Fiery Millennials and Millennial Boss – A Millennial’s Guide to FI

Fiery Millennials and Millennial Boss - A Millennial's Guide to FI

On today’s episode of the Financial Independence Podcast, Gwen from Fiery Millennials and Julie from Millennial Boss join me to talk about millennial finances and what young people should do to reach financial independence as quickly as possible!

Listen Now

  • Listen on iTunes
  • Stream audio file here
  • Download MP3 by right-clicking here


  • Thoughts on Chautauqua and Camp Mustache (including the awful financial advice Julie received in Ecuador)
  • How Gwen landed her dream job and how Julie increased her income by 600% in 5 years
  • The benefits of starting your own blog
  • Why Gwen is the real-life Guinea Pig
  • How to get a college degree for free (or as cheaply as possible)
  • Why everyone should have a side hustle
  • How to negotiate a higher salary (including Julie’s story of how she earned an additional $80,000 by negotiating!)
  • What to do if you already have an inflated lifestyle

Show Links

Full Transcript

Mad Fientist: Hey, welcome everybody to the Financial Independence Podcast, the podcast where I interview some of the best and brightest in the personal finance space to find out how they’re pursuing financial independence.

It’s the last episode of the year. And I can’t believe it, but I actually lived up to my promise. I’m not sure if you remember way back maybe six months ago or so, I offered to do two podcast episodes per month if you guys all left me a bunch of reviews on iTunes.

You thankfully did do that. And then, I had to start producing two episodes per month which seemed reasonable at the time, but I forgot about the fact that I was going on a 3-month trip around the world. So it turned out to be way more challenging than I expected. But luckily, I was able to get them all done. And this is the final two per month of the year.

So, I hope you’ve enjoyed the additional frequency. I’m definitely going to have to cut back I think early next year because I haven’t been writing any articles because I’ve just been focusing on producing these podcasts. But hopefully, I’ll be able to still continue at least maybe one every month or so.

So, on today’s show, I’m excited to welcome Gwen from and Julie from

Gwen and Julie are both personal friends of mine. I met Julie at the Ecuador, Chautauqua last year. And I met Gwen at Camp Mustache last year. So, I was excited to get them on the show not only because they’re friends of mine and it’d be fun for the New Year’s episode, but I haven’t actually spoken about young people finance too much and I haven’t written about it, so I wanted to get them on the show to dive into 1) what problems millennials in particular are facing and 2) what to do about them since I don’t really write about that.

So, without further delay, Julie and Gwen, thanks for being here. I appreciate it.

Julie: Thank you for having us.

Gwen: Yeah, you’re welcome.

Mad Fientist: So first, Merry Christmas! It is now I think the 29th. We just finished Christmas. I hope you guys had a good Christmas. And Julie, congratulations on the big wedding.

Julie: Thank you.

Mad Fientist: You married a fantastic man called Doug. Doug is actually going to be whipping me into shape next year into a hunk of a man which I’m excited about. You can tell why. He’s actually a weightlifting coach and stuff. We all met on the Chautauqua, so that’s why it’s not too weird. But I’m really looking forward to that. So, hopefully, he’s ready for a skinny mad fientist to try to work on. I’m not the biggest…

Julie: He’s up to the challenge.

Mad Fientist: Good, good.

So yeah, the reason we all know each other and the reason I wanted to get you onto the podcast especially for the party New Year episode, I know you guys would be fun since I’ve met both of you in person.

Julie, I met you at the Chautauqua, I met you at the Chautauqua in Ecuador. And Gwen, I met you at Camp Mustache. So yeah, if you guys maybe want to just talk a bit about those experiences starting with Julie since she actually picked the Chautauqua that I was on. She’s going to get preferential treatment for the whole episode since Gwen actually picked a different week.

So go ahead, Julie.

Gwen: Oh, yeah, thanks for that.

Mad Fientist: What is your experience there?

Julie: So, in early 2015, I heard about the Chautauqua, but I didn’t sign up right away. I kind of waited on it. And then, I think in April, I regretted not signing up, so I emailed [Cheryl] and asked if she had any openings. She happened to have two openings. She had two cancellations. So Doug and I signed up.

We went for one week in Ecuador. We stayed in this beautiful resort. And we were lucky enough to have you, Brandon, Jeremy from Go Curry Cracker as well as Jim from JCollinsNH. And Cheryl stayed with us and we had about 15 or so other amazing, inspiring people. We just hung out for a week.

And you’d think we talked the whole time about finances, but we didn’t. We had fun and we had a good time. We hung around a very lukewarm hot tub and drank bottles of probably really bad wine and whiskey. It was a great time!

Mad Fientist: Nice! And yeah, we mentioned that we didn’t talk about too much financial stuff. But when we did, we pretty much gave you the absolute worse advice that you could possibly imagine. Can you talk a little bit about that advice just to give people an idea of what kind of finance talk that actually goes down at these things?

Julie: No. Well, we had great advice given. At the time, Doug and I had just bought a huge house, a 3600 sq. ft. house that we did not need. This is before we really came into our own with all of these concepts.

So, we were trying to poll everyone to ask what should we do about this house.

And one night, around the hot tub, we took a boat with everyone. Should we sell the house or should we rent it out? And selling the house definitely won over. But there was a piece of interesting advice from Jeremy that we should strip all of the appliances including the cupboard and […]

We didn’t go with that approach at all. But it was a pretty […]

Mad Fientist: Yeah, nice. Yeah, Doug was sleeping at the time, so we decided to […] and strip out all the actual valuables.

