Our five themes of financial freedom in this podcast are frugality, extra effort, starting the journey, Foolish moves, and educating others.
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This video was recorded on July 05, 2023.
David Gardner: As we welcome another Independence Week here in the US, freedom is on our minds. For this podcast, of course, financial freedom is on my mind. I hope yours too. For many of us, especially Motley Fool members and Rule Breaker listeners, those two words, financial freedom, echo like a liberty bell. Thanks to the Fool community writing in from many places this week, you’re going to hear echoes of that Liberty Bell coming at you from diverse places and diverse viewpoints all aiming for liberty. I consider liberty one of America’s five core values, and it’s on display this week when we share and riff on the dream and for some, the reality of the liberty that comes from financial freedom. I can’t wait to share and riff on these tales. As told by you, my fellow Fools, only on this week’s Rule Breaker Investing.
Friends, on this holiday week, I have the privilege of sharing back at your stories, your answers to this prompt question that I provided in last week’s podcast. What have you done in the past year to create financial freedom for yourself and/or for others, and if you like, how do you measure that, which is, by the way, not an easy task. One of the things we’re not going to go too deep on is measuring things this week, but it is something, rhetorically, I’ll ask you to think more about yourself. How do you measure that step you took toward financial freedom, the act of paying off that final revolving credit card or making that first down payment on a house, and what a house could mean for your financial freedom? It’s not always easy to quantify things, but I think it’s worth asking that question. How do you measure that? But really we’re not going that direction too much this week. What I have gotten are a bunch of writings. This is basically a Mailbag episode, except it’s all about, for this special week, this holiday week in the United States, about financial freedom. This unites the work of the Motley Fool with the work of The Motley Fool Foundation, both of which I serve as chair of.
There’s a sub-theme you’re going to see running through these stories and insights about financial freedom, and I think, in particular, of The Motley Fool Foundation. Foolfoundation.org is our website. If you’re already there with financial freedom, we’d love to hear from you. Tap at the arrow at website, join us, get involved with our work at The Motley Fool Foundation. If you’re not there yet, we’ve got this other website for you. That’s fool.com which, for 30 years now, has been a beacon lighting the way toward financial freedom for many, and I trust many more in future. It’s been really fun to see all these different notes. I would be sharing 11 different notes, and you might think, is this going to be a really long podcast? Not if I’m doing my job right because what I’m really aiming to do this week is just largely share these voices, not comment too much in-between. In fact, as the notes came in, I started to realize they fit within a few different categories. I see five of them, and I’ll give those to you out front. This is your table of contents for this week’s Financial Freedom podcast. Our five themes are Frugality, Extra Effort, Starting the Journey, Foolish, that’s with a capital F, of course, Foolish Moves, and the last one is Educating Others. So those were five clear themes that a number of your notes each submitted independently, but since I had the full view of the waterfront, I could see how I could group them into ways that made intuitive sense. Without further ado, I say let’s get started. Thank you very much for Item Number 1, Jeb Sturmer, as we talk about frugality with these first three. Jeb, your @Jeb_Sturmer, a longtime Fool and friend. Thank you for writing and you actually tweeted this out, Jeb.
In answer to that question, what have you done to create some financial freedom for yourself and/or others over the past year, you said, I began social security distributions, and I queried you back, and then you said, our financial freedom, speaking of you and your family, is in large part because we have developed frugal habits. We both get social security, but don’t actually need the money. It’s like a cushion. It makes sitting more comfortable. Jeb, thank you very much for that. You’ve struck a great tone at the start of this Financial Freedom podcast. There’s a lot of emphasis that we bring at The Motley Fool on investing and compounding your returns over time, the importance of finding great companies, all of that is part of it. But there’s a whole second thing that we don’t speak to as often at fool.com. We do it a little bit more at foolfoundation.org. But that’s about your spending, the spending habits and that’s what’s for so many of us they are. They’re real habits and making sure you’re spending less than you’re taking in. It’s not always easy for everybody. At different points in our lives, it can be easier or harder. So I realize I’m addressing many people in many different situations this week, but there simply is no substitute for living below your means. One of the things that’s always inspired me most are meeting people who don’t have a lot, who don’t make a lot, and who live below their means. You know who you are listening to me right now. I have met many of you over the course of our 30 years of touring the United States of America through book tours or just emails, writings, forum postings on The Motley Fool, the Living Below Your Means community, on our forums for so many years. We’re talking about a real superhero power for many people, and yet it’s one of those we want to grow for many others because you don’t have to be a superhero. You don’t have to be Spiderman.
