Building a Business After Homelessness, Addiction, and Debt

Part of the mission of the Pyjama People Money Show is to share journeys from all walks of life. Our guests show that no matter where you’re at, you can reach financial freedom and enjoy your life on your terms. Today’s guest, T Christopher Colton, is a shining example of pulling yourself out of the depths and into the light.

Chris never liked school, and was spanked all throughout elementary and middle school for failing to pay attention in class. He was told he needed to go to college, but didn’t have the passion for higher learning that other classmates did. He ran away from home multiple times, ended up being homeless, and addicted to drugs. He had stints as a car salesman, before going into carpentry.

With the help of his wife, Chris was able to get off the streets and live a stable life with his full time income. But, he wanted more. He became an electrician apprentice and started doing side work to help pay off the $100,000+ debt he had accumulated. Thankfully, he found out about financial independence through Dave Ramsey, putting him on a path to reject consumer debt, go hard on retirement accounts, and bring in more income.

Mindy:
Welcome to the Pyjama People Money Podcast, show number 193, where we chat with Chris Colton and hear his very different journey to financial independence.

Chris:
The moment that that all happened, everything shifted because suddenly all that money that I’ve been working for saving, grasping with my little fists is gone. It took a big shift in my mind to realize it’s not gone, it’s just sitting in this new safe deposit box that has a roof on it.

Mindy:
Hello, hello, hello. My name is Mindy Jensen, and with me as always is my blather sky Co-Host, Scott Trench.

Scott:
Thanks for always keeping me in line with these intros, Mindy.

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:
That’s right, whether you want to retire early and travel the world, go on to make big time investments and assets like real estate and start your own business, lose 100 pounds, completely rebuild your financial position or pay off $144,000 in debt. We’ll help you reach your financial goals and get money out of the way so that you can launch yourself towards your dreams.

Mindy:
Okay, in the intro, we said we want to introduce you to every money story, and today’s guest definitely has a different story than you’ve heard before here. Chris Colton is a 49-year-old electrician who dropped out of both high school and college and spent some time as a homeless drug addict until figuring out that, that might not be the most productive life path. His newfound faith helped him turn it around and become a responsible husband and father. Dave Ramsey and his Baby Steps program helped him shed almost $150,000 in debt, and now he is on his way to financial independence.
In his words, I corner every young person on every job and give lectures about retirement. I hand out total money makeover books like they’re Tic Tacs. Scott, I’m so excited to talk to Chris today because we haven’t had this story before, and Chris is he’s led a pretty interesting life.

Scott:
Yeah, this is just an incredible financial journey. We bring in folks from all different backgrounds and different journeys with money here. This is the most amazing money story. Maybe Tony Gaydon’s episode where he lost, what like, 150 pounds, maybe more than that.

Mindy:
Was it 200 pounds?

Scott:
200 pounds, yeah.

Mindy:
Yeah, a significant amount.

Scott:
Was working the night shift at Walmart. Maybe that’s in the same ballpark, but, oh my gosh, what Chris has achieved here is remarkable given where he started and the challenges that he faced in his past with this. It’s incredible, $144,000 in debt. Drug addict and homeless, several different career changes, and now just to see the life that he’s built and the position that he’s in and the happiness and joy that he has, and the gratitude about the position he finds himself in today is it’s incredible, and I can’t wait for you to hear it.

Mindy:
Chris Colton, welcome to the Pyjama People Money Podcast. I cannot wait to share your story. Let’s jump right into it. Where does your journey with money begin?

Chris:
My personal finance starts off with a personal note because I am a recovering addict, and so we have to start off there. When I was a young man, I ran away from home, sleeping on the streets, just got into the whole drug thing. That lasted quite a long time until I met my wife now, Tanner. It was a whole thing of selling cars. I don’t know if you know anything about car salesman, but they have a little bit of a sinus problem, can. When I woke up one morning, 3:00 a.m., there’s a poker game in my living room. I’d moved away to Chico to try to get away from the drugs, and there was a poker game, a mountain of cocaine, and I was just, “I can’t do this.”
I called my girlfriend then, who’s now my wife, and she was in Santa Cruz. She got in her car, drove down there and pulled me out, saved me. Drove me back with her, and that changed everything. When I got back to Santa Cruz with her, I sold my skateboards, my snowboards, my wakeboards, all my toys and bought some bags. When I was in one of the meetings, one of the 12-step meetings, somebody said, “Yeah, you need to walk into a hiring hall if you’re looking for work.” So me being the genius that I am just walked into the first one I found, it happened to be the carpenters and just like that I became the bridge builder. Sold all my stuff, bought my bags, got my tools and started working.
Now I’ve got actual income from actual work and I’m like selling cars from before. Selling cars is it’s make-believe money. It’s you show up Friday morning broke and you’ve got a couple thousand dollars in your pocket that night, or the next day. It flowed like water through my hands. It’s amazing how much money I made selling cars and how little of it, little I had to show for it, I mean, nothing.

Scott:
When did you leave? When did you run away and how long did this part of your life story go on for?

Chris:
All right, so my dad died when I was really young and then I was six when he got murdered and I started acting out at school. I’m old enough that they were allowed to hit me back then, so I got spanked in every class since third grade. I had a low opinion of education facilities and system. I started running away from that when I was 13, running away from home when I was 13, and started just never went back. Met some guy who gave me a beer, met some guy who gave me a joint, met some guy who gave yada, yada. That started then. Now I have the joy of being a high school dropout and a college dropout. Because when I got to high school, it was clear that I didn’t want to do this anymore, so I just dropped out.
I went off to Yosemite and we were camping there and I walked into their office because I saw all these people in line and said, “What are you doing?” They said, “We’re getting a job here.” I said, “Well, Yosemite’s gorgeous, I want to live here.” I got a job working in Yosemite, and all the kids that they were hiring were college students off for the summer. They were coming over from Louisiana, from all over the world, actually. So a girl I met goes, “You need to get back into school. You can’t be a dropout you.” Because these were all college students, I’m like, “All right.” I went back to Sacramento, walked into the junior college there. All I got to do is take a test, and they said, “Okay, you’re fine.” I’m good at tests, tests are my thing.
Going to class every day and doing the work, that’s a different story. I took my tests, I got in, and right away, it was high-school with cigarettes essentially. It’s the same people, same things, same silliness. It wasn’t serious, and so I dropped out of that. But right after I dropped out of that, that’s when I needed some money, and that’s when the car sales thing came in. Walked into a Chevy dealership-

Mindy:
How old were you? How old were you around this time?

Chris:
20, 20, 21, something like that.

Mindy:
Okay, so you’re selling cars-

Chris:
Selling cars.

Mindy:
… and making just the most ridiculous money ever, which sounds a lot like waitressing. When you said I would be broke and walk in and walk out with… I didn’t walk out with a couple of thousand dollars every night, but I could easily clear $200 on a Friday or Saturday night. When I was waitressing, this was 100 years ago, we’re the same age, Chris. I also got spanked in third grade because I didn’t do my work either. Where we have some similarities in our background, so I think that it’s very interesting that you said I made all this money and I have nothing to show for it. I have nothing to show from my waitressing years, and I could have had a lot to show for my waitressing years. I was living with my parents. You said that you ran away from home. When did you leave home permanently? It sounds like pretty young.

Chris:
Permanently, let’s say 16, 17, but there’s a lot of yo-yo back and forth. I’d show up at my mom’s door and say, “Hey, I can’t do this.” Because as an addict, and every addict will tell you, you’re always fighting to get free. You’re always fighting to get free. You know it, you know what you’re doing. It’s the maintenance program, it’s like when you start getting… the first one you’re getting high, the first few you’re getting high, but then you’re like trying to maintain after that.
You’re just trying to not go down to that low level when you’re just down. It’s always a maintenance program, and eventually, you can’t control it, so then you crash. So then you can’t go to work for a week and you can’t do this, you can’t do that. There’s a lot of that yo-yo stuff, but permanently, yeah, 17, 18, I was out, I was gone.

Mindy:
Where were you living or who were you living with? How did you support yourself?

Chris:
The first time I ran away, I was sitting in a pizza joint, sleeping in their booth until they’d throw me out at 2:00 a.m. when they close. This is in San Jose, and a girl from church drove by, recognized me and grabbed me, threw me in the back seat of her car and took me home. Put me on her, her sister was gone to college, so she stuck me in her bed, and then in the morning she woke me up and went down and told her mom, “I’ve got a new brother.” I stayed with them for six months, and that really helped me get back into school a little bit because they had different expectations from me. That was a good time. Then, eventually, my parents moved to Sacramento and said, “You need to come with us. You can’t live with this other family forever.”
Okay, so I went back with them, and then within, I don’t know, within six months, I’d be back on the streets running around. But there’s a lot of couch-surfing, there’s a lot of sleeping out in parks. I know to stay warm, a good place to sleep is in a recycle bin underneath all the papers and all the newspapers and, well back then newspapers, now it’s cardboard. It’s a good insulator, you just burrow in. The only problem with that is mice, they like to snuggle up with you. But that was then, that was a different life.