So Gwen, you went to the week after I was there. You went with Paula Pant from Afford Anything. But then we did get to meet at Camp Mustache. So can you talk a little bit about those two experiences?

Gwen: Yeah, it’s good that I don’t have to tell you about my Chautauqua experience because, basically, it’s exactly the same as Julie’s minus the people. I had my own set of amazing people there.

But yes, I met you at Camp Mustache for the first time. It is a 4-day event in Seattle hosted over Memorial Day. And it’s in this beautiful lodge at the foot of a giant mountain—and I say “giant mountain” because I’m from the Midwest where we don’t have any mountains, so anything larger than about 10 ft. high is a mountain to me.

And you just get to meet 50 people in four days. You have sessions that you can go to (you don’t have to) on any topic imaginable that could potentially be related to financial independence — taxes, real estate, what kind of books and podcasts people are listening to (this one was mentioned, by the way).

And then, yeah, you just hang out with and meet a bunch of new people. And it’s incredible!

I got to meet—let’s see who’s there. Pete was there. Brandon, you were there. Nords from the Military Guy was there; and also, Paula. We just had a blast in the northwest. I’m hoping that I win the lottery this year and I get to go back. That would be really fun.

Mad Fientist: Nice, yeah. The reason I asked is because that’s going to be a big focus for me next year I think. It’s just so amazing to meet up with like-minded people who are interested in this stuff.

And everyone has such an interesting story. It’s just amazing, the friends that you form at these sorts of things.

I know me, personally, I’m going to be trying to do more in-person events next year. And I’m going to get you guys’ opinion on it and maybe make some listeners look into it a bit more, which I definitely recommend.

So, you guys would both recommend either Chautauqua or Camp Mustache?

Julie: Absolutely!

Gwen: Hands down.

Mad Fientist: Nice, cool. I haven’t even asked about you guys yet. I haven’t even delved into your story. But before I do, what exactly is a millennial because you’re Fiery Millennial and Millennial Boss, and obviously, you focus on writing to millennials, but I still really don’t know what that is.

And that’s probably because I’m like on the fringe of potentially being one, but really not. I think 1982, I was born. So technically, I am a millennial. But I don’t feel like I relate.

So anybody want to take that and explain exactly what a millennial is before we dive in?

Gwen: Yeah, I can take it. So millennials are anyone who are really born somewhere right around where you start—usually from about ‘83-ish through about 2010 is a millennial. Just the people who were born right as technology started taking off and changing the landscape of how we live our lives.

So, we have a lot of different characteristics than the generations before us. That’s why, Brandon, you’re a cusper. You’re right on the cusp between Gen X and millennials. So you share some traits from one and some traits from the other. So you kind of got the best of both worlds.

And we’re the generation that everybody loves to complain about.

Mad Fientist: Right, yeah. And how old are you guys just so the audience has an idea?

Gwen: I’m 26.

Julie: Twenty-seven.

Mad Fientist: Okay, cool. So you’re not too much younger than I am luckily. But yeah, I think it’s been a world of difference because I can remember pre-computer times. I don’t think your friends probably had pagers and stuff. That was like the first big thing. It was like, “Whoa! This is amazing. You can get a pager and people can get in touch with you when you’re out and about.” You guys are probably just straight cellphones. So it’s probably quite different.

So, let’s talk a little bit about your blogs and things.

Julie, you’re Millennial Boss. And you’ve just been killing it over there. Can you just talk a little bit, one, about your personal background, but then also how Millennial Boss came about?

Julie: Sure, I graduated college in 2011 with a political science degree. I really value my liberal arts education, but I was quickly realizing that I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life and maybe that degree doesn’t have the best ROI in the short-term.

So, I kind of fell into tech. And I’ve been kind of working my way to hack my career ever since.

Mad Fientist: So, how did you fall into tech? How did you fall into tech?

Julie: At first, I wanted to be a lawyer. I was working as a legal assistant right when I graduated college and I was living with my parents. I just remember thinking, “This is the worst thing in the world. I love my parents. I need a ticket out.”

So, I was creating this blog at night. It was a Study Abroad blog. Blogging was becoming kind of a thing, and a lot of my friends had blogs back then, but I didn’t want to blog about myself because my life is just so boring. I was living with my parents. I didn’t want to write about myself. So, I wrote about something I really loved which was student travel.

And from there, I sort of created a website. And my website got noticed by a start-up. I joined with them. And then, I ended up changing my whole resume and sort of taking out all of the internship and educational experiences I had prior and putting all of these stuff that I learned with the website. I ended up landing an internship at the US Olympic Committee. And that’s where I met Doug, at the Olympic Training Center. And it was in digital media.

It wasn’t in tech at all, but I ended up later parlaying that to try to make it sound techie, so I could land my first tech job. And that’s a lot of what my career has been, just pushing myself to get into a better position by also changing up my resume and learning how to interview so I can land a bigger job.

Mad Fientist: That’s awesome! Yeah, you’ve done some fantastic stuff. And we’re going to definitely touch on that as we continue on with this.

But how did Millennial Boss come about? Was that once you started progressing in the tech world, you just decided you wanted to start writing about it or was it after you found financial independence and sort of wanted to get there quicker and write about the ways you’re trying to get there quicker?

Julie: Exactly! So, I learned about FI and I had about—well, my husband now and I—$89,000 worth of debt together. And we wanted to start a blog to track that pay-off to sort of motivate us. Every time you publish a post, it’s sort of telling people “This is the situation I’m in,” and then it forces you to get better because it’s almost embarrassing to not make any progress. Although at the beginning, you have very few readers, so you really shouldn’t be that worried about it, but I was.

