3 Degrees, Debt Free, and “Coasting” to Financial Independence

Student loans can often drag people into debt, especially when chasing more than one degree. But here’s an unusual story: Brenda Olmost, PhD student, nurse practitioner, and member of the FIRE community is graduating with NO debt. Amazing right? Brenda has worked her tail off over the past decade getting scholarships, living below her means, and working whenever she can so she graduates her program with no debt.

Not only has Brenda done a fantastic job making extra income, she’s been investing on the side! She has a growing 401(k), a maxed out Roth IRA, and 2 rental properties. At 31, she’s in a phenomenal position to reach financial independence. Lucky for her, she loves her career, so even if she does hit her FI number, she’ll still be bringing in the dough to pursue more and more investment opportunities.

If you want to hear more from Brenda, you can check out her podcast, Minority Millennial Money where she talks about budgeting, investing, saving, career, and relationships!

Mindy:
Welcome to the Pyjama People Money Podcast, show number 195, where we interview Brenda Olmos. And talk about being intentional with your spending and your investing.

Brenda:
I’m not the typical person that wants to leave the workforce completely. Because I have such a useful skill and actually quite passionate about my work. And so I don’t see myself getting a PhD at 33 and leaving the workforce 12 years later. I just don’t think that that would be a very good use of all the education I’ve gotten. So for me, the retire early is more of like a work optional thing, right? At that point, I’ll be able to say like, “I want to do this work. I don’t want to do this work. I want to teach full time. I want to practice a little bit.” I only want to do the things that I really want to do.

Mindy:
Hello, hello, hello. My name is Mindy Jensen and with me as always is my straight talking co-Host Scott Trench.

Scott:
Straight talking. That’s a curve ball, Mindy. I don’t know if I have a good response to that one.

Mindy:
Scott and I are here to make financial independence less scary, less just for somebody else. To introduce you to every money story, because we truly believe financial freedom is attainable for everyone, no matter when or where you’re starting.

Scott:
Whether you want to retire early and travel the world, go on to make big time investments in assets like real estate or start your own business, we’ll help you reach your financial goals and get money out of the ways that you can launch yourself towards those dreams.

Mindy:
Scott, I am super excited to talk to Brenda today. I met her on Twitter a hundred years ago and she just a delightful person. She’s a nurse. She is a funded PhD student. And we’ll get into that in just a moment. But she is being intentional with her money. She’s spending money on purpose. She’s investing money on purpose, and she has set herself up by making, I don’t want to say sacrifices because she still has a really great life, but she has set herself up by making intentional choices with her money. So now she’s kind of [inaudible 00:02:12] FI, meaning if she just let it all ride and didn’t add another dime to her investments, she would still most likely reach financial independence within 10 or 15 years. And I’m just really, really excited to talk to her today.

Scott:
Yeah, I think she has a fantastic story and you’re going really going to enjoy it. I think it’s very straightforward, common sense approach where she’s already won. Now what? Right. And now she’s got this incredible array of awesome options in front of her that are going to continue to multiply.

Mindy:
Yeah. Which of these amazing choices do I have to choose? I’m just so excited for her life. Brenda Olmos is a funded PhD student. She owns two rental properties and plans to retire at age 45. Brenda, welcome to the Pyjama People Money Podcast. I’m so excited to talk to you today.

Brenda:
Hey, thanks for having me on.

Mindy:
I would like to know what a funded PhD student means.

Brenda:
Yeah. So I began the research process to do a PhD a couple years ago, 2019. And I was looking for an opportunity that would at least pay my tuition because I thought I’d be giving up my full-time job to do this. And I don’t want to go into debt for a PhD in nursing because there’s no real financial guarantee that there will be a very big return on the investment. Full-time professors probably starting out make less than I was making at the time as a nurse practitioner. So it would actually be a pay cut if I were to do academia full time. And so I thought no way, I’m going to go into debt for that, right. And so I did some research and I found this program that I’m at now, and they had a scholarship opportunity where they pay your tuition and they give you a living stipend.
So a lot of graduate students get this in some form if they qualify for it. And mine was merit based. So it wasn’t financially based. So I just had to apply. I applied and I won it. And so now for three years, my tuition is paid and I get $2,500 a month to live on essentially. And I’m allowed to work 20 hours a week. So the stipulation is that I don’t work more than 20 hours a week because they are supporting me to do well in the program.

Scott:
Do you usually work the 20 hours a week? Because that’s an awesome situation, it sounds like.

Brenda:
I work pretty sporadically probably throughout the semester, works out to about 20 hours a week. So I teach in a master’s nursing program for nurse practitioners because that’s what I am. And that’s about five to 10 hours a week. Currently, I took on a recent position as a graduate research assistant with one of my professors. That’s six hours a week. And then I have some contract work as a nurse practitioner here in town. That is probably my most lucrative work because contract works tends to pay more. And that’s like weekends and nights sometimes if they need help. I’m kind of like the on-call person and I’ll go work a five to 9:00 PM shift at a clinic.

Scott:
This is a great program. It sounds like.

Brenda:
It is.

Mindy:
Let’s go into the Wayback Machine and look at where your journey with money begins and specifically with regards to becoming a nurse.