You don’t need to be able to spin webs out of your wrist and be able to soar through a city without wings to live below your means, so frugality, that financial freedom, Jeb, you’re saying in large part because you have developed frugal habits. Good on you. Thank you for sharing. The second item this week coming in from Mark, @MXJ61 on Twitter. Mark, I take you to be Australian. Maybe you’re an expat living in the United States, but I’m going to [inaudible] you in Australia for the purposes of this week’s podcast. You wrote, “I absolutely stopped spending money. I need my money in the market,” Mark wrote, “not anywhere else. We’ll live the year on a big bag of rice, nothing else.” I hope that’s slightly overstated, Mark, but I think you’re making your point very effectively. You went on to conclude, “Being retired young, each year is pretty vital. If the market dips, I need to save doubly hard to rebuild my financial freedom in the rebound.” One thing I’m picking up from Mark’s tweet is that not all of us who, “retire young” have necessarily hit the jackpot or sold our Internet company or our AI start-up to others for billions. Many simply find a life that is a simple life, and so by spending very little, they actually have a measure more of financial freedom.
They may have true financial freedom relative to those who may have well more in excess of what they have either saved or earned on an annual basis. Again it’s such a clear calculus. This is simple fifth grade math. We’re talking about addition and subtraction, nothing more. The addition is what you’re taking in, maybe what you have. The subtraction is what you spend on an annual basis or per month. As long as that is below what you’re making, you’re pretty financially free. You might well be set for life, although when hard markets hit, and that’s what Mark is referring to, it can sometimes force you back into the workplace or out of retirement or just eating rice everyday. Again I don’t think Mark is recommending that for anyone’s health, nor am I. Yet I do get the point, Mark, that living simply and cutting well back in hard times is a great way not just to survive but to have or earn, in time, financial freedom. Item 3, coming in from another longtime friend of mine, Jason Newman, frequent correspondent on fool.com, and of course, on this podcast as well. Jason, thank you for this. You wrote, “This is my third and final in the Frugality bucket.” You wrote, “Thought about being fun and creative here, but in service to my fellow Fools, I’m afraid I must be,” Jason writes, “boring.
In our family, we pay ourselves first and live below our means, the same way we’ve done for the past 30 years or so as adults. In other words, we save and invest as if our financial independence depends on it because it still does.” Jason goes on, “Now for the fun part, if you do this long enough, and you pick the right winners, you too, my fellow Fools,” Jason writes, “might also start to experience forget-me pops on a daily basis. Now, that’s the sound of freedom. Happy Independence Day to all, and with gratitude to all who have sacrificed for our freedom.” Signed, Jason Newman. The reason I decided to close Frugality with that one is because I’m going to describe that, Jason, as Frugality Plus. Yes, you are pointing to the importance of living below your means, which you have done for a long period of time. But you’ve also, in your boring words, paid yourselves first, advice that many have followed, many Motley Fool members and employees follow, and that is to always use that 401(k) plan, 403(b) plan, Roth, IRA, whatever that retirement plan is, that many of us in the US and elsewhere too have set up to just, without thinking about it, deduct, let’s say, 10% from your monthly salary or those every two weeks checks that you never even see.