Scott:
So fast forward here in a couple of years, it sounds like there’s a variety of ways that you’re living and going about things for this period. How old are you, and let’s fast forward to that moment where you went back to Santa Cruz, it sounds like, and began pivoting?

Chris:
All right, so like I said, Tanner saved me. She’s my saving grace all the way around. Sorry, we got there, she’s going to school there. She’s going to UC Santa Cruz. We got there and I started working, and oh working, this is new. I got a job at the carpenters. I walked in, my first day I was holding motors up in the air with the whole two arms. When I got off work that first day, I was so sunburned and so tired, I couldn’t walk all the way from the car to the house. I sat down in the driveway and just rested. I’m new to work, actual work, and so that’s when that came along. I went through that program. We bopped around. Santa Cruz was expensive, even in the early 2000s, we knew that we weren’t going to be buying a home because it was just something outside of our range.

Scott:
Before we get into that, what was your financial position at this point? As I understand it, in some cases, when you’re just getting back into things like this, there can be debts or other things that are associated that you’ve accrued over the years. Were you broke or did you have a little bit of savings or did you have some debts or how did that look?

Chris:
I had zero money, absolutely zero money. I did not realize how much that I had. In my mid 20s, I got married. We had a son and then I got divorced right away, and she rightfully left and took my son with her, our son and I haven’t seen him since. I had a lot of debt, a lot of child support, a lot of just car repos that had come along. Things that popped up later. I didn’t realize how much it was until later on in our journey when we discovered Dave Ramsey, and what happened was my grandpa died and left me a little bit of money, $12,000. Not enough to do anything with, but I also knew I didn’t want to just flitter it away. I was keeping my ear open for something to do with finances.
What have you got? Then I ran into the Dave Ramsey on the radio, and so I listened to the podcast. I had my earphones in at work and I’m laughing at these suckers, “Man, look, they’re calling in.” Oh my goodness, they were nutty, they were goofy. Then I said, “How much debt do I have?” Then I started thinking about it. I started thinking about the child support and all that back stuff, and I added it up, and all of a sudden, my heart’s pounding. I can’t breathe. I’m standing on a ladder. I’m getting dizzy. I’m like, “Oh my God, I have $144,000 in debt.” Now, that’s our debt, because by now we’re married, she’s got a little bit of school loans. For some reason, at some point in time-

Scott:
This is awesome, but I just want to… I’m having trouble following the timeline here. This is you’re having this moment of debt discovery after you’re working and-

Chris:
After we’re married, so when we moved to Santa Cruz, I had nothing, $0 in my pocket. She was going to school, taking out some school loans. I had some back child support going on, I had some repos going on, we had credit card stuff going on. Then we got married and I bopped around. I noticed this, when I was a bridge builder, on the weekends I’d have weekends off. But those electricians, they would leave and they would come back every Monday morning with like $1000 cash because they were doing side work and nobody was asking me to do side work. Nobody said, “Hey, Chris, I need you to come over to my house and help me build a bridge in my backyard.” Nobody said that, and so I jumped ship from the carpenters and I jumped over to the electricians and I went through that apprenticeship.
Now the apprenticeships were the trades, don’t cost you anything. That’s my saving grace right there too. It does not cost you to become an apprentice. You can walk into, or in my case, I walked into the Union Hall for the carpenters, for the electricians, the union was they said they were full. I said, “Okay,” I went non-union. There’s options out there, and they pay you whatever your wage is going to be. First year apprenticeship, I went from $33 an hour as a carpenter down to $13 an hour as an apprentice electrician. That was hard, so then I was doing other jobs too. I was serving samples at Costco, trying to make money on the weekends just to keep it going. Oh yeah, oh yeah, that you sell that.

Scott:
I’m sorry. I just have a couple of things to get back to the moment you’re in time that you’re at right now with your story. What year do you move to Santa Cruz?

Chris:
What year do I move to Santa Cruz? 2005.

Tanner:
2005.

Chris:
Did you hear that?

Mindy:
Thanks, Tanner.

Scott:
Nice, yeah. Okay, so 2005 is a big turning point for you, it sounds like, with this.

Chris:
Big time, big time.

Scott:
What year do you have this Dave Ramsey moment where you discover how much debt you’re in?

Chris:
Okay, so Dave Ramsey, 2014, because Ivan was just born.

Scott:
Okay, so there’s a period of time here, there’s a period of time here of nine years where your life is improving, but you’re not getting ahead financially, it sounds like, after you got married and that kind of stuff.

Chris:
Okay, so we got married, she graduated, we moved from Santa Cruz back to Sacramento. I was making, like I said, 33 bucks an hour as a carpenter. Then we did that change. She went and got a job with the state, hated that, she did. I got on with the electricians, they brought me around, I started building hospitals, and then I ended up back in the Bay Area. 2000, what is that, ’10, ’12, we’re back in the Bay Area. She gets a job as a supervisor at Whole Foods, and then we get pregnant. That’s when-

Scott:
Oh, go ahead, so you get pregnant in 2012, 2013.

Chris:
Yeah, 2013, 2014 is when he was born, and that was when my grandpa died and we got that little inheritance. Now, by this time we’re both making pretty good money. She’s making money there, plus she was working at the Whole Foods. Have you ever shopped at Whole Foods? Well, with their discount, you can afford to. So that helped a lot.

Scott:
A whole paycheck, right?

Chris:
Yeah, right. I’ve heard that joke. They give you 25% off, and so we’re able to eat well plus that was applied to anything, any sales that were on and so she would know what was on sale so we could do that. It saved us a lot of money on that food stuff. Then my grandpa died, but by then, we went ahead and we felt pretty good about life. We bought a car, a one-year-old car. A high payment, and then I… Oh, I was driving my truck, I was looking out the window, staring at a hardware store and chainsaws were on sale. I was staring at that and I rear ended some poor woman and just totaled my truck. Naturally, we had to go out, because now we’re making both pretty good money, we had to buy a brand new car.
We bought a brand new Nissan Rogue, and with the payments that came along with that and the appreciation that came along with that. Now we have a brand new vehicle, we have a one-year-old vehicle, we’ve got a bunch of credit cards that were going on. I got all my back old stuff, she’s got her school loans, and that’s when Dave Ramsey said his thing on the radio. Like I said, I was always listening for something new. Kept one ear bud in, and just listening to those suckers that kept calling in with their $30,000 debts, $40,000 debts and I’m just laughing at them going, “How could you do that?” Then I added it up myself and said, “How could I do that?” I ran full speed at the debt too, didn’t I?

Scott:
Yeah, that’s awesome. Thank you for setting the stage with that. We’re at 2014, you’ve discovered Dave Ramsey and this concept of how much debt you have. You have this pit in your stomach. What changes about your financial behavior from that point forward? How do you begin approaching it? You mentioned you want the side work, but are you starting to be more conscious with spending? What do you do with the 12,000? How do things change from that moment in time?

Chris:
Okay, so exactly what Dave Ramsey says don’t do, I did do. I ran home and said, “We’re getting out of debt, we’re selling everything, yada, yada, yada.” She’s like, “No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, what are you talking about?” We had to talk that through. Now, that 12,000 was so helpful because we put the cars up for sale. I sold the Hyundai to a guy in town there. At this point, we’re living in Santa Rosa, or Willits, actually, North of Santa Rosa. I sold to a guy there in town. The brand new Rogue, we couldn’t get rid of it. Not one interest. We put it on Craigslist, we put it on all the things, nobody.
We took it down to CarMax and they said, “Well, this is what we’ll give you for it.” Luckily, I had that money, so we were able to pay the difference, which was $2,500. I paid $2,500 to sell that car. That’s-

Scott:
Because your debt on the car was bigger?

Chris:
Yes, we were upside down.

Scott:
You had 20,000 in debt on a 17,500 car, whatever it was.

Chris:
There we go, almost exactly the numbers too. We did that now. Now our 12 was down to under 10. We take that, we go and we bought 165,000 mile Acura MDX, which we still have. It’s got 270,000 miles on it now, but it’s a Honda. It’s an Acura. We just changed the oil and keep it going. Every time something breaks we think, “Is it time? Is this the one? Is this the one? Well, it’s only 800 bucks. 800 bucks, okay, no payment. Okay.” That’s one of the changes we made. We sold those, so now we’re down to one car but-

Scott:
How much did that change your payments by?

Chris:
Oh goodness-

Scott:
That set of actions.

