ITF 63 | Zero Debt

 

Determined to rid himself of $174,000 in mortgage and consumer debt, Brad Long switched back and forth between being a musician and having a corporate sales job. Now, he remains debt free, and he helps 6 and 7-figure corporate employees and entrepreneurs organize their finances and eradicate debt.

In this episode, Brad looks back on his “financial awakening” and how he paid off nearly $50k of his debt in 2.5 years. He shares his strategy for saving money and weighs in on the different ways people can invest and achieve FI. He also offers advice as a content creator.

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Get Your Finances Straight With Zero Debt Coach Brad Long

Zee, How are you doing?

I’m good. Should we talk about our big exciting news?

We have some big exciting news.

We are changing the name, the look and the feel of the show but it’s the same people you know and love. It’s going to be Craig and me here every week but we wanted to find something that would attract a wider audience. We have changed the name to Invest2FI.

Nothing is going to change. When you read our blog, you are not even going to notice we changed our name, except the intro and outro might be a little bit different. We are going to say different things but it’s going to be Zee and me still. We are still going to have guests. We are still going to be having all the fun that we are having. Originally, this show was put on by my buddy Nick and me. We were on the same real estate team. The purpose of the show is to educate people more and more on real estate and what The FI Team does.

However, it has transformed and evolved a little bit more into hearing about people’s financial independence journeys and a lot of it is investing in financial independence. We thought, “What a great name. We can call it like Invest2FI, make up our own word, and be all cute and fun.” Share it with your friends. Spread the word and love. Let us know what you think, too. We thought long and hard of this name, and we came up with a good one. Anything else you want to add, Zee?

We should bring on our guest. This is Brad Long. He is the Zero Debt Coach and he brought a good conversation. I feel like we had some parts that we bonded on, and then other things that were a little bit different and edgy. It’s nice to have, every once in a while, a good conversation about financial independence and all the different ways people get there.

This is not a real estate show. He bought and sold a condo once but that was it. This is more on, “What is your journey to financial independence?” He talks a lot about the defensive side, budgeting, how to make more money at your job, and what it’s like to quit your job. You think you are financially independent and then be like, “I’m not financially independent anymore,” and maybe go back to a job and what that’s like. There’s good stuff in this episode. Make sure to read until the end. We have a funny last question for him. Let’s bring Brad on.

Brad Long, welcome to the show. How are you doing?

I’m doing well. I’m excited to be here. Thank you so much for having me.

We are super excited to know your story and your journey through financial independence. Like we always do, let’s kick it off with, how did you first hear about financial independence?

Having a paid-off house is an incredible experience. It’s this feeling of saying, 'Nobody can take this away from me, whatever happens in my life.' Click To Tweet

I first heard about financial independence after I had eliminated all of my debt. I started this journey in 2004. I had a major crash and burn. I had $174,000 worth of debt, both mortgage and consumer debt. That was back from the time when I had discovered Dave Ramsey and got on his plan. I’ve got super motivated. That was the first financial awakening. It’s what I like to call it.

I’m getting my finances organized, getting on a budget, learning how to track expenses, learning how to plan, and learning how to think about money. I was able to pay off every last penny of that $174,000 in two and a half years. It wasn’t probably until after I had been out of debt a couple of years that I discovered Vicki Robin, Your Money or Your Life, Mr. Money Mustache, and a couple of those behemoths in this space.

I’m curious about the mortgage and consumer debt because, when I think about mortgage debt, I don’t think that it’s bad. I know Dave has a different idea and he is like, “No debt at all.” Do you feel like maybe some of that time was misled or wasted paying down the mortgage part? The consumer debt, I totally get.

The name of my platform is Zero Debt Coach. I’m one of those guys that hates all that. I didn’t pay the mortgage debt down. I sold the condo that I owned because I was making a transition from being the first of many times, from a corporate software salesperson to being a contract musician in that period of my life. I wanted completely out of debt. I wanted location freedom and I didn’t want to be tied down. It was strategic. The hardest part of that was paying off the $43,000 worth of consumer debt and the processes involved with that. Once I’ve got to the end of that part of the journey, that’s when I put the condo on the market for the third time and finally sold it.

It sounds like you were addicted to paying off debt and you had your $33,000 debt paid down. You were like, “That’s not enough. I need to pay it all up.” Was that what it was like?

That’s absolutely accurate. For me and for a lot of my students that I coach, you get the best result in this process when you have this overarching why. The overarching why for me is I remember very vividly the flashbulb moment of standing at my kitchen counter, logging into my computer, seeing my anemic bank balance, and realizing that I had come to the end of a home equity line of credit. I was at the end of my rope with anxiety and depression. I couldn’t sleep and I was like, “No more.” That was a flashbulb moment for me that defined my why. Once I’ve got into the process, embodied it, learned how to budget and expense-track, and figured this thing out, I was totally addicted to it.