Brenda:
So my journey with money begins, I remember being like 10 years old and wanting to start a little business. And my parents let me buy different treats for dogs and I would mix and match them and make little treat bags. And I went around the neighborhood and started selling these mixed treat bags to the neighbors. And then I became a babysitter and I made money that way. And so I was always kind of like a little bit of an entrepreneur, even though I don’t really aspire to entrepreneurship as an adult. But my dad had a small business. And so that was always something that I looked up to. He found his own work and he made money that way. And so I followed in those footsteps and because my dad had a small business, our family money situation was always very feast or famine.
It was like business is really great. And we’re doing really well. And then there were other seasons where business was not that great. And I knew that we weren’t doing very well. But my parents were very like Yolo about money. They were like, “If we have it, we spend it and if we don’t have it, we just don’t get to spend anything.” And so I didn’t have that stability with money that I’ve created for myself in my adult life. And I think that was what really drove me to be very, very careful with money as an adult and has reaped me a lot of benefits now that I don’t blame my parents for how they were. But I also realized that my personality, I need a lot of stability and I can’t really live with that feast or famine roller coaster situation. Because it actually just makes my anxiety worse.

Scott:
Can you walk us through how your money story evolved through high school and college?

Brenda:
Sure. So I had a job when I was 15, apart from babysitting, that was my first job and that was just my spending money. And my parents had gotten me a car and I used that money to buy gas and go shopping, teenager things. And then I went to college and I went to UT Austin and I had about 75% of my college paid for through scholarships. Because I was in the top 10 of my graduating high school class and I went into the nursing program. And so I came out of college with about $10,000 in student debt, just because I studied abroad. And there was that last quarter of my tuition that wasn’t covered. But because I was a nurse, I was able to get a job and pay that off pretty quickly, $10,000 I think I paid off in like six months. Because I got a second job on my days off from the hospital and I just threw the money at the loan. And so I haven’t had a student loan since about 2011 or 2012.

Scott:
That’s great. And so what did you start… So it sounds, I’m picking up a story of where you had this different mentality of your parents with money or that you wanted to apply that to your adult life differently. And now you’re six months graduated and you’ve worked a second job and you’ve paid off the debt. Are you intentionally pursuing FI at this point or is this just like, “I want to get out of debt and then figure out what’s next?” What happens next, I guess.

Brenda:
I’m not pursuing FI. I’m 23 years old. And I did a big no-no, which was I went and bought a new car and it was a really sweet car. Actually, it was a Mini Cooper. I don’t regret it. I regret it financially, but it was such a sweet ride. That it was something that I’m like, “Ah, I did it.” I probably could have saved that money, but it was fine. So I was not pursuing FI at the time at all. I just wanted to be out of debt. And then a couple of years passed by I’m working as a nurse, I get into graduate school and I’m working at a hospital that would cover the cost of graduate school. And so they did tuition reimbursement. And so I got about half of my graduate degree paid that way. It was about a $22,000 degree.
And so the hospital reimbursed me for half of it and I paid the other half of it as I went because I worked full time while in graduate school full-time. They don’t recommend that, it was not the easiest thing, but I was single. I didn’t have kids. I didn’t have a lot of other demands on my life. And so I was like, “I’m just going to make this work for these two years.” And so that also paid off in the sense that I came out of my master’s degree with no debt. And in that time it was 2016. So it was five years ago. It was the first year of my master’s program. And I started listening to a couple podcasts about money and that led to another podcast which led to another podcast. And I was like, “I could make this work.” I was like, “I have the means and the income earning capacity to do this.” And I had already been saving. So I traded in the car and it was so sad. I let the Mini Cooper go.

Scott:
But before we hear about all your tactics and all you did here, can you give us a framework of your situations? You’re starting grad school. You’re not in debt. Did you have debt from the Mini Cooper?

Brenda:
Yeah, so I did have the car loan. I did have that car loan and I was like, “I could just trade this is, take the loss on the negative equity and just buy something that is reliable. That is under $20,000 that I can pay off.” So I did that, but I actually did that after graduate school. I kept the Mini Cooper through grad school. And I sold that car when I got serious about FI and I had had some money. I had like $20,000 and I bought my first property, right when I graduated grad school in 2017.

Scott:
So what was your net worth? Were you investing in retirement accounts or those kinds of things, but when you discovered FI and started making the big changes, what was your kind of position right at that moment in time

Brenda:
My net worth at that time was probably only like 25 or 30,000. I don’t know. I mean, I remember having about $20,000 because I was looking to buy a place and I was like, “Okay, this is how much money I have. I need to do something with this money.” But my net worth is much higher now. And it’s only been five years. Sorry. So the timeline was, I graduated from grad school in 2017. I bought my first property, a condo for myself. Then I had the Mini Cooper for another year. And then I got serious about really getting out of debt except my mortgage. So paid off the car that I replaced it with and the year. And so, except for mortgages, I haven’t had any consumer debt since 2018.

Scott:
So the moment you discover FI around that time is in grad school in 2016 or 17.

Brenda:
16, yeah.

Scott:
You’re evolving in that range. Okay. Does your lifestyle change at all? Like your day-to-day living once you discover it?