Chris:
… 700 bucks. I think the car was $300 right around there and 450 or so for the Rogue plus insurance. Because you got to have full coverage insurance and all that stuff. You don’t need full coverage insurance on a 200,000 mile car, that saves you a little bit, that saves you a penny or two.

Scott:
You’re easily savings-

Mindy:
I want to stop right there.

Scott:
… yeah, you’re easily saving 750 bucks a month after making these decisions and you made the investment to pay 2,500, which is only, like what, like a three, four month payback to sell one of those cars, get rid of that payment and get a cheaper one. That’s outstanding.

Chris:
Yeah, the 2,500 was to get rid of the car. Now, the MBX cost us 6,000, maybe 5,000, 5- or 6,000, but worth every penny. Because now we have no payments. Then we close off the-

Scott:
Sorry, Mindy.

Chris:
We closed off-

Mindy:
That’s okay, no, keep going Chris.

Chris:
We closed off the credit cards. We did his whole snowball thing, started at lowest to largest and just started paying things off. We kept that $1,000 in reserve, like DR Says, and I’m volunteering for all overtime by this time. Also, because when the baby came along, she quit her job because we discussed what does that look like? Do we want to pay someone else to raise our child? No, I want to stay home and be a mom. Great. I want that. I want you to stay home with our child and get that good bond so that later on in life we don’t say, “Oh, where did the nanny go wrong?” Now we can blame ourselves.

Scott:
I love it. Walk me through, and I want to just keep learning more about this turning point in your financial journey. Because it’s 2000, do you remember when in 2014 this was? To get even more specific middle of the year, early part of the year?

Chris:
Spring.

Scott:
Okay, so spring 2014, where you’re making these changes. How long does it take you to make the moves with the cars, for example?

Chris:
Over the next month. Once we decided-

Scott:
So you moved really quick?

Chris:
Yeah, oh yeah. Hey, I’m an addict, I’m all in on everything.

Scott:
How are other areas of your spending impacted in addition to the cars?

Chris:
Other areas of our spending? Okay, so, well, that’s one of the things, you quit going out to eat, in which we did a lot. That went away right away. We quit vacationing for a month there. We used to go camping all the time. They were always renting a house here for the weekend or whatever. We didn’t do that anymore, that stopped right away. No more anything. We just shut it down. Now, DR talks about gazelle intensity. I didn’t get that. I was more of a put my head down and plot through it. I didn’t get that intensity that they talked about when they say, when you’re building up until I got out of debt. That took four years? It took four years to get completely out of debt. Now one of the-

Mindy:
How do you stay the course during this four years of payoff where you’re not going camping and you’re not doing anything fun and you’re not going out to eat and you’re not, not, not, how do you stay on track?

Chris:
I don’t know. Where we were living up there when we made the decision, we were in a old hunting cabin that somebody converted and we rented that, and we’re just surrounded by trees out in Willits. That you couldn’t even see the next house. It was gorgeous. So we didn’t have cable, we didn’t have any of that stuff. We just sat outside and read books and just talk, and we had a newborn. There’s that.

Mindy:
I guess that’s a little bit of work there.

Chris:
Yeah, and it’s also a lot of planning on what we want to pass onto him. Because the day he was born, I was… Oh, the day he was born, they give you those masks you got to wear inside the surgery room and they’re made of paper. I’m crying thinking nobody can see me. Well, it hit that blue paper and exploded, and I don’t know this until I leave the room and they’re like talking about it and she’s laughing. She’s like, “Oh, they could see you’re crying in that.” I did not know that, but I’m holding this baby, I’m holding this child and I’m saying, I’m like, “I’m going to teach him everything I know about electricity.” Tanner’s, “He doesn’t have to be an electrician if he doesn’t want to.” I said, “No, no, but he’s going to walk out the door when he’s an adult with the ability to make $100,000 a year. That’s my gift to him.”
Because we’re older. At this time, he was born when we’re 42. I’m planning, I’m thinking through my head, “What am I going to do?” I’m a geriatric dad. He’s going one day to say, “Let’s go play ball,” one day and I’m going to have to get my Walker, “Now, hold on, let me catch up to your son.” That’s my gift to him because, at this point, we don’t have anything. We’re just starting our getting out of debt and that big number is ahead of us. I’m not building a college fund for him. I’m going to give him the tools to make however much he can make and work his way through school, which turns out to be a pretty good thing because those are different podcasts and different books.
Kids who work through school, their GPA tends to be a little bit higher, their time management skills tend to be a little bit better, and these are the things that I’m hopefully instilling in a child if he decides to go to college. Now, he’s six now and if you ask him what he wants to do, he wants to be a worker like dad, which makes my heart grow three times every time he says it. Yeah, that helped. Just knowing that we’re moving forward. Now with volunteering for the overtime that I do, I work a lot, so that kept me out of trouble. I go to work with an empty wallet, so I don’t spend any money at lunch. Then somewhere in the middle there-

Scott:
With all this context that you just shared, can you just walk us through one more time. You were building bridges, but you couldn’t, and that was your skillset in the sense in the world of carpentry, you’re a carpenter who worked on bridges specialty. And that made 33 bucks an hour, or pretty decent money. But you said, “I want to earn more on the side.” You dropped to an apprenticeship program and then were able to go from there. Can you walk us through that journey again?

Chris:
In California, the apprenticeship program was called WECA, Western Electrical Contractors Association. I walked in there and you got to have a high school diploma. I had to go back and to get that test that I took and get that and run it over there and showing prove to them that I could do it and take the test that they give you. Now, here’s an interesting thing, they give you a sample test of the trigonometry on their website. I went through with one tab open looking at the questions, another tab open looking for the answers, trying to figure out the formulas. Because it’s been a long time since I’ve seen this, and so I’m like, “Oh, yeah, yeah. The Pythagorean theorem. We’re doing the triangles, and we got the hypotenuse. I got it. Okay, I’m back at that.”
I go inside and I take the test and I sit down and the test was the practice test, verbatim. Not one letter changed, and I’m looking at this, and so by the time I get done with the test, I’m not even looking at the questions, I’m just looking at the answers, “That’s the answer. That’s the answer.” Then I went back and double checked it. Sure, right, aced it. Got 100% on that one. That’s what got me in there. Now they have a set schedule for how much you make, and so they have $13 for the first year and 13 and a half, then it’s like 16 something and then it’s 19 and then it’s 22, and you top out at 30 or something like that up through the fifth year. That first year was hard. The 13 was hard. But Tanner was working, she’d just gotten out of school. We’d moved to Sacramento.

Scott:
What year is that? Is that 2014 that you’re making the 13?

Chris:
’09, 2009, I think.

Scott:
Sorry, so this income change happened prior to your dedication to paying off debt and getting-

Chris:
Yeah, so the debt came along, that Dave Ramsey came along in 2014. By that time, so 2010, 2014, so by that time I was a fifth year, so I was making $25 an hour. It’s a lot more doable at that rate. Plus since we cut back so much, it was all right. It was, like I said, doable. Yeah, when we finally left and the baby was born and that cut our income, the hospital I was working on, the guy lived in Nevada. The foreman, he lived in Nevada and he said, “I need you to come with me up here and help me build this hotel.” I said, “Nevada, are you kidding? Nevada’s brown. They don’t have any trees there. I’m not moving to Nevada,” because we were living out in the woods.
Literally, sunshine was a commodity there. If you cut down a tree and had some sun in your yard, people were like would come over and stand in it because it was just shade everywhere. Now, I’m out and he goes, “Come out here, you’ll love it and just shut up.” I came out here and the hotel he’s building was up here at South Lake Tahoe, literally, 200 yards from where I’m at right now here at the Hard Rock Cafe. We moved to Nevada, and it took a lot to convince Tanner because we’ve never lived, with all the bopping around we do, we’ve never lived more than an hour from the saltwater. When we lived in Willits, we were 30 minutes from Fort Bragg. We lived in Santa Cruz, we could hear the breakers at night when we went to sleep over there on Clinton Street.
We were near the ocean, she loves the ocean. That’s one of her things is when she get off work, she could go sit and listen to it. She likes the tide pools. Then I brought her up here to the desert, and the only way to convince her was just bring her 20 minutes from our front door, your [inaudible 00:32:10] in this, what’s essentially an inland sea that is Lake Tahoe. This big, giant bottle of water, and she goes, “Okay, I’m willing to go if we can live that close to Tahoe.”

Mindy:
There’s trees too.

Chris:
And there’s trees.

Mindy:
That whole area is surrounded by trees.

Chris:
Oh, absolutely.

Mindy:
For those of you who haven’t-

Chris:
You know exactly when you leave California because the trees stop. I think that’s what they did when they were first mapping it out, “Well, there’s the last tree. Okay, that’s the edge of California.”

