I discovered MadFientist.com by reading all of Brandon’s posts after following the FI path alone for over 2 years. I was encouraged by the idea that I could achieve financial independence of my own, as I had in common with Brandon and his journey to financial independence. I am grateful to now call him a friend because of his writing on tax, spending, and life maximization.
Brandon is one of the 10 people who reached financial independence before 35 featured in my book Financial Freedom: A Proven Path to All the Money You Will Ever Need and will also be featured in the upcoming Playing with FIRE (Financial Independence Retire Early) documentary (so stoked to see so many friends on the big screen!).
We discuss deprivation, happiness, meaning, and why it has never been easier to reach financial independence. These topics can help us all lead a more meaningful and fulfilled life. It was a pleasure to have Brandon on the show. He was able to share his story with the world and we were all inspired by it.
There is a lot of fire in this episode. You won’t want to miss it. You can listen to it on your favorite platform or read the full transcript.
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Brandon @MadFientist Interview (full transcript)
Grant : I am very excited to have Brandon from MadFientist.com on the financial freedom show. Brandon had a big impact on my own personal finance journey. He inspired me to take control of my finances and think differently about money. I found him at a time when I was just starting out in the world of finance and he has great ideas on tax and lifestyle management. He has made me strive to make my life as good as possible. Brandon, welcome to the show. I’m looking forward to learning more about your story.
Brandon said that’s amazing. I can’t wait to hear the rest of your presentation. Thanks so much for those kind words. It means a lot to me. It is good to be here.
Yeah man, Grant. I’m looking forward to seeing what this project will become. Brandon is one of the 12 stories. He is an example of how anyone can achieve financial success. It has been great to learn more about your story and I appreciate all the help there. I wanted to start with the people that I have talked to, because they seem to have figured out how to maximize my happiness per dollar. I’m looking forward to learning from you and getting the most out of my money. How did you find the perfect spending level that made you happy? I started by analyzing my spending habits over a period of time, and then I identified areas where I felt I could make adjustments to improve my financial picture.
It has been a long process and I definitely wouldn’t consider myself there. I’m making progress and working hard. It is a constant experiment and it is harder than it seems. The process of trying to master it is always evolving. It’s like, okay. It is hard to figure out exactly what makes you happy when you are given unlimited funds. Making the effort to understand what makes you happy is a rewarding journey. The origin of the story is that I went way too far and the deprivation zone of savings and frugality and so when I found that financial independence is possible, like I just did everything in my power to get there, I became obsessed with it. I began to track my expenses down to the penny to make sure I was not overspending. It took at least two years for that to happen. I was 800-273-3217 800-273-3217 800-273-3217 800-273-3217 800-273-3217 800-273-3217 800-273-3217 800-273-3217 800-273-3217 800-273-3217 800-273-3217 800-273-3217 800-273-3217 800-273-3217 800-273-3217 800-273-3217 800-273-3217 800-273-3217 800-273-3217 800-273-3217 800-273-3217 800-273-3217 800-273-3217 800-273-3217 800-273-3217 800-273-3217 800-273-3217 800-273-3217 800-273-3217 800-273-3217 800-273-3217 800-273-3217 800-273-3217 800-273-3217 800-273-3217 800-273-3217 800-273-3217 800-273-3217 800-273-3217 800-273-3217 800-273-3217 800-273-3217 800-273-3217 800-273-3217 800-273-3217 800-273-3217 800-273-3217 800-273-3217 800-273-3217 800-273-3217 800-273-3217 800-273-3217 800-273-3217 800-273-3217 800-273-3217 800-273-3217 I was trying to save every single penny because I was unhappy and my wife was unhappy as well. It wasn’t good.
I didn’t know what was happening to be honest. I didn’t have time to process it. I was just trying to get there as quickly as possible, but I just started to be more withdrawn from my friends and family and it was like, okay, I don’t want to go and do this. I decided to hit the reset button because I realized that life was too short to be living like that. It was easy to disappear into the woods. It felt like you were in a different world when the trees were so dense. After two years, my wife was like, what is happening here? It was time for me to make some changes because I had been neglecting my family. We need to snap out of this and make a change. We need to take action now to create a brighter future for ourselves and our children.
Like you are obviously unhappy. Is there something wrong? I’m not happy. It was only after she said that I realized I was depressed. I realized that I had been trying to ignore the fact that I wasn’t feeling like myself. It was a lot of different things. It was not fully understood or explained. It was more than just frugality and deprivation for spending. They were able to enjoy life without breaking the bank. The isolation of being in the woods of Vermont was what it was. From the hustle and bustle of city life, the solitude of the wilderness was a welcome respite. I was doing a free master’s degree at the time and I was not happy at my job. I decided to look for a new job and make a change. It was all those things. It was like, “Oh wow, we are unhappy and we just decided to move back to Scotland, which is where she was from and just start over.” When we made that decision, it felt like a big weight had been lifted off our shoulders.