Brenda:
Only in the sense that I started paying myself first and then saving and investing first, instead of saving and investing, whatever was left over. But I gave myself enough money that I felt like my lifestyle didn’t stay the same and I was never super spendy. Anyway, I’m probably more spendy than most of my friends. And by that, I mean, like I go out to eat more often. I like designer bags. I don’t really like clothes. But if I want something I’ll buy it because I can. And because I know that I’ve already saved and invested. And so like any money that’s leftover is just for me to enjoy.

Mindy:
Do you have a set amount that you are saving and investing? Like I put away 20% and then everything else is mine to spend.

Brenda:
So when I had a full-time job, I maxed out my 401(k) and maxed out my Roth IRA, and I invested a thousand dollars in the market every month, but now I just… I’m going to try to max out my Roth IRA and I invest $500 in the market every month, just because my income is so much lower now. $2,500 a month from my stipend is just $30,000 a year. And I can work, right. I can work the other 20 hours, but we’ll see what I end up making this year, which will be the first full year that I don’t have a full-time job as a nurse practitioner. But I’m thinking it’s going to be somewhere around 50 to 60,000 this year. So I’m happy to just max out my Roth and contribute $6,000 in the market for these three years while I’m in school.

Mindy:
Yeah, I think that’s great.

Scott:
Where have you been located during these last couple of years?

Brenda:
I’ve been in Austin, Texas since 2007. I came here for college.

Scott:
Oh, wow.

Mindy:
Is that where your rentals are?

Brenda:
Yes.

Mindy:
Oh, so the Austin market has kind of exploded lately because of, I mean, Austin in general, but Tesla just built some factory there, was it SpaceX, or both.

Brenda:
There’s a ton of new tech companies, not new, but new headquarters and buildings here for all the tech companies. And I bought my first condo in 2017. And then in early 2019, I bought a single family home and I house hacked that for a little while and then rented the whole thing out last year when I realized I’m going back to school, I want to cut down on my housing expenses. And so I rent now. I rent and I have two rental properties. But it’s nice to be able to rent something smaller that fits my student budget a little bit better. And I still get to live alone, which is really nice because when I had the bigger house and I was house hacking, I had travel nurses living with me, which was really cool because it was like the nurse house. But it was definitely a strain to have that revolving door of roommates. Whereas now that I live alone, it’s nice to just be able to study here and not have to deal with that.

Scott:
So the biggest lever, it sounds like in your journey to FI has been the real estate, is one big lever, would you agree? What do you think were like the biggest moves you made over the last five, six years since discovering FI

Brenda:
I didn’t buy the real estate with FI in mind. I bought the real estate just looking for a place to live and I by default became a landlord. So I bought this condo, I bought it at 142,000 back in 2017, today it’s worth like 205. And so that’s four years, almost $60,000. And then I was like, “This place is really small. Why did I buy such a small place?” And it was because I was real nervous about taking on a mortgage. And so I didn’t want to take on a huge mortgage, even though I could’ve afforded something much bigger at the time. Then I was able to buy another home while keeping the condo, rented out the condo, bought the second home. And then I was like, “This place is really big. I should get some other people in here.”
And so I started renting out to travel nurses because Austin has a lot of nurses come on three month contracts to work here in the local hospitals. And I had a few travel nurses live with me and that paid like 1400 out of my $1,700 mortgage. So that helped me be able to save a significant amount on housing costs. And so that was one of the levers inadvertently, house hacking and saving a lot of on housing. The other lever was putting 19% of almost 20% of my income because I was making about a hundred thousand as a nurse practitioner, putting that into my 401(k) and just letting that grow and maxing out the Roth IRA and investing in the market. So it was a little bit of both. I would say that I was a bit more intentional about the investing and the saving in the tax advantaged accounts. And then the real estate just happened.

Mindy:
Well, I think we’re ignoring the fact that you’re a nurse that makes a lot of money. And I mean, nursing is a really great career. I am not a huge fan of the whole blood thing, so I could not be a nurse. I would be very squeamish, but I remember when I was in college, all these girls, I was going to school with, I was at a junior college all were in the nursing program. And it’s like an 18 month program, this is a hundred years ago, an 18 month program. And then they’re working, making $50,000 a year. Meanwhile, I’m 18 months later, still in college because I’m on a four year program for some stupid degree that I’d never used. But nursing is a really, really amazing way to make a lot of money really quickly.
I mean, you mentioned contract work, you have like on-call contract. I know nurses that are going traveling, especially during COVID, they’re traveling around making a lot of money and yes, you pay a little bit more for your rental as the nurse doing the traveling, but you’re getting a lot more money for the travel.

Brenda:
Yeah. The income earning capacity is huge and I stay local, I can’t travel. I am doing a PhD. I don’t want to uproot and go all over the place. And those jobs are usually full-time and I’m not allowed to work full-time. But for example, my contract work here in town ranges from 75 to a hundred dollars an hour.

Mindy:
An hour?

Brenda:
Yeah, as a nurse practitioner, right. So not as a nurse, but as a nurse practitioner, which means I can diagnose and treat and prescribe under the delegating authority of a physician an hour. Yeah. So like I’ll work a seven hour shift from 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM and I need $700.

Scott:
That’s fantastic.

Mindy:
Okay.

Brenda:
And sometimes I don’t even see that many patients.

Scott:
[crosstalk 00:20:58] And you will able to do this for a total cost of $20,000 in education, but to you at the end of the undergrad and graduate degree programs.