Scott:
No, that’s awesome. In 2014, you’re making $24 an hour. Is that right?

Chris:
Yeah, I can’t remember what year I was in the apprenticeship. I think I was in my last year of apprenticeship, so it was 24, 25, somewhere around there.

Scott:
At this point, are you able to start getting that extra work or the overtime, the side gigs and those types of things as well?

Chris:
Okay, so once we left there and we came up here, a couple of things happened. One is we left California, and all of a sudden, my income got an 11% increase because I wasn’t paying California income tax, so hat was a boast. Two, we were not living in the Bay Area, so suddenly our apartment that we rented here, two bedroom, two bath, was only 875 or 850, something like that. It was ridiculously cheap, and so that helped. Then once I got up here, this hotel from day one was overtime, lots and lots of overtime. Periodically, throughout that, I would get side work. Someone who wants you to hang a fan or fix a switch, so I was doing that off and on. I didn’t start doing that heavy until three years ago.
Now, three years ago, four years ago, we got out of debt. We paid off that last debt. Oh, here’s a fun thing, the apprenticeship that I went through, they go ahead and they start a retirement fund for you. Okay, and I didn’t know this and they just did it. Then when you get to the… they keep it to the side, keep to the side, and then when you get to the end and you graduate out, they present you with, “Okay, you have this, what do you want to do with it?” Most guys cut a check. They keep 20% for the taxes and they cut a check and most guys go buy a truck or whatever, and that’s that. Since I’d been working so much overtime and been volunteering for so many jobs and was willing to travel out of town for anything that they had, instead of a $30,000 on average check, is what most guys got, I had $67,000.
Right away, I knew I didn’t want to mess with that, so I rolled it into an IRA. Now, boom, this is beautiful. I got $67,000, we’ve paid off a bunch of the little ones. We’re working on, I don’t remember which step we’re on, or which one of the deaths were on, but I do have a child support debt looming. It’s there, and I know it and I’m going to have to pay this. This is child support, when you get behind on it, they charge you 10% interest. I was behind over the years 27,000, and with the interest over that whole time, it went up to $60,000 something. The minute I rolled that money into an IRA, it triggered the liens and it went to her, and as it should, it went to him.
Now, hopefully, because right about this time, he’s 17, 18 years old, and hopefully, this is going to be his college money. Like I said, at the time when we had that baby, I was not a good person. I was not a good father, I was not a good husband, and she was right to take him away. I understand that and I accept that. But, hopefully, that money came in at the right time for him. That helped with the debt a lot.

Scott:
That was your last and biggest debt, is that right?

Chris:
Yeah, but it came out of sequence because we weren’t ready for it. Then after that, we started working on her school loans. Now, here’s something funny, the first school loan that we paid off was $1,200 and we sent it in and she said, “That’s exactly the amount of money I borrowed 10 years ago.” She’s been paying every month on it since. When we finally paid it off, interest only, for 10 years, what’s still there? Well, the whole principle. So then we started chucking money at that, and by that time, I’m up here, we’re up here in Nevada. We’re living in Mendon, just south of Carson City, 20 minutes from South Lake Tahoe, and I’m doing side work.
I’m a lead guy, I’m running crews. I put into my boss I say, “I think I need to get into foreman training because I’m ready for it.” He goes, “Absolutely.” They dangled the carrot and said, “Oh, we’ve got you on a foreman’s list. Next time it becomes available, we’ll talk to you.” There’s my carrot. I was like, “No, because I’m doing foreman work. I’m making orders, I’m running guys, I’m running crews.” Really all I wanted was a truck, I wanted the truck that they give you. I don’t want to pay for gas anymore, and they think of that. I get a call from a guy that I’ve worked with for a few years, and he goes, “Hey, I need you to come over here and take a look at this company. They need you in their service department.”
I said, “Service, what do I know from service? I’m a commercial electrician. I’ve been building hospitals. I’ve been building hotels. What do I know from service? I’m going to into somebody’s house?” He goes, “Yeah, it’s all right. You’ll be fine.” I go over and apply. Now this company was union, so I had to join a union which is fine. I’m not pro-union, I’m not opposed to the union because here’s what I know from working in both. You’ve got good guys who want to do good and you got guys who suck and can’t do good, and they’re both, they’re either… The whole union thing is when… but a lot of people buy into it and say, “Oh, because you’re a union electrician, you’re better.” I’m exactly the same as it was when I wasn’t.
I went into service over there, and then the moment I got into service they were really against overtime, “No more overtime. No, no, no, no, we don’t want to do overtime. We want to keep our costs down. At the end of the day, you’re done.” Okay. Well, I had to make that up, so I started doing a lot of side work and I put it out on Facebook and said, “Hey, I’m an electrician. I’m bored. Does anybody need anything done?” Boom, oh my goodness, it blew up. It went from me making a few hundred dollars here and there to thousands of dollars. I said, “Oh, the IRS is going to catch one of this. I went down and got my license. I don’t want the Gestapo coming after me, and so I got my license, went ahead and got my business name, and God bless it, got some t-shirts made. So C2 Electrical was born. That one post kept me busy for six months and then-

Scott:
This is 2016, ’17, ’18? What year is this?

Chris:
’17, ’18.

Scott:
You’re rounding out the last of your debts, you’re paying off your last very large debts after this, after applying to snowball for three years, is that right? At the same time?

Chris:
Yeah, I’d say we were snowballing for four years and then ’18 we paid off the last one. We took a breath there, and just relaxed for a second. It was fun. But then the moment I put that post out there on Facebook, and either the-

Scott:
This is right after your achievement of paying off all the debt?

Chris:
Yeah.

Scott:
Let’s go back to that for one second, how did that feel to pay off that last debt?

Chris:
Oh, that was cool. That was cool. That was amazing. He talks about how a great weight is lifted, it was. My shoulders just slumped down. The tension I didn’t know I was carrying, it was just relaxed out of me. It was cool. But by this time, we were also committed to the way we’re living. It just it’s normal now. Somewhere along the line… Well, okay, when you quit doing drugs, there’s something that happens to you physically, and a lot of guys get really fat and I did. I went up to like 325, and so being the guy that I am, I sat down and said, “What is the science of a fat burning? What kills a fat cell?”
I looked it up and then I fell into keto. The ketosis is the by-product of a lipid, checklists ride breaking down and the lipid is burning through your system and that’s the by-product of it. We fell into keto, so then we started doing keto. I started a blog then and I did that for awhile and I was just doing all this. Now with this difference in our food and the way we’re eating, I know this is not finance, but it is finance, we’re looking at all the labels. Everything has sugar in it. Everything’s got sugar in it. I’m borderline type 2 at this point, and a type 2 diabetic, we’re borderline. I wasn’t quite there, but it’s pre-diabetic.
We’re reading everything, so now we can’t buy all the things that we were buying, so we have to change what our intake is. Now we do basically just the perimeter of the grocery store is the foods that we’re buying. Like the vegetables and over here on this side, the meat’s over here on this, the cheese is back here on this side, and then we’re out because everything else has got sugar dumped into it. We’re trying to get away from a lot of the carb loading that we were doing, and I lost 100 pounds, over 100 pounds and got down to-

Scott:
So the same question, I always come back to this, but when did you get to 325 and what timeline did it look like when you dropped off this 100 pounds?

Chris:
I don’t know, 325, probably eight years ago, six years ago, and then I burned down, I lost some weight, I got it down to 250, 265, something like that. I was always fat, and now I’m still jiggly but I’m not fat. My pants are 33. I went from 40-

Scott:
I think you look great.

Chris:
I jiggle when I jump, that’s what I tell people. My pants are down to a 33 and that’s something I had in high school, and that was amazing. I couldn’t believe it. That’s when I started that blog and I was writing and taking pictures and just documenting my journey. This was 2000… when I started the blog it was 2017-ish. Yeah, and so-

Scott:
We’re getting a highlight reel here of just incredible transformational changes that you’re making over long periods of time. This is not an event sequence here, this is a continuum, it sounds like. Where there are defining moments and events where you figure out like, “Oh, here’s how to burn fat and here’s how to get out of debt and those types of things.” But then there’s years long slogs that you’re basically going all out. You’re saying, “Oh, I didn’t do gazelle intensity.” Yeah, you did. For four years, you did for a lot of this stuff to grind it out, in my opinion. Like this sounds like an intense journey on the finance and the weight loss front. Is that right?