A lot of our readers probably do have a debt, whether it’s a credit card, student loan or even mortgage debt. We say, “I will keep your mortgage debt because we love real estate.” How did you pay off even the $33,000 of consumer debt in such a short time?

I had left my corporate job back in 2001, which was the beginning of my financial catastrophe because I had taken out a home equity line of credit as my emergency fund, thinking that I was going to ramp up my contract music career. I was going to get a lot of contracts. I was pretty well connected. I’m in Atlanta, Georgia. I thought that I was going to be able to get a lot of work and get to a place where my income was at least a living wage. It took a lot longer than I thought it was going to take.

I spent those three years from 2001 to 2004 making up for some of the shortfalls in my income by using that home equity line of credit. I did things like I had a leased car that I used a home equity line of credit to buy out of. I piled on a lot of bad decisions. It was also an amalgamation of a lack of preparedness going into that career change.

It sounds like you had the career change but you used your home equity line of credit to support you through that career change. As you said, you came to the end of your rope. How did you go about, and then go ahead in paying that off?

I’ve got to that flashbulb moment that I was explaining and I said, “I have been in music and sales since I was 15 or 16 years old. Let me keep my music thing as a pretty decently profitable side hustle and I will go back into corporate sales for a while.” In the ensuing weeks after my meltdown, I’ve got my resume together. I’ve got it out there and applied to a couple of software companies. I’ve got two interviews immediately. I’ve got a couple of offers and took one of those jobs.

ITF 63 | Zero Debt
Zero Debt: The next step is really to try to start building some modicum of financial freedom.

 

I was so motivated when I’ve got that software sales job that I quickly became the number one salesperson in the company in my first rookie year. I was totally out of my mind. I was willing to work harder than anybody else because my why was so big. It was the result of that process, that job, and keeping my side hustle. I would work 50 to 60 hours a week during the week on my regular corporate job. Usually, Wednesday through Sunday, I had 1 or 2 music gigs that I would do in the evening. On the weekends, I might have something during the day. I hustled over those three years. That was the way that I was able to pay off that $43,000 with authority.

You left a corporate job where it sounds like you probably were getting paid a normal salary. You left it for a riskier sales job where it’s commission-based. The harder you work and the more deals you close and the more value you provide to your company or yourself, you get paid more. You can pay off that $30,000 of debt a lot quicker. If you see successful salespeople, whether it’s real estate agents, insurance brokers or lenders, you will see that $30,000 probably isn’t that much money to them because they are good at their job and could probably make that in a month. That was from 2004 to 2006. Is that right?

It was the beginning of 2004, and then you never forget the date. The last check that I wrote to my second mortgage company paying off that $43,000 was May 8th, 2007.

That’s interesting timing. That sounds like you’ve got out at the right time on the real estate firm.

It was a condo in Downtown Atlanta. I vividly remember the housing market started to show signs within a month or two after I had closed on that. By fall, the bottom fell out of the whole economy in the housing market. I was already on a cloud and it made me that much more grateful to be out from under all of that.

When you sold, what did you sell at? What do you think it dropped to?

I bought it at $131,000 and I only sold it at $143,000. If I remember correctly, it dropped well below what I paid for it. I bought it in 1999. I lived there for about eight years. It dropped below $120,000.

That’s not even that bad, unlike in California, where people are losing hundreds of thousands. It’s nice that when the stuff has a lower cost, it doesn’t drop as much. It was good timing on your part. From there, when did you hear about Your Money or Your Life and Vicki Robin because you said that came after?

I met my wife in South America as a touring musician. I have worked with a lot of different artists at that point. It was somewhere between 2008 and 2009 when someone turned me on to Vicki Robin. I vividly remember going to the bookstore and buying Your Money or Your Life. It was so cool because I had already gotten what I felt was a firm foundation of financial organization, budgeting, and expense tracking. I was doing great financial planning. I had a huge emergency fund by that point. It was like, “The next step is to try to start building some modicum of financial freedom.” I wasn’t aware of the whole financial independence movement at that point.

I read that book and it hit me like a ton of bricks. It butchers a lot of the things that I had already learned in going through my debt elimination process in terms of looking at the money that I earn as the life energy that I have given away in return for this currency. I loved that whole process that the book walks you through of coming clean and looking at what you have earned over the course of your life and all of those things. It was very soon after that or maybe simultaneously in a sense, that I discovered Mr. Money Mustache. I binge his blog big time.

