Financial Independence, Retire Early (FIRE) For Authors With Brad Barrett From ChooseFI

What difference would financial independence make in your life? What changes are you willing to make to get to that point? In this episode, I talk to Brad Barrett about the Financial Independence, Retire Early (FIRE) movement and why it's about pursuing choice rather than denial, as well as some of the money choices we have both made over the years. I am not financially independent but I am an investor with pension and other savings and money is an increasingly important topic for creators.

In the introduction, Amazon Advertising expands into France, Italy, and Spain; Rakuten sells Overdrive to private equity firm, KKR [Publishers Weekly]; Romance Writers of America (RWA) goes through turbulent times [Bookriot], and Nora Roberts explains why she left the organization years back [FallIntoTheStory]. Mark Coker publishes his State of the Indie Nation 2020 calling for renewed independence — check out episode 429 if you want to publish wide. I explain why I moved the pre-order for Audio for Authors: Audiobooks, Podcasting, and Voice Technologies.

Today's podcast sponsor is
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Brad Barrett went from being a full-time CPA (an accountant in the US) to retiring with complete financial independence by the age of 35 through diligent savings and investing. Now, as co-host and co-founder of ChooseFI, he’s empowering others in their own pursuit of the financially independent lifestyle. He is also the co-author of Choose FI: Your Blueprint to Financial Independence, which we are talking about today.

You can listen above or on your favorite podcast app or read the notes and links below. Here are the highlights and the full transcript below.

Show Notes

  • The definitions of FIRE and FI
  • Why financial independence is about running toward something, not away from a life you hate
  • The 3 pillars of FIRE: spend less, earn more, invest better
  • Re-examining our spending without pinching every penny – Lean FIRE vs Fat FIRE
  • Making financial decisions based on re-examined values
  • Quickly acquiring new skills, for little cost, so that you can earn more
  • Why investing is important and less intimidating than you think

You can find Brad Barrett at ChooseFI.com and on the Choose FI Podcast and on Twitter @ChooseFi

Transcript of Interview with Brad Barrett

Joanna Penn: Welcome to the show, Brad.

Brad Barrett: I am thrilled to be here. Thank you so much.

Joanna Penn: It's great to talk about this because I first heard about FIRE a few years ago and have been making changes in my own life. What I found really interesting is that many people in my niche, which is around writing books and authors and independent publishing, many people have not yet heard of the movement. Obviously I'm in the UK, but my audience is all over the world.

Let's start by defining: what is FIRE and what is FI?

Brad Barrett: What a great question. I'm glad you pointed to it as a movement because that's what it seems like it is. As awareness is growing, this really is spreading across the globe, which is amazing.

I was actually in London last summer and 150 people plus showed up at a happy hour at a pub on the Thames, just to meet up. And it was wonderful. It's amazing to see these ideas spread.

That distinction between FIRE and FI. So FIRE is this really cute acronym. It's Financial Independence Retire Early, and it rolls off the tongue. We say the FIRE is spreading.

But FIRE I think is honestly a distraction from FI, which is Financial Independence. We notice in articles in the media and such, they get so myopically focused on the retire early that they think that it's people being really unproductive. Just people looking to check out of life or checkout of the job, or really just sit around and do nothing, and I have seen that that couldn't be further from the truth.

Honestly, I think for me, the people that I know that are pursuing financial independence are some of the most creative, driven people who are looking to make a difference in the world and add value to their family, friends, the community in ways that are really, really striking, really impressive.

And I guess your question is, what is financial independence? For me, it is pursuing a life that I want to live on my terms.

So for me, it's about a sense of autonomy that otherwise isn't really available when you're living that nine to five everyday grind that we affectionately or not so affectionately called the hamster wheel.

You go to work, you maybe buy expensive stuff, you buy an expensive car and expensive house or whatever it may be to make yourself feel better. That you're not living the life that you want. And then you have to keep working to pay for these absurdly expensive toys that are chaining you to a job.