That was the first part of the story. I realized that that is not a life worth living when I was testing that lower bound. It made me realize that I need to find more meaning in my life. When I moved to Scotland a few years later, I was just going to quit my job and see how it goes. I moved to Scotland because I wanted to experience something new. When I quit, they asked if I wanted to stay in Scotland and I would have been stressed out if I had to leave, so I was like, okay, this is perfect, this will let me, you know, keep earning. It was a great decision for me as I was able to make a smooth transition and enjoy the freedom of continuing to do my job from Scotland, without any of the stress and hassle that comes with it when working in an office.
It ended up being a really good situation, so I ended up working for two years longer than I expected. I said to myself, “Look, I got this salary coming in that I didn’t expect.” I decided to save it for a house of my own. For the first time in my life. No matter what the consequences may be, I will be brave and take a chance. And that’s true. I have always been focused on money. I’m starting to realize that there’s more to life than just having a lot of money. I don’t know where that comes from, but it always was a focus and I was like for once in my life I was just going to let loose and spend like crazy if I want and just don’t worry about what I’m spending on and during that year, like I think it’s important to enjoy life and not worry about the cost of small things that bring joy. I know I have been talking for a long time so I will leave the story there. I hope you enjoyed the conversation. I think testing both the upper and lower bounds helped me figure out what was important. I will carry it with me in my future endeavors.
Yeah, Grant : u>05:39/u> I’m going to have to leave soon. Cause that. Thanks for sharing. It is difficult for people to hear that. If it comes unexpectedly, it can be difficult to process. Does this make you happy? Can you find joy in this? How are you spending your money? Do you know if you’re budgeting wisely? Is it compatible with your values? It is important to make sure that your decisions reflect who you are and what you believe in. What’s your why? I think one of the things with financial independence is a lot of people, they just look to that destination and it becomes kind of a money addiction in another form, and I really appreciate it. Financial independence is about finding freedom and security, but it’s also about learning how to be responsible with money and enjoying life. I’m glad you shared that story. It gave me a better idea of what was going on. What is one thing that you have learned? Did you feel more free as you saved and invested more money? You can make more conscious decisions about your spending habits because of this newfound freedom. It sounds like at some point you got really far in the deprivation, a sort of pendulum swung pretty far that way, but what is that moment when you realize, hey, you know, I have a lot more control over this and my options than I previously had? It’s at that point that you start to realize how much control you have over your life.
Brandon said he wished he had realized that earlier. It wasn’t until late in the journey that I realized that. It was amazing to finally reach this goal and I had been working on it for a long time. I got way into the deprivation zone because I was so focused on trying to save everything that I could that it felt like I was reducing my freedom and choices. The first time I realized the power of saving money was when I told my bosses I was moving to Scotland. Thanks to the savings I had put away, I was able to move there and remain financially secure. Can we figure something out? It was like I was moving to Scotland and I didn’t care what they said. I wanted to get started immediately because I was so excited about this new adventure. When they said, hey, do you want to work remotely? After hearing their proposal, I was eager to accept, even though I hadn’t considered it before.
Brandon said, “Here’s a computer you can take and all this other stuff.” I should have done that a long time ago. I’m happy I had the courage to take the leap. It was against company policy if I walked into my boss’s office because I was able to work one day a week from home. I was really disappointed that I didn’t get to work from home. If we allow you to work two days a week from home, everyone will want to do it. It’s not possible to monitor what people are doing when they’re offsite. I was given five days a week to work from home. I had the money to walk away and that was the first glimpse into the power and freedom that I had. I wanted to have more power and freedom in my life. I am still coming to grips with it. It has been a long journey to accept my true identity.
Just like the Mad Fientist. He is documenting his journey to financial independence. It has always been a hobby and now it is earning income, but it is still something I enjoy doing. After I left my job, I said yes to many things because I wanted to keep the Mad Fientist growing and keep the business like it was. I had to learn the hard way that sometimes it’s okay to say no and focus on the things that really matter. I was like, what am I doing, as I felt like my time was limited, like when I was at a job. I needed to take a step back and think about what I wanted to do next. I am saying yes to everything. I’m ready to take on the world. Some of it is fun, some of it is cool, and some of it is interesting, but I don’t have to say yes to everything.
Brandon said that he doesn’t have to say yes to all this other stuff, but it’s still something that he struggles with. I want to focus on creating content that brings value to people instead of worrying about money. It is still a process for me. I’m making progress and working on it. I think
Grant : 09:22 I agree with you more. I have been out of the corporate world for almost 11 months and I am at a point where I want to keep growing the blog. I have a book coming out, there are so many opportunities, but at the same time, one of the things I have started to feel is a kind of constriction of time in a different way than when I was working in a corporate world. I’m trying to use the extra time I have to work on creative projects that bring me joy and fulfillment. I feel like I have less time in order to do the things I love since I can get up and do whatever I want. I’m trying to balance my newfound financial freedom with the time I can spend doing things that make me happy. Maybe it’s because I have that option. Do you feel that way? Do you feel like you can help me? How has your perception of time changed over the last couple of years? Time can be shaped and molded to fit my needs, as I have come to realize, instead of being linear and rigid.