What year was this? You said 2011.

It was 2008 or 2009.

I think Mr. Money Mustache started his blog in 2011. You read Your Money or Your Life in 2008 and 2009. That was before the remake. She was talking about bonds and going in at 10%. It was at totally different times. You could go invest in a bond at 8% or 10%, as she suggested in the first version of Your Money or Your Life. Did you associate like, “Index fund is a good thing?” It’s because that was before JL Collins wrote his book. There wasn’t as much information out there. How did you know? What did you do?

At that point, I had a pretty small shovel in terms of my income. I went back into music after leaving that incarnation of my corporate sales career. I remember opening up a brokerage account. I opened up a Roth IRA and I was still pretty nascent in my financial independence journey. I hired a financial advisor, which is something that I don’t feel like we need to do essentially. That could be a whole other topic that we can talk about.

The best person to have the control over your assets is yourself. Click To Tweet

I was groping in the dark in a lot of those ways. At that particular chapter, I was listening to my financial advisor in terms of the returns. She was recommending certain mutual funds and possibly a couple of index funds. I would have to go back and look at all that if that was still very generic and more vanilla at that point.

You had mentioned that you had a huge emergency fund. It’s probably because you transferred from quitting your job again and saying like, “I’m going to do music.” What did you save? What do you recommend for people now?

The huge for me at that point was I had a $50,000 emergency fund, and then I was peeling off other earnings to go into my investments at that point. In terms of being a financial coach, I don’t coach exactly the way that Ramsey coaches. I have jettisoned a lot of that system based on what I have learned in the financial independence community in a huge sense. What I recommend for my students is we usually have some baby emergency fund, which he would recommend $1,000. I recommend no less than $3,000 to $5,000 because of what we saw in 2020.

Once they get to that place where they have paid off most or all of their consumer debt, then I recommend 6 months to 1 year as an emergency fund. It’s a personal strategy and personal preference. I have suffered a lot in terms of my own personal finance. I feel and sleep a lot better at night, knowing that I have got a huge buffer of cash. I’m excited to talk about the next couple of chapters of what happened after that.

ITF 63 | Zero Debt
Your Money or Your Life

Are you still completely debt-free, like no debt at all?

Yes.

I want to talk about it because when I started my journey, I was in very low debt, too. There were a few houses that I had that were totally paid off. If somebody doesn’t have a paid-off house, it is an incredible experience. It is this feeling of saying, “Nobody can take this away from me whatever happens in my life because there are hard times.” I now have very leverage. I probably have $1 million of mortgage debt but it is a different feeling. There is something beautiful about that if that’s the type of person that needs that because I don’t want to discredit that.

My wife is very much on the same page. She comes from the Latino culture. Debt is not a huge part of their mindset in that culture, which I appreciate because I didn’t have to have a lot of those conversations as we were getting to know each other in courting and ultimately getting married. We are on the same page. It’s great.

In 2007, 2008, and 2009, you are slowly building your nest egg. You are sending it to a financial advisor because you don’t know what you don’t know at this point. It sounds like you found Mr. Money Mustache relatively early and all of these guys. You were waiting for him to start his blog but not even knowing you were waiting for him to start his blog. What happened after you discovered Mr. Money Mustache and some of these founding fathers?

The 2007 and 2008 crash was what I call my second financial awakening. I started to dig into macroeconomics and know how the monetary system works. I was very interested in what the Federal Reserve was doing in terms of the bank bailouts. It opened my eyes to a lot of things about our financial system that I was completely ignorant of before.

I started following the Mad Fientist, Root of Good, and a lot of those guys. I started to get into other asset classes. I started looking at precious metals, not necessarily as an investment but as central bank insurance. I started getting more educated about traditional markets. Bitcoin and cryptocurrency came on the scene around 2009 and 2010. I started looking into that and educating myself around that as well.

From 2011 to about 2014, my wife and I were doing well. We were doing great with our budgeting. We didn’t have a big shovel because I was still doing music and languaging in that as a career. I was getting tired of it, to be honest. In late 2014, we decided like, “Let me do this corporate thing one more time. I’m a glutton for punishment. Let me go back in.” We were at about $70,000 net worth at that point.

We decided to go back into corporate software sales. It was a great decision financially. Personality-wise, even though I have been in the military and I have done a lot of corporate-type things, I don’t do well in those kinds of environments. Fast forward, because of our budgeting and how disciplined we were, we were able to increase our savings rate and keep our lifestyle creep under control. Over the course of the next five years, from 2015 to 2019, we saved $500,000.

