive toys that their friends have because they want to fit in. You’ll feel bad and you’ll end up paying $13,000 of dolls, cars, or whatever the heck they like. It’s impossible to put a $1 amount on that. I bet you save money when you think of it like that.

That’s a good point. Five-year-old Claire came home from one of the girl’s houses in the neighborhood and she said, “How come she has more toys than I do?” I’m like, “It’s because her dad works every minute of the day and her mom is always ladies-who-lunch. She has a nanny. This is judgy but the reason that she has more toys is that her parents don’t spend time with her. They buy her stuff. We spend a lot of time with you and we don’t buy you that much stuff. You’re going to be a better-adjusted person for it.” Kids don’t want stuff. They want your time.

You move up to Longmont and I feel like that’s when things changed for you. What happened at Longmont?

Financial Independence: Lifestyle creep is so easy to get by. After a tough day at work, you want to get dinner out, which turns into getting dinner out every night. All of a sudden, you’re spending thousands a month on restaurants.

Longmont is also where Mr. Money Mustache lives. It’s this weird little personal finance bubble. There’s a lot of people in this town who either know about Pete and agree with him or have moved here because of him. We moved up here because he’s always talking about what a great town Longmont is. This was years ago. I don’t think he does this anymore but we reached out to him and we’re like, “You’re always talking about how great Longmont is. Would you ever give us a tour of the city?” He’s like, “Sure. Come on up any time. Here’s my phone number. Here’s my address. Here’s my kid’s social security.”

He’s giving so much information to somebody famous at the time. Now he’s even more famous. At the time, he was well-known in the personal finance space. He was open with where he was, which I thought was interesting. We walked around the neighborhood and everybody was super nice. In the park, there was one woman on the phone and everybody else was playing with their kids. The woman that was on the phone was like, “Mom, I’ve got to go. I’m at the park.” She was actively trying to get off the phone. Whereas in Parker, all the moms were like, “Go play. This is my time.” They’re on their phones and not paying attention to their kids. I can’t tell the story without feeling super judgy. It’s like, “Why do you have kids if you don’t want to spend time with them?” Play with your kids.

I love Mindy with the mic drop moments. It’s true, money can’t buy your kids’ happiness. Paula Pant says something where it’s like, “There are some things you can’t outsource.” You can’t outsource calling your mom. You can’t outsource spending time with your kids as much as people want to maybe do that. Outsource everything that you can outsource and then you’ve got to do those things like spending time with your kids.

That’s hilarious because Scott Trench once hired a VA and it was $50 for twenty tasks or something. You couldn’t think of all the things that he wanted this guy to do. One of the tasks was, “Call my mom and tell her I’m okay.”

How did his mom react? How do you even know?

His mom told me the story. She thinks it’s hilarious now. She was like, “What?” God says hello. You can’t outsource things like that. He did it more as a joke. Still, it’s hilarious. I wanted to be in a neighborhood that was like that. Now I’m in this personal finance bubble where it’s okay to be frugal. Other people will bring their own meals or alcohol. We have a lot of get-togethers that are like potluck instead of somebody doing all the things. It’s changed my life because I don’t have to worry about, “Is Claire going to ask for more toys or whatever?”

ITF 40 | Financial Independence
Financial Independence: Lifestyle creep is so easy to get by. After a tough day at work, you want to get dinner out, which turns into getting dinner out every night. All of a sudden, you’re spending thousands a month on restaurants.

 

It sounds like you did one big thing, which was to move. Doing that took care of your expenses, helped you in your tracking, and all that. It helped you lower the expense amount, which is the biggest part of that financial independence equation and that was in 2013. You started the blog in about 2012, 2013. Your forecasting 1,500 Days. That’s roughly 4 or 5 years. We’re still a few years away from you hitting financial independence at that point. Were you working at the time? Was Carl working at a time? What were you doing?

I was being a stay-at-home mom, the toughest job you will ever have, Craig. “What were you doing, Mindy?” I’m giving you the hassle because I can. Being a stay-at-home mom can be tough some days. You can do this job in your pajamas. You don’t have to brush your teeth. You don’t have to brush your hair. I was being a stay-at-home mom and I was enjoying my time with my girls. We’d go for walks and go to the park and then they’d take a nap. I wasn’t doing much. I was raising my kids. Please don’t send me emails saying, “Raising your kids is a hard job.” I know it’s a hard job. I did it for eight years. I was being a mom.

That’s fair. It’s no secret that you work at BiggerPockets. It sounds like you are okay not working. Carl was doing the heavy lifting. According to the spreadsheet, you guys would have hit financial independence in 2017. You’re a few years away. You decided to go back to work. Why did you do that?

