On today’s episode of the Financial Independence Podcast, my buddy Grant from Millennial Money joins me to talk about how he went from having $2.26 in the bank to $1.25 million in just 5 years, 3 months, and 6 days!
We dive into the strategies and tactics he used but we also go deeper and discuss some of the unexpected challenges of FIRE.
- Why you don’t need to hit FI or save a million dollars to get the benefits of saving
- How to make the most of your full-time job
- Why you should strive for peace instead of money or happiness
- How to find pleasure in mundane moments
- Financial Freedom Book | Website | Video Trailer | Podcast | Instagram
- Millennial Money Website | Twitter
- Your Money or Your Life
- Google Academy for Ads
- Mad Fientist on the Financial Freedom Podcast
- Why Everyone Should Have Their Own Business (and How to Guarantee Success)
- Success Isn’t About Money, It’s About Peace
- Leave a review for the Financial Independence Podcast on iTunes!
On today’s show, my buddy, Grant, stops by. And I’ve known Grant for a couple of years now. And the first time he reached out to me was actually before I met him in person. He asked if I’d be featured in a book. And the book’s called Financial Freedom. And it is out today! So it’s a long time coming. I’m excited to chat to him about it because I know he’s been working on it for a long time.
But I also wanted to get him on the show just to talk about his journey to financial independence because it’s a really interesting one. He was broke. He had like $2.26 in his bank account. And he took a screenshot of it actually. And in just over five years, he was able to grow his net worth to $1.25 million. And he was able to retire.
So, he has a lot of great information to share about increasing your earnings at your job and starting side hustles and entrepreneurship and lots of things like that. But he also has a really interesting perspective on FI itself. I know he personally has gone through some of the weird existential crises that I’ve found myself going through over the last couple of years. And yet, he seemed to have emerged happier and more content than ever.
So, there’s a lot to dive into here. I’m really excited to have him on the show. So Grant, thanks very much for being here. I appreciate it.
Grant Sabatier: Hey, man. It’s a real honor to be on your podcast.
Mad Fientist: Yeah, no… this is a long time coming. And before we launch in, I obviously want to congratulate you on the new book. That was a long time coming as well. You featured me in it, and I can’t even remember when it was that you gotten in touch quite a long time ago. When was that?
Grant: It was almost two years ago, between a year and a half and two years ago when I first reached out and I wanted to get your story and share your story.
Mad Fientist: Yeah, no… I appreciate it. It turned out great. I’m really happy to be involved in it anyway. Yeah, I just can’t believe it was that long ago. I think that was before we even met in person, right? I don’t think I really knew you like I know you now.
Grant: Yeah, it was right before we had met in person. So I appreciate you responding and sharing all the amazing, amazing insights. You added a ton of value to the narrative.
Mad Fientist: Oh, nice!
Grant: So, for my audience who may not be familiar with the Millenial Money or any other projects that you’ve got going on, can you maybe just give a little quick summary. You have a ridiculous story. You went to FIER super fast. You had like two bucks and then you had like $1.25 million in five years. So maybe giving a little synopsis of how that all happened.
Grant: Yeah! I went to college and was a philosophy major. I graduated not knowing what I wanted to do and did the kind of proverbial bounce-around, a bunch of different jobs. I found myself after being laid off twice in 2010 back at home at my parents’ at the age of 24, sleeping in the same bed that I slept in literally as a 7-year old kid.
I had woke up one morning in August 2010, I had $2.26 left on my bank account. And my parents said that I could only crash for three months and that they weren’t going to give me a dime.
So, that was really kind of my FI story, it starts. Shortly thereafter, I read Your Money or Your Life. It was actually one of the first personal finance books that I’ve ever read. I just googled “best money books” and found it and ordered it on Amazon and read it pretty much almost all in an afternoon. I remember reading it all on a Sunday. And the book just completely changed my entire worldview.
I don’t know what Vicki intended, I actually took from it. But my takeaway was “Okay, if I’m going to trade my life energy for money, I’m going to try to make as much money as I can for my time.”
And it was incredibly traumatic being back home. I’ve always done what I was supposed to do. I went to a good college, got good grades. I’d come down to dinner. My parents didn’t say anything, but just the disappointment in their eyes. You could just feel it. The energy was really palpable. And I felt really down, really depressed that I’d let them down, that I hadn’t made anything yet in my life. I didn’t have any money.
I did the calculation, and I’d spent over 4700 hours working. And not only did I have nothing to show for it, I was deep in credit card debt. So I was really starting from negative.
I read the book and quickly realized “Okay, I got to think about money differently.” And probably because of the trauma and just because I wanted to live differently, I went all in and realized that I needed to build a new skill set.
So, I did another Google search and ended up finding a Google mobile ad. And I figured out that there was demand for running Google ad campaigns and that you could get certified by Google for free.
And so, within a 30-day period, I watched Google Adwards University videos and Google certified. And then, even though I’d sent out over 200 resumes during this 3-month period and hadn’t gotten a single call back, once I’ve put that Google Adwords certification on my resume and on my LinkedIn profile, the first digital marketing agency that I applied to, I got the job.
And that’s when my career started.
Mad Fientist: That’s amazing. Yeah, I definitely want to dive into that a little bit. But I want to go back to that $2.26 because there’s an amazing picture in your book which is a screenshot of your bank account at that time. I think it was like August in 2010 or something.