Chris:
Yeah, so there was also finding faith in there too because when Tanner came along and showed me value in me, I started looking for existential things then. That’s when I found my faith and started going to church. We started that whole thing. Everything I do, I do entirely. I jumped into the apologetics, listening to the arguments for and against God and this and that. I learned all that. Every aspect of the way, there’s a big change, I jump in all the way. I’ve jumped into faith all the way, I jumped into the debt all the way, I jumped into the diet all the way. I’m trying to understand what my health is, trying to understand what that was?
The intensity, the gazelle intensity really came along when we paid off that last debt, and I put out that post. And, all of a sudden, there’s hundreds of people who just need this, need that. That’s when I really turned it on. I haven’t had a day off or two days off in a row in the last year and a half until now. I took yesterday off, I took today off, and tomorrow I’m going to go do a panel change on my house, on my house, the house I bought, I’m doing a panel change. That’s when the intensity really kicked in. Now I’m making really good money because with each step up and changing the job, the union out here is $40 an hour when I was doing the service work. Then a guy called me and said, “I want you to come work for my company.”
I go, “You’re non-union, you can be with the money.” He goes, “Absolutely, and I’ll give you $2 more. If you keep it $2 more than [inaudible 00:44:59], I’m good.” I went over there. Now he caught onto the fact that I liked to work, that I started my own company. Now this is last summer and I’m working crazy. I get off work, I immediately go home, drop off my van, grab my tools, my hand tools, throw them in my truck. Oh, I had to buy a truck. I threw them in my truck, which has got 250,000 miles on it. I don’t know if you’ve kept track, but the mileage of my truck and her vehicle is enough to get you to the moon and back, they’re lunar vehicles.

Scott:
Nice.

Chris:
Yeah, I came home, I jumped in my truck, I drive, I go, I work for four hours at night. There’s 12-hour day, and then if I’m lucky, on the weekends, I can get 10, 12 hours, or 14 hours a day then. I’m doing remodels, I’m doing everything, and we’re just all of the money for that business, my side business, went into a business account. Doesn’t get touched. We’re living in on my 40-hour W-2. The 1099 money just sits in the account. Don’t touch it. The only thing that comes out of that account is when I go buy materials for the next job that I’m working on. By default, it’s a profit and loss statement, my bank statement every month. Because the only thing that comes out is expenses for the business, and the only thing that goes in is profits from the work.
Then, at one point in time, I put out a second post on Facebook and that’s all I’ve ever done, and it’s just word of mouth. I’ve got a group of people that if somebody says, “Is there an electrician in our area?” There’s like 10 people who just, “Here’s his number, call him.” That just keeps me flowing, and I just keep working. Even when I want to take a little bit of time off, the calls are coming in, the texts, the messaging on the Messenger there. That’s when the intensity really kicked in this last year because now I have a goal. I meet a girl, she’s got some properties, she’s an income investor, and I’m talking to her about saving a house. Because my goal then was to buy a house and just chunk money on it. You have a question? I was just going to-

Scott:
Yeah, I wanted to get into that, but I wanted to transition this from you pay off the debt, you’re feeling great about it. How did things evolve from there? So we can get set up for the house and the income investing.

Chris:
Okay, that’s where she comes in. She’s a real go getter. She takes care of her stuff. She goes in, and like a lot of people, I can change that outlet, I can change that switch. Three-way switching is a little bit more difficult than a normal switching because there’s different wires involved and yada, yada, yada, and so she miswired it. I get called in to fix this little bit of a problem. Her carpenter that was there that day asked me if I did side work. I said, “Sure, I do side work.” He tells her, she calls me on my personal phone and she’s like, “I have some investment properties I want you to take a look at.” I said, “Okay, right.” Then I go and take a look.
Then while doing this work for her, she lays it down that Brandon should be her husband because she loves Pyjama People. He doesn’t know it, but Brandon should be my husband. She’s awesome, and so I start talking to her and then started listening to her. I said, “Okay, I’m always listening for something new.”

Scott:
This is 2018 or 2019?

Chris:
Last year, this is the beginning of last year. No, it was the end of 2019.

Scott:
Before we get to this moment, you paid off all your debt. Are you then approaching the third baby step, which I think is the emergency reserve of six months of emergency reserve?

Chris:
Yes, yes. We saved that up by that time. By the time I met her, I think our emergency fund was in place. We were pretty well stabilized at that point.

Scott:
You were in perfect position to begin investing, but hadn’t really accumulated a lot of cash yet to begin investing with?

Chris:
Yep, so that’s when we made that plan-

Scott:
That’s a perfect time to meet an investor.

Chris:
Yes, right, and she’s awesome. Like I said, so I’m always keeping my ear open for something new. She mentioned Pyjama People, so I go ahead and start listening to those guys, Dave and Brandon. Okay, all right. The idea evolves away from Dave Ramsey. In my personal life, I’m 100% with the guy. I will not carry any debt, at this time this is what I’m thinking, I will not carry any debt. I’m just going to okay, but when it comes to buying a house, okay, we’re going to do something a little different. But I’m still wary because it was a hard lesson to learn with that 144,000. We decided, “Okay, let’s do the whole save up a bigger down payment.”
This is over the next year, it brings us up to the end of the year. We’re close to 12% down. If we can find a house where I’m thinking I’m good at where we are, we’re 50 grand down. I’m good. On 12%, houses start shooting up. As we all know, right now, it’s nuts and so we had put an offer in on the house, gone. Weren’t even close. They told us, “Y’all, yeah, you were like the lowest offer.” And we were five grand over. We offered five grand over what they’re asking and we were the lowest offer. Oh my Lord. But the next one we offered 10 over, and finally we found this one… I didn’t even look at the house. Tanner went and saw it and said it’s a perfect house for rental. Because, by this time I’m saying out loud while I’m driving and I talk out loud while I’m driving a lot. You know what I’m saying?
I want to be an investor, I want to own real estate because I’m looking at what our retirement’s going to look like? We’re fairly well broke, but I had been investing. So I had a 401(k) at the old company that rolled into an IRA. I had started the Roth IRA. We’re putting in $1,000 a month, 500 for me, 500 for my wife. Now, I’m doing a new 401(k) with the work now. But so that’s all growing, and it’s nice and but it’s small. Like I said, we’re a little older, so we’re getting started late in life so I need to do something more, something bigger. That’s when my shift in my mind happened with why don’t we buy something that will cash flow readily?
If we’re looking at 20% down on a house that should, in most markets, be a cashflowing house and allow someone else to pay down that mortgage while we go to the next one and do the same thing again. Then we need help if we’re going to get to a retirement where we’re not dependent on the accounts that are going to be small. That all happened over a little over a year ago. I’m doing the work with my company C2, we’re piling up the money, I’m working like crazy, and it’s intense, it’s intense. It’s 12, 14 hour days every single day, and then we put in this offer and we offered $350,026. The appraisal came in at $350,000. We paid what it appraised for. I’m okay with that because this house has a brand new roof, it has brand new windows, has brand new floors, it has a brand new furnace.
All the appliances are brand new. The only thing that’s wrong with this house is it’s got very bad electrical, “Hello, let me at it. I’ll take that. I’ll take that.” That’s what I’m doing tomorrow is changing that fuse box off of the building. As you know, you have to get homeowners insurance before you can buy the house. You got to get it in place. The mortgage company wants to see that. We went ahead and did that. They had you take pictures of everything and send it to them because COVID, they’re not going to come out. We sent pictures and then we got a notice in the mail saying that they’re canceling the insurance because of the fuse box because it doesn’t have breakers.
This house was made in 1961, and so we call them and say, “Hey, we’ve already got the permit pulled ans we’re getting the materials together.” They said, “It doesn’t matter, you have until May 11th.” I’ve got two more weeks to get that thing changed. I’m going to change it tomorrow, and I’m so excited because I get to tear open the walls and run all new wires of this entire house. This is my job, I’m going to do a $10,000 upgrade to this house, basically, for a weekend’s work because I know what I’m doing and it’s awesome. The change from where I was back when all I had was my mouth gibbering to make money. Then I’d run off and bitter it away and drugs, and God only knows what else.
At this point now where I’m crawling under people’s houses, I’m crawling in addicts, I’m providing a service, a real service to them. I’m bringing value to other people that they’re afraid to do or can’t do, and don’t know themselves. This is another big step and point in my life too because now a lot of the piece that I’ve found is in service to other people. When I come to somebody’s house and I’m able to do something that they’re afraid of, it’s awesome and it pays well. When I quit taking so much from everything and started doing more to give back, it paid, it paid. I get so much more personally than I ever did when I was out trying to get it. We have the little money, the little old lady money, so whenever a little old lady called me and says, “I need you to hang a chandelier for me.”
Okay, so I go over there, and now I don’t charge like the widow woman, I’m not to charge her any money. But she’s going to pay me something because she wants to. I don’t say what it is, I’ll take whatever it is. I’m happy, thank you. Because she wants to pay for the services that she got. If I go hang a chandelier, she gives me 50 bucks. Okay, great. Thank you, I appreciate it. But I never tell them what my wages are, and it’s always they always give me less and that’s fine. We just keep that cash. That’s, actually, what we’re spending right now is the cash that we get from those little old lady jobs. The first lady, she has a walking group. She tells one of the other ladies in her group, so she calls me over, “Can you do the same thing for me?” Yes. Hanging chandelier, uh-huh (affirmative), and she gave you $50. Uh-huh (affirmative) Okay, can I give you $50? Oh, yes, you can.
There’s small group of ladies that I just do work for and they just give me a little bit of cash and it builds up and that’s really nice. It’s awesome. It’s a good feeling just hanging chandelier, and mostly they just want to talk. There’s that, “My husband died seven years ago.” Let’s talk, okay, let’s talk. I have a great time. I’ll spend two, three hours just hanging a light, and just to do that sort of thing. But then when they pass on my name to their neighbor, “This guy wants a spot put in.” “Okay, let me come over there.” I get it in there and I jump in the attic, I crawl across, I do my stuff, and people are just really appreciative. It’s a great feeling to be able to give back to that in that aspect.