Ideally, you are simply “paying yourself first.” That money goes right away toward your investments, and toward your financial freedom, toward your retirement, and you learn therefore to live on 90% of what you’re making every two weeks, not on 100% of it, or worse, more than 100% of it, so yes, as we close out Frugality and how important it is, but Frugality Plus. On to my second theme, my second organizational category for this week’s podcast on financial freedom, and this one I’m entitling simply Extra Effort. I think you’re going to hear it in the voice of this correspondent, the note from House Hunter. Now, pretty sure, House, that that’s not your real first name, and probably Hunter isn’t your real last name. But you submitted it that way, and I suppose there’s at least a 5% chance that your given name is House Hunter. If that’s true, that’s really awesome. Here’s what you had to share, Item 4. “One step I just took,” House Hunter, “is to get a side hustle of sorts. This month it provided me $700. I will be investing every penny into stocks, and maybe a dividend, exchange-traded fund dividend, ETF. I’m especially stoked,” House goes on, “if the limits are raised to $10,000 for Roths, as I will put the extra money to work in this account over a taxable account.” House you close with, “The fuller versus growing, and I mention to anyone who will listen about the great environment for financial education you all provide. Fool on.” Fool on back to you. House, I really appreciate you taking the time to share that. Yes, the Foolverse is growing. Financial freedom for all is our watchword at The Motley Fool Foundation, and certainly, to make the world smarter, happier, and richer is what the Motley Fool has been all about over these many years. The Foolverse is growing, and the number one way that it grows is by sharing it out with others. If you’re making a good financial move, whether you learned it from us or not, I hope you’ll share that with friends and family or over the water cooler at work, if you’re still going into an office at work.
There are many ways that we can reach out, social media, another example, reach out and help others with advice or just exemplify with our best efforts how to do it right. I think a side hustle, what I’ll call Extra Effort for this section, House Hunter, is an excellent step toward financial freedom. It does take extra effort, and not everybody can side hustle it and rack up $700 for a given month which, if my math is right, means $8,400 for a given year, but good on you that you’re taking the time to make that. If and when the maximum that you can put into a Roth goes up, it certainly will over time, you will indeed be putting that extra money to work in that account tax-free by paying the taxes upfront as we talked about on last week’s Mailbag podcast, and certainly paying yourself first, in this case, powered in part by that extra effort that you’re putting in, that many are putting in, and that is, in your case, a side hustle. So thank you for writing in.
Let’s move to Theme Number 3 of 5 this week. I’m just going to call this one Starting the Journey. I’ve got one that’s really well expressed, just one for this category. Although, how many people are starting the journey? The answer is, many are, every year. It tends to start probably with New Year’s resolutions. Many emerge into each new year saying, this is the year I’m going to finally do blank. Often it’s about our health, but many times it’s about our financial health. Those two things are intimately connected. For a lot of us, I hope, if you did say something like that in January of this year. That here as we crust into July, that you feel good about your efforts thus far. I don’t always keep all of my New Year’s resolutions, but I at least try to make some effort, some progress, toward improving myself and improving the world around me through the occasional New Year’s resolutions that I make, financial ones included. Starting the journey is what many people have been doing, and one of them is Ken Taylor. Ken, you tweeted this out @TelosInvestor on Twitter. You wrote this past week in answer to my question again, what have you done in the past year to create financial freedom for yourself and/or for others? Ken you wrote, “I began my investing journey. I started saving and investing at a very high rate.” Ken goes on, “I’m late to the game, and hoping to catch up.
The greatest thing about it is it set me on a new career path.” Ken continued, “When I reach financial freedom, I will be able to choose to work doing what I love or not to work at all. Either way, it will include a confidence in being able to travel for as long as I physically can without risking my ability to cover my finances indefinitely. In conclusion,” Ken writes about financial freedom, “I’m a long way from that day, but I can actually imagine it now. Whereas 15 months ago, I thought I’d never be able to retire.” I really appreciate that, Ken. l think what brings a smile to my face most of all is that, 15 months ago, you didn’t see any light at the end of that tunnel, and today you do. You can actually, in your own words, imagine it now. You know you’re still a long way from it. But wow, if hope doesn’t pull us forward, and having that hope for many people gets them from Point A, usually a point that’s harder or a point of less to Point B, a place that’s easier, a point of more. Thank you very much for sharing that, Ken. We wish you the very best. I hope this podcast, I hope the Motley Fool, and I hope the Motley Fool Foundation can be helpful in your journey. You didn’t go into this at more length, this was just a tweet, but you said the greatest thing about it is it set you on a new career path.