Yes, absolutely. Brandon : u>10:17/u> I can be there at that time. It’s all good, I agree with that. We should move forward with this plan and make the best of it. It is like good stuff. It’s worth trying out if you haven’t already done so. This was a thing that I did not expect. I was taken aback by the event. I had trouble sleeping the first few months after I left my job. I kept thinking about my old job and the decisions I made to leave it. It wasn’t like I was always waking up in a cold sweat at night, like I had always been a good sleeping lazada lazada lazada lazada lazada lazada lazada lazada lazada lazada lazada lazada lazada lazada lazada lazada lazada lazada lazada lazada lazada lazada lazada lazada lazada lazada lazada lazada lazada lazada lazada lazada lazada I thought I would be able to keep up my routine for a while. I had always slept well. I’ve been having trouble getting a good night’s rest. I didn’t want to go to bed for the first few months because I was so excited to do so many things. It was necessary for me to keep a regular sleep schedule in order to stay productive. When I would wake up, I would be excited because I had to go to sleep now. I dreamed of all the fun things I was going to do the next day. I got the full day. And so yeah.
Brandon feels like there is not enough time. I don’t have time to do everything I need to do today. If something isn’t in line with what I want to be doing, then I’ll just say no. It resulted in saying no to some really cool and interesting opportunities that would have been fun. I know that it’s important to prioritize my commitments and focus on what’s most meaningful to me. It goes back to what we were talking about earlier with trying to maximize your spending and happiness, which was crazy, which wasn’t much. We learned a valuable lesson that year that I carry with me today. We went out to eat a ton and it wasn’t much. We enjoyed the delicious food together. When we traveled for three months, we realized it was way too much. We learned that shorter trips are more enjoyable in the future. Like we felt like we just wanted to come and be settled and we get a lot of happiness from like doing our normal routine and making progress on stuff that we’re working on and
I can’t do anything when I’m on the road because I want to eat all the local food and drink all the local beers. I like to explore new places and see different cultures. Increased happiness was caused by saying no to fun stuff. I realized that instead of trying to do everything, I should focus on the things that made me happy. It’s the same with restaurants. Safety protocols should be followed at all times inside and outside of the home. It got less special as we were eating out a lot more. We’re stuck in a pattern of eating out more and less satisfied. It is like a treat when we go out to eat. It is normal when something is not a treat anymore. This isn’t fun and it’s probably less healthy than cooking. I think I should just cook my own meals. So. So yeah. If you want to maximize and live that optimal life that you think is optimal for you, you have to say no to some really fun and interesting stuff. Even if it means saying no to a few things, making sure you are living the life you want is worth it. It is always an experiment. You never know what the outcome will be when there is no right or wrong answer. You have to keep testing it. The best way to find out what works best is to try different things and see how they work.
With financial freedom, you get this kind of time and you get this space, and I am starting to notice how unhappy I am. I feel like a lot of people are just asleep, and that is something I have never seen before. It’s like when you stop for a minute and you actually, whether it’s people watching or you know, just when you’re able to get some distance from that rat race, for lack of a better word. It’s important to take the time to realize how hard it is to break out of the cycle and how much effort it takes to do so. Are you learning a lot about yourself and growing in a way that you wouldn’t have expected? Do you feel like there is an acceleration in your growth or are there some things that you couldn’t have imagined? You sound really happy. It’s great to hear that you’re positive!
Brandon : 13:56 Yeah. It has been crazy. It feels like a long time has passed. You’re too busy with the normal routine to like think about other things or experiment, like people are just asleep and I was asleep. It’s easy to feel stuck in a rut if you’re not making any progress or achieving anything new. During the first few months after I quit my job, you were like, what is the point of my life? It was odd to have no direction for how to use it. I can do whatever I want. I’m going to embark on the next stage of my life when I’m out of school. What do I do with that? I will have to figure it out as I go along. I will pursue financial independence when I first thought of it. I thought I would be able to do all the cool entrepreneurial things that I had always wanted to do and I would be able to finally work on all the business ideas that I had. I wantedto make the most of my entrepreneurial spirit so I started my journey towards financial independence.
A lot of the business ideas I had were just moneymaking ideas. If I wanted to be successful, I had to find something I was passionate about. When you don’t need to make more money doing something just for the sake of making money doesn’t make sense anymore You can find joy and fulfillment in doing something you love. What do I do now? I have to figure out a way to move forward. I have been making money my entire life. I want to use the money I make to help others. Every decision, you know, studying hard in high school so I can get into a good college, I can get a good job and get a good salary and picking careers based on salaries, so is this going to cost less or is this going to make me more money I want to make sure that my decisions are based on what will provide me with the most long-term stability and success. And things like that. It’s amazing how small changes can make a big difference. Like that. That has been the main driver of my life. I try to make the best of every opportunity that comes my way. I was without the rudder. I was lost and confused without it.