So I think for people pursuing financial independence, they're trying to take a step back, maybe for the very first time in their lives, or anybody that they knows lives, frankly, and say, is there a different path? Is there a better path for me? Whatever that looks like.

I think that's the beautiful thing about FI is that it's intensely personal. There is no prescribed path. There is no ‘you have to do these five or 10 things to be a card-carrying member of the movement.' It's none of that nonsense at all. It's. It's doing what you want with your life on your terms.

I think the fundamental bedrock clearly, in my estimation, is saving money. And getting to a place of financial security. Again, whatever that means to you. Now we can join and we can define financial independence and all this stuff is as a certain dollar figure or a certain multiple of your expenses. And, and I mean, honestly we can get into that if you want the math of it.

But to me it really, it's the larger sense of, by saving money, you're not depriving yourself of these little everyday distractions of getting expensive Starbucks or buying a BMW or whatever it is. You're actually moving towards the ultimate luxury in life, which is your time. To spend on this planet as you see fit.

Joanna Penn: You have a great quote in the book, which is very well designed. I love the book. It says:

“FI is not about running away from the things you hate in life. It's about running towards something.”

And I love this idea of a movement because my audience, a lot of them are indie authors, or they're thinking about becoming an independent author. And this independent creative movement is similar. It is a movement. It is global. It is a mindset shift in what it means to be a creator in the same way that you're saying this is a mind shift.

And the word retirement, I agree with you. I am living the life I think I want to do for the rest of my life, which is write books. Most authors listening do not like doing book marketing. It's probably the thing that none of us enjoy the most. So to me, FIRE would be the choice to just write a book and put it out in the world and not do any book marketing. That would be an example that's not money-based, but it's more choice based.

Brad Barrett: I love that. I absolutely love that. That is the beautiful thing about this. You can look at your life and say, what lights me up? In your case, it's writing books. And that's wonderful. What percentage of your time do you spend on marketing?

Joanna Penn: Well, the funny thing is, I think this is creative, you and I podcasting, but technically this is book marketing for both of us. But this is fun. I don't like doing things like Facebook advertising, for example.

It would be great to be able to have conversations like this and not do the things we don't want to do. And I think that's what you're talking about, isn't it?

I want people to really get this because it's financial independence. Yes, there is a money aspect. But independence is the point.

Brad Barrett: Yes, unquestionably. And for me, my wife and my goals was to basically live this life of freedom and to live life on our terms. And for us, that was very simply spending time with our daughters. So for my wife, it was staying home as a stay-at-home mom. And for me now, like you said, I podcast. Which while it obviously takes a lot of time, it's a wonderful thing to be able to impact people's lives.

There's no time where I'm grudgingly going and doing it. It's this amazing thing that I've been afforded, but it's because there was this really intermediate time period.

I was an accountant. I did income tax returns. If you can imagine anything polar opposite from a creative job. It was basically the hamster wheel in incarnate, and it was the same thing every month or every year. But I did that as a means to an end, and I was able to leave that job at 35.

Now I'm here every day when my kids get off the bus and we play board games and we hang out and we get to do all these fun things. And again, this is what I wanted my life to look like.

But the beautiful thing of FI is, it is intensely personal. Like I said before, there's no prescribed path. Like you said, maybe you don't want to do book marketing, but honestly, maybe it has to get done.

Joanna Penn: I just need to pay more people!

Brad Barrett: Exactly. I know you say that kind of mockingly but that is part of it. Finding things, the aspects of your life that you want to do and finding things where you add the most value.

If you could not spend your time doing that marketing and write three more books a year or X number of books a year. And not do that. Maybe that adds more value to the world. Maybe you can pay people to do that stuff you don't want to do.

So FI is not about pinching pennies, in my estimation. It's not about that deprivation mindset of I have to cut everything to the bone. I've got to DIY and do everything myself. I don't think that's it. I think it's a value proposition. And that's how I look at it.