Brenda:
Exactly. Yeah, exactly. 20,000 that I’ve put of my own money into this.

Scott:
That’s fantastic. So what has happened to you? Can you give us like a story arc maybe of like milestones in your net worth over the last couple of years? How has that gone?

Brenda:
Sure. So I did want to give a shout out to everyone I know on Twitter. And I know this is how Mindy found me because I do have like a lot of FI friends on Twitter and that’s really what has motivated me to keep going and track my net worth. And sometimes not by that designer bag that I’ve been wanting. So milestones, I think when I reached 100K was like two years ago and now I’m at 320. So it really is true that once you reach the a hundred thousand, it just starts snowballing. And I had made the plan to retire at 45. I believe this was before PhD. So that was assuming that I was going to be still maxing out my 401(k) and that’s another $20,000 a year that I’m not able to invest right now.
So it may be a little bit later, but honestly, I’m going to graduate with a PhD at age 33. And I’m going to have 30 years to use that PhD. So I’m not the typical person that wants to leave the workforce completely. Because I have such a useful skill and actually quite passionate about my work. And so I don’t see myself getting a PhD at 33 and leaving the workforce 12 years later. I just don’t think that would be a very good use of all the education I’ve gotten. So for me, the retire early, it’s more of like a work optional thing, right? At that point, I’ll be able to say like, “I want to do this work. I don’t want to do this work. I want to teach full-time. I want to practice a little bit.” I only want to do the things that I really want to do. And I think another thing that has helped me is keeping my expenses low enough that I never have to do something I don’t want to do. Mindy is raising her arms.

Mindy:
Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. Okay. That is one of the levers that… Scott’s got four levers, spend less, earn more, create a business and… God Scott I’ve heard you say this a thousand times.

Scott:
Invest.

Mindy:
Invest, oh, I quit, invest. Of course invest. Okay. So you are spending less because you just don’t need all of that stuff. You are earning more because you are actually, well, you’re not totally earning more. You’re pulling… Your hand is on the lever, but you’re not actually pulling it yet. You’re just going to school, but you’re not paying for school, which is huge. Every single thing about your story I love because it’s intentional. You used that word earlier in the show. I’m intentional about my spending. I’m intentional about my investing. You pay yourself first, so, okay. Sorry. I’m getting off course.

Brenda:
My levers are pay myself first. Yeah. Invest.

Mindy:
Spend less.

Brenda:
Spend less

Mindy:
Invest. And I mean, in a couple of years, you can sell that Austin property and be retired if you want it to which you don’t. But I also love that aspect of your story. I don’t want to retire early. That’s not my goal, but you are taking all of the steps so that you could. Let’s say you graduate from your PhD program. And now you are a doctor nurse, a nurse doctor.

Brenda:
Nurse scientist.

Mindy:
A nurse scientist, and… I’m not done Scott.

Scott:
Sorry.

Mindy:
You graduate from your program. And then you decide, wow, this is not what was in the brochure. I don’t like any part of this. You don’t have to do anything with it because you’re not in debt up to your eyeballs because you got the PhD, you are still investing. You have the fallback to go be a nurse. And I don’t say that in a bad way, although I’m not phrasing it properly, but you could still go make a hundred dollars an hour being a nurse practitioner. I mean, you have so many options.

Brenda:
Right.

Mindy:
Because you made smart decisions in the beginning. I love this. If you’re listening and you don’t know what you want to be with your life, go be a nurse. There’s a shortage. First of all, there’s a shortage. So you can go and get a job. Like almost instantly, apparently you can make a-

Brenda:
Exactly.

Mindy:
-Boatload of money. And then if you decide that’s not what you love… How long did it take to become a nurse?

Brenda:
So my undergraduate degree was a bachelor’s degree, but you can get an associates degree and it takes a little bit less time. So my degree was four years because I went to a university and I got a bachelor’s. But like for example, the local community college has a two year program. But it’s really closer to four years because you spend about one to two years doing the prerequisite courses. So really the advantage is the bachelor’s makes you eligible for a master’s whereas the associates doesn’t. But it’s the same license. You get the same license from the board of nursing. Whether you have an associate’s or a bachelor’s degree. I just went as straight out of high school so that was the degree I got.

Scott:
I just want to chime in here with a couple of thoughts. One some people are going to listen to this and they’re going to say, “Well, great. She makes a hundred thousand a year, when she’s not in school and a hundred dollars an hour.” And it doesn’t sound like you have a family with that stuff.

Brenda:
I don’t.

Scott:
So it’s just you. So you get to save all that money and put that away in there. And that’s more than many families earn, even what you’re making right now is more than some families earn in a year with that kind of stuff. And to that, I would respond, but a couple of other points here, one you’ve intentionally chosen a career path that is a very lucrative, it is not completely inaccessible. You have to be smart and sharp to get into it, but it’s an option available to many people out there that can be more impactful than some other degrees. Mindy’s the first to talk crap about her degree. But I want to say that that’s a set of choices you made there. And second, I think there’s a ton of people out there in a similar position to you who are not building wealth and who are not going to be FI easily and just formulaically in their mid forties that are in very similar situations. What do you think it is that is different about you from your peers who are in the…
I’m sure you have lots of friends or know people that are in relatively similar positions who are not on this course. What is that difference? Why aren’t people doing this? What seems to me obviously, correct way to handle your finances and money in similar situations.