Brandon said it was like bobbing in the ocean and nobody else was around. It was a moment of freedom that only I could experience, an escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. I was in the ocean with no rudder and no idea what I was going to do. I knew I had to keep going even though I was completely lost. There are a lot of heavy questions and thoughts. It’s important to take the time to think about them. I look back on it and feel a bit embarrassed. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has made similar mistakes. 95 percent of the population is so busy that they don’t have to think about the big issues. I would like to be able to enjoy the moment without having to worry about what was ahead of me. I was jealous of that. I wanted to be as free as they were. I quickly realized that it was ridiculous to be jealous because I think most people will face those questions eventually and maybe the unlucky ones will face that on their deathbed. Life is short and there is no time to waste on things like jealousy or regret.
Brandon has the chance to do that because he is in his thirties. I’m so happy that I can finally fulfill my dreams. It is a privilege and it is amazing to be able to do something about it. I’m thankful for the chance to make a difference. I chatted with my friend Vicki Robin and she helped me figure out what was important and where I should go from here. I know that with a little help and guidance, I’ll make the right decision, even though I’m still trying to figure out which path I should take. It has been a crazy ride and I definitely didn’t expect that. I’m thankful for the experiences I’ve had.
Grant said that it was fun for him to talk to you and hear your thoughts on the situation. We were able to have a better understanding of each other thanks to this conversation. I realized that happiness is not the goal in a way, and that I am growing more comfortable with some of the things that I have always felt uncomfortable with about myself. I’m learning that it’s okay to not be happy all the time and that I can still find joy in life’s uncomfortable moments. Financial Freedom is one of the missions of the book and I hope it wakes people up to the fact that money is not finite and time is not in a lot of people. I encourage everyone to explore the idea that you can take control of your financial future and make the most of your time. It is so easy to chase this external thing, whether it is a promotion or a job or a higher number. True growth and fulfillment come from within.
Grant hopes that the book will wake people up to the fact that they can step off the roller coaster. You do need some money in order to do that, but at the end of the day you have to ask yourself if you really need to stay at this job or if you really need to make more money. Making decisions based on what will make you happiest in the long run is a great way to ensure personal growth and satisfaction. I think there is a correlation between the increase in depression and suicide rates and the fact that we have not given ourselves enough time and space to grow. Increased stress, anxiety and even burnout can be caused by this. Our minds are hard to keep up and it takes time and space, it’s not perfect, I think. We should not expect to have it all figured out in a day or two.
Brandon said yes. I will be there at 19:30. I realized I did wrong when I looked back on my own journey. Learning from your mistakes can be used as a guide for the future. It’s hard to think about money and happiness and why you think you’re here, but you just need to make that as optimal as possible. It’s important to remember that it takes time to figure out how to balance money and happiness, so don’t be too hard on yourself if you don’t come up with the perfect plan right away. You should be trying to figure all three out at the same time in order to maximize your journey. It’s worth the effort to balance all three areas for a successful outcome. I completely ignored the other two, focused solely on the money, and then I got the money part of it sorted out, and I had no idea what I was doing here. If I wanted to be successful in the long run, I needed to learn and understand those other two things.
Brandon said, “So.” Let’s start! If you can focus on what your net worth is today, what your income is today, and what you spend today, then you can maximize for today. If you do this, you will be able to make sure that you are able to reach your financial goals in the future and live a life of abundance. If you focus onOptimizing for your current situation, you will be happy and you will be doing work towards what you want to be doing anyway. By focusing on what you can do right now, you will be able to make progress towards the future that you want. You won’t care because your life is designed for money and happiness and purpose. With the financial freedom that FI has given you, you’ll be able to do whatever you want and travel to places you’ve always dreamed of. It is easier said than done. It’s important to remember that there are challenges along the way.
Grant, I agree with you. I think it’s the right decision. I was the same way. For me, it was the external thing that made me happy. I don’t think happiness can be found with external objects or experiences. We are very fortunate that we were able to do this in our thirties and I hope that you are getting to that goal. I’m proud of you for taking the initiative and working hard to make this happen. I hope more people wake up to the fact that you don’t have to be perfect. We all make mistakes, but it’s important to accept them and move on with the knowledge that we can do better next time. There are a lot of things that people feel guilty if they don’t do. We are so lucky that we have the time and space to think about these things, and I hope that people out there are as well.
Grant : 21:52 I think that the point of all of this is that FI is not a single path. Financial independence can be achieved with the right planning and dedication. It is your path and there are many different ways to become FI. The most important thing is to take action and make it happen, no matter how you get there. There are many different tactics. I wish people allowed themselves more space to grow and not be so focused on hitting a perfect number. We should focus on the journey and enjoy the process of becoming our best selves. Perfect multiple. That is my reflection. I want to be the best version of myself and make positive changes in my life. When I was interviewing you for the book, one of the things that you said was that it has never been easier to become a filipino in the US. There are many ways to get to financial independence. Do you still believe that and why? The key to success is hard work and dedication, as nothing can replace the satisfaction of achieving something through one’s own effort.