I have always planned to go back to work when the littlest was in kindergarten. She has a late birthday. She didn’t start kindergarten until she was almost six. My favorite website on the planet was BiggerPockets. I would find reasons to go on there. I’m a stay-at-home mom with an active five-year-old. I don’t need to be spending time on the internet. I would be like, “I wonder if anybody needs to know what I know about real estate. Let me hop on for a minute.”

I would be on there probably way more than Carl knew about, probably an hour or two every day. I would wake up, have my coffee, go through like, “Who needs my information?” It was this place where you could talk about real estate. In real life, I’m starting to make friends who are in real estate. There’s a lot of people who don’t give a frog’s fat butt about real estate. You can’t find anybody to talk to you and your husband’s like, “That’s great.” Your kids are like, “We don’t care, mom.”

Nobody else wants to talk about it. You’re like, “Here’s this place that I can talk about real estate. This is awesome.” I was on the site and I saw that they were looking for a new community manager. It was like, “We need somebody who can do everything Mindy knows how to do.” I’m like, “I’m upset.” This was when she was going into kindergarten. I’m like, “This is the perfect job and it’s not going to be available for me.” I even closed the computer because I was mad.

I went back a few days later. I didn’t even tell Carl about it because it was the perfect job for me and I couldn’t apply because I’m a stay-at-home mom and my daughter isn’t in school yet. Somebody asked, “How long is this job going to be open for?” They’re like, “Until we fill it.” I’m like, “Maybe they would wait for me.” I applied and the stars aligned and they’re like, “You’re perfect for this.” I’m like, “I know.”

I went for an interview with Josh Dorkin. As I’m leaving, he’s whispering to me, “I want to hire you.” I’m like, “Do it. I want you to hire me.” He was going to do the background check, I’m like, “You’re not going to find me anything because I’m boring. Whatever, do your background check and I’ll check it out.” For about a year, we both worked full-time. That was going from one person’s home. One person to do the laundry, do the cleaning, do the cooking, take care of the kids, and do all the things to make the house run.

Now there are two people working and nobody is doing any of that or picking up the pieces. We realize that our life doesn’t work. This is the most snotty thing that I’m going to say in all of these snotty things that I’ve said. We realized that our life doesn’t work when we’re both working. Since we had reached financial independence, maybe a year before that, he said, “I will quit my job.” I didn’t want to quit my job. He hated his job. I loved my job. For about a year, we worked.

You know this about me, Mindy. For a long time, I worked little. I work 10 to 20 hours a week tops. It was great. I was an Airbnb manager. Everything was automated. I didn’t do anything. I could clean the house. I could do all the meals and my partner works. Now that I’m doing more real estate stuff, that house is in shambles. Nobody has any food to eat and life is ending. I’m laughing because I’m like, “If I would’ve asked Mindy, she would have told me I needed to get my crap straight.” I feel you, Mindy. I need a chef and a cleaner.

That’s tough. It’s like, “We don’t have any food.” The lifestyle creep, it’s easy to be like, “I just got home from work. I fought traffic. You had a tough day. Let’s go out to dinner.” “Let’s go out to dinner tonight,” turns into, “Let’s go out to dinner every night.” All of a sudden, you’re like, “How am I spending $1,000 a month at the restaurants?”

It’s this, “We deserve this,” mentality. That is such a bad mentality to have. You got this job with BiggerPockets. At least you were financially independent. I’m sure with both of you working, you were able to save probably your entire salary. That’s another tens of thousands of dollars that you’re saving each year. You’re that much safer when Carl decided to pull the plug, which I suspect was a higher salary than yours if he was an engineer. How did that dynamic work now that Carl is not working and you are?

While he is doing a lot more, I’m still a way better cook. I do not want him doing the laundry because I don’t like the way he folds the towels. We’re rehabbing this house that we live in. He’s doing a lot of that work. I would love for him to relax and stop. We had a conversation where I was like, “Let’s not work on the house anymore.” We had started laying floors and replacing the white carpet that came in the house. We replaced that with LVP. Let’s finish that up and be done. Let’s put trim around the windows so it looks finished and then be done. Let’s not start any more projects. Let’s finish what’s going on and take a break. It does get hectic even now.

He is doing more of the cooking. He does his own laundry, which was weird for a while. It’s like, “You don’t want me to do your laundry.” I’m like, “If I don’t have to do his laundry, I don’t have to fold his laundry. I don’t have to keep up with that part too. It’s okay to let things go.” I’m a control freak. It’s hard for me to let go. I have two full-time jobs. I have two full-time jobs. I’m full-time at BiggerPockets. I have a full-time real estate agent job with all of this craziness that’s going on in the market. I do need to learn to let go a little bit. What was your question?