Where do I add value? Where do I add unique value? And I want to do that all day long, but I don't want to do the things that, when you find those things in your life that you just don't want to do, you procrastinate on them. You can't figure out why they don't get done. And maybe you don't actually dive into it psychologically. But deep down you just don't want to do those things.

In my case, they wound up being a constraint in the whole system and they gummed everything up. So honestly, at this point, I do pay people to do certain aspects of things that I know I'm going to screw up the whole system and I don't enjoy it. I don't add unique value.

I think that's an important point is a lot of people read some of these articles on the FI movement and think it's about just cutting every penny in every bit of fun in life. And that is just not it at all. So, that's how I approach it mentally at least.

Joanna Penn: I come up against a lot of money blocks in myself, but also in the author community. Financial independence for authors is something that they might feel is so out of their world that might even stop them starting with the basics. So we're going to start with the basics here.

There are three pillars, even though you said there is not one definition, which is true. There's no this amount of money or this type of life, but that all three pillars in the book, which are: spend less, earn more, invest better. So let's start with step one. Spend less. But not go mega frugal.

(1) Spend Less. What are some of the ways that we can re-examine our spending?

Brad Barrett: I think examining it is the crucial starting point for so many people. And if you don't mind just one quick step back, which is like you said, some people look at that and say, wow, it's so overwhelming that maybe I can't even get started.

A lot of people look at that and say I am X, Y, and Z. I am a creative, or I'm an author, or in my case, I'm an accountant. I can't do that. Everybody has that limiting belief.

For so many of us, it's because it looks insurmountable. It looks like a 30-year process, but if you just stick your head in the sand and you don't do anything to make your life better, you're going to be in the same spot 30 years.

30 years on, even if you don't get financial independence, honestly, your life is still going to be better if you get on this path. Even if you have $2,000 in the bank, five thousand, ten thousand imagine how much less stressful your life is than if you're living paycheck to paycheck?

For so many people, their lives really would fall apart if they lost their job or some calamity befell them. That's even small, like a couple hundred dollars. I think there's some stat, and I forget what the exact number is, but like 50% of Americans, and I assume you can extrapolate this to many, many countries, couldn't handle a $400 unexpected expense.

Imagine living on that knife's edge where if some tiny little thing happens to you, you had to take out loans, your to borrow from family and friends, or you had to put it on a credit card or some such.

For me, I think the spend less starts with getting an idea of where you are in your life. It's deeply uncomfortable for so many of us who haven't examined this. We've been scared to examine it. It's just easy to go along just living the normal life. And you don't want to think about. Wow. Am I saving any money? Am I getting into debt? What do I owe?

So what I would counsel everybody, and I know this isn't fun, but it probably would take an hour. Open up an Excel spreadsheet or a Google sheet, or even just a piece of paper and write down what are your monthly expenses. And just really think about maybe even your yearly expenses that are like a onetime expense, but you know, you can kind of spread that out over a month.

Obviously, if you know there are expenses that are coming, you need to have them on paper. Just so you know, what does my life even cost? Most people have no sense of that. Does my life costs $30,000? Does it cost $60,000? $90,000? Most people have no sense of that. So that's the first idea.

Then what is my income? Now, with book authors, it might not be a standard. I'm getting X dollars per month on the 15th and 30th right? It might be variable, but that's probably even more reason to get a sense of what your expenses are. To know and to maybe have that cushion like we're talking about a couple of steps from now, which is just to save some money because sometimes maybe you have a bad month.

Do you want your entire life to crumble? Do you want to have bill collectors coming after you because you didn't prepare in good times? For those times of, let's say, famine. So I think that's why getting a sense of where you are.

And then I guess the final piece of that would be putting down what do you owe, what are your liabilities? Any credit card or student loan debts or home mortgages. And what are your assets? Do you have any accounts anywhere that have some assets? Just get it on paper. I think that's the very first step in the spend less ironically, it's just finding out what is your life looks like.

Joanna Penn: It's so important. And in fact, I started getting into all of this in 2008 in the global financial crisis. I had a six-figure income, a house, an investment property, all of this. And then we all got laid off. 400 of us got laid off on one day. We all just got pieces of paper. You're all gone.