Yes, absolutely. Brandon : u>22:33/u> Yeah. I would say that incomes are very high. We have a lot of things that are very easy. Life is simpler and more efficient thanks to technology. I think about all of the things on my laptop. I wonder if I have backed up all of my important files so that nothing will be lost if something happens to my laptop. It would have cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to replace my laptop. My laptop has provided me with a portable workspace that I can bring anywhere, making it easier to stay connected and collaborate with others. Just 20 years ago. It’s amazing to think about how much has changed in a short period of time. Technology makes it possible for us to do some amazing things. There are so many opportunities that technology has opened up for us. It is like the investment options that have opened up over the last 20 years. Every stock in the market is bought by the low cost index funds. They can gain exposure to the entire market. I don’t know how you would do that. It used to be difficult to accomplish tasks that would have seemed impossible fifty years ago. Fees and cost would be crazy. It’s best to consider the pros and cons before committing to a project. We can invest in every business in the world. The internet has made it easier and faster for people to invest. For a few basis points, it is not so high that I am a host.
Brandon said that you are an incredible story like what you have done with a laptop and built incredible businesses. It’s great to hear that you’ve accomplished something, and I’m looking forward to learning more from you. These days, there are far fewer people who make decisions. It’s easier than ever to get your work seen. There is so much opportunity and there are still problems like health care cost, formal education costs, and things like that. There are still organizations that provide access and support to those who need it the most. I think this is an incredible time to be alive and to the chance to really just take control of your life and do what you want and potentially earn a living from it is just so high. It’s an exciting time to be alive and I’m looking forward to taking advantage of all the possibilities.
Grant : 24:04 Why do you think the savings rate is going down? At a time when it is easier to become financially independent, debt goes up and all of these tools are available. To ensure long-term financial success, it is important to make wise decisions and use the right tools. Why are so many people stuck in that rut? It seems like a lot of people are stuck in a rut, unable or unwilling to try new things.
Brandon said yes. We can make it work. I think technology is a double edge sword, it gives us all these opportunities, but it also gives us the Joneses right in our face, like the highlight reel from the Joneses. This can lead to feelings of envy and unhappiness, which is why it’s important to take a step back and remember that what you see online isn’t always the full picture. If you were keeping up with your next door neighbor, you would feel like you needed a new car, but that’s a pretty limited amount of people that you’re comparing yourself to. It’s important to remember that you don’t need to keep up with anyone else, and you should focus on making yourself happy. It’s like you’re comparing yourself to a Valedictorian who is living in a mansion on the coast, and a friend who doesn’t have the money to buy a Lexus. It can be difficult to watch your peers do better than you, and it can be tempting to compare yourself to them. You just see the pictures of them in their new Lexus because you don’t know their scenario.
Brandon said, “You’re seeing all these obviously like all the television shows and everything on the TV is also you’re comparing yourself to.” I think it’s a big cause. You are just exposed to a completely different lifestyle and the highlight reel of all these people and the sad thing is they can’t afford a lot. It can be damaging for mental health to have an unnecessary sense of pressure to keep up with these seemingly unrealistic standards. You don’t really know the full scenario when you compare yourself to someone. It’s important to remember that you can’t really know what someone else is going through, so comparisons may not always be accurate. That could be it? There is always room for more discovery. I think Americans are so disconnected from what makes them happy that they spend their money on things that don’t make them happy. They are stuck in an endless cycle of working to maintain their status quo. It is hard to get out of this cycle until we find a book like yours and realize, oh wait, I don’t have to do all this. Understanding what brings joy and fulfillment to our lives is a matter of making changes based on that knowledge.
Grant : 26:36 What do you think the person who is listening to this should do to learn more about this? To figure out what areas of the topic they are most interested in, and then create a list of steps that can be taken to move closer to their goal, I recommend doing some research first. They don’t have to go all in. They can start small and learn as they go. Money can give me a lot more control and a lot more freedom in my life, what are those few steps to take from that consumerist mindset? To shift away from a consumerist mindset towards one that views money as a tool for achieving financial freedom, the first step is to recognize that you are in control of your own finances, and to make a conscious effort to shift away from a consumerist mindset towards one that views money as a
Brandon : 27:07 Recording a month’s worth of spending would be the first step. It will be easier to identify areas where money can be saved once the spending is recorded. You could do that on your own. You could use a program to automate the process. You could sign up to mentor Personal Capital and let them show you what you are spending in your bank accounts, but I think you should first figure out where you are and then see if you are spending a lot on this lease. If you want to make the most of your money, you should take a look at your budget. Is it possible to save up five lease payments and buy a used car and not have a car payment for the rest of my life? It’s convenient to just make payments each month and I can drive a nicer car with a lease. You know what I mean, but not the rest of my life. The first step is figuring out what you have and what your net worth is, that is important too. It’s time to plan for the future and work towards your financial goals once you have a good understanding of your finances.
Brandon : 27:47 If you are hemorrhaging money on things that don’t really improve your life, then that’s an easy first place to start trimming and trying to maximize. If you want to better manage your spending and make sure you don’t go over budget, you should create a budget that outlines how much money you’re willing to allocate for your expenses each month. Once you start building up a net worth, you have to figure out how much money you have, and what power that money has, but for a lot of people it’s the spending side of the equation.