Track your spending. It's really eye-opening to see where your money goes when you're not paying attention. Click To Tweet

I always like hearing you talk. I don’t even know what I asked. I asked you how that dynamic works now with Carl staying at home and going to work every day. Maybe the readers especially, if you’re a parent or going to be parents, how does that dynamic work with COVID and everyone’s at home but you’re financially independent? Does that financial independence with COVID help?

That was helpful because school shut down and it fell on him to be the teacher because I’m working. I don’t know what we would have done if he wasn’t available. If he was working a real job and I was working a real job, how are we going to get our kids taught? Our school did not have online learning. They said, “We’re going to take this week off,” naively. “Let’s take a week off and then it’ll be fine.” It was then Spring Break. After spring break, they said, “Everybody come in on at this time. These last names come in this time. Here is a big stack, there you go.” That was it. “If you need help, you can email me.”

The kid down the street has a school that is teaching online. Online teaching isn’t a good solution. Not teaching at all is a horrible solution. I had to help with homework and Carl had to do the older daughter’s homework because I don’t do that math. I don’t know what math she’s doing but that is not my skillset. He knew how to do it. With the little one, I was trying to teach her how to do it and she didn’t want to learn.

About five minutes before school ended for the year, she told us, “I’ve been giving you guys a hard time. I’m sorry. I don’t feel like I should have to do schoolwork when I’m at home.” I’m like, “I’m sorry that you’re wrong about that. Thanks for the fight over the last three weeks. That was a delight.” If he was working, we would have a much more difficult experience with COVID. It was still difficult with COVID.

I wanted to make sure that point was made. Being financially dependent has almost zero downsides. The only potential downside is that you have to spend a little bit less money on the few years that it takes to get there. With Mindy and Carl, it took you 1,500 days to get there. It’s not a long time. You’ve already been financially independent for more than 1,500 days. You’re still pretty young and you’ve got a whole life ahead of us still being financially independent. Making those short-term sacrifices are worth that long-term gain. Z, anything to add?

Because Mindy came back to work, which might not have been the plan originally, they probably could have retired way earlier. You guys are so creative that you could probably live on your salary forever.

It was always my plan to go back to work after the littlest one was in school. It was also always our plan for me to stay home with the girls until the littlest one was in school. We made financial decisions before we had kids so that I could stay home because I didn’t want to do that. I didn’t want to put them in daycare.

You have what we call FU money. I’m sure you’ve heard that term before. If something changes at BiggerPockets that you don’t like or there’s something in place that you don’t like or if tomorrow you’re like, “I don’t like it anymore.” You can give your two weeks notice and you’d be done in two weeks. God forbid, they’re like, “Mindy, we don’t want you anymore.” It never happened. If it did, you’d still be fine. There is some comfort surrounding that too.

I speak up a lot more at this company than I have ever spoken up at any company. It’s not like there’s a lot of things to speak up about BiggerPockets. I don’t feel any qualms about asking questions. Whereas when you work at another company and you’re dependent on that salary, something crappy happens at work and you’re like, “I’ll take it because I need this job.” Now it’s like, “I’ve got a question. Why this? Here’s a suggestion. Let’s do that instead.”

I bet they love that at BiggerPockets. They’re like, “All these real estate investors are poking back at us.”

All these financially independent people make terrible employees.

A lot of people have left to speak. I’m one of them. I was like, “I hate to say that I’m quitting BiggerPockets because I love it here but I’m graduating.”

“I’m going to be a real estate agent. I want to continue to be a community manager. I like it.”

That’s the choice you get to make. Mindy, we’re going to head over into our Final Four. Before we do, why don’t you give us one last word of wisdom for everyone to learn?

Track your spending. Know where it’s going. I did it on notebook paper. The Waffles on Wednesday couple, WafflesOnWednesday.com. If you search for their mobile spending tracker, they give you a step-by-step on how to make your own customized tracker that you can then put on your phone as an app. You can then track it on the go if you’re busy.

ITF 40 | Financial Independence
Financial Independence: Find a company where you can feel comfortable speaking up and asking questions instead of being in another company where you’re so dependent on that salary that you don’t ask any questions. 

 

Check that out, Waffles on Wednesday. Let’s head into The Final Four.

What are you reading right now?

I have started to take a break and take my own advice that I’ve been giving my husband. I am reading John Grisham. It isn’t enriching my life in any way but he’s such a good author. I’m reading The Guardians by John Grisham. It’s about the death penalty and somebody who’s wrongfully convicted and this charity that’s trying to get his conviction overturned so that he can be exonerated. I’m not learning anything from it.