So, it’s so motivating. It pushed me to do better financially and professionally by having it published on the Internet.

Mad Fientist: That’s awesome. And you knocked out that $90k in debt in 18 months. Is that right?

Julie: Yeah, 18 months.

Mad Fientist: That’s fantastic! Yeah, we’ll come back to that, but I don’t want to leave Gwen out in the cold for too long.

So Gwen, what’s your story and how did Fiery Millennials come about?

Gwen: So, I originally went to college for law enforcement. And then, I joined the military and figured out that I’m really bad at telling people what to do and being in a position of authority.

I had a tech job in the military. I came back and I said, “Oh, that was pretty easy.” So I switched my major over to computer science and landed a really great internship and discovered that office life is kind of terrible.

So, I came back for one semester. And while I was finishing up that semester, I was [surfing] around the Internet one day and stumbled across Mr. Money Mustache. I was like, “Wow! That’s a great idea. I already have a taste of what the office environment is like, and that’s not something I want to be around for 30 years or more.”

So, when I started this job, I started saving right away basically as much as possible. So, as we stand, that was three years ago. And I just cracked the $125,000 milestone net worth.

Mad Fientist: That’s awesome. Congratulations!

Gwen: So, I went on this Chautauqua. We’re talking to people and they’re like, “Hey, your story is really interesting. You’re only 24 or 25. That’s really young to be starting all of these. I bet that there are other people out there who want to hear about it.” And so that really kickstarted Fiery Millennials.

I had it started, but I had lost focus. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to keep with it. And then, everybody at the Chautauqua was like, “No, no, no. Your story is really interesting. We want to follow along. So please, blog about it and we’ll follow.”

So, I’ve been sharing my story for almost two years now. And I love it! That whole accountability thing is really key. If I’m out shopping and I’m like, “Hmmm… should I grab a sandwich on the way home or should I go make dinner at home?”, it’s like, “Well, do I want to explain to my readers that I spent way more money on food this month like usual or do I try and be better?” It provides a little bit of push for me to do better.

Mad Fientist: That’s awesome. And the really cool thing about you and your story and where you’re at financially is that you are pretty much in lock step with the optimized guinea pig in my guinea pig experiment which is really cool. So you’re pretty much racing him to financial independence. How has that been, to have an optimized fictional person to compete against?

Gwen: Well, on one hand, it’s great because I’m like, “Oh, yeah. I can compare myself to see this.” On the other hand, it sucks because your guinea pig doesn’t go to Chautauqua, doesn’t go to Camp Mustache. It just has the same level of spending all year long whereas mine fluctuates like crazy. So, I spend a bit more than your optimized guinea pig. But I’d like to think that your optimized guinea pig doesn’t have a life, and so I’m living better.

Mad Fientist: Yeah, you’re definitely right. Absolutely! You are motivating me to even try to figure out some more optimization. Since we are, in fact, racing, I sort of take it as a challenge. I’m going to try to beat you in 2017 somehow. But I think you’ll win out.

So you both are obviously writing about what sort of problems that millennials, in particular, are facing. And one of those things is paying for college—eitehr they may currently be in college or they’re trying to pay off their debt.

So Gwen, you fully financed your own education and you did it in a pretty good way. Can you talk a little bit about all the scholarships you got and getting all the college credits in high school and things like that?

Gwen: Yeah! So, my parents sat me down towards the end of my sophomore year and said, “You’re basically on your own for paying for college. They offered me the deal where they would pay for two years of community college and offer subsidized living at their house for something stupid like $200 or something. Or I could go to a 4-year college and pay for it myself.

And unfortunately, at the time, our relationship was fraying badly, so staying with them wasn’t an option. I did not want to live with them for the next two years. So, I decided to go off on my own and pay for it.

And then, I decided I had no idea how I was going to pay for it.

My high school offered all of these dual education courses where if I took it at high school, it counted for high school and college credit. So, I graduated with 23 college credits to my name which made me a 2nd semester freshman my first semester at college.

And then, still, even with all that, I didn’t know how I was going to pay for college because I was basically broke. So I joined the military. They were going to pay for things. And then, right after I signed my name on the dotted line, I got a call from the scholarship office at school, and they offered me a full ride scholarship for academics which paid for everything but some fees and books.

So, I was able to graduate completely debt-free and with a little bit of savings in the bank as well.

Mad Fientist: That’s fantastic! And Julie, I think your undergrad was pretty typical. I think you had some student loans and stuff. But then you went back to school after to get a grad degree in tech and it seems like that was financed in a really cool way. So can you talk a little bit about that?

Julie: Sure! So, first, I wanted to get my MBA. I pictured myself going to Harvard Business School. And a lot of my classmates from undergrad, that was the path that they chose. But I slowly started realizing that following the money or following the growth in my career was working for me and tech was the industry I wanted to be in.

Also, I found a blog, That was someone who did get their MBA from Harvard. They ended up spending a long time trying to pay off the debt. And I was already was in debt.

So, I started looking into intern programs in IT. But it was really hard for someone who has a political science degree to get accepted without a technical undergraduate degree I found. So, I ended up applying for an online program where the admission requirements [were low], which made me a little bit nervous. But I ended up finding a great program. I maximized tuition, reimbursed it with my employer.

My employer offered $5250 of tuition reimbursement per year. And many employers do that—I wouldn’t say most—just because of the tax credits that they get for that.