Grant, one of the things that you have always helped me, and I know a lot of people use you as a source for this information, is tax optimization generally. I rely on you for tax advice. We don’t have to do that. I’m sure we’ll both benefit if we do. It is too early in the morning for Medicare and taxes seem boring. I can’t figure out all the ins and outs of taxes. I want to outsourcing that or I don’t want to think about that. I don’t have the time to devote to that task, so outsourcing is a great option. Many people shudder when they think about it. The thought of it makes them feel uneasy. For that person who is listening, who is making a good amount of money, or who is just getting started, how can you fall in love with tax optimization? If you want to maximize your financial success, you need to be aware of the different tax optimization strategies that are available to you.
Yes, Brandon. Thanks for your help! Yeah. I will tell you my story of how that happened. I’m ready to share my story now that I’m here, but it’s been a long journey. I started the Mad Fientist in 2012 because I realized that financial independence was possible when I was younger and I wanted to get there as quickly as possible. I decided to start the Mad Fientist because I knew I had to make some drastic changes in order to reach my goal of financial independence. I thought I would hit financial independence sooner when I started Mad Fientist because I would do a lot of research and write a lot of articles about it. I quickly realized that index funds are the most efficient way to get good returns. I was convinced that index funds were the best way to invest after researching the best options. When I realized what I was going to do, it was like, oh, well. I started looking for ways to maximize my time and resources.
When it comes to investing, not doing something is usually the best call. I was happy with my index fund portfolio when I set it up. I kept an eye on it to make sure my investments were growing in line with my expectations. I was not going to touch it. I was already quite frugal when I started looking into other ways to maximize. I was a naturally frugal person and always monitored my spending. I created a budget to make sure I wasn’t overspending. There were no optimizations on that side. We need to look for other areas to improve our process. I found some ways like travel hacking and things like that, but for the most part, my spending was pretty efficient so it was like, we’re, we’re, what else is there? I was surprised when I found out how to make my money go further. There is a big chunk that people forget about because it is taken out of your paycheck before you get it. It’s easy to overlook, but it can add up over time.
It’s like you don’t have it in the first place, but really like the pie of your money, because income is a part Being able to make your financial pie even bigger is the beauty of having income. There is a huge slice of the pie that is taxes. Financial freedom depends on proper management of spending and taxes. I started doing a lot of research into tax optimization after that. I discovered some interesting strategies and techniques that have helped me save a lot of money. When I was researching, I realized that early retirees are very different from the normal work until you are 65. I was led to explore a world of possibilities that I had never seen before. If you think of an income and spending graph of a normal person, there are loads of potential strategies that could drastically reduce your time to financial independence that no one is talking about. There are other paths to financial independence that don’t involve working until 65 and can help you reach your goals faster.
For an early retiree, you have a high period, this period of high income, low, hopefully decreasing spending, and you are getting more familiar with what you want to do. You can put all of that money into investments, savings, and retirement accounts to accelerate your financial freedom. Spending stays consistent but your income goes down. It can be hard to make ends meet, as this can create a difficult financial situation. You have a period of 10, 20, 30 years until you hit 65, where you have low income and reasonable spending. It’s a good time to save up for retirement and make sure you have enough money to live comfortably when you reach that point. And I’m like, wow, this is an amazing opportunity to potentially, you know, have completely tax free money because you can juice these pre-tax retirement accounts like 401ks and IRAs and HSAs and things like that to lower your taxable income when your income’s high and thus your tax brackets high and then you can use those periods of low income years to transfer all that money over to like a Roth IRA.
Brandon said that those are tax free withdrawal accounts. If you take out a loan from the account, you will have to pay it back with interest. That changed my path to financial independence and the direction of Mad Fientist because there are so many options for early retirees that can take years off of your career. I am able to give back to the community and help others achieve financial independence by helping others with their finances. It isn’t like we’re saving pennies just by buying name brand groceries. When we can, it pays to shop around and look for the best deals. We are taking years off of your career and you are not sacrificing anything to do it. This strategy can be used to achieve financial success and build wealth over time. It’s not like you’re cutting your spending. You don’t have to work an extra 20 hours on a side hustle to increase your income. You can make more money without sacrificing your time. Most people don’t like paying for things. And it’s legal. The government wants you to pay the minimum. That completely changed my trajectory. I never imagined that I would be on a path to success. It was a huge impact. It had an effect on the industry as a whole.
Someone is just starting out and wants to learn about taxes. The best place to begin is by speaking with a tax accountant. How much time do you think it would take to get the basics right, so you can save some money? When I first thought about this, I remember. I couldn’t wait to start because I was so excited about the possibilities. I thought this was going to take forever. The task was going to take me a long time. Is there enough time for someone to commit when they are just learning about this?
If you have a high income and are looking to retire early, then it shouldn’t take too much time. You can look into investing in an IRA to help you reach your retirement savings goals quicker. If you have a 403b, that is also a great one. Any of the pre-tax retirement accounts, just trying to max those out just because if this is going to be the highest tax bracket you’re in, potentially just if you have early retirement plans, then you just want to lower that as much as possible and then once you get to the stage where you’re thinking, okay, I’m going to maybe pull the plug on work, then that’s when you’re going to want to do some research into like how you can transfer that money over into a You can access the accounts early. One of the benefits of a Roth IRA is that you can access your contributions at any time without penalty, making it an ideal choice for saving and investing for retirement.