Scott:
This is just incredible. Your story and where you are right now, it’s just amazing how much income you’re bringing in, how much wealth you’re building. You said you’re bringing in how much you’re helping people, how much your life seems to have improved with all that stuff. The emotion that you’ve brought into this and how clearly like it’s just amazing to see you react to it, “Hey, my son now wants to be like me growing up with all that stuff because of the great work you’re doing.” Thank you for sharing all this with us and congratulations in just the enormous amount of success you’ve had and where you’ve gotten with all this.

Chris:
Yeah.

Mindy:
Scott, did you hear how excited he got when he started talking about being an electrician? He’s telling his story and it’s going along, and then he talks about being an electrician and he’s so excited. I want to highlight that for a minute because I feel a little bit uniquely qualified to discuss this. My father-in-law was an electrician. We do our own electrical work because y’all don’t answer your phone. I cannot tell you how many times we have called contractors and you guys just let it ring. It goes to voicemail. I leave a voicemail, you don’t call me back, blah, blah, blah, blah. We just finally ended up doing it ourselves. That’s how we got started doing it ourselves was we called the plumber. He’s like, “Yeah, I’ll be there on Saturday.”
Saturday comes, no plumber, but we still have this big old cesspool underneath the crawlspace that isn’t going away and we need to fix it. I think the tub was like directly depositing right under the house. It was awesome. My husband went down there and figured it out. Without YouTube, it was all with books and stuff. But what you’re saying is I heard you in the beginning of the show say, “I didn’t like school. I acted out in school for various other reasons.” But school was not a place that you enjoyed. When we were in school, when we were in middle school, well, you got to do good in high school so you can get into college. You were going to go to college. That was how it went.
You got up in the morning, you got dressed, you brushed your teeth, and when you graduated high school, you went to college. There was no other option. They didn’t talk about trade school, we didn’t talk about anything. For you to go to college, because the people at Yosemite are telling you to go to college. Did you enjoy that at all? I went to junior college too, it absolutely is high school with cigarettes.

Chris:
Yeah, so I had the same pressure. My mom got remarried. I have a stepdad. He’s my dad now, he’s straight up my dad and he used to always say, “If you don’t go to college, you’re going to end up digging ditches.” I think about those words every time I’m digging a ditch, and I smile because I’m only digging ditch from here to there and I’m done. But it’s also paying me 50 bucks an hour. This ditch brought me 400 bucks. He was a programmer. His mentality towards education was a little different.

Scott:
I call them trenches.

Chris:
Trenches. That’s good.

Scott:
You’re in the trenches. I’m sorry, go ahead.

Chris:
Well, that’s then, and every once in a while I still dig. But, usually, at this point, I say, “I’m too old. I’m not digging anymore. The knowledge that I have now is better used, put into running your wires and getting everything done right. We’ll find a kid with a strong back who can dig us a ditch now. But, yeah, when I was growing up, acting out in school, I was always the kid that they took and put them up and put my desk up next to the teacher’s desk, facing the wall away from everybody else. So that’s when I stole the… I swiped the Bilbo Baggins off her desk, my teacher’s desk in third grade and started reading.
Because I’m not paying attention to anything anyway, so I started reading the Hobbit in third grade, and oh, that ignited books, and I’ve read voraciously ever since. There’s never been a time that I wasn’t reading. When I was in high school, I would skip class and go hang out in the library and just read books. For whatever reason, I was stealing them too and then I’d bring them back because they would only let you check out three at a time. I’m not doing that, I took seven. I’d stack them in my backpack and I’d go home and I’d read all weekend long. I’d bring them back and I put them back on the shelf and they didn’t know. But it was always fixing, it was never anything that improved in my life. It just improved my lexicon.
That’s the only thing I got out of that, but an imagination. Now I’m reading all of these nonfiction books. Well, I’m not reading any more, now I’m listening to them. I pop in audio books because I’m always driving and I’m always working. My education is books now. It always has been. Is everything I’ve learned, I’ve learned from listening to this, listening to that, go and trying it. Go, try, fail. That’s how you succeed, go, try, fail, go, try, fail. Then, boom, suddenly you succeed. A lot of that’s just from the education from learning from the books and the reading and all that. Like I said, what I expect from my son is going to be a little different than what was expected of me. But it’s exactly what you said, Mindy, that school was expected of you. I don’t know, when I got there, it was just such a let down.

Scott:
Would you mind sharing a little bit about how much you’re saving per month nowadays and get maybe like a ballpark of where your net worth is sitting today?

Chris:
Okay, so my wage is $42 an hour, which that 40 hours a week puts you right around 85,000 a year. My boss, I started a new company last summer, last September, and he caught on quick, the fact that I like to work. So he’s always throwing overtime at me. That pushed last year’s W-2 income up to 95. Then on this side, on my C2, I think we paid taxes on 35 on that. That pushed us up to right around $130,000 for the year, which is good. Which is great.

Scott:
That’s awesome.

Chris:
Yeah, especially, since that 35 was not touched and just built. Now, like I said, I’m always keeping my ear out for stuff. Oh, we shut off the cable a long time ago to save money, so I don’t have a lot of media input. I’m immune to a lot of things that gets other people whirled up. I didn’t know about COVID for a long time. I just noticed that there wasn’t any cars on the road when I’m driving to work. Then I’m asking, “What’s going on?” They’re like, “Oh, there’s a lockdown. Oh, there’s a lockdown. Okay, there’s a disease floating around.” “Oh, that’s terrible.” I just kept working, and it never really bothered me.
But I started thinking, “Look at all those cars at the airport. Man, the enterprise cars, there’s a sea of enterprise cars just sitting there.” I go, “I wonder what the stocks are doing?” I look at the stock market, it drops and I try to buy stocks in an enterprise. Well, they’re private, they’re not publicly traded. I ended up buying something for Carnival Cruise Line because I read somewhere that they were 80% of the market in cruises. I said, “This is a perfect opportunity. Stocks are down, that means they’re on sale, right? I called my wife and said, “I want a couple thousand to invest.” We invested everything I read. My stock broker right over there at Edward Jones, he goes, “Oh, no.” “What is it? What is it?”
He goes, “I feel the market’s still volatile and I think we should hold off.” I said, “Yeah, okay, I appreciate that.” I don’t care about volatility. I’m not trying to time the bottom. I’m not trying to do anything. I just think that a couple of grand is losable but I think that, that company is going to come back. They were $60 a share, they were down at $10 a share when I bought them. They kept going down, they went down to seven. My wife’s like, “They went down to seven.” “But it’s okay. But you’re at 29 right now, and in June 1st when they open up, I bet you money.” Well, I’m betting money that it’s going to double again. It’s going to be right back up at 50. The savings we had was building up because we had 40, 50 grand for the house. That little 2-, $3,000 that we invested turned into 10 now I think.
That was, like I said, that’s our savings. That’s the only side stuff I did. The $1000 a month that we’re saving into the IRA, the 3% that’s going into the 401(k) is also the savings, and then we live off of the 40-hour a week W-2. All overtime from the W-2 goes into savings, and I think we also have some savings rate on the 40 hours a week. That is a little bit that we’re still saving there. The biggest expense that we have besides rent is food. Because when we went to keto and we stopped buying all of the processed stuff, oh it got expensive. Now we buy fresh food, and it’s much more expensive. We do eat at home almost exclusively, so that saves a lot of money too. That helps with the savings rate as well. Did I answer that question correctly?

Scott:
Awesome. No, yeah. Then you’re now investing like my guess is between, if you’re putting down, if you’ve got a fully funded emergency reserve and you’re putting down 50 Gs on rental properties nowadays, that you’re well past the 100,000 net worth marker. Do you have any inkling there?