There’s so much to unpack there. The first thing I wanted to ask you is, you left and came back to your corporate sales job. It sounds like at least three times. People think that once you quit your job, you can’t go back. It’s scary to take that leap into financial independence and quit your job. Like what happened to you, your worst-case scenario is you go back to where you originally were. It sounds like you had no issue finding another job. Did employers ask, “Why did you take these three years off?”

Those are always objections. There’s a certain mindset that people that are in those careers, the HR people and hiring managers that they have and still have. I deal with those as though as objections like you would any objection as a business person, salesperson, tell the narrative of the story and what the reasons were. I’m being okay with like, “If that is an acceptable explanation for you, then great. Maybe we can move on to the next step. If it is not, there are many other fish in the sea and I’m going to keep looking.”

What I have heard too is some people say, “Once you are 80% to financial independence, it means you probably have enough runway to get you through a decent amount of time. You may not be financially independent forever but putting yourself against the wall and that pressure on you, will make you hit it a lot faster. The worst-case that happens is you don’t hit it and you go back to where you are now.” I love that mindset to it.

In 2011, 2012, and 2013, you were still in your music job. You were not making a lot of money. In 2014, you went back into the corporate sales and started piling it on men. You mentioned you are increasing your income, decreasing your spending, and investing wisely so you can accumulate $500,000 in 4 or 5 years. Let’s unpack. How did you make more money? How did you save less money? Let’s start there.

Cryptocurrency is a real-time paradigm shift in money. It is the future of money. We’re all going to transact in this space at some point. Click To Tweet

I went from being in a music career where I was probably making about $30,000, $35,000 or $40,000 a year. We were very used to having a pretty constrained lifestyle and still being able to save a little bit. It’s our commitment going into this because I knew that it wasn’t going to be a long-term play for me. I knew that I could get a mid-to-high six-figure salary plus commissions going back into corporate software sales. What we did is we said, “Let’s shoot for $1 million. I’m going to try to stay in for as long as I can. Maybe it’s another ten years. I don’t know.”

We went in with that mindset. Our income went way up but because we had a solid mindset, budgeting skills and we were expense tracking, we were able to keep our lifestyle around that $30,000 to $35,000 mark, where both my base salary plus commissions and bonuses were upwards of a couple of hundred thousand dollars of those years. We were able to keep 70%. The highest point we’ve got is an 85% savings rate during that time. That was a direct result of consuming some of Mr. Money Mustache’s content and Jacob Lund Fisker’s Early Retirement Extreme and stuff like that.

This is why I love sales jobs because your income is infinite. You said budgeting skills. What do budgeting skills quite entail? Is it like, “I’m going to spend $500 a month on groceries and I don’t go over that amount?” That’s all it seems like to me.

The way that we teach our students to do budgeting is that every single dollar, whether it’s your main job, side hustle, business or gift card, everything goes into that budget. Everything gets a name and a job to do inside that budget. That’s how we think about it. We have got an extreme level of organization around our finances at that point. We don’t have to do that anymore. We are checking our accounts and numbers daily because we had that huge why of like, “I’m going back into this. It’s the fire. I don’t want to be here long.” It was the name-giver and regulator of our lifestyle. We didn’t feel like we were suffering during those five years by increasing our savings rate and constraining any lifestyle creep.

I want to point out that it can be fun. It’s all your perspective because, for some people, they might be reading this and going like, “I’m scared of my finances. I don’t want to look at it any further.” You can gamify it. You can build in rewards and stuff and be like, “Can I do this? Could I push one more percent on my savings rate? What is that going to mean?” You can see the time change of how long you need to be working and all this stuff that makes it interactive and cool. I like that you are saying that but it’s not like you were suffering.

ITF 63 | Zero Debt
Zero Debt: Every single dollar goes into that budget. Everything gets a name and a job to do inside that budget.

 

We did gamify it. A lot of it was figuring out ways that we could do recreation, vacations, and things like that in a way that we didn’t have to spend any of that capital or very little of it. That was travel hacking, doing airline miles and hotel points. We became adept at preserving and growing our capital.

It sounds like you are the ultimate optimizer. You are going to figure out how to optimize your saving in any way you can. You track everything. You make sure your savings rate is always a little bit higher, especially with the travel points and all of that. At this point, too, this whole financial independence thing is maybe not mainstream yet, but it’s becoming more popular with Mr. Money Mustache, JD Roth, and all those guys. Did you get your financial advisor at some point?

I ditched her probably back in 2010 or 2011. I was like, “I don’t need to be.” It’s because there are three different compensation methodologies and one of them is assets under management. If I remember correctly, that’s what hers was. I looked at what I would be paying in terms of the next 5, 10 or 30 years by her siphoning off 1% of my seed money essentially. I was like, “I can figure out how to do this.”