The majority of the writing on my side is focused on that. It takes time, but I’m passionate about it. I have an article about how to access retirement accounts early that goes through all the different strategies that you can use. It is important to know the tax implications before opening a retirement account. If you have a lot of money and you don’t want to deal with it, you can hire someone to do it for you. This is the first year I didn’t do my own taxes and that’s because uh, I switched my business over to an S Corp and I had no interest whatsoever and learning how to do an S The implications of a Corp return. It is important to understand the implications of filing a corporate return before making any decisions. Even though I am into this stuff, I hired a guy to do it and he saved me a bunch of money on taxes. I’m glad I hired him because he was knowledgeable and had a lot of experience in this area. If you don’t want to think about it, you can always hire someone. It is possible to save time, energy and resources by hiring someone to take care of these tasks. It wouldn’t take much reading to get you to a level where you feel confident in the decisions that you’re making and the recommendations that your accountant is giving you. It can be helpful to understand the basics of accounting so that you can make informed decisions, but you don’t need to become an accountant yourself.
Grant asked if there was anything that you would have done differently now that you know so much about this. I would have saved more and invested more of my money earlier in my journey if I could go back.
Absolutely, yes, Brandon. That’s a great time! I would have used the power that money gave me to make positive changes, to make requests at work that I thought I was too scared to make, and so on. I should have taken my career to the next level instead of letting fear get in the way. It is stupid to look back and ask for something. It was unrealistic to think that I had expected a different outcome. I shouldn’t have been fired because I asked for it, but I should have used the money I had to make positive changes in my life. I should have known that I had the power to create a better tomorrow for myself, regardless of the number in the bank. It did not change anything. Our efforts were in vain. It shouldn’t have focused on the number in the bank. It should have been that relationship between money, happiness, and overall life purpose, and just trying to experiment with that, not putting off that happiness for some arbitrary number in a bank account that really doesn’t matter at the end of the day. It’s important to remember that money isn’t everything and that living a life full of purpose and joy is more rewarding than wealth. It didn’t matter. I tried my best, but it wasn’t enough. If I were to do it again, I would use the power and be constantly working on the spokes of the wheel that I was talking about, because that was the biggest mistake. I would make sure to do something every day to move closer to my goals by focusing on the three pillars of success.
Grant : 36:45 What does financial freedom mean to you now?
Brandon : 36:47 Being able to do anything I want is what it is. I value freedom the most in life. It is amazing to be able to wake up and choose what you want to do, even though there are some drawbacks. I’m thankful that I have the ability to make choices and live my life with purpose. If you like working on stuff like I do, you will have some busy days. It’s worth it when you can look back and be proud of what you’ve accomplished. I had a lot of stuff going on, but it was all good and everything that I did was something that I chose to do and there is nothing else like it in the world. I was exhausted at the end of the day, but happy to have accomplished everything on my list. Saving for financial independence does that. Since the first year was crazy and I was trying to figure everything out, I don’t think it really sunk in, but the second year after quitting my job, I feel like it’s really sunk in. I now have the freedom to live my life as I please. I can do whatever I want for the rest of my life. I plan to use this opportunity to my advantage. I will get hit by a wave of happiness and gratitude every now and then. It reminds me of how lucky I am to be alive.
Brandon : 38:00 I don’t know what the word is for it, but just like this wave of just happiness really, that it’s just like, wow, this is, and those come when I’m not doing anything particularly fun or amazing. It’s a feeling that I’m thankful for and it makes me feel better. I think it’s possible because of the work and decisions that have been made in the past. It’s amazing to think about how far we’ve come. I said there are challenges, but I couldn’t recommend it enough. It will stay with you for the rest of your life.
Grant : 38:26 I was looking for a word. I was trying to find the perfect phrase to describe how I felt. I was sitting in Cornwall, England for a short time and I felt weird because I was looking at the water. I felt like I was connected to the environment around me. I was wondering, what is this? What is this feeling that I have? It’s driving me crazy because I can’t make sense of the emotions I’m feeling. It was the first time in my life that I was at peace, and I didn’t know it at the time.
Right? Brandon : u>38:47/u> I finished the race at that time. Yeah. That is a good way to describe it. It captures the essence of the situation. Absolutely.
Grant : 38:51 Life is going to have a lot of rhythms and you are correct, some days those rhythms are going to be crazy, but there is an ease to it. It’s important to appreciate the moments of peace when they come, no matter how short they are. I think you increased the chance of peace in your life. With this action, you are paving the way for a brighter and more peaceful future. You realize that you can only control so many variables, and you realize that this process that I am in control of a lot less of the variables than I think, I am learning to be okay with. It reminds us that life is unpredictable and that all we can do is accept what comes.