Brenda:
Right. So I get what you’re saying about like, Oh, I’m single. I don’t have kids. And to counter that, I’ll say, so that’s been my opportunity cost, right? I want to have a family, I want to be married and I want to babies, but I’m in a PhD program. And when I graduate, I’ll be close to 34 and that’ll be the beginning of my career as a nurse scientist. And I’ll have to choose, do I want to have a baby and take a big pause in my career when I’m literally climbing? Or do I not have a baby for another two or three years? And wait till I’m 37. You know what I mean? I’ve really struggled with that recently thinking, Oh, I quote unquote did all the right things in my twenties. And I really focused on my career and he worked hard so that I wouldn’t have debt. And in that, I don’t think I missed the opportunity. Because I don’t think it presented itself.
But I’m single and I don’t have kids and when is that going to happen? Where does that fit in this journey? I mean, I just want to say like, that’s the opportunity cost, right? On the outside it seems like, “Oh, she makes so much money and everything’s going to work out for her.” But at some point I’ll have to sacrifice something, something will have to give, that’s just life. Right. But what is it?

Scott:
Thank you for…

Brenda:
No go ahead.

Scott:
Yeah. Thank you for sharing that. I just want to say like that is that’s real. That’s raw. That’s like a part of the deal and I appreciate you sharing that. But I also want to point out that there are probably many peers born in the same situation who are also experiencing that opportunity costs yet have no net worth and no foot framework for approaching money, I guess. And I guess that was more the intent of my question, although I really appreciate that context as well with that.

Brenda:
Right. Yes. I think the difference was that I really had a goal of this is where I’m going to be and I’m not going to be in debt. And because I had seen my family be in debt, right. And I had seen what that did to us emotionally and psychologically. And I was like, “I’m not going to live that way. I’m just not.” And there were definitely points where I was like, “I want to Yolo, I want to go on all these trips and I want to travel.” But I’m in graduate school and working full time. I didn’t even have time to do that. I didn’t even have time to spend money. And I think a big part of it too, was getting informed about what to do, how to do it, getting the right people in my corner and making friends in the FI space. And that’s where I had mentioned like Twitter people before. Because sometimes you’ll meet people who are very contradictory and will be like, “Oh, you need to just enjoy your life. Stop worrying about retirement. You’re only 30 years old.
I’m 31 now, but like don’t worry about it. And I didn’t want to be around those people because I was like, “No, I am worried about sometimes my parents.” I’m like, “Wait, am I their retirement plan?” And this is a particular immigrant struggle, child of immigrant struggle, right? Like having to navigate everything on your own because your parents, they didn’t grow up here. They don’t really know how to do it, the quote unquote right way. And so I think it was a very much an internal motivating factor. And the fact that I am smart, I am sharp. And I was able to put in the work and willing to put in the work where there are a lot of smart people who are not willing to put in the work.

Scott:
Yeah. And it sounds like you’re also among that group of smart people who is also willing to just spend less than you earn, because it’s sometimes it’s, “Hey, I’m willing to put in the work and earn the money, but I’m not willing to keep it.” The simple act of automating the investment profile of 500 bucks a month and those types of things.

Brenda:
Right, right. And also just not having friends that aren’t impressed by my outward stuff, right? That’s a big one, hanging out with people that don’t care what car you drive. And don’t necessarily care where you live, as long as it’s safe. They’re not looking for those things. They care about me being a good friend and that’s how we value each other. But I don’t need to be around people who are driving luxury cars or who are… And now I kind of am like, “Hmm, that status symbol is a sign that you are actually not that smart with money.” To me.

Scott:
Nope. Makes perfect sense.

Mindy:
That right there is the number one way to get to financial independence is to not hang out with people who want you to spend more money than you feel comfortable spending. I live in Longmont, Colorado, Mr. Money Mustache is in my city. There’s a lot of people who moved to Longmont, Colorado. I am in this financial independence bubble where nobody that I hang out with is into spending a lot of money and cares about my car. And we have like, “Oh, my car has 180,000 miles. Oh, my car has 190,000 miles. I got an electric car.” It’s almost like a contest-

Brenda:
It’s the culture.

Mindy:
-Who could be the cheapest. Yeah. It’s definitely this bubble that I have become surrounded by. And it sometimes is, I have to take a step back and be like, “Not everybody is in this space.” But yeah, I had friends who just wanted to spend money all the time. And it’s really difficult even I feel like I’m pretty opinionated and fairly-

Brenda:
No.

Scott:
No.

Mindy:
-Fairly strong personality.

Scott:
[inaudible 00:34:28]. Me neither.

Mindy:
And I feel like-

Brenda:
Not me. Mm-mm (negative). I have no opinions.

Mindy:
Yeah. I feel like, I like to think that I’m a strong person, but when I’m surrounded by people who are, “Oh, let’s go out to this and spend a lot of money. Let’s go out to this expensive thing or let’s do this.” It’s like, “Oh, I don’t really want to do that.” But it’s hard to speak up. So having a bunch of friends that… Having people surrounding you who are on the same financial page as you is so valuable and-

Brenda:
So valuable.