It’s important to highlight this because a lot of people don’t realize how companies like Edward Jones or a traditional financial advisor get paid because you don’t see it. It’s wrapped up in your assets and investments. Very often, it’s a percent but sometimes it’s even more. It’s important for people to realize that if you are doing your real estate math with the 4% Rule, then all of a sudden, you need to add another percent because you are paying somebody else. It takes that much longer to get there. To highlight, if people feel like they do need somebody, there are fiduciaries that you can pay a set fee so you know what they are being paid and you can budget that in. That’s a different way to do it. You can keep it so simple that you don’t need anybody’s help.

Another point to buttress what you are saying is that there are certain situations where you might want or need to have a financial advisor or a fiduciary like you were saying, whether it’s real estate investing, traditional markets or cryptos, no one has your best interest in mind like you do. What I try to bestow on my audience and student base is that, “Take the time to gather the acumen to be able to do this yourself.”

Even if they say they are a fiduciary, in the back of their head, it’s like, “What’s in it for me? How do I make more money? How do I make it look like I’m being their fiduciary but still able to make more money?” Almost everyone thinks that way. The best person to have control of your assets is yourself. Did you take your money from your financial advisor and put it into VTSAX? What was your strategy?

For many years, the only thing that we were doing was VTSAX and our 401(k) and IRA rollover because I changed companies several times during that five years. Our Roth IRAs, brokerage account, and even HSAs, we were doing investments inside of our Health Savings Account as well. For the longest time, it was VTSAX. I started being a student of more macroeconomics.

I saw a lot of things that were going on behind the scenes in the inner banking world. There were some things that were parallel to what happened before the 2008 crash. We pulled out of VTSAX in October of 2019 because of those things and sat on cash for a while. There are lots of twists and turns in the story. I’m no longer into any kind of index funds now. There are a lot of macro reasons for that.

Let’s dig in a little bit to that. What did you see on the backend in October 2019 that made you think that there might have been another collapse or fall? There was a brief one with COVID but it spiked back up.

Anything you're going to put your money into, you need to be able to explain it in a way that a five-year-old can understand, at the very least at a conceptual level. Click To Tweet

There’s a phenomenon in the banking world where they do overnight lending to one another. There’s an overnight lending window. Those interest rates are usually hovering around 1% to 2%. What happened in 2007 and 2008 is right before the crash of those two years, it went up to 10% or above 10%. That is a harbinger of the lack of trust between the banks like, “Who is solvent? Who is not?” As you know, Lehman Brothers failed. I can’t think of the name of the other investment bank that failed.

That happened in October of 2019, plus the overall gains and the strident nature of the market. It’s even crazier now. We have been overdue for a correction for a decade at this point. I do have a particular stock that I’m invested in now but we have a lot of dry powder sitting on the sidelines, ready to pounce on some opportunities when they arise.

It sounds like you have got a lot of cash. You have been holding it. The market has skyrocketed and inflation is becoming very real. Cash is probably the worst thing to hold in those scenarios. Are you holding and you feel like this is like, “Maybe we are approaching the end of this cliff?”

It’s not all cash. It’s Grayscale Bitcoin Investment Trust that we have a certain percentage of our allotment, which essentially is like a stock if you think about it. We have a certain percentage in cash now and a certain percentage in that. We’ve got our crypto portfolios started as about 10% of our portfolio. That has ballooned to over 50% of our portfolio. We have gotten the greatest gains from some of those assets.

Has that gone from 10% to 50% because of the appreciation of crypto or are you funneling more money into it as well?

ITF 63 | Zero Debt
Zero Debt: You’re probably going to need to invest about a hundred hours of research before you can really say you understand cryptocurrency.

 

We are what’s called Hoglers. Our major investments were probably back in 2016 and 2017. Maybe in 2015, we dollar-cost averaged in for a couple or a few years and we sat on them. We were value investors in that space especially.

I have been trying to think about going into crypto and it seems like everyone is doing it. Every single time I’m about to hit that button, I hit the X on my computer screen because I hear Warren Buffett’s voice saying, “Be fearful when others are greedy and be greedy when others are fearful.” I feel like people are being greedy in crypto. Why crypto? How do you pick which one? This whole world, to me, is unknown.