And I was like, this was my one stream of income. And I just went what just happened? So it's not even that for authors. Everyone listening knows, you have a book, book sales go up and down. They are not a steady income.

But even with a day job, which most people will have who listen, that also can go wrong. Things happen. It's protection. It's protection for things happening and things do happen.

Brad Barrett: Of course, they happen all the time and again, it gives you that little bit of power in your life and that little bit of autonomy. Even at the very outset of this, even that first time that you have a couple thousand dollars saved up because otherwise, you are beholden to that job.

Things happen in jobs where they ask you to do something and that's against what you believe is ethical or moral. If your life would crumble in 30, 60, 90 days without that job, sometimes you make decisions that don't line up with how you want to live. And I know that might sound like an extreme example, but I've seen it happen to members of our community’s lives, and it's just such a powerful position to be in.

And like you said, you could lose your job at a moment's notice, no matter how great you are at work, no matter how valuable you are. Things happen in life. So it's a plan just for these rosy, wonderful unicorns and rainbows is not the way to go about life. And I am not a doom and gloom type person. I have a pretty positive disposition, but I think you need to prepare for an eventuality that is reasonably plausible.

And again, really the upshot is you feel more powerful when you have money in the bank. So it's like a universal win as far as I'm concerned.

You did ask what are ways to spend less, and I think reasonably for most people, the vast majority of our monthly or yearly expenses come from three categories. And it's housing, it's transportation, automobiles, and it's food.

It’s not my place as some random podcaster to tell you how to live your life. But I think one thing we need to do is if we're living that paycheck to paycheck or getting into debt and things aren't getting better, we have to make decisions and we have to take action. And we have to be honest with ourselves. There is some give and take.

Again, this is not about deprivation, but there is some give and take clearly that you can't have everything and expect to get to a solid financial point at any point in your life if nothing's going to change.

So you have to make some decisions. It's just a matter of what you value.

I look at things like food. I think that is a huge one that I think most people can get quick wins on. And I think psychologically it's really important to accrue those early wins. So you feel like you're moving in the right direction because realistically we started with housing. That is difficult to unwind that for most people.

Joanna Penn: I want to give a different perspective on this because housing was actually the first thing I did because I guess I have a bias for big action. But when I looked at the outgoings, and even when I became a writer, we sold the investment property and we sold our house and moved into rental accommodation. I know this is actually quite common with FI, maybe not with people who have kids in school or whatever, but we downsized our property. Our outgoings. That was the very first thing.

I'm also car-free. So in those two categories, I'm very, very cheap. Lean fire as you describe it. But I am fat fire, which is spending money, on other things. I love traveling and I spend good money on traveling. I buy any book I want to read. And also I do like eating out.

So it's interesting because it's more like you say, what do you value? And by cutting some of the big things, I give myself much more freedom in the smaller things. But for other people, obviously, you want to keep your house, you want to keep your car. So, weighing it up is interesting.

Brad Barrett: It's different for everyone. That is absolutely brilliant. And I think the ironic thing is that I fall into your camp as well, which is really interesting. I was going to counsel starting with those quick, easy wins, but both you and I took those massive actions.

And I think, again, this is intensely personal. When you're talking to many, many tens of thousands of people you have to give advice that you think is probably universally applicable, but it's not going to be applicable for everybody. Like you said, you love massive action, and I think setting up a framework of a life that doesn't cost that much is the best way to allow yourself that freedom, that creativity in the other aspects where you want to spend money.

In your case, it's travel and food. You can spend lavishly on those things and never look back because your housing and your automobile expenses are virtually nothing. So that was a very intentional decision you made.

We actually did something similar. We used to live in the suburbs of New York City and we moved down to Richmond, Virginia, where the cost of living is roughly about a third of what it was back home where all of our family and friends lived.