And then, you can deduct on top of that if it’s a work-related expenses any extra cost.

So, I decided to take only two courses a year for the first two years just so I could really maximize the reimbursement. And then, in the third year, I ended up switching jobs, so I could collect the 5250 from each employer because my second employer didn’t have a waiting period in order to apply for tuition reimbursement.

And then, the last hack is the fall semester, I’m going to wait—I just actually took my last final a few weeks ago, the weekend after my wedding (which was really difficult, pretty crazy). And now, in January, I’m going to submit the final reimbursement. So I’ll collect my 2017 5252.

Mad Fientist: Nice! That’s fantastic. And yeah, you broke up a little bit there in the middle of that. But what you were saying is that you were looking at other full-time programs I think, but then you decided to go for an online part-time program and you were worried that it wasn’t going to be up to the standards that employers would want. But you found the part-time online program completely find. And you obviously built an impressive career off of it, so there’s no regrets there?

Julie: No, not at all. And I ended up applying for scholarship in the middle of it. I was accepted into the scholarship program along with students from Harvard and Carnegie Mellon and all these others schools […]

And then, I ended up getting offers from some of the top technology companies, which totally surprised me. But it made me realize that the face of education is changing and you don’t always have to pay for the reputation with a more expensive brand name education.

Mad Fientist: That’s awesome. And you talk about the opportunity cost of going full-time and taking two years out of your job and things like that. I think you calculated it to be like—you saved like $300k or something because over the time that you were doing part-time school, you doubled your salary and then you received two more promotion opportunities and things like that, is that right?

Julie: Yup! So, if I assume that school would’ve taken me two years full time, in that time, I doubled my salary, I was put in a management position. I got my bonuses increased. And those are things that necessarily wouldn’t have happened if I had […] put my career on pause to go get a degree.

And I like to think about it as if someone gave me $300,000, what would I do with it? I probably wouldn’t put it towards my education. There are great other opportunities out there.

Mad Fientist: That’s awesome. Yeah, I couldn’t agree more. Both of you have shown interesting ways to get a good education for cheap. And I found the same thing. I got my job just so that I could get a free master’s degree. I was working for a good Boston company at the time. I was working remotely. That was a good situation. But I always thought I wanted to go back for a master’s or some sort of graduate degree—and why not do it for free?

So, yeah, I completely agree. If anyone is out there wanting to improve their education and get another degree, then there are definitely ways to do it without drastically impacting your path to financial independence.

So, another thing that millennials are worried about, I would imagine, is getting the good jobs that allow them to save and invest and reach financial independence.

So, Julie, I know you’ve done a ton of really cool articles on your site about this and have offered lots of good advice. And now, you’re in this amazing tech position in Silicon Valley and you’re making great money.

So can you talk a little bit about how you progressed and how you made that happen and how you made it possible to now be in a position where you paid off all your debt and you’re saving rapidly for financial independence?

Julie: Sure, I definitely didn’t know when I was in college that I should maybe change my major to computer science or even pursue that at all. And I had three disconnected internship experiences. I’ve worked for a lobbying firm in DC. I worked at a hospital. And then I worked for a non-profit law center because I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do.

So, when I was applying to jobs after I graduated, my resume didn’t make sense at all. I didn’t know how to interview. I kind of started out taking what I could get.

But then once I started building my own website and then realizing that you don’t have to include everything on your resume, you only have to include what you think will help you get the next job, then I kind of got some momentum going.

And then, I learned over the years how to maximize your potential within your current job. I think a lot of people think they need to switch jobs to get those big salary boosts (which I’ve definitely seen), but there are so much in your own job that you may have available to you.

I’m definitely a fan of working for a big company. Even though it maybe seem kind of soul-sucking to work for a big company, they do have a lot of nice benefits and opportunities for growth that I did not see at the smaller companies that I worked at.

And the two biggest things, I would say, the first one, making yourself invisible in the office, a lot of people hate playing the office politics game, but what I found is no one is going to recognize the work that you’re doing. You need to make sure that others recognize it in a nice way.

And then, the second one, I don’t know if any of you are How I Met Your Mother fans, but there’s a phrase, “a woo girl,” and it’s a girl who kind of is super excitable and very friendly.

My personality at work is not like that at all. I don’t like to talk to anyone before I’ve had my coffee in the morning. I’m that type of person. But I forced myself to be a hundred times friendlier than I normally am. I’m much more interested in everyone’s lives around me and helping them in the office. I found that that has sort of rewarded me with more opportunities, promotions, bonuses, et cetera.

Mad Fientist: Now, if there’s anyone who’s a natural woo girl, I would have to imagine that would be Gwen. Is that true?

Gwen: It is very true. That is my personality to a T all the time.

Mad Fientist: Yeah, I don’t know how you do it, but it is impressive and it’s nice to be around. So, well done for being able to do that all the time. I’m definitely more like Julie where I have to try really hard to not be just boring and tired-looking.

But Gwen, you are always on fire. And so you used that to work your way into a really enjoyable job that pays more. Could you talk a little bit more about that transition? Any sort of tips or advice you’ve discovered while you were able to work your way into that job?

Gwen: Yeah! So, I fell into this company. I got an interview in college, and then got my internship. I put in a lot of hard work to get where I’m at. This job just didn’t fall into my lap.

So, this internship that I had was actually very similar to the job that I have now. But when I came back after I graduated, they made me go into a 3-year rotational program. So it’s two 18-month rotations in different aspects of IT in the company. So, I actually had to put up with three years of jobs that I hated and didn’t like in order to get this job that I really wanted.