A lot of times there are second-order effects. Once we decide, we put a stake in the ground, draw that line in the sand in front of us, and say, OK, I am now officially committing to working toward my financial freedom. I’m going to take that first step up the mountain, even if it’s a long way away, I’m going to pay off that final credit card. I’m finally going to make enough money from my job that I will put it toward my 401K. I hope your organization is matching those steps early on that we take toward financial freedom or, on their own, worthwhile. But what I love you said, Ken, is that it’s actually started you on a new career path, and you’re not the only one. By the way, a little bit later this week, we’re going to hear from somebody else who is similarly inclined and a little bit further down the road, I suspect as well. Ken, thanks for writing in. Happy Independence Day, whether you’re American or not. Fool on. My fourth category, and I’ve got three in this category, for you this week in What You’ve Done to Create Financial Freedom, Volume 1.
When I first conceived this podcast, I just thought it’d be fun to do because it’s Independence Day Week here in the United States, so why wouldn’t I do something on financial freedom? But now I’ve started realizing maybe this is the first in an episodic series that we’ll go back to in future. I’m having so much fun hearing what each of you is doing to get closer to financial freedom. If you’re not already there, our next correspondent, Item Number 6 is already there. This is a longtime friend of mine, a former Motley Fool employee and somebody who’s always invested very well for himself, Philip Durell. Philip, it’s great to hear from you, @Durell_Philip, on Twitter. Philip, in response to my question, hey, what did you do to create more financial freedom for yourself or others in this past year, Philip tweeted out, seven words he wrote, “Only made two trades in 12 months.” As we kick off this Foolish Moves section of this podcast, that’s one of the best Foolish Moves that I myself have used to great effect. Philip, clearly you have as well. I know I’m preaching to the choir for a lot of listeners this week because, you get it, although we remain a real minority in this world, people who try not to jump in and out of the market, people who try not to set tight target prices on their stocks and sell when they hit them or decide they want to get out of the market before it drops, people who just sit there and add to their holdings over time, buy far more frequently than they sell, or in the case of Philip who is already in financial retirement, only made two trades in 12 months. Philip when I asked you a little bit more about it, you just added, “I think it’s extremely helpful to have experienced previous market meltdowns,” Philip added, “for example, Meta Platforms, the former Facebook, of course, is one of my larger holdings. It was well below $100 before Christmas, having fallen from 300 plus.”
But Philip points out, “It’s now back to $286 a share.” He concludes, “I had financial freedom, anyway, but not panicking really helps.” Thank you, Philip Durell. Bless you, sir. On to Number 7, still here in the Foolish Moves category, smarter moves made by people who are already active investors. Number 7 comes from Kim Archibald. Kim, thank you so much for writing in. “Dear David, I’ve been a longtime listener and an occasional subscriber to some various Fool services. Really love the culture of investing and long-term thinking you inspire. I’ve never written in. I’m definitely on the introverted side, but I love thinking about investing systems and processes, and your question about creating financial freedom this year resonated with me, so I wanted to reply. With investing I’ve usually been strict about being tax-efficient,” Kim writes, “optimizing as much as possible with the majority of my investing taking place in retirement accounts. This year I set up an account that is purposely, get this, tax inefficient. To bring these small steps closer to financial freedom each month, I opened an investment account with an online broker earlier this year and take a portion of my bi-weekly paychecks and add to it. Each month I buy shares of dividend-paying real estate investment trusts, REITs. Each month I buy shares of dividend-paying REITs and steady dividend-paying stocks. Instead of reinvesting the dividends that these holdings produce at the end of the month, l transfer the exact dividend amount earned for that month out to my checking account and use those small amounts, literally, pennies some months, a few dollars in other months,” Kim writes, “to pay down extra principal on my mortgage.”
Kim goes on, “While it makes little to no difference in the amortization schedule of my home loan, now, I know that doing this for years and decades, as the investment account grows, with my account additions and the market’s growth, those monthly payments will get bigger and bigger, making a dent toward being completely out of debt, which has been a goal of mine. Plus it’s a fun way to gamify an otherwise boring activity, slowly paying off my house early. In addition to shaving off a few dollars per year on my mortgage, this account acts as an extension of my emergency fund, one that I hope I’ll never have to “break glass” on and access the principal investments. In conclusion, while I will have to pay taxes on the dividends each year, hence, the tax inefficiency, the peace of mind this tax-inefficient account brings as I add to it each month is quite wonderful and slowly helping me create more financial freedom. I have no idea how early it will help me pay off my house or if there is indeed some catastrophic emergency in my future that may necessitate me draining this account to avoid tapping into my retirement accounts. Life is unpredictable.