Chris:
Okay, so the money we had for the down payment, we got the offer accepted, we got into it, and then all of a sudden somebody says something like, “Hey, you’re a first time buyer, you can pull some of the IRA money out without a penalty, but you’ll have to pay taxes.” Oh, okay, so I sent him a text and said, “Hey, what do you think about this?” He goes, “Oh, yeah, absolutely. You can pull out $10,000.” I said, “Oh, awesome.” He was just, “Let your CPA know and you’ll do the taxes next year.” I said, “Okay, well, 50 just went to 60.” Well, I was in the union for a bunch of years, so I called the pension. They said, “Well, there’s a COVID relief program. Did you ever lose any hours?”
“Yeah, I lost hours.” Did a dip there the first two weeks, we lost hours and he goes, “Okay, so you lost income. You can pull out some.” “How much can I pull out?” “You can pull out either up to $20,000.” I said, “Okay.” I said, “What do I do?” “Fill this out.” They sent me 14,000 because they kept 20% that’s going to go to taxes, penalty freeze. I got a little bit of the pension money. All of a sudden now, I’m within spitting distance of 20% down on this house. That 50 just turned into 70 something. We pulled out from a little bit more from our savings than we wanted to, so instead of having 20,000 saved as a backup, I think we’re down to 10 plus a stock that we can sell.
That’s going to keep us at right around the 20 mark. But that got me to the $78,000 that I needed for the closing cost, which I volunteered to pay, and the 20% down on the house. The moment that, that all happened, everything shifted. Because suddenly I was like, “All that money that I’ve been working for saving, grasping with my little fists is gone.” It took a big shift in my mind to realize it’s not gone, it’s just sitting in this new safe deposit box that has a roof on it. That’s when we kind of, “Okay, so this is good. Now we can save it for the next one.” Now I can take a year or two to save up the next 80 grand or the next 20%, who knows what it’ll be in two years. Whatever 20% will be.
But once I realized that PMI, when we were sitting down with a mortgage lender, oh my God, that gives me hives on my soul. I don’t want to pay that. I don’t want to pay insurance for somebody else. That’s ridiculous. I decided I’m allergic to PMI, and I will only buy houses when I can get 20% down, and that’s our new goal going forward. But I forgot to mention this, we now have a credit card. They threw a big fit about us not having a credit score, because that’s what happens when you don’t have any credit. I said, “But look at all this money-”

Scott:
Is that what Dave Ramsey says, he says, “Yeah, I don’t have any credit.” Because he doesn’t have any credit cards or anything like that, and he’s like, “I can’t rent the apartment building. I could buy the complex, but I can’t rent a unit in the complex.

Chris:
Exactly, I have got what to my debt to income ratio? Awesome. Come on, I don’t owe anybody anything? How would I not pay you? No, no, no, you need a credit score. We got a secured card for the $1,000 and then we’ve got a real card with Costco, and immediately the money starts flowing again. We’re good, [inaudible 01:09:03] leave that at home. I don’t want that thing on me at all. I like walking around with my $20 in my pocket and my bank card, my debit card. Because that way you have a list of what’s going on. It seems to flow easier, it has debt.

Scott:
No, it makes sense. Well, this has just been fantastic. Thank you for sharing all of this. Thank you for the incredible story and journey you’ve been on here. Mindy is right, you do clearly love the electrician piece of things, “Oh, yeah, I lost 100 pounds. Oh, but then I installed a chandelier.” It’s just been so much fun with this. Go ahead, Mindy.

Mindy:
Well, I want to say the addictive personality can be used for good too. You left drugs behind and gained a bunch of weight, but your addictive personality allowed you to stick to it and get rid of the weight. There’s a lot of people who don’t stick to it and get rid of the weight. It allowed you to save money, stick to the getting rid of debt phase that is so difficult for a lot of people. I am going to give you some advice because this is still my show. Even though you’re the guest and the star today, definitely teach your child how to do electricity. Because even if he doesn’t go be an electrician, he’ll know how to do it. My husband didn’t learn a lot from his dad and his dad passed last summer, and then he decided that he was going to finish off the basement.
So he’s learning how to do electricity. We put in a sub panel, he put it a sub panel, I did nothing. I didn’t even go buy the parts this time. That used to be my job, to go to Home Depot all the time and buy all the parts. But he put in a sub panel, he ran all the electricity, he did all the things, but it took him longer because he was still figuring it out. He had a bit of an idea. But being in the trades, I bet you know a guy who does dry wall really awesome, and I bet you know a great plumber. When you have these houses that… because you’re going to discover houses that are dumps. You’re going to be like, “Oh, wait, I could buy…” Like you have everything perfect except electric. That’s fabulous.
But have everything perfect besides everything, and then you call up your friend, Bob, the roofer, “Hey, can we swap some jobs? You do the roofing on my job and I will come do the electricity on your job.” You call up Phil, the plumber. Did I say Bob, the plumber, I meant Bob, the roofer, Phil, the plumber. Call up Phil and be like, “Hey, let’s swap.” And just go on and on and on, and these guys are going to start becoming your group. You know who the good dry waller is and who the lazy bum is who never shows up on time. Being in the trades gives you such an advantage to your investing. I bet, next year, maybe two years because the market’s crazy right now, you’re going to be sitting on this empire of formerly crappy houses that are now amazing and wonderful because of all the things that you know.

Chris:
That’s funny because that’s-

Mindy:
Reach out to those little old ladies.

Chris:
That’s what Tanner says, she says-

Mindy:
Yeah, reach out to those little old ladies.

Chris:
… that eight hours you’re working is what keeps us paying the bills, but those others that’s what’s building the empire. That’s funny. When we moved into the house, I don’t like porch lights, because they get in your eyes. So I immediately removed the porch light and I put in some little puck lights up above. The whole front of my house is lit. It’s really pretty. I got brand new paint and it’s let down. While I was putting those in, I had my poles in there, and all of a sudden, the pole goes shooting inside the house. I’m like, “What the hell?” I run up and put my head in the attic and there’s my boy, he goes, “Oh, sorry, dad. I pulled the wrong wire.”
That was the best day of my life. He was up there pulling wire with me. I’m crawling in the attic, he’s standing up walking and we ran all those wires together and it was so awesome. It was so great. Yeah, I can’t wait to teach them everything. It’s starting now, he already knows what this wire is, what that wire is. I throw quizzes at him whenever I can.

Mindy:
And he can start earning money with you when he’s, I don’t know, 13, 14, 15.

Chris:
Oh, yeah. How early can you start paying him a W-2 legitimately? So 10, 12, and a family business, something like that, because I want to get an IRA started for him, a Roth IRA as quickly as I can. Because when I see those compound interest start, it blows my mind.

Mindy:
Yeah, he needs to have earned income, and I don’t know how early you can start paying him. I do know that you have to pay him what you would be paying somebody else. You can’t pay him $6,000 to help you run wires in the attic for an hour. But you can pay him $15 an hour if that’s what you would also pay somebody else.

Chris:
Sure. I’ll give him a minimum wage. I don’t mind. I just want to get it started.

Mindy:
Exactly.

Chris:
Yeah, if I can get him something, pay a little bit of taxes and get a Roth IRA rolling, oh goodness-

Mindy:
Then he would need to file taxes, he would need to file. But I think, and don’t quote me on this, I only know enough to be dangerous, but I think 12,000 is the minimum income that he would need to file and pay taxes. I think he still has to file taxes, but he doesn’t owe any taxes because he’s not making enough money. His limit is $6,000 to contribute to the Roth IRA, just like yours is until next year when you can do… Oh wait, the Roth is only 61, 7,000. I’m sorry [crosstalk 01:14:36] 7,000 for next year after 50. But the 401(k) goes up I think to 24,000 for you. So super excited to turn 50.

Chris:
Yeah, so I’m not-

Mindy:
But, yeah, I don’t know if he can earn income at six as an electrical apprentice but-

Chris:
No, no, it’s something like, in a family business, it’s something like 10 or 12 is what somebody was saying. But I’ll talk to my CPA about it.

Mindy:
Yeah, talk to your CPA and get the actual number. Then as soon as he does, boom, you’ve got an assistant who’s earning income so he can contribute to his Roth IRA.

Chris:
Yep, I’m very excited about that for him.

Mindy:
I’m very excited for him too.

Scott:
Well, this has just been, again, a fantastic interview. Thank you so much for sharing all this with us.

Mindy:
Thank you for letting me come on.

Scott:
Do you have anything else you want to add or any parts of your story that we should highlight before we get on to closing out the show with the Famous Four?

Chris:
I don’t know. Retirement to me looks a lot like me driving around, taking care of my own rentals. That’s the goal, is to get enough of those that can step away from the W-2. Have enough income there, then I can just… because I can never quit, I can never quit working. One of the things they tell you at the Downtown Union Hall is the number one killer is retirement. Retirement kills because guys go home, sit down and croak. I don’t want that, so I’m going to work until they can haul me out feet first.