Brandon : 39:36 It is true that you are not in control of all these variables, but it is also true that I would just have this low level of stress whenever I thought of my car when I was younger. I have an old car that is having problems and that can still happen. I want to get it fixed so I don’t have to worry about it breaking down while I’m driving. I just don’t care about the money because I don’t worry about it. I can focus on what I love and that’s all that matters. I think that the power that money gives you and not having to worry about it as much as you did in the past makes a lot of things that stress you out. A stress free lifestyle can allow you to focus on creating the life you want. That is a beautiful thing. We have hope for a better future because the world is full of possibilities. A lot of the worries that you used to have are no longer with you. You can find peace of mind by focusing on the things that matter. It is a beautiful thing. The power of love is amazing.
Grant : 40:41 Money insulates you from the world in a lot of ways. Money can be a barrier to meaningful relationships. A lot of people are consumed with getting that paycheck or getting that payment and it just consumes a lot of their thinking. It can be hard to focus on the other parts of life that don’t involve money. 90 percent of my brain opened up when I became a financial advisor, and I didn’t realize how stressed I was about money. I’m thankful every day that I made this journey, and it changed my life for the better. You are going to be able to take care of yourself, and it is just another example of not having to. No matter what the situation is, you have the strength to get through it. A lot of people can feel that sooner than they think. I think it allows you to create a barrier between you and the outside world that will allow you to open up your internal growth, because at the end of the day, this is no matter where I live or how I make money. This realization has made me focus on finding inner peace and contentment no matter where I am. At the end of the day you are carrying yourself with you, and I wish I had thought I would feel different when I sold my first big client. It’s a reminder that no matter what success you have, it’s always important to stay true to yourself. This is the last question. I don’t think the finance industry sells a level of precision that is realistic. The false sense of precision can lead to people making decisions that are not based on reality. I think budgeting creates stress and reinforces a scarcity mindset. Even though you have enough resources to break out of this mindset, it can be hard. I think a lot of people think about money, and they think about budgeting, and it seems kind of daunting, and the finance industry sells this idea that, hey, you need to save up. How do you begin to plan for having enough money for the rest of your life? It’s important to understand that retirement planning is an ongoing process and that you need to stay up-to-date on the latest financial trends in order to ensure your future financial security. Two years ago you were the same person. We all change and we all grow, so how can someone set themselves up and maybe give themself permission to maximize their money, but like we have talked about in this episode, focus on those more important things. Money shouldn’t be the primary focus, but rather a tool to help achieve the goals in life.
Brandon : 43:05 That is a great point. I agree! I have an article that I am going to write and it is going to be about fi… This article will help me reflect on my journey towards financial independence. This whole thing should be about mastery. You are correct that you are going to be different in two years and that you should be focused on the new you. It is important that you remain true to yourself and your values throughout this process. You should not make choices that keep you in something for a long time. Before making a decision that could have long-term implications, take your time and consider all the options. If you can, try things out, renting instead of buying, it will allow you to change what you want and what you are paying for. It is possible to find what works best for you without making a long-term financial commitment. Just treating it like you are mastering that intersection of money, happiness and purpose rather than, all right, here is my financial goal. This will allow you to take control of your finances and live a fulfilled life. I will work towards that. If I put in the necessary effort, I can achieve my goals. It is possible that once you get there, you will cut your spending in half because you realize all the stuff you are spending doesn’t matter. Depending on how you look at it, this can be a positive or a negative experience. So. I just think, focusing on that and rather than treating it like a goal, just treating it as I want to master my life and how I spend my money. It’s important to remember that life is a journey, not a destination, and taking the time to focus on improving your financial habits can help you reach your goals in more meaningful ways. I have enough money to do everything I want in the future.
Brandon is working on the exact thing that is important to him. I’m looking forward to seeing what I can do with this new focus. It’s like you’re constantly learning things and changing, so just be flexible and you’re able to be flexible by not locking yourself into a 30-year mortgage on a McMansion that you can’t afford and you’re not flexible when you have to work 40 hours a week just to pay for your two leased SUV’s. Living this way can lead to stress and become unsustainable. I agree that focusing on just improving for today is a great way to go about it, because I think there are some things you can make so that you don’t screw yourself over in the future. Good choices today will help you in the future.
Yeah, Grant, u>45:21/u>. That’s a great score! It is important to define what financial freedom means to you more than anything else. Brandon, I really appreciate all of the wisdom you have taught me. I want to learn more from you in the future. It is enjoyable to be on this journey. I’m looking forward to seeing what the future holds. It’s so. Thanks for going deep with me this morning, it was great to hear you were happy. I look forward to our next conversation, I appreciate the connection we shared. I’m really happy that you’re on the show. We were able to share our thoughts with a larger audience.
Brandon : 45:45 No, my pleasure. It was great talking to you. It’s been great to see what you’ve been up to and the things you said at the beginning and knowing that I helped you onto this path is just incredible. I’m so proud of you and the progress you’ve made. It is amazing to see what you have created on your own path, even if one post helped you. It’s inspiring to see how far you’ve come and the progress you’ve made towards your goals. It is awesome man. I’m very happy that I get to experience this. It is always great talking to you when I come on your show. I will be back on your show soon.
Grant : 46:12 Have a great day.
Brandon : 46:14 Thanks buddy. Later!