But I wanted to share this early win way ahead of the actual win, in case some of your listeners like thinking about investing systems like I do. Warmest regards, Kim. Anytime I can share the verb gamify, it’s going to bring joy to me and many listeners to this podcast. Kim, I love the game that you’ve created. I appreciate that you’re doing it knowingly tax-inefficiently. I think taxes always count for something, but I think our mindset, our mentality count for more, and I really appreciate that you’re inspiring yourself from one paycheck to the next, starting at pennies some months, and you are paying off that mortgage a little bit quicker, and then in time a lot quicker probably because of your persistence. It’s a holiday week, so I wouldn’t call Robert Brokamp back to account from, I hope, the Independence Week celebration that he’s enjoying, but I did ask Robert for some comments. Having shared your note with him, a lot of us will remember Bro’s comments last week. Here’s a little bit more of Robert Brokamp, Kim, speaking directly about and to you. He wrote me, “I think it’s a fine idea, and in fact, last week’s episode of Motley Fool Money, Matt Argersinger and I sang the praises of dividend-paying stocks. One benefit is that, historically, the dividends paid by a diversified portfolio grow at a rate that exceeds inflation. That said,” Bro goes on, “the payouts from REITs are particularly tax-inefficient because most of the income they produce aren’t considered qualified dividends and thus are taxed as ordinary income, not at the favorable, lower qualified dividend rate.” He has to quote Buffett, so Bro goes on, I’ll do it for him. “In his 2012, I think, annual letter, Warren Buffett talked about why Berkshire Hathaway doesn’t pay dividends and explained what he called a ‘sell-off method’ hold shares of a non-dividend payer. The company instead uses the case to invest in the business but then sell off a small percentage of shares to create your own dividend. Those sales would be ideally long-term capital gains, of course, which are taxed at lower rates, and you’re in control of when you realize that so-called income, and thus the taxes, you can choose not to sell if you don’t want to. For what it’s worth,” Bro concludes, “I am a big fan of trying to pay off the mortgage by the time someone retires. Being mortgage-free in retirement means the investor doesn’t have to withdraw as much from her accounts. It would not only extend the life of the portfolio but also results in a lower tax bill. That said, for those with mortgages below 3%,” and Bro says, I’m one of them, “it’s tougher to argue for paying that down too quickly.”
Thank you for those comments, Robert, and yeah, for a lot of people who are aiming for rates that would be higher than the interest that we’re paying, so it can be advantageous for many to continue to invest and save in the markets alongside having a mortgage. But we’ve gone deep on this, but I’m not going to go any deeper, but this Foolish Move section in this Number 7 item from Kim, I think deserve a lot of listening from many people worldwide. You may or may not be inspired to copy what Kim is doing, but you can absolutely appreciate and feel inspired by his desire to make a little extra effort using dividends to pay off that mortgage maybe before his retirement. Kim, thanks for writing in for the first time. Fool on, my friend. One more in the Foolish Moves bucket, Frank Iryami, @ImayriF on Twitter. Frank, thank you for writing in this month. Frank writes, and you can see he’s a financial professional, “The best thing I’ve done for myself and clients is keep a certain cash cushion that will enable me to not even be tempted to sell stocks in a downturn.” Frank writes, “Find a dollar amount that will enable you to not look at stocks when they’re getting crushed.” Having enjoyed what Frank shared there, I queried him back and just asked, what is the dollar amount? If you do keep too much out of the market, it’s possible, of course, that you might be paying quite a big opportunity cost in time for keeping so much out of the market that you didn’t have enough in the market. But Frank rightly responded this way. He said, “This is a personal decision. I know I’m giving up some opportunity cost,” and Frank says, “I’m fine with it. I know myself.” He goes on, “By the way, most people I deal with don’t have the temperament.