That was a difficult decision. To move away from everything and everybody we'd ever known. But we did it in service of this larger life goal. So again, it didn't feel like deprivation. It felt like we are pushing forward on something that just means the world to us. So that was simple. I drive a 2003 Honda civic that at this point is worth probably less than what I just paid to fix it the other day. It's probably worth about $800.

(2) Earn more

Joanna Penn: Let’s switch gears because step two is earn more, and I love this because one of the wonderful things about being a writer is you can write another book and make another income stream. So for me, the focus has been on earning more, all the way.

Many people listening will have a day job and they're writing in their spare time already. So I would say that most people listening probably have that side hustle of writing. Some may be full time. What are some of the ways that we can look at earning more?

Brad Barrett: I think what we've noticed across many of our guests is that, and that's kind of the beautiful thing about Choose FIRE and the entire FI movement is this is a crowdsourced movement of the best ideas bubbling up to the top. Because if it was just about me and my cohost Jonathan, and even some of the more famous people in the FI movement, there's an end to our knowledge.

But when you have hundreds of thousands of people, if not millions, in a worldwide movement, the best ideas really do bubble to the top. And what we've seen repeatedly is people are trying to gain skills. They're not necessarily worried about the degrees and the advanced degrees and going into debt and all this stuff.

You hear it in popular culture, so many people getting law degrees and MBA degrees and all these things, whereas you can learn a lot of these skills online for pennies. We know people who have picked up entire job skills, especially in this digital world where there are things that didn't use to exist. Like someone who can run, as you said before, your Facebook ads.

As much as you loathe that, that's a real job. Now that you could pick up those skills for really nothing and take a couple hundred dollar online course, pick up those skills and then test this. That's the beautiful thing. You can test and iterate so quickly that you can become an expert and help people like you who don't want to do this.

We've seen people pick up coding, which is another thing where many people go to a four-year college and spend potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars. You can take an online coding course and learn these skills and actually be able to prove them out to potential employers for under a thousand dollars for this course.

We've seen a couple of these guests on our podcast have taken these courses, and it's neat in this world where the focus is on skills as opposed to that piece of paper. Like it may have used to been, when I went to college or when my parents went to college, certainly that was the key to succeeding in life. Now it's, are you going to go the extra mile?

Two examples actually that I think are really useful. We had two guests on, Chris Hutchens, I'm going to see quickly if I can pull up the episode number. I think it was episode 121 on how to get any job.

Chris Hutchins is this a CEO in Silicon Valley. He has an internet startup. And he basically said if you're looking to get a new job, which you should kind of always be looking because really one of the best ways to earn more, sadly, is to hop from job to job. Now, that sounds deeply unsettling to me, but like it is true. You don't get big raises at your existing job, you get the standard three or 4% raise and you're never going to earn significantly more than that way. That's just keeping up with inflation.

Whereas what Chris said was, if you want to get another job, you can go the standard path, basically like the no brainer path, which is go to that company's website, go to their application page and send in your resume or CV or whatever you call it, and close your eyes and hope. And how many people do you think are applying for that job, using that method, which is takes no effort at all. It’s hundreds or thousands.

Whereas Chris said, I would never even look at those resumes. I don't even know why we have that page on the website anymore. And for me, this was an eye-opening thing because I would have been that brain dead person, if you will, and I'm sorry to sound so crude, but who would have done that? I would've just assumed that was the way.

Chris said, we've had people who have basically spent 50 hours creating a project, finding my email, finding people who they knew that knew me. That job applicant solved a problem for his company before they even worked there. They found out what is this company looking to do? What are their goals and aspirations, and how can I help and provide that unique value? So they created a solution before they were even on the payroll.

Imagine how good they would be when they were actually on the payroll 40 hours a week. So, just something simple like that changes how you look at it. If I ever went back to apply for another job now, I would never in a million years just send my resume in, close my eyes and hope just because of that one piece of information. I thought that was brilliant.

Joanna Penn: I am actually really glad you brought up the job thing because I run my own business but it's so interesting that being an entrepreneur possibly might not even be the best way to financial independence.