Mindy:
-It can be okay to drop a friendship when it isn’t something that is benefiting you anymore. And that’s, I feel, I don’t know, I feel kind of snotty for saying that, but if you’ve got people who are not helping you further your life in the direction that you want it to go, it’s okay to pull back a little bit. But I really do love that. You’re surrounded by people who don’t care about what kind of car you drive.

Brenda:
Right. And it really doesn’t matter. I mean, it gets me from point A to point B, I have driven the luxury car and it was a pain in the butt. It was always breaking in some way. And I was always having to deal with that. And so knowing how that reliable car and I don’t live like downtown where rent is $2,500 a month and that would eat up my entire stipend. But I still live in a nice neighborhood and I like my place. So I also don’t feel like I need to impress anyone.

Mindy:
That’s another benefit is because you could, Oh, I get $2,500. That’s free money. I can put that all on rent. And then I’ll just charge my food and my clothes and my spending and, and, and… I know it would give me the heebie-jeebies too. But you purposely made a choice. You’re consciously spending your money in a way that aligns with your values and that’s this whole [inaudible 00:36:41].

Brenda:
Well, I think it’s interesting that you mentioned you live in Mr. Money Mustache land, because I’m not there. I’m not frugal, you know what I mean? I wouldn’t say that I’m even like on the frugal extreme, I’m just intentional, right. And I ask myself, does spending this reflect my values? What do I value? Because I’m not going to be the person, I’m not like couponing, I’m not doing the super frugal things, but I’ve established a pretty good rhythm to where I know how much I spend every month. And I know that it’s always going to be less than I have.

Scott:
I’m curious about what’s going to happen for you once you finished your program. When does the program finish and what do you expect your income potential to change to following that?

Brenda:
So I finish, if all goes well and I get dissertation done, the allotted time I finish in August of 2023. So in two more years. And I have lots of options and a PhD opens a lot of doors. So I’m not set on what I will do. Surely I’ll probably have some offers to work full-time as an academic, right. And pursue that research tenure track life. I’m not sure I want to do that yet. There is the option too, of being a researcher for a pharmaceutical company, which does pay a lot more. And being a, they call them medical science liaisons, which I could do just as a nurse practitioner. But I’m sure that it would pay more with a PhD. So it would probably meet closer to 200,000 as a PhD prepared medical science liaison, because you’re like the scientists, but also the clinician that can connect clinicians to the research work. Because clinicians don’t necessarily know the nitty gritty of research.
So they have those positions. I could go, right? Health policy. Honestly, jobs in the public sector don’t pay a lot, but the benefits are good and I’m willing to take that pay cut because I’ve set myself up in such a way that I don’t need to make a ton of money for the rest of my career, right. I don’t really… It would be nice, but I don’t have to seek that super high paying job if I don’t want to do it. And if I want to have a family, teaching as a full-time professor would be ideal and I could practice a little bit on the side with the contract work like I do now.

Scott:
Awesome. So it sounds like while you’re not FI, you have a tremendous amount of great options that are going to appear materialize in front of you once you finished the PhD program. And those can either be high income or low income or whatever, but you’re going to continue growing your net worth regardless. And you’re going to find some time between the next five and 15 years, regardless of which way you choose, but you really don’t care which way it goes, because this is going to be, what’s the best option that presents itself once I finish the program? That’s a powerful spot to be in.

Brenda:
Totally. Yeah. And I hadn’t really realized the magnitude of it until you just said it, but at this point it doesn’t matter, right. And honestly, like Mindy was saying at the end, if I say, I don’t really want to do anything with the PhD, that’s fine too, because I am really enjoying the season of my life. And I feel like I’m doing the PhD at the right time. I have the right amount of clinical experience to be able to be a good learner and apply my experience to it. I’m obviously unencumbered by family and children. And so I just see myself looking back in 10 years at this period in my life and being like, “That was awesome. I’m so glad I did it.” Whether I get anything out of the PhD, just being able to be a full-time student again, which I love, was awesome. And to not get into debt, that’s even better.

Mindy:
Well, and you’ve got the elevated ability to… Let’s see, how do I want to phrase this? You’ve got… You were making a hundred thousand and now you have the potential to make 200,000. Well, even if you don’t love that career, you could do that for a year, crank a bunch of money into an account and into investments and then be done. But also, I think you’re at [inaudible 00:41:15] FI right now. You said your net worth is $300,000. If that safe estimate of your growth potential that it doubles every seven years. So in seven years, you’ll have 600,000 and in 14 years you’ll have 1.2 million. I mean, and you’re spending nothing. So if you continue to spend nothing and have great benefits, or you’re just saving everything and continuing to invest, that’s going to be, I mean, and what is that? 14, 21 years, that’s going to be 2.4 million. And then you’re going to have to start thinking about, “Oh how do I reduce my RMDs for when I’m 70?” When do you have to take those? 72 and I have to start withdrawing-

Brenda:
72.

Mindy:
-Money from my accounts. Now I have to worry about that. So, I mean, you are setting yourself up because of these choices you made, these intelligent choices you made, when you were younger. You were setting yourself up for some pretty amazing life experiences in the future. And it’s all… Now it’s your choice. Now, it’s what do I choose to do? Instead of I have to work, because I have to put food on the table. You already have food on the table now forever.