You bring up an important point with crypto because, as we are coaching students, I have a free guide that I offer to my audience to pick where I walk through exactly. If you are thinking about it, you’ve got to do this. The first thing that I would recommend is going and downloading a free white paper called the Satoshi White Paper. It’s the background of why Bitcoin was invented. It’s a technology. It’s not just a cryptocurrency. There’s a lot more to it. There’s a guy named Andreas Antonopoulos that wrote a book called The Internet of Money. It’s a book about Bitcoin.

With all of my students and all the people that I’m leading into that space, it’s a very measured response. As you were saying, according to Warren Buffett, there’s always the fear of missing out. There’s always FOMO and you want to go all in. I advocate a much more measured approach. A great place to start is reading that white paper so that you can understand the background of why it was invented, vis-à-vis fiat currencies, inflationary currencies because there are only 21 million that will ever be created. It’s deflationary or it’s more of a hard asset in that sense. There’s a lot more to it than that. You are probably going to need to invest about 100 hours of research before you can say, “I understand Bitcoin and Ethereum are projects and maybe some of the other ones as well.”

I’m glad that you mentioned 100 hours because the thing that I have heard a lot in the financial independence community through Mr. Money Mustache, JL Collins, and some others is that it’s important if you are going to be self-managing your money that you understand it and that it can be simple that you can self-manage and understand.

The thing that I have not liked about Bitcoin and altcoins is how complicated it is, not only to figure out how to invest on the platforms, handle your taxes, understand what the businesses are doing and predict what is happening. I had gotten into it. The last time, there was a big pitch in the market and everybody was very excited about it. I listened to YouTube channels, podcasts, and so much research and I can still say that I don’t know anything. It was lots of hours. The thing that I don’t like about it is that I feel it’s a little too complicated unless you are super into it.

Like any asset class or any piece of the investment space, there’s a lot of noise. There are a lot of people out there creating very plastic content all about the price. What I try to recommend is to download the Satoshi White Paper. Satoshi Nakamoto is the whoever or whatever entity that created Bitcoin. Read that White Paper because that’s going to give you an understanding of particularly Bitcoin, which is the foundation of the entire space. You have to understand that background, and that starts to push away a lot of the nonsense, hype, and scamminess because there are a lot of that but this is the direction.

I see Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies as a real-time paradigm shift in money. This is the future of money. We are all going to have to be transacting in this space at some point. I’m very passionate about, “You need to at least understand it.” Read the Satoshi White Paper, open up a Coinbase account, and trade $10 worth of Bitcoin so you can know how to open an account and do all the things that you need to do to function in the space. That’s a great place to start.

Wherever you are in your financial journey, when you find a system that you feel is really aligned with your goals and values, go all in and don't hold back. Click To Tweet

The way that many people use this is it’s no different than a stock in the sense that they read about a company and then they try to predict like, “What is Tesla going to do based on what we have been seeing in their history and all this stuff?” It’s the same where you go, “What is Ethereum doing as a company?” If people even go that far, maybe they heard a tip, and then they bought a bunch of Ethereum.

It’s one thing if you are saying this is the future of money and you are interested in it for that reason. It’s something to be very careful about if you were all picking stocks in a speculative way. What we see in the stock market is that many people don’t beat the market. If you don’t have an SMP for Bitcoins for different coins, then it’s a little tricky. It’s something to be cautious about.

The general principle follows that anything you are going to put your money into, you need to, at the very least, at a conceptual level, be able to explain it in a way that a five-year-old can understand it. That’s an important idea to follow, especially in the cryptocurrency space. Once you have that grasp of what the blockchain is, how transactions are made, what private keys are, and what layers are, then you are talking in the vocabulary of the industry and not the vocabulary of speculators and traders. You are talking in the vocabulary of a long-term value investor.

This might be a stupid question. The way Bitcoin works are you have to unlock these certain patterns or combinations and then you get a Bitcoin. You said there could only be 21 million. I suspect because there are only 21 million possible different combinations. How could that possibly satisfy an entire economy? There are some billion people in the United States. That would be way less than one Bitcoin per person. A Bitcoin is worth about $60,000. We know that won’t be average across everybody. How will this thing work?

In Bitcoin, the currency aspect of it is divided out to eight decimal places, all of which are called Satoshi. There’s a big misnomer that you have to use an entire Bitcoin. I’m not saying that you are saying this but people, in general, see the price and they are like us. It’s divisible out in there. There are possibilities on the horizon where there may be other types of instruments that will be able to parse that out even more micro in terms of how large the price gets. It’s a finite supply and once they are all mined, they are gone.

What we see from a macro-level in the space is that there’s this tremendous energy in terms of central banks around the world inflating the currencies into infinity, and we are all exposed to that. There was a huge move for a lot of people into the Bitcoin space when they started getting their stimulus checks. Coinbase had the biggest influx of $1,200 purchases of Bitcoin and different cryptocurrencies during that time. We see inflation become a much bigger part of what is happening in our economy. You are going to see a lot more people rush into those assets, especially the deflationary ones like Bitcoin.