You mentioned creativity. I used to implement accounts payable systems back in the day and actually they paid me really well, but I didn't understand about investing. I didn't have the information that you guys are putting out there now. I guess I could say I wasted 13 years of a very good salary because I didn't know what to do with it.

We were going to come to that next. But what I want to say to people is the tip you just gave about the job is totally true. And you can reach some of these goals earlier in life by having a job. You don't need to quit your job and become an entrepreneur to actually do this, which is brilliant.

Let's talk about investment, because as I said, I used to earn 6 figures for years and didn't invest any or save any. I just had that lifestyle. I enjoyed myself, and then I was like, well, what have I got to show for all of this?

(3) Invest better

A lot of people listening will be scared of the word investing. So just give us some basics.

Brad Barrett: Sure. I hear you. And believe me, I was scared of investing too. I think that it's really important to know that nobody knows what they're doing here. I was a CPA, a certified public accountant, here in the U S and theoretically, I should have known something about financial statements and all this other stuff, but it still seemed like this insurmountable hurdle that you would have to be some hotshot on Wall Street or spend thousands of hours researching to have any idea.

So again, for most of us, when we're faced with something like that, psychologically we just shut down. We'd say, we can't do it, so why even bother trying? I think that's sadly how a lot of us approach these big things in life, and to be perfectly honest, I had the same thing as you. I didn't get started and I didn't get started early because I didn't know what I was doing.

But one thing that provided extreme clarity to me was, and again, this is like one of those inflection points or lightning bolt type moments in my life was when I was presented with, there's a website called jlcollinsnh.com. It's an odd website, but Jim Collins has these stocks series and basically he talks about the power of low-cost index fund investing.

And again, that might still sound daunting and confusing to people who have never heard of it, but just bear with me here for a second. So for most of us, really all of us, frankly, we don't have the ability to pick individual stocks and hope and expect or whatever you want to call it, to make that a successful strategy over a 30, 40 ,50 plus year investing lifetime, which for most of us, that's the timeline.

It's not how do I get lucky and win the game of the stock market or whatever it may be over one or two years. I look at it as this is a 50-year project for how do I become wealthy? So I'm not looking at short term results. I'm not trying to get a stock tip from the woman or man at the cube next door to me at the office. I'm just trying to win over the long term. And I think that piece of clarity was huge for me.

So basically what you do with an index fund is, and I'm based in the US here, so I'm just going to kind of talk about the total US stock market index fund. So in our case, you can buy this fund where, let's say there are about 3000 companies, so essentially all of the publicly traded companies in the US, so we're talking 3000 companies that probably employ a hundred-plus million people, and you're buying a tiny, tiny, tiny little piece of all 3000 of those companies when you buy this index fund. And again, you don't have to outsmart anything.

That's why investing better is what we call this pillar. You don't need to think about it. You don't need to get lucky. You don't have to have this insider information, which frankly, I don't believe exists anyway, but even putting that aside, you don't need any of that. There's no luck involved. You're just buying a little piece of every publicly traded company in the US every month with whatever money you have leftover that you're saving.

Now, obviously every country has something similar. You can buy world indexes. Plenty of these things exist, but conceptually, I hope everybody's following me here. I'm not worried about the news. I'm not watching CNN and Oh, the sky is falling. I have to sell everything.

It's when we get our stupid little human brains, honestly, involved in this is when we screw everything up. You can't try to out-think this. We don't have the ability to time the stock market on when I'm buying or selling, so I don't even think about that. I just buy the stock market at the lowest little X. It's called an expense ratio. And again, I don't want to lose anybody here. It can get a little technical, but, but I'm just going to try to overview.

It's like you pay a tiny little bit of expenses to the company that's running this fund now in a stock market index fund, there's not much work that needs to go in. So you don't need to pay some quote-unquote brilliant index fund manager, any amount of money, you're just paying somebody to buy all these stocks. So it's pretty simple.