And the whole time that I was in these other jobs, I kept making contacts with people and I kept in touch with the people from my former teams that I knew would help me get to the job that I wanted.

I sent Christmas cards. I popped in to see them when I was in town after I moved to a different location. I just kept them thinking of me and kept me on their radar.

So, when this perfect job popped up, they actually contacted me and said, “Hey, this job is going to be on the job board in a couple of days. Can you apply for it yet?” and I said, “Yes, I can. I would love to apply.” They said, “We really want you to apply for this job.”

And so it wasn’t necessarily a foregone conclusion because I didn’t know who I was up against. But I had a really strong chance of getting this job that was a perfect fit for me because they remembered who I was and they knew how I worked and they knew that I would be a good fit on the team.

Mad Fientist: And you were one of the first people to hear about it as well because of these contacts, right?

Gwen: Yeah, exactly. They kept me in touch. They said, “Oh, the job can’t be posted yet because we don’t have the money for it yet.” And then, things changed in the office environment and they had to get the money for it and it would have to be approved, so they let me know, “Yeah, hey, we’re going to put this up.”

So, that was really, really good. But I never stopped working towards this job. I knew that I wanted this job. And I made sure everybody around me knew that I wanted something like this when I got out of the program.

Mad Fientist: That’s awesome. Yeah, congratulations! And you’ve been loving it so far?

Gwen: Yes. Yeah, it’s great. The best day is ten times better than both of the best days of my last two jobs combined.

Mad Fientist: Oh, that’s fantastic. And you make more, right?

Gwen: And I got a raise. And they paid me to move over here. So I’m getting ridiculous amounts of money just to move to a job that I love, which is great.

Mad Fientist: That’s fantastic!

So, speaking of raises, I think that’s really important. Especially for people on this path to financial independence, it’s like we’re in such a much better situation than pretty much 95% of the population. We have a big savings in the bank and we can sort of take more risks, we can make more demands, we can ask for things and not be afraid of losing our jobs and being homeless in the next month just because we can’t pay our bills. So using that power while you’re on the path to FI can help you get there so much quicker.

So, Julie, can you talk a little bit about how you negotiated some higher salaries over the years? I know you’ve taken some really big jumps in your career. And that’s obviously supercharged your debt pay-off and your savings. So can you talk a little bit about that?

Julie: So, the first job that I had, I didn’t know what salary to put, so I just picked one. But then I realized after by researching that I had lowballed myself. So, I called them back and I asked for $5000 more which is not necessarily the right way to go about it after you’ve already kind of like accepted the offer. So I totally failed.

But then, luckily, I think my boss was excited to have me. He gave it to me anyways. So, that was my first taste of like, “Oh, actually, you can negotiate your salary. I just made $5000 for doing nothing.”

So later, over the years, I tried to really push the envelope. My most recent career jump, especially in technology, you can’t really negotiate your base salary, but you can negotiate bonuses—sign-on bonuses and stock. So I ended up negotiating $80,000 more into the contract.

And the way you do that, you leverage competitive offers. So try to time when you’re applying to jobs so that everything sort of aligns at the same. And then, you can provide them with a competitive opportunity.

They will ask you questions like, “Is this job the same or comparable?” Even if you’re applying to two different jobs, just how you answer the question is what’s important.

But I did have a salary negotiation that went poorly—and poorly meaning I didn’t get it. At the same time that I was negotiating the $80,000 more into the package, I asked for something similar from another company. This was after they provided me with the original offer. I just did something like, “I’m so excited to work here, but I really wouldn’t make the move unless it was this number that I have been hoping for.” And they said, “I’m sorry. We can’t offer you that number.” And that just kind of ended that conversation. They sent me a generic email saying, “Sorry, we couldn’t meet your salary expectations.”

And that was a little bit heart-wrenching because that was a job that was closer to where I grew up and I’ve been looking to move back soon. So that kind of stunk. But it didn’t matter and I’m glad I still asked for it because I asked the other company and they ended up coming up with the right offer.

But in a twist of fate, the company that rejected my negotiated has actually reached out to me, and they want me to continue to apply there. I haven’t heard from them from nine months, so I’m like, “That’s so strange.”

So, if anyone is kind of hesitant about negotiating their salary, just be a good person when you’re talking to them and go for it.

Mad Fientist: That’s awesome advice. Yeah, I couldn’t agree more.

You had talked about how your side business blogging led to the whole tech thing in the first place. And I think side hustles seem to be something that millennials do more than other generations. Do you guys believe that to be the case, Gwen? And I want to talk about your side hustle as well. So Gwen, you can kick off.

Gwen: Yeah, yeah. I do actually. It seems everyone in my friends not only has a daytime job, but they also have something else that they do on the side either to have beer money or just vacation money or just even because they want to do it.

I’m the same. I started a side hustle this year, although mine is a bit unconventional. It’s more kind of a hobby at this point. But I’m hoping to monetize it further in the future when I have more time to work on it. I do stain glass.

Mad Fientist: The snowy tree one looked fantastic, by the way.

Gwen: Thank you, thank you.

Mad Fientist: I have a suggestion, like a Mad Fientist flask would be pretty sweet with some nice sunlight shining through it. So, just a tip. I know you like to do the nerdier pieces. That’s pretty nerdy I think.

Gwen: It is pretty nerdy. I think I can work on that.

Mad Fientist: Nice! That’s cool. And then, obviously, your blogging as well which must take up a lot of time.