Even when I find a number that should be enough, people have a very hard time sticking to their game plan.” He concludes, “I could tell you stories about this. When people are afraid, they are not rational.” For most of us, our journey toward financial freedom is our own. We might share a little bit with friends. We probably share with family. We should definitely be sharing with spouse or partner. But outside of the tight-knit circle, many of us don’t have much visibility. Someone like Frank Iryami who advises others everyday, of course, many of us at the Motley Fool in our different ways do have an understanding of the pattern recognition we get from watching what lots of other people do. Frank, I so appreciate you sharing your own experience that for many, they can’t handle, with their temperament, downturns very well, therefore, holding back some cash out of the market so that you can know that’s there, and you’re not feeling like you must sell your stocks whenever the market dips is very valuable, and that does indeed help create financial freedom for ourselves to stick with the theme this week, and of course, for others. So thank you to my Foolish Moves correspondent Philip Durell, Kim Archibald, and Frank Iryami. We’re going to close with three that are all about educating others. Some of the best ones I got this week are in this bucket. Let’s go to Item Number 9. This one’s a horse of a different color. It’s from Walt Hauser. Walt, I put this in the Educating Others bucket because clearly that is what you’re doing. Item number 9. Dear David, most of us conduct financial transactions and manage sensitive personal data on our phones, computers, and networks. However few of us understand the threats we may be facing nor do we know the measures needed to address these risks.
What should we do to protect ourselves when it goes wrong, and why?” I’m going to continue Walt’s short note in just a sec, but I do want to mention, especially I’ve found, as we age, working with some older family members. It’s clear to me that technology is a blessing for so much of our own lives, this is David speaking, not Walt Hauser, but it’s also clear to me, increasingly as we age, that technology can be a real curse. Of course, elder abuse, fraudulent scheme so often targeting people who are vulnerable because they’re not keeping up as well with technology or may have their own mental issues. So I really appreciate what Walt is doing here with his notes. I especially think of the older people in our lives as I continue with him describing himself as a volunteer for the Montgomery County Police Department, that’s presumably here in Maryland in the greater Washington, D.C., area. “As a volunteer for the Montgomery County Police Department, I speak on staying safe on the Internet. To community groups from high school and college classes to senior centers and retirement villages, I educate people of all ages on protecting their identities, finances, and technology devices from various threats, including overreaching data harvesters, malevolent cyber stalkers, and greedy computer criminals. Although I’ve given over a dozen presentations over the past year, the true measure of my efforts,” Walt concludes, “has been the relief and gratitude that attendees show once they understand how to protect themselves from these cyber threats. Thank you.” Signed, Walt Hauser. Walt, I think we can all say thank you, and that’s a perfect kickoff to my Educating Others section because in my question that I tweeted out and shared on the podcast last week, what have you done in the past year to create financial freedom, I was partly talking about what have you done for others, and you’re clearly doing that. I know many who are hearing you might wonder, I’m not in Montgomery County, Maryland, so I can’t benefit from his work, but I just bet Walt’s not the only volunteer at police departments across this nation. I’m sure not every police department can afford it, Montgomery County probably can, but across many boroughs of this free nation of the United States of America, you can find people like Walt who will give you advice on how to protect your data and avoid being defrauded by cyberstalkers, etc., so thank you for that contribution.
Let’s move onto my last two. On to Number 10, longtime Motley Fool member, Martin Triggs, frequent correspondent over the years to this podcast. Martin, thank you for this. “Greetings. I’m passionate about this subject and consider it good news that one can indeed become financially free, so I’m an evangelist on this topic until everyone I know about it freely. I want people to learn the truth, learn why they should care about financial independence, what they need to do, and how to get started. Many people I speak to,” Martin goes on, “haven’t started doing anything, or have left it up to others to manage with no real idea what’s going on. I rarely meet anyone who’s taking charge of their finances. Usually the only people I hear who truly have gotten it and are financially independent or are on the way are the letters of success on Rule Breaker Investing mailbags. To my fellow intrepid Rule Breaker listeners out there doing it right, congratulations,” Martin Triggs writes, “and well done. I have started a few investing meet up groups where I give presentations on these topics here in Japan where I live. I’ve done over 60 seminars. Students who strictly followed what I taught them, lessons I’ve learned from you, have, over time, experienced great financial success and freedom. All I do is share what I know with great passion and urgency and hope that they too will do the smart and safe thing, like getting their money in the stock market and leaving it there for decades. Some do it and make progress, while there are others who seem unteachable, make excuses, are closed to the strategy of being a business-focused investor for years and decades, which is what true investing is.” Martin says, “Usually those who have tried investing but confuse it for trading are those who I find more unteachable. Some people see the simple light that I tried to teach but others never can.”