And whereas sometimes when you're chasing that brilliance, which again, I don't think exists, frankly, but you pay a 1% fee or maybe even a little bit more, and that doesn't sound like much, but when you compound this, again, we're thinking over 30 to 50 years. When you add in or really when you pull out that expense fee every year and you don't see it, it's so insidious. You don't see it, but it can, it can make a huge difference compounded over 50 years in your ultimate net worth to the sense of 30 to 50% of your overall net worth is gone because you were chasing that performance.

And I don't think that any, again, I say sarcastically, quote-unquote brilliant manager, is going to be able to outperform over 30 to 50 years. So I don't worry about that. And I got to tell you, I sleep so well at night knowing that I have a hundred plus million American workers working every day trying to make me a little bit richer. Which is kind of a funny way to think about it. But like they're my employees, even though I only own a tiny, tiny little baby amount of each of these companies, but it's kind of a cool rethink.

And again, I sleep really well at night. I'm just matching the market over 50 years. Statistically, what I've seen from the research I've done, and that smarter people than I have done, is this is probably the highest percentage likelihood of success. So if I can get the easiest method with the highest likelihood of success, that is a slam dunk win for me.

Joanna Penn: I know some people listening will have found those things a little bit complicated. So I'm just going to pick out a few things.

You said one: low fees are really, really important. The other thing would be index funds where you can own a piece of the whole market. So people listening, you writers, this is just another language. You have to change your mindset into just learning another language.

So as you've been saying, I learned about the fees. I learned about Vanguard. And for the last four years, I have done as you say, put money in very low fee index funds. I prefer to diversify beyond the US market, unsurprisingly. Obviously, we're not going to share numbers, but I've put away more in the last four years as an author than I did in 13 years as an IT consultant. So I'm with you and I'm in the movement.

What I want to say to people listening is this is a journey and why I wanted you to come on, Brad, was to give people a starting point. There is so much we could talk about. We've barely scratched the surface of even what I wanted to talk about, but you suddenly realize, don't you, that this is a deep topic, but similarly, people listening know a lot more about say, writing novels than you do. So the language is different.

Brad Barrett: And that's the perfect way to put it. It is a translation. I'm sorry. I did try to keep it at fairly high level, but thank you. It is hard though. And, but yes, I would say please, as I said before, I was scared of this and I was a certified public accountant. Everybody is. That is not a good enough reason to put it off. It really isn't.

So please just know as Joanna said, it is just another language and it affords you that ability and that space to be more creative. I'm the perfect example of this because I was down this path to financial independence, I was able to leave my nice safe job, which I was a manager at a big company. I had a nice salary and benefits. I have a wife and two daughters, like I would have been chained to this job.

But it allowed me to go down this path of entrepreneurial creativity, frankly, and I was able to look at a problem a little bit differently and apply some creativity in my life in a life that was devoid of creativity, honestly, because that's what it was when I was in this office doing this thing over and over again.

So I would really implore you, even if this does sound like an alien, foreign language to you is it's worth it. It really is worth the time, the minimal time and investment just to learn about it because your financial life is the bedrock of everything. It's the piece that makes everything else easier.

Joanna Penn: I totally agree. And one of the best ways to learn a new language is to listen to a podcast. And people who've been listening to this show for over a decade have learned a lot about the writing industry.

You cohost the Choose FI Podcast with Jonathan and he's also a co-author on the book and you interview people about their path to FI. You also do much more in-depth podcast shows on each of these types of topics.

Tell people a bit more about what they can find on your Choose FI podcast, as well as the book, for people to get more from you.

Brad Barrett: Thank you. I agree, there's just something so deeply personal about podcasting and certainly your listeners, they connect with you. And I think that's what's cool about the Choose FI podcast is while people do connect with me and Jonathan it's the community. And it's finding inspiration in these stories because all of our stories are different. I find that deeply empowering.

If you heard this and you're interested, I would definitely check out episode 100 of choose FI. That's our welcome to the community. And then realistically start over at the beginning. It all kind of builds on itself, and there's a little bit of inspiration in there.