Gwen: Yeah, it does. So it’s a constant juggling act between work and the blog and any hobbies that I have in general. I just don’t have enough time to work on all of them. So unfortunately, hobbies are getting the axe right now for a little bit. But I’m hoping that when I’m FI, I have lots more time to work on my hobbies and pursue the interest that I want.

Mad Fientist: So Julie, is there anything besides the blog that you’re working on at the moment? Or have you noticed that a lot of your peers and things have side hustles as well?

Julie: I think it is. Maybe something that’s popular with millennials earlier this year—I have a Craigslist side hustle. And I made $4500 in three weeks. I went crazy!

I just moved into a new apartment complex and I think my neighbors were kind of freaked of because I was exchanging cash with people at all hours of the night and had all these crap out on the patio. But then eventually, they were down because they started bringing over their stuff for me to sell for them. So, we became friends. It was great.

Mad Fientist: That’s really cool.

Julie: But then I think just blogging is something I do. And then, we talked a little bit about this in the beginning, but my husband, Doug, is a strength and conditioning coach. And he primarily works with elite athletes like Olympic or professional athletes. But lately, he’s done some personal training. So that’s kind of our side hustle too. Although I have nothing to do with that except encouragement.

Mad Fientist: That’s good. Yeah, I think side hustles is an incredible way to not only earn extra income, but just to be creative. If your job is especially soul-sucking, it’s a great way to have something that you’re passionate about and potentially something that you could do after you hit FI. So it’s cool to hear that you guys are doing so much stuff.

Is there anything else that millennials need to focus on that I may have missed since I’m not really one? I’m a—what did you call me again, Gwen?

Gwen: You’re a cusper. You’re on the cusp.

Mad Fientist: Cusper, yeah.

Julie: A Gen X and a Millennial.

Mad Fientist: Since I’m a cusper, is there anything that I missed that you guys think should be discussed in this episode?

Gwen: I would just take advantage of any learning opportunities whether on the job or off the job. The Internet is so full of incredible resources that most people don’t even leverage. It’s all out there and a lot of it is free. And all you have to do is go out and just explore.

So that would be what I would recommend, never stop learning. Always be trying to learn something new.

Mad Fientist: That’s great advice. Julie, do you have anything particularly for millennials?

Julie: Sure! Everyone tells millennials to avoid lifestyle inflation, but what about those of us who accidentally may have inflated their lifestyle already?

We bought a big house. I have financed a new SUV. I filled up the house with $10,000 of furniture from 0% interest credit card sort of before I found this world because I was making a big salary and I thought I had made it?

So, for the millennials that have already accidentally done those things, you can easily reverse your life. And it only takes about four months. It’s stressful, but I’ve done it.

I sold my SUV. It was 15 months old. And I lost all of the money I already paid into it, but I ended up walking away. I had some scuff marks and I bought the same exact color paint off the Internet, and then sold it. I ended up kind of walking away from that.

Now, we’re a one car family. We’re not a family. It’s just the two of us. We just got married two weeks ago. I need to slow down.

But yeah, we sold our house. We tried to sell it, but weren’t able to sell it. We rented it out. But now, we live in a small apartment and I essentially take the bus to work. We kind of reversed our consumer lifestyle.

So, if you are out there and you feel like you’ve already made some bad choices, you can reverse them in a second.

Mad Fientist: That’s awesome. And how has that affected your life? Are you happier or do you miss some of the stuff? What’s it like?

Julie: Honestly, it’s the same. What I found recently is that when I make the cheaper choice, I never looked back from it, and I’m just as happy. If you’re a generally happy person, you’re going to be happy no matter if you have a bigger apartment or a smaller apartment.

Mad Fientist: Yeah, I agree, completely. I have a really spend-y friend, and I’ve been trying to figure out a way to get it across to him. He looks at me and he just thinks that we’re just depriving ourselves of so much. He thinks that I’m brainwashing my wife into depriving herself too and we’re both actually just miserable.

I haven’t been able to figure out a way to do it. But just only recently, I was just chatting with Jill, my wife. I was like it really does feel like we can have anything we want, and we do. We buy anything that we want. And just the fact that we had trimmed down our wants to only the things that really, really do make us happy—

It’s like I’m excited to see him. The next time I see him, I’m going to be like, “Look, you’re never going to be
happy because your wants are unlimited and you always feel like you can’t have what you want. Whereas we feel like we have every single thing we want and we can buy and spend money on everything and anything we want. That’s the big difference.”

I don’t know if it’s the same for you. But the more I cut back, the more I get better at knowing what I actually want. And then, I just feel happier with all the things that I do have. Have you found that?

Julie: Yeah, totally.

Gwen: I found that as well. I just moved from an apartment that cost me $1200 a month—two bedroom, two baths, 1100 sq. ft. I moved into my friend’s basement for $400 a month. And I’m still happy. I have everything that I need. So I’m saving $800 a month, but I’m just as happy.

Mad Fientist: That’s awesome. Yeah, that’s a good lesson. Just try stuff out. As long as you’re not committing large sums of money to try something out, you could always reverse course. Even if you are spending large sums of money, just like Julie said, you still can reverse course, which I think is definitely a really important lesson.

Now, I always end my interviews with one piece of advice you’d have for somebody on the path to FI. I’m worried that I stole that with my millennial question. But do you guys have a different piece of advice just for the general population? If not, that’s fine too because I just asked a similar type of question.