If you guys feel complete, I would love to move away from the conversation of Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies. I would like to talk more about where you are now, what services you are offering to people, and maybe a little bit of your strategy on what you do with the money that you have now. How are you saving that moving forward?

One of the first things that I started doing as I was getting into learning how to organize, budget, expense track, and eliminate debt is I started coaching some of my friends and family, those who would listen. Let’s be honest about that. Don’t get your hopes up about that. I did have a few friends and family that were willing to let me sit down and do a budget with them. It got me on fire. I was already on fire anyway teaching people because a passion that I have is to teach. I love sharing the knowledge and watching the light bulb go off.

I started coaching people informally during those years. In 2017, I went through Dave Ramsey’s Financial Coach Master Training to formalize a process. About a year after that, I started my own blog, ZeroDebtCoach.com. I continued to formalize the coaching process, coached people one-to-one as couples, and started creating content. About a year later, I started a YouTube channel. I’ve got into this and found my passion for teaching.

What has been interesting about this and you guys probably see this too, is that we don’t get to a certain place of learning and then we are static. There’s an ongoing learning process. One of the great things about being a content creator on these platforms is that you get to share and monetize your learning journey as you are going through the process yourself. The most gratifying thing about this is that I was able to leave my corporate career and now do this full-time, where I get to geek out with people like you, my students, and our community and teach them these concepts. It’s awesome.

When did you exactly leave your job for what seems like the final time?

That was November of 2019.

What number were you at that made you feel comfortable in saying, “I’m good making the switch?”

That’s a perceptive question because we had mentioned that we wanted to get to $1 million but we had only gotten to about $550,000 at that point. I had reached the point of burnout in that space, the micromanagement, constant pressure, and all those things. It’s not my cup of tea. I’m good at it. I sold a lot. I was always the top salesperson but the process wore me down to the nubs. I was at a place and my wife knew as well where I was completely burned out. I’m like, “I have got to get out of this.”

In hindsight, we could have done it much sooner. Through prudent investing strategies in crypto and some other things that we have done as well, we have been able to increase that almost by a factor of two depending on the day. I could have exited much sooner but we felt we had gotten to a place where we were like, “We’ve got a solid foundation here. As long as we don’t do anything stupid, we have reached a lean phi in a sense.” It allowed me to go 100% into creating this as a platform and a business.

What happened when you decided to put 100% of your time into creating your platform as a business? Did that take off?

One of the things that I tried to impart to my student population that are getting out of debt and trying to move toward financial independence is to start some online business. The expectation that I try to set with them is it’s about a 3 to 5-year trajectory. Unless you have some viral stuff going on and you are monetized in a certain way, it’s not going to happen overnight.

We are about three and a half years into it and we are making a living. We are not making millions of dollars or any of that stuff. It did take off in the sense that there has been a slow trajectory. I created my first digital product. At the end of 2019, I created my first membership site. I have got a ZeroDebt+ Private Financial Coaching Community. We are having this conversation as I’m launching my budgeting course. It has been a process of building some affiliate relationships and some of that stuff. It’s all going in the right direction.

That’s the beautiful thing about having a platform. There are so many different ways to monetize it. I have got a question for you. You have branded yourself as the Zero Debt Coach. You have almost pigeonholed yourself a little bit because now, if you go get a mortgage, sometimes people view that as the next level of investment. Maybe you will start to have more money. I don’t know if you want to get into real estate ever but you make it, so maybe you can’t. How do you navigate that? Are you totally cool like, “I’m good with having no debt for the rest of my life?”

I don’t spend too much time thinking about that because people, as they discover my platform, what I’m for, and what I’m against, I’m not totally completely against debt. I’m not against credit cards and mortgage debt necessarily. What the Zero Debt Coach at this point means is it’s more about financial independence. Financial independence may look like you have got some leverage in real estate.

Personal finance is deeply personal. There are things that you are going to take away from each content creator and influencer that you follow. Mine is going to be, “Get rid of your consumer debt, maybe not your mortgage debt. That’s totally okay.” That’s going to open up so many more doors for you to build wealth, opportunities, and a business that is going to continue to pay you in perpetuity. That’s the way I think about it.

This has been a rich conversation. I feel grateful for you being here and sharing your story with us. Before we move into the final part of our show, I’m curious if you have any final words of wisdom, and then we are going to ask you our final four questions.