Brenda:
Right. I definitely feel [inaudible 00:42:39] FI. And I feel like, even though I took a significant pay cut, probably about half or one third, because in 2019, I made almost 180,000 because I worked a lot of extra hours at a hundred dollars an hour. So that was my highest earning year, 2019. And now I make a third of that, but my lifestyle’s relatively the same. It was just that, all that money I put into my investments. And I don’t feel like I’ll ever need more than this, right. It’s not like I’m working hard so that I’m like, “One day I’m going to have the eight bedroom house.” I just don’t even aspire to that. It’s not meaningful. It doesn’t create any more happiness for me.
And it’s funny that, well, so I talked about how I’m single, but I am in a relationship and we met on a dating app. And one of the things I learned in FI is that time is the ultimate luxury. You can’t buy more time. And so on my profile, I put time is the ultimate luxury, will you spend some of yours on me? And he said, that was so cute.

Scott:
That’s great.

Mindy:
Is into the FI community as well?

Brenda:
He is. He’s not as intentional or as into it as I am, but he’s very responsible with money, right. Which is something that is definitely a criteria that I was looking for. I didn’t want to be with the guy with the BMW who has no money in savings, which there are a lot of those tech bros here in Austin. But yeah, so I live by that, that time is the ultimate luxury. Right. And now, even though I’m in a PhD program full time, I have so much flexibility, right. I’m not stuck in a clinic from eight to five every day. I was chained and shackled to that [inaudible 00:44:42]. And so that is like so much compensation to me. It’s not monetary. I don’t get to max out a 401(k) right now. But if my mom needs me to go to an appointment with her, I can go. Or if my friend needs me to be at her house, because some repairman is coming, I can go do that for her, right. So that is priceless.

Scott:
Love it. Was there anything else that you want to cover before we get to the famous four and begin wrapping up?

Brenda:
I don’t think so. Do you all have any more questions?

Mindy:
Oh, we got a lot more questions. We have five more questions at least.

Brenda:
Oh, okay. Go ahead.

Mindy:
Okay. What is your favorite finance book?

Brenda:
Ooh, my favorite finance book, I actually really liked Broke Millennial by Erin Lowry.

Scott:
Oh, love it. We’ve had Erin three times on the podcast here. What are the episode numbers there Mindy?

Mindy:
Yes. Erin can be found on episode 24, on episode 81 and on episode 169. And each one, she covers a different topic and it’s all about being open and honest about finance with your family, with your spouse, in your life. There’s no need to hide this.

Brenda:
Right. And even as I’ve dated here in Austin, I think I catch people off guard sometimes because I’m just very open about my finances. Because I don’t associate them with my self worth as much as the typical person might. And so I’m like, “I don’t really care if you know how much I make.” Because it’s not really a reflection of me.

Scott:
Yeah. It’s just a topic. That’s what we needed to change with money in general is [crosstalk 00:46:47].

Brenda:
Right, it’s just a topic.

Scott:
Oh, yeah, it’s one of 50 topics you could talk about in a date in life with your friends, anywhere with that. What was your biggest money mistake?

Brenda:
Buying a new car in my early twenties.

Mindy:
That is the number one answer to this question is buying a new car.

Scott:
But it was really cool.

Brenda:
I mean, it was great. I don’t regret it. It was a mistake.

Mindy:
What is your best piece of advice for people who are just starting out?

Brenda:
Join a community of people who are like-minded.

Mindy:
That’s great advice. That is great advice.

Scott:
Like the Pyjama People Money Facebook group. Oh, I see that plug. Wow. There you go. At facebook.com/groups/bpmoney. What is your favorite joke to tell at parties?

Brenda:
Ooh, what did one strawberry say to the other strawberry?

Mindy:
I don’t know this one.

Scott:
I don’t know this one. Yeah.

Brenda:
If you weren’t so fresh, we wouldn’t be in this jam.

Scott:
That’s awesome. I love it.

Brenda:
You don’t even laugh.

Scott:
Just the whole spread of… I was busy trying to think of a response pun. So there’s a whole spread of these Berry puns. I love it. Okay. Where can people find out more about you Brenda?

Brenda:
I am on Twitter at @AlmostBrenda, like the word I almost made it, Almost Brenda. I’m also on Instagram with that handle. And actually my friends and I have our own podcast called Minority Millennial Money. And we are trying to target minority people who are interested in getting their financial life together.

Mindy:
Ooh. And where can somebody find this podcast If they wanted to listen?

Brenda:
It’s on Spotify, on Apple. It’s pretty much everywhere you can find a podcast and we are on Twitter also as MM Money pod.

Mindy:
Awesome. We will link to all of these in our show notes, which can be found at biggerpockets.com/moneyshow195. Brenda, this was a delight to talk to you. I have been following you for quite some time on Twitter and you are a delightful person on Twitter and even more so in real life. So this was lovely and I wish you all the success in your PhD, doctor nurse scientist, that’s there you go. People will get a PhD, can call themselves doctor, right? Can you be Doctor Olmos?

Brenda:
Yeah, because a doctor is just an expert in something. A medical doctor is a physician.

Mindy:
Oh, that I’m going to be Dr. Mindy because I’m an expert in talking.

Brenda:
Podcasting.

Scott:
Dr. Jensen.

Mindy:
Dr. Jensen, okay. Brenda this was wonderful. Thank you so much for your time today. I really appreciate it.