Julie: So, one piece of advice I would give is to reach out and find other FI’ers. Gwen and I, I discovered that there are many millennials out there. I thought my domain name was so unique. It turned out it was not at all. There are 15 of us. But I reached out to Gwen and we Skyped. And then when we met in person at FinCon (as well as meeting you, Brandon, and some of the other folks I’ve met in community), it’s kind of helped strengthen my motivation to achieve FI and really kicked me in the butt to get going even faster.

So, I would recommend to others to make some sort of connection because, often, your friends and family don’t provide the best sounding board for these types of ideas.

Mad Fientist: That’s fantastic advice, yeah. And the more I meet people, the more that it just rings true. It’s just so motivating and inspiring. Yeah, that’s fantastic.

How about you, Gwen?

Gwen: I would say my piece of advice is you are capable of doing whatever you think you can. So if you tell yourself you can’t do something, you are never going to be able to do something and you’re writing a self-fulfilling prophecy.

But if you say, “I want this dream job or I want this amazing lifestyle,” then you’re going to do everything you possibly can to work towards it and you’re going to achieve your goal.

Mad Fientist: That’s great. And set specific goals because I know you had wanted to hit $100k by a certain time, and then $125k. And then, you’ve done both. Whereas I think had you just set a random goal of like, “I just want to have a higher net worth at the end of the year,” then you may not have hit those actual stretch goals. So, do you think that was important, setting those actual numbers for those stretch goals you had?

Gwen: Absolutely! And I hate to say it, but they need to be SMART goals. They have to be—what is that—specific, measurable, attainable, all those other ones. So you have to set very specific goals and reach those.

I said I wanted to hit $100,000 this year and my stretch goal was hit $120,000 by the end of the year—and I hit $125,000. So yeah, definitely, having that number helped me work towards it. It was like, “Oh, do I really want this thing or do I want my higher net worth instead?” and it was like, “Well, I really actually want a higher net worth, so I’ll wait.”

And then, it turns out that I didn’t even want that thing after all because I’m just happy without it.

Mad Fientist: That’s awesome. That’s good advice. Thank you guys so much. If people want to get in touch with you, what’s the best way? Gwen, you can start.

Gwen: I can reach via email at [email protected] or I am, sadly, […] to my phone and we’ll see any Twitter alert that comes through it. That’s @FieryMillennial.

Mad Fientist: Nice! And Julie?

Julie: You can tweet me, @MillennialBoss or email me [email protected]

Mad Fientist: Cool! And I’ll put links and stuff to all that good stuff and your sites in the shownotes.

But thank you both so much. This has been fantastic. I hope I can see you guys at some point somewhere in the world in 2017. And yeah, this was a lot of fun. So happy new year. And hopefully, I’ll see you soon.

Julie: Happy New Year!

Gwen: Thanks, Brandon. Hi to Jill.

Mad Fientist: Thanks! Bye.

Julie: Bye.

Gwen: Bye.

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24 comments for “Fiery Millennials and Millennial Boss – A Millennial’s Guide to FI

  1. Freedom 40 Guy
    December 30, 2016 at 7:16 am

    Great to see what these inspiring young people are doing early in their FI journey! Sounds like they’ll both be there before they know it if they keep things up. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Mrs. Picky Pincher
    December 30, 2016 at 9:03 am

    I love it! I remember reading that Gwen did an interview and was a guinea pig. ;) As far as things millennials can do to achieve FI, I would really stress debt avoidance, including student loans. That also goes for car payments and paying for phones in installments through your carrier.

    I was able to double my income 2 years after college, which was quite a feat! Especially since I’m timid about that sort of thing; luckily I surrounded myself with experienced, knowledgeable people who coached me through it. I really can’t stress the need for mentors enough.

    • Julie @ Millennial Boss
      January 5, 2017 at 11:55 pm

      I feel bad that I neglected to mention one of my work mentors that helped me move up so quickly in my last job. Mentors whether in FI or career are so critical to getting ahead.

  3. M. McDude
    December 30, 2016 at 10:07 am

    Refreshing to hear a circuitous route to success. Doesn’t sound like either guest knew exactly what they wanted to do when they graduated from high school, but they each tried different paths, took risks, and had the self-belief to make unconventional moves. I hope these 2 lovely young people become the avatar for “millennials” instead of what you usually see flying around the internet.

    Thanks, Brandon!

  4. Dylan
    December 30, 2016 at 10:22 am

    How do you recommend finding other millennial FI-ers to get in contact with? That sounds like a good idea because many of my friends and family would not understand my reasons for wanting to reach FI, much less believe that its a possibility. I’m actually afraid to tell some of them because I don’t want to make it seem like I am doing better than them.

    • Gwen @ Fiery Millennials
      December 30, 2016 at 10:55 am

      I’ve met several awesome Millennials through the Mustachians on FB group. The others I’ve met at different events I’ve attended. You can also send Julie and/or myself an email. We love making new friends!

    • TJ
      December 30, 2016 at 12:42 pm

      Dylan, I recommend starting a blog! Anonymous or semi-anonymous if you want to be super open about it.

      That whole “If you build it, they will come” rings true, at least for me.

      When I write a good post, I seem to get more comments than when I write a meh post. Comments are the best part of blogging. It validates that you’re not just writing to listen to the echo of your own voice. =)

      • SAS
        December 31, 2016 at 12:28 am

        TJ, I am so glad you said this, because before reading this I was always too afraid to post on other FI sites because I feared they would view it as me trying to step on their toes, but really it is more like we are a rare bread and should band together with support and encouragement.