Financial Independence: Find a company where you can feel comfortable speaking up and asking questions instead of being in another company where you’re so dependent on that salary that you don’t ask any questions.

You’re doing entertainment reading. That’s valid.

You’ve got to take a break sometimes. What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

The best piece of advice about real estate or the best piece of advice in general?

In general. It can be about real estate.

About real estate, don’t fall in love with a house. There are 125 million units of housing in America and you think there’s only one that’s perfect? There’s way more than one that’s perfect. Don’t fall in love with the house is the best piece of real estate advice that I’ve ever gotten. The best piece of advice, in general, I would say is to check your spending. When you’ve got your money figured out, that’s important. How many times have I said it? Check your spending. If you haven’t been tracking your spending, it’s eye-opening to see where your money goes when you’re not paying attention.

Question number three, what is your why?

My girls. I want them to see that you can do anything so I do everything.

Do you feel like they see that?

I do. They don’t like being told no. They don’t like being reprimanded. They see other kids acting in a way that they know that they’re not allowed to act. They’re like, “Mom, I’m glad you do this. I’m glad you teach us to be well-behaved.” They see me being a real estate agent. Claire doesn’t want to go to college. She wants to get a real estate license. I’m like, “Come on. I’ll have you be my showing assistant.”

The Jensen team. Last question, if you were to die and you found out that everyone gets a 12×12 square foot place to stay in alone for entire eternity without being able to influence the living world, what 12×12-foot square would you choose?

Can it move? I would want to go snowboarding or lay on a beach or something.

You could lay on a beach on a 12×12.

If you’re working hard full-time jobs, learn how to let go just a little bit. Click To Tweet

I’m going to be on a beach in a 12×12. I do like San Diego quite a bit. It’s one of our most favorite places to visit. I’ll stay on a beach in San Diego. Mission Beach and Pacific Beach, they’re all the same. They’re all beach. It’s right by the octopus. If you’re in San Diego, you know what I’m talking about.

If you’re reading this 100 years from now, check out Pacific Beach and try to find Mindy.

I love that you’ve given me 100 years.

Where can people find out more about you, Mindy?

I am all over BiggerPockets.com. I am on all the social media, @MindyAtBP. I like Twitter best. I don’t do anything with TikTok.

No dancing?

No dancing.

Mindy, thanks so much again for coming to the show. I appreciate you taking the time. We’ll have to come over for Thanksgiving sometime soon.

Yes. I used to do Thanksgiving every year and then COVID was like, “Nope.” We did it all by ourselves. I would love to have you again for Thanksgiving, Craig.

Count on us being there.

Zeona, are you going to be here?

Probably not. I’ll probably be back in Hawaii. Craig and I met at one of your famous potlucks, so when they’re back rolling, we’ll be there.

I look forward to seeing you guys. Thank you for having me.

See you, Mindy.

That was Mindy Jensen. Z, what do you think of Mindy?

I loved it. It’s fun because we know her. There are lots of jokes and good times to be had. I also love her financial independence advice. She’s a pro. She’s on The BiggerPockets Money podcast. All they talk about all day is financial independence and money advice. It’s great to hear her story and hear how it’s easy to be financially independent and how much it can add to your life.

I remember when I first met Mindy back in 2017 when I was working at BiggerPockets. She was nice, warm, and welcoming. I also knew of Mr. and Mrs. 1,500. At the time, they were anonymous. They didn’t know that I knew who they were. I was like, “That’s Mindy’s voice. I know that voice.” I remember looking up their blog, they display their net worth on their blog. I was like, “Mindy is such a badass. She has $2 million. She’s sitting there chilling and you never know it.” I love Mindy and Carl. They’re such a fun couple. They’re fun people to aspire to be like.

I agree.

It sounds like you want to get on your bike ride here. I’m going to let you go on your ride. Thank you all for reading. Please, if you could leave a rating, review, or all that stuff, we look at all that and that’s what we use to make the show better. Thank you so much for reading. We’ll see you all next episode.

 

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About Mindy Jensen

ITF 40 | Financial IndependenceMindy Jensen has been investing in real estate since 1996, and is a licensed agent in Colorado. She loves helping first-time home buyers find that perfect house – she loves looking at houses, and they will keep looking until they find THE ONE.

Mindy loves walking first-time home sellers through the process, happily answering any question that comes up.

She has been in her clients’ shoes many times, so she knows what they are going through As an investor, Mindy has the experience to help analyze deals.