Brenda:
Thank you guys.

Scott:
Yeah, thank you.

Brenda:
Have a good day.

Mindy:
Okay. That was Brenda Olmos, Scott wat did you think of her story?

Scott:
I thought it was straight forward. I don’t think there was any surprises. It was just… She decided to get intentional about money and she built several hundred thousand dollar net worth over three to five years. And she is going to [inaudible 00:50:09] FI regardless of which option she chooses in the future. So I think it’s just an example of how it can be really, really easy if you’re willing to let it compound and just sustain it for a period of years here. So I think she’s doing all the right things and look, she’s got her advantages, but our goal here on this show is to showcase every money story. And there are millions and millions of people out there who have positions that have more income and more potential to move towards FI than Brenda who are not doing the basic one-oh-one things they need to be doing to just create the life of optionality that she’s created.

Mindy:
Exactly. She is living her best life. She’s not feeling any sort of like, “Oh, I wish I could do this.” What is it? FOMO. She’s not missing out on anything. If she wants to do something, she does it. She doesn’t want to do everything, which I think is the best way to live your life. If you are a parent and you’re listening to this and your child is maybe struggling with, “Ooh, what do I want to do when I grow up.” Go explore nursing. The flexibility that a nurse degree that an RN can give you is enormous.

Scott:
I want to evolve that what you’re saying here, though, about nursing over the past five years, you wouldn’t know it to look at the news really anywhere you look. But real wages, inflation adjusted wages have absolutely exploded over the last five years in this country. Five, six years, right? Multiple administrations, no political points being scored here with this. It’s just a fact. If you look up at real wages FRED, real wages St. Louis, Federal reserve, and look at the data across all professions for median hourly income, it is exploded. It’s much higher than it was in the 1980s. The data only goes back 50 years for the source that I’m looking at. But one of the higher points, it seems like in US history to a large extent, certainly higher than it’s been in the nineties, two thousands, those kinds of things.
And that real wage growth is not hitting every profession equally, right? It’s hitting places, maybe nursing, truck driving, the trades, like construction trades and those types of things. And so I think one of the things here is for Brenda, it almost seems too easy in terms of her income potential and those types of things, because of the way she chose a profession that was on the right side of one of those trendlines. Those professions are still out there. I meet truck drivers who are making 60 to $80,000 a year. You don’t need a lot of degree to get into that profession, right. You can only imagine, I don’t meet enough construction workers out there. I can only imagine what’s going on in that industry. But this is happening in society in many different professions.
And I think it would behoove you if you’re wondering about how do I make it easy, why are other people able to do this? Is there a chance for a switch? Is there a chance to move on into one of these professions that’s on one of these power curves that is going in the right direction, even as other professions are not seeing that growth.

Mindy:
Absolutely. There is a huge shortage in the trades. There’s a huge shortage in truck driving. There’s a huge shortage of nursing. I would love to hear more about what professions you’re seeing, great wages and a huge shortage in. let’s ask about that in the Facebook group at facebook.com/groups/bpmoney. What professions do you see that are hiring and can’t get enough people. Those are where your kids who are like, “Hmm, I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.” That’s where they should focus. A lot of these professions are really easy to get into and start earning money and earn while you learn like the trades. You don’t just go to school for a month. And then you’re in the trades. You’re learning for like two, three, four, five years, but you’re earning while you learn. That is so much better than being in college and just spending money on college, especially college isn’t for everybody. I probably would have been a better welder than a fashion designer.

Scott:
You would have been a great welder, Mindy, you are a great welder I’m sure.

Mindy:
I’m not bad.

Scott:
I would been a terrible welder.

Mindy:
Yeah. I’m not bad. But anyway, yeah, college, isn’t the answer for everybody and it can be, it can be great. But look for a job that has a huge potential and computers and that sort of thing, they all have a great potential. It’s a different mindset for the computer programming. I would be a terrible computer programmer, no matter what anybody says, I would be horrible at it. But I could probably be a really good nurse if I get past the whole blood thing, which I couldn’t do.

Scott:
We just talked to Chris. Right. And Chris… Sorry, I’m going to hang myself. Has Chris’s episode released by the time that we’re releasing this episode.

Mindy:
I think so. Yes. Chris was two weeks ago.

Scott:
Okay, great. So we just talked to Chris a few weeks ago and Chris is an electrician making incredible money. He’s on the side of one of those curves that I just described where that is a booming industry and other professions are getting hammered in some cases or not growing over time as well. And I think that’s a macro trend that we have to be aware of and try to get on the right side of those types of things. Because it can be hard to switch, but if you can put yourself in the right situation inside one of these professions, I think you can have some of the optionality that Brenda has. She’s basically saying, “Yeah, I’m not really trying that hard. And I’m building tons of wealth.” Make some right decisions and that can be an automatic output of a couple of these things.

Mindy:
Yeah. Yeah. The whole purpose of this show is to introduce you to new things. So if it interests you, you can go and do some exploring and research and see what really can help you lead your best life.

Scott:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Mindy:
Okay. Scott, should we get out of here?

Scott:
Yep. Let’s do it.

Mindy:
From episode 195 of the Pyjama People Money Podcast, he is Scott Trench and I am Mindy Jensen saying in honor of the end of Girl Scout Cookie season, peace out girl scout.

 

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