        I would also love having more FI friends, especially millennials, seems like those near my age are far more interested in being a consumer than anything else (and like most American’s okay with being in debt while splurging in the moment/not planing for the future)

      • Dylan
        January 10, 2017 at 1:05 pm

        TJ, I have been thinking about your comment for the past couple of weeks. At first I passed it off, but the more I considered it, the more it sounded like a good idea. So I’m going for it! Thanks for the push I didn’t even know I needed (or wanted). I feel like I can at least document my journey and education for those with similar aspirations, and perhaps convert a couple subpar-savers.

    • Julie @ Millennial Boss
      December 30, 2016 at 1:19 pm

      Go to Meetups! I belong to the Bay Area MMM Meetup and have met friends there. You can also find millennial FI bloggers and email them.

    • Leslie Popp
      December 30, 2016 at 2:24 pm

      I run into the same thing with my friends and family when I try to explain why FI is my life goal. I’m 24 and when I first started pursuing FI a few years ago everyone I talked to looked at me like I was crazy and seemed to think it wasn’t doable. Over the last few years (after explaining it a few times and sharing blogs like the Mad Fientist) I think a few have finally begun to understand that it is possible. I wouldn’t be afraid to tell people though because you might inspire some of them to rethink their financial situation, plus it helps keep you accountable to achieving those FI goals.

  5. Rob
    December 30, 2016 at 1:32 pm

    Mad Fientist,

    In the future, would it be possible to include time stamps in the highlights section for the podcasts?

  6. Carolyn
    December 30, 2016 at 2:46 pm

    Love it! I’m five years from FI, 28 yo, and a scientist in a techy “soul-sucking” job, so it’s right up my alley. Thanks for the push to dream big and maybe go on the job market again!

    I’m also inspired by this podcast to give time to some hobbies that may be income producing on the side/in FI. Any advice? I can knit, fix bikes, sew, garden, bake, and cook. (Wow, maybe a part time grandmother job?). I’ve seen MMM’s post on this, but not many apply to me well.

    I also just joined the Mustachians on Facebook group, thanks for the suggestion Gwen.

    • Gwen @ Fiery Millennials
      January 5, 2017 at 10:51 am

      Depends on what hobbies you want to monetize. Things like knitting and some forms of sewing are not worth it from a money point of view. It just takes way too long to produce stuff and you can’t recoup your investment. A lot of people also don’t want to pay for home made goods as they can get decent stuff dirt cheap from China.

      I would suggest monetizing the bike repair and sewing, if you can do alterations. Sewing is a lost art. In basic, I was able to trade chores with people because I knew how to sew on a button. Good luck and feel free to get in touch if you’d like more suggestions!

    • Julie @ Millennial Boss
      January 5, 2017 at 11:54 pm

      LOL to the grandmother comment! I would just try different stuff out and see what actually sells. I spend more time dreaming about side hustles than actually doing side hustles and seeing what works. That is something I want to change in 2017. As long as you keep your up front investment low, go for it.

  7. France
    December 30, 2016 at 11:37 pm

    Thank you for such a blog as this!

    I’m 24 and I’ve just crafted my 6-year plan. At least I know I’ll be making headway into the path to FI :) I’ve been working for 2 years already, I hope I started to be more financially conscious earlier. But anyway, happy new year!

    Keep up all the great work! Cheers! :)

    • Gwen @ Fiery Millennials
      January 5, 2017 at 10:53 am

      Happy new year and good luck! It’s never too late to become financially conscious. At 24, you’re ahead of the curve! Keep up the great work!

  8. SAS
    December 31, 2016 at 12:20 am

    This inspired me to finally update my site with 2017 information. I originally wanted to help people my age figure out with a quick easy overview, things that took me a lot of research and investigation to figure out in regards to Financial Independence. Unfortunately I went to Reddit’s FI section and asked for feedback and was shot down saying I was doing the same thing as them, so I found it much more discouraging than I expected. Seems like I should have started with other FI bloggers. 2 things I will note if you do happen to check my site out 1. I have a ton of Mad FIentist links on my FI articles 2. Due to being so discouraged I started to turn it into just whatever because I didn’t know how to be valuable to others if there are so many other FI individuals that are far more experienced and knowledgeable than myself… my point being I have only 2 strait up FI articles, but with encouragement I would do more (but my site traffic is strictly spam and self promoting at the moment)

    • Julie @ Millennial Boss
      January 5, 2017 at 11:52 pm

      I think many people are scared to start blogs because they don’t think they have something different to say or add to what is out there. I think just sharing your story alone is helpful for other people pursuing FI. There are some revolutionary blogs with new information but there is a place for straight up progress blogs too. Maybe your blog will become a mind blower once you get going!

  9. Ellie @ The Chedda
    January 4, 2017 at 12:43 pm

    Gwen and Julie, you guys are too cool!

    I’m loving that this podcast was two millennial women who know what they want and really negotiate and just go for it! I’m just so impressed and inspired right now. I feel like going out and getting stuff done!

    • Gwen @ Fiery Millennials
      January 5, 2017 at 10:53 am

      Go get ’em, tiger! Can’t wait to see what you accomplish!

    • Julie @ Millennial Boss
      January 5, 2017 at 11:48 pm

      Thanks, Ellie!! You’re killing it already!

  10. Renee
    January 6, 2017 at 1:17 pm

    Good afternoon. The Chautauqua ….can you give me a little more information about that event? Is it annual?

    • Julie @ Millennial Boss
      January 7, 2017 at 12:53 am

      Yes, it’s annual. You can find more information about the Chautauqua at the Above the Clouds Retreats website. Gwen and I both have reviews on our blogs as well.

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