ITF 63 | Zero Debt
Zero Debt: One of the great things about being a content creator is that you get to monetize your learning journey as you’re going through the process yourself.

 

Wherever you are in your financial journey, I’m largely speaking to my marketing-speak avatar, the people that follow my platform, when they find me, they are usually a hot mess and chaotic. Start somewhere, get your finances organized, get them on a budget, track your expenses, figure out what your why is and engage in a process. When you find a content creator or a system that you feel is aligned with your goals and values, go all in and don’t hold back.

Let’s get into the final four. Zee, kick us off.

Brad, what are you reading now?

I’m rereading Your Money or Your Life. That’s one of the three books that I try to reread every year. One of the other ones is being Tim Ferriss’ The 4-Hour Workweek and Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?

Run your own race, especially in your financial posture. If you are building an online business, it’s easy to get distracted by what is going on in social media, your feeds, and all the dopamine that’s being stimulated in your mind. It goes back to what I was saying earlier. Fixate what your goals are and run your own race.

You had talked about this a little bit and the importance of it but what is your why?

I love this question because this is a big part of our coaching process. It’s to start with why like Simon Sinek talks about. Your why will necessarily change as you accomplish your goals. For this incarnation of our journey, my why is to help 5 and 6-figure corporate burnouts escape their nightmare by helping them organize and optimize their finances, obliterate their debt, and move on to financial independence by starting and growing an online business. That’s what gets me out of bed every day.

I’m in a place now where I have to restructure my why. You hit these certain thresholds and then you’re like, “I’m floating around again. I need to figure out.”

I slay that one. I’m done. I’ve got to move on and figure out something else to do.

That’s a super good thing to point out to people through their journey. It’s like the journey to financial independence or the journey to the riches of the mountain. Along the way, you are going to hit plateaus that you don’t know what to do. I hit that earlier in 2021. I was like, “I hit my financial independence goal but I still want to keep going. Now, what gets me out of bed?” Have you ever gone all day without wearing underwear?

I honestly don’t think so. Maybe it’s a major part of the day but I can’t remember a time where it was all day. I don’t know what that says about me.

It sounds like you have enough underwear in your laundry because I have gone all day without wearing underwear because I didn’t have any.

That’s awesome. It’s the best question ever.

Brad, where can people find out more about you?

My website is ZeroDebtCoach.com. Where I put out most of my content is my YouTube channel. It’s Brad Long – ZeroDebtCoach. Those are the two main places that I’m hanging out, publishing content and connecting with people that have questions, comments, and smart remarks about what we do.

If you are interested in chatting with Brad and maybe eliminating some of your debt, especially if it’s consumer debt, student loan debt or anything like that, check out ZeroDebtCoach.com. Brad, thank you so much for coming to the show. We appreciate having you here. You shed some good light on what it’s like to pay off debt and jump from financial independence back into a W-2 type job. I love that whole story and journey. Thanks again, for sharing.

It’s my pleasure. Thanks for having me.

We will talk to you soon, Brad.

That was Brad Long. Zee, what do you think of Brad?

I thought he was great. I love hearing about his journey. I especially love that he listened to what he needed at the moment and decided at a few different points to leave his job, not be burnt out, pursue passions and music. That’s inspiring because many people suffer through the long haul of trying to get someplace with their finances. It’s important to see you can always go back.

I love his whole thing where he can always go back. Even after 3 or 4 years of not being in a real job, he was still able to go back and get a software sales job. I don’t think any employer is going to say, “What were you doing for the past few years?” “I was pursuing my passions and it didn’t quite work out. I need to come back and get a job.” “That’s pretty daring of you. We are happy to have you on our team.” That’s probably how that conversation would go. I also noticed that Brad probably has the best vocabulary of any one of our guests. He used a lot of big words that I was chuckling at to myself.

It’s also great that he points out that he has a partner that’s on the same page and we didn’t go into that. It makes it so much easier. We both have that in our lives. We have partners that even though we have some differences, we can come together in some of the financial places, and that’s a big help. That’s cool to see that she was willing to live on a lower budget while he was pursuing his passions. I imagine they were traveling and getting to do a lot of fun things.

Finding someone that aligns with your goals is huge. As he said, it sounds like in Colombia, having debt isn’t a big thing. That in and of itself makes it easier. He is the Zero Debt guy. They don’t do debt in Colombia. They are on the same page. Zee, is there anything else you want to enlighten everybody with before we head off?

Leave us a comment or review. I’m curious to see what happens when we change our name. Do those follow us? I think they might. We appreciate you reading our show and sharing it with your friends. Thank you for that.

We love you all so much. We will see you all in the next episode.

 

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