Martin concludes, “Thanks, and I hope your efforts in this crucial area of financial independence bear some fruit in the years to come with many new people. It’s already born much fruit with me as I’m on my way to financial independence within the next decade. Thank you, David, for your leadership and advocacy on this. Regards, Martin Triggs.” Martin, first of all, thank you. It’s great to hear from you again. You know I love hearing that half a world away, the antipodal position of Japan about as far away as you can get from Washington, D.C., that you are doing the work that you do, volunteer. I know this is not your full-time job, not nearly, and yet, wow, 60 seminars that you’ve conducted. For anybody who will listen, I realize not everybody will, sometimes people who don’t listen can’t, at one stage or another of their lives, sometimes for understandable reasons, sometimes for unfortunate ones, we all switch on at different points to different aspects of financial freedom. I’ve experienced that myself. I bet you have too. A lot of the work that we try to do at the Motley Fool Foundation and at the Motley Fool is to switch people on, to get them realizing you are an investor. Sometimes in the past, Martin, I’ve asked a room full of people raise your hand if you’re an investor. It’s a trick question because everybody should be raising their hand. For those who don’t, without berating them, I smile and say, everybody’s hands should be up because we’re all investing constantly. You just invested an hour of your time, you’ve just invested $1 probably toward a stick of bubblegum, you could have put it toward your 401(k) plan instead, we all invested time listening to this week’s podcast. Every human being is investing, every moment we’re investing our time, all of us all the time. You should think about it as an investment, not all the time, but realize that a lot of the things we’re doing in life we should be investing toward creating value, toward things that will grow in value over time, the relationships that we build, the skills that we acquire, of course, the capital that we earn and then put back toward our future. You could spend every dollar you have, all of us could right now, but the good news is enough of us don’t because we recognize the benefits of investing it for gain over time. I appreciate your distinction between trading and investing, which I consider opposites.
Martin, I think you know that. I so appreciate that you have such a good mindset about this, a good Foolish head on your shoulders, you understand how financial freedom is created, and it is available to all. One day, not in my lifetime, but one day there may be financial freedom for all, for a lot of us, it starts with a mindset and with a few steps forward. We’ve heard some great examples of that. On this week’s Financial Freedom podcast, Martin, you are one such. Thank you for your work to educate so many others. You credit us sometimes by saying you’re just sharing what you’ve learned from us, but by sharing with so many additional people, you are leveraging the little work that I do on this podcast each week, the work that we do at fool.com, every day, you are leveraging that to the benefit of so many others, and it makes me smile. Thank you, sir. On to our final item this week, Number 11. Thank you for writing in, Brian Duncanson, and yes, I put this one under Educating Others as well. “Hi, David. I’ve been a Fool podcast listener and member for the last several years. I’m 55 years old and live in Vero Beach, Florida with my wife, Joanne, of 29 years. We have three adultish children, 25, 23, and 19, more on them in a minute. Like a lot of people my age, money was not something that was talked about openly when I grew up, and I spent my life learning financial lessons on my own. My financial freedom journey started early in my professional career, thanks to a couple of book recommendations from friends. The first book was The Wealthy Barber by David Chilton. It really drove home the simple concept of long-term investing.” Your phrase, Brian, not mine. For those who know the dead arm rule, let’s keep going. Long-term investing and value of time in the market. The second book was Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki, where he boils down the difference between buying things and buying assets that will appreciate in value. “These early reads,” Brian goes on, “pushed me to join my company’s 401(k) plan, which had matching and employee stock purchase early on.