Even sometimes you'll hear a story and frankly, I'll hear a guest that I didn't think was going to connect with me, they were outside of my life experience and, I just find, wow, there were three or four gems in that episode that just hit me on such a personal level and changed my life. I just love that.

We do a two time a week podcast. So generally speaking, our release on Monday episodes are with guests, and then on Friday we do a Roundup, which is kind of a general, questions from the audience, wins. Jonathan and I usually have some little banter and an anecdote, and here and there, and we recap the Monday episode and really like our essential takeaways.

It’s grown into this amazing community, and like we said, we have these Choose FI local groups, like I mentioned. In London, we have 250 plus of them across the world. So if you're looking for an in real life community you can find that at Choose FI. And it's such a variety of people and backgrounds and stories that it's just been a remarkable journey. I still can't believe how it's grown in these really under three years now.

Joanna Penn: I think, as with the independent author community, it's day one. I think people are only just discovering FIRE and FI. So, very exciting.

Where can people find the book and the podcast and everything you do online?

Brad Barrett: Thank you. ChooseFI.com is an easy place to start. You can find it anywhere books are sold, Amazon, Barnes and Noble. Hopefully, your local bookstores or your library and we'd love for you to take a listen, visit the website, buy the book if that suits you. I really appreciate the time here.

Joanna Penn: Thank you so much for coming on the show, Brad. That was great.

Brad Barrett: Thanks again.

Joanna Penn:

View Comments (10)

  • I love this podcast. I'm FI. Yes, it's about determining what's of the highest value to you.

    My mother taught me years ago how to create a monthly budget that I think may be helpful to others. In addition to gathering your annual expenses like insurance and taxes, give yourself two to three months to write down EVERYTHING you spend money on, on a daily basis. Use a small notepad. Then add all the categories up and divide by 2 or 3 (depending upon the number of months you've gathered expenses from) to estimate what you need each month. Obviously annual expenses should be divided by 12 for "monthly" expenses.

    Cooking at home more has saved me so much money. It's much healthier too. I still go out once or twice a week.

    Index funds are smart. The sooner we start saving the better. Compounding over years cannot be duplicated.

    I think it's Dave Ramsey who says: "Live like NO ONE else so you can LIVE like no one else later."

  • Hi Joanna,
    This is so interesting. Just listened to this show and so many things resonated. I am reading Tony Robbins' book, Unshakeable and he just covered low-cost index funds! Really doing some research on how to go about that.

    I just published a tiny, little book called, Cash Envelopes: You've Never Had So Much Money. I'll have the workbook soon, except that Amazon put another of my book covers with that title, so I am dealing with that! I still spend too much, but just being aware of WHAT we spend in an eye-opener.

    A great timely episode! Thank you!

    • Unshakeable is a great book. I've given it to lots of people :) Glad you are also focused on the money side of things!

  • Very interesting episode, thanks, Joanna! I’ve been reading a lot about money lately, including several of the books you include on your list. I have a question, though … you say you invest in low fee index funds but that you’ve chosen to diversify outside the US. Would mind telling us which international index funds you chose? Are they in the UK? Australia? Canada? Europe? Or even New Zealand? As a non-American, this is something I’m trying to get a handle on right now. (If you don’t want to say, that’s okay!)
    Thanks once again for another great episode. :)

    • I'm not a financial advisor etc etc :) so this is just my opinion and experience. This is not financial advice.
      I invest in Vanguard Funds - the easiest ones are Lifestrategy or the Target Retirement date ones which Ramit Sethi also talks about (I will teach you to be rich).
      I also invest in some of the other Vanguard funds eg. before Brexit, I bought into UK equity funds as they were lower cost and I've also bought into some more China heavy funds.
      Not sure which country you're in, but in Australia, you have to have a bigger portfolio for Vanguard, but in the UK, they have an ISA setup and they are starting a SIPP setup in early 2020, which I'll be joining. I use AJBell right now who also have low fees and I'll keep them for other funds. Hope that helps.

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