Scott:
Fair enough. You’re just going to keep buying rentals every year, it sounds like, or more frequently if you can.

Chris:
Yeah, what’s that book? How To Get Rich Slow.

Scott:
I don’t think it will be that slow for you based on what I’m hearing here. Especially, if you can find more properties that need electrical work. Everything’s new except for electricity. Well, great-

Chris:
Zero dip in my work hours for this whole COVID. In fact, it went up because everybody suddenly needed a spa. I’ve put in more spas last year than I have in all the other years combined. Everybody sitting at home, “Why don’t we have a spa?” “I don’t know. Call an electrician, get some power put in.” It’s paying.

Mindy:
That is crazy.

Chris:
It is.

Mindy:
Okay, Chris, as wonderful as the show was, we are not done yet. We still have our Famous Four, which is the same five questions we ask of all of our guests. The first one is what is your favorite finance book?

Chris:
Without a doubt, the book that changed it for us was Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover. We read that, I listened to the podcast. I buy him. He sells them every once in a while for 10 bucks a piece, and so I’ll buy a book, 10 and 12 of them, and I hand them out like Tic Tacs. If you’re a young person on my job, you’re going to get a strong talking to about retirement. You’re going to get that book pushed into your hands. I had one kid, I gave him the book and I could tell right away he wasn’t going to open it. So the next day when I saw him at work, I said, “Did you find that a $20 bill I left in there?” He said, “What?” Then the next day he came back to work, he goes, “There’s no $20 bill in there.” I go, “Yeah, but now you’re looking at it, so start reading it.” That is by far the book that did it all for me.

Scott:
That’s awesome. What was your biggest money mistake?

Chris:
The new cars. Well, okay, up until the drugs, let’s just say that whole, those three decades were a money mistake. After that, in silver lifetime, the new cars. It was just so much money gone so fast. The minute they handed you the keys, it stopped being a 25,000 car and became a $17,000 car. That was terrible.

Scott:
Nope. Love it. Love it. It’s a grave mistake.

Mindy:
That’s my favorite answer. What was your biggest money mistake? Well, as a former homeless drug addict, new cars. That is everybody says new cars and that is so true. If you were thinking about buying a new car, stop, don’t buy it. That is your biggest money mistake. I’m talking like a brand new, what is it, 2021, brand new 2021 or 2022. Do they have 2022s yet? I don’t know. I don’t know how that works. But, yeah, the brand new car, don’t buy it. Buy a used car.

Chris:
Absolutely.

Mindy:
Okay. What is your best piece of advice for people who are just starting out besides don’t buy a new car?

Chris:
Go, try, fail, that is how you succeed. You have to try, you have to fail, you have to learn from it, and you keep going. The other thing is, is it’s never too late. It’s never too late. Being completely upside down. We had a houses worth of debt when our son was born. We had no value, we were negative, 100%, and we didn’t have a house to show for it. But now here we are, we have a house. I’ve got a savings, I’ve got a good, strong business on the side, I’ve got a beautiful wife, I’ve got a wonderful son, he’s so kind. It’s never too late. Go, try, fail, start today.

Mindy:
Love it.

Scott:
Thank you. That’s really powerful advice. What’s your favorite joke to tell at construction job sites?

Chris:
Well, okay. It’s a joke you’ve heard I know, because you did a pirate off with some guy in the past, but many may not know this. So here it is. Are you ready? What’s a Pirate’s favorite letter.

Scott:
R.

Chris:
You would think so matey, but it’s the C.

Scott:
I love it. All right, a couple pirate jokes here. What’s a Pirate’s favorite sport

Chris:
Hop, skip.

Scott:
Archery. What’s a Pirate’s favorite South American country?

Chris:
Argentina.

Scott:
Argentina. Yes. What’s a Pirate’s favorite ancient Greek mathematician?

Chris:
I don’t know.

Mindy:
Aristotle.

Scott:
Archimedes.

Chris:
Archimedes, yeah.

Scott:
What’s a Pirate’s favorite United States President?

Chris:
You’ve got them all right here on the tip of your tongue too, that’s the best part of this. I don’t know.

Scott:
It’s Bill Clinton.

Chris:
Of course.

Scott:
But really, it’s because he’s from Arkansas. All right, Chris, where can people find out more about you?

Mindy:
I quit.

Chris:
I’m in Carson City. Come visit me. I’m on Facebook, T Christopher Colton, and that’s about it. I shut down the blog last year because I got too busy. I was just, “I’m not paying money for this website,” so I shut that down. T Christopher Colton, if you want to look me up on Facebook and I’m here in Nevada, come visit. Don’t come here and [inaudible 01:21:47].

Scott:
You’re in our Pyjama People Money Facebook group.

Chris:
Oh, yeah, of course.

Scott:
Pyjama People at facebook.com/groups/bpmoney. We actually found Chris because he posted something that got like one million likes in the group about his story, and that’s how we came across your incredible story here to get you on the show. Thank you so much for posting that and for agreeing to come on and share here today.

Chris:
Yeah, thank you.

Mindy:
Yeah, this was a fantastic story, and I really appreciate your time and we will see you around the Facebook group. Thank you so much again, we’ll talk to you soon.

Chris:
Bye.

Mindy:
Okay, Scott, that was Chris Colton. What did you think of his story?

Scott:
Like I said earlier in the intro, this was the mother of all financial journey stories that I’ve heard so far or come across. That the amount of debt, the amount of challenges he has in his background, the casual 100 pound weight loss as part of that journey. The position of pride and joy and gratitude that he has today after achieving all of that, it’s just amazing to see what’s going on here. Now he’s a real estate investor, going to retire early I bet. This was phenomenal and was so much fun to interview Chris today.

Mindy:
Yeah, he was a really great person to talk to. I want to point out that school was not his thing, and there’s a lot of people who are our age who were forced into school, go to college after you graduate from high school and that’s just how it goes. I want to say to people who are listening right now, if you’ve got a kid that is just not getting it done in high school, it’s just not his thing or her thing. You can just tell that they’re struggling. Introduce them to the trades, maybe their face can light up just like Chris’s. He’s talking about helping people, and that’s really where he gets his joy. When you go to a job and you know that you’re horrible at it, it weighs on you.
I’ve been in a lot of jobs where I was not very good at it, I knew I wasn’t very good at it. I’m like, “Man, I just feel horrible.” Chris, I can tell, has just the joy in his life when he’s helping somebody. He’s good at what he does. He enjoys doing it, and he’s good at it. Don’t force your kid into some college that they don’t really want to go to, that just it’s going to be another slug for them. There are other options where you can still make really good money. Did you hear him say $100,000? His kid is going to have the ability to make $100,000 right out of high school. His kid’s going to have the ability to make $100,000 in high school just by learning the trades from somebody who so obviously enjoys it. I am so excited for everything in Chris’s life and Chris’s son’s life coming up.
Just the possibilities that are opening up are just huge, and every aspect of Chris’s story, I have heard people ask, “How do I get started later in life? How can I still do it?” Here’s a way that you can get started later in life. How can I do this if I’m getting ready to change a career? Well, here we go. Chris changed careers two or three times. How can I do this when I had so much debt? Well, here’s, Chris’s story of paying off so much debt. It’s just all these different things add up to all these. So many people are going to get so much out of this, and I’m so excited that he came today.

Scott:
I don’t have anything to add there aside from just reiterating his last piece of advice in the Famous Four there, which is just it’s never too late to get started on that. He just got started and he has never stopped. He has not stopped in, what, six, seven, eight, nine years now on his journey of just hustling and building a better life for himself and his family.

Mindy:
Yep, and he is now crushing it and I’m so excited.

Scott:
Let’s help out even more here before we exit, Mindy. If you are in the Carson City, Nevada or a surrounding area, Chris’s company is C2 Electric. So he picks up the phone and answers that, and if you need anything done and you’re having trouble finding an electrician, give him a call and maybe we can help him get that next rental property just a little bit faster.

Mindy:
Yes, Chris clearly knows what he’s doing, so give him a call and he will… He said, after we stopped recording, he said, “Oh, my slogan is I’ll answer your call. I answer every phone call,” which is huge if you have never tried to look for-

Scott:
That’s a good slogan for an electrician company.

Mindy:
That’s a very good slogan.

Scott:
Yeah, for electrical company. That it’s hard enough to get them to answer. Yeah, no, go give Chris a call and see and give him a chance to compete for your business. We don’t usually plug businesses like this, but we’ll make an exception here on this show.

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

Scott:
Let’s do it.

Mindy:
From episode 193 of the Pyjama People Money Podcast, he is Scott Trench and I am Mindy Jensen saying next time bring more cookies.

 

 

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