Another important step in my financial freedom journey came while I was working on my MBA, my Masters of Business Administration in the mid 1990s. I was fortunate to take an investing class as part of the curriculum and began to understand the stock market. This was early days for the Internet.” Brian writes, “We were pulling stock information from the newspaper and still had to write letters to most companies to get their investor information sent in the mail. The one lesson that sticks with me the most, however, was when my professor gave us an assignment to create a personal investment plan, and the first section of the required outline was to review and document our health insurance. We all had curious looks on our faces and asked, why? My professor said the quote that rings in my ears to this day. My professor said, ‘If you don’t have your health, you don’t have anything.’ This really expanded my thinking about financial freedom and forced me to take a more holistic look. Flash forward 30 years, and I have tried to pass along these lessons and more to my children as they transition into their independent adult lives. What became very evident to me is how little basic financial literacy is taught in high school. When my daughter had to sign all of her HR paperwork the first time she called me, she said, why don’t the teach us this stuff in school? [laughs] At the same time, the Fool podcasts exposed me to people, like Matt Frankel and Robert Brokamp, both certified financial planners, and also to the Motley Fool Foundation and your mission to improve financial literacy. Listening to your podcasts inspired me to pursue becoming a certified financial planner myself. Over the last year, I worked at night to take all of the CFP online coursework, and I passed the board exam last year. I’m now part of the Garrett Planning Network.” That’s one of Bro’s favorites, which is comprised of planners who offer their services for flat fees. “Since I need to accumulate experience hours to complete the requirements for my CFP designation, I’ve been offering my services to family, friends, anyone I can find, for greatly reduced rates because I would rather someone gets some guidance than miss out because they don’t think they can afford it. It’s been so rewarding,” Brian continues, “helping other people on their financial journeys, and I would like to share a few takeaways with your audience. First, many people are still uncomfortable talking about money. We should all continue to try and change this culture.
Second, my clients to date do not need high-end investing analysis. Rather, I spend most of my time on basic financial education. This industry is full of jargon and changing laws. Thus, we have to continue to be curious and always keep learning. Third, too many people do not have wills. Many more people need to listen to your Let’s Talk About Death Over Dinner podcasts from last year to get comfortable. Here there are online services that make this very easy and inexpensive, that include not only a will but also a living will to address incapacitation. Do not leave this to your family to figure out in the moment or the probate court to determine your wishes or where to place your dependent children. Fourth and final, we all have blind spots, so seek help. Even after passing the CFP board exam, I maintain a relationship with my own certified financial planner to head-check my investing decisions. It’s worth the investment. Thank you, David, for the inspiration and all you do. Fool on. Brian Duncanson, RIA, MBA.” In response, Brian, I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of reading stories like yours. They’re so inspirational. I love that you started from where you did, not knowing that much, not necessarily having family conversations about this in the ’70s or ’80s as a kid, and now all of a sudden there you are with your adult children, giving them the advice at such a great time in their lives, knowing that they got to grow up with you and see, I’m sure, you and your wife’s excellent habits. I love that you read some books. Book learning, there is no substitute for that, and that you’re paying it forward.
As I like to say, in many ways, I appreciate you mentioning the Motley Fool Foundation as well. Most of all, I love that you transitioned your career toward creating financial freedom. That question that I tried to ask that’s hard to answer, it’s probably really hard to answer for you, but maybe in time we can figure it out together. What have you done in the past year to create financial freedom for others, and if you like, how would you measure that? I will leave that rhetorical for you. Maybe we can talk about it sometime down the line. Congratulations, Brian Duncanson, on what you’re doing in this world. Happy Independence Day, most of all, of course, to my fellow Americans celebrating this week. But as we saw from a number of our correspondents’ Foolishness and financial freedom and Rule Breaker investing are everywhere. They know no borders. Sometimes in fact the irony may be that the biggest border for many, maybe their own mindsets. That aside, it’s also very clear to us at the Motley Fool, especially the Motley Fool Foundation, which does work every day with people taking small and big steps toward financial freedom for all, it’s also very clear that there are many impediments, some of which seem outside of our own control to our own financial freedom. This isn’t achieved overnight. Financial freedom and smoothing the way for others, those take time.
But then again, most every good thing does take time. As the Greek philosopher, Epictetus, reminds us in a great quote I once rocked on a great quotes podcast here for Rule Breaker Investing, and I quote again, “No great thing is created suddenly.” Happy Freedom Day to those who have financial freedom. We celebrate that for you. We earnestly hope that you will work to enable the same for others. Here’s a website you can visit, foolfoundation.org. Happy Freedom Day as well to the many who do not yet have their financial freedom, but, and you heard their voices loud and clear this week, they see that light at the end of the tunnel, they are taking steps everyday toward that light. My favorite of all, through sharing of themselves and their stories this week, they’re helping all the rest of us toward that light as well. Financial freedom for all. Fool on.