So, to take a screenshot, you obviously knew or felt that that was like—either like a breaking point or a pivotal moment in your life. What made you take that screenshot?
Grant: That was just the lowest moment of my life. It was just pure sadness and disappointment. I felt incredibly lost.
I took a picture of it because I wanted to remember what it felt like. And I still have it hanging in my closet today, the exact copy that I printed. I took the screenshot and then I printed it out. And yeah, I wanted to remember that feeling. It still takes me back there.
I didn’t have the motivation yet. I hadn’t read Your Money or Your Life. I hadn’t gotten the new job. That was a real low point for me.
Mad Fientist: Yeah, that’s an amazing story. And it’s such a cool thing to look back on now considering where you are today.
The Google thing, that’s incredible. As you mentioned in the book and on your site, you started making $50k after getting that certification, which I think you said maybe it took like 30 or 45 days or something like that. So it was really like a quick 0 to 60, like zero knowing nothing and then 60 in a job that’s paying you good money.
How was that? Was it a super intense month or was it pretty reasonable to get that certification that quickly?
Grant: It was pretty reasonable. But I was kind of so excited about it that I went above and beyond. I probably could’ve passed the exam in half the amount of time.
At the time, if you failed the exam, you’d have to wait five days to take it again. And time was of the essence. And so, I didn’t know how easy or hard the exam would be so I really over-compensated for it. But it was pretty easy.
It still is, to this day, one of the fastest path to six figures. When I’m in a lift or an Uber where I’m talking to something, and they’re like, “How can I make more money?”, it is obviously my own personal experience, but it’s always my go-to answer. There’s so much demand for running Google ad campaigns still. In most cities, the starting salary for a Google campaign manager or a PPC manager is like $65,000 to $75,000 today. And there’s so much demand for it, within a year or two, you can be making six figures in most cities in the United States.
And so, you can still get certified for free. It’s still set up the same way. I don’t know how hard the exam is now. The ads have definitely gotten more complicated. But yeah, it was pretty easy.
Mad Fientist: That’s amazing! So, does Google offer all the resources that you need to get it, all the classes or books or whatever that you need to study to get there?
Grant: Yeah, they’re all YouTube and Google Adwords videos. So they offer everything. There’s like an Adwords study guide. There’s not a book that you need. They walk you through systematically what Google campaigns are, how to set them up, how to run them, how to optimize them, all the different technical parameters.
You know, I got the job and I hadn’t ever ran a campaign myself. I just had the certification.
It’s actually really fascinating. And I ended up falling in love with it because I’m a competitive person, and it’s an incredibly competitive thing to do. I mean it’s a real-time auction/bidding system. You’re trying to bid and be more strategic and outrank other people who are bidding on the same keywords.
And so, it’s competitive. And it’s actually a lot of fun.
And so, once I kind of got into it and saw what it was, that excited me. But obviously, what excited me more was the fact that there were jobs and there was demand. There was a lot of data put out at the time that the demand for digital marketing managers was projected to grow. And it’s actually grown well beyond even those projections at the time.
Mad Fientist: That’s really cool. And not only did it help you get a real job and get out of your parent’s house, you’re able to use those skills in your side hustles and your entrepreneurship and things like that.
So, can you talk about how, pretty quickly, after getting your job, you’re then able to scale up to $300,000 a year?
Grant: Yeah, so I was making $50k going in. I was firmly committed to not making the same mistakes that I’ve made before.
And so I needed a car at the time. So I bought an $800 Nissan Maxima, the cheapest car you could find that ran on Craigslist. I lived in the crappiest apartment I could. And right out of the gate, I was saving about 40% of my income.
So, I felt really positive about that going on. And it was such an amazing experience because, in hindsight, I was about a 30-person company, kind of a small- to mid-sized digital agency where there was only like three or four people who did one role.
And so, what that allowed me to do—I ended up staying there about a year—is, because I was new to this industry—
You know, I knew a little bit of HTML that I poked around with in college. But I hadn’t built any websites. I hadn’t done anything like that. But here I was in a place where, literally, three seats away from me, was the head graphics designer. In another row of seats was like the front-end web programmer. The sales team sat across the room. The CEO’s office was in the corner. And they were all nice. I was energetic and excited. And so I spent as much time as I could with them learning everything because it was all new to me.
So, the SEO guys, the designers, I spent a lot of time with the sales team. And about three months in, one of the sales guys kind of took me under his wing and invited me to a pitch. We ended up winning that project. So I was learning about writing proposals and pitching and all about the business side while also running SEO and we were building WordPress, Drupal and Joomla websites.
And one of the things that was really cool was I learned how to build a WordPress website. One of the guys taught me probably in about a week. And I liked learning Google campaigns, but I was really excited about the possibility of building websites. And so, I started tinkering around.
And I ended up doing a search on Craigslist for someone who needed a website. And I found a small law firm. It was three lawyers. And they were looking for a website for $500. And they put that in their actual ad.
I reached out to them. I was probably the only person that reached out to them. They hired me. I used a template that was for another kind of business. It took me about two weeks to build this law firm website.
They paid me, they were really happy. I showed them how to set up Google ads. I started generating leads for them. And then, this lawyer started recommending me to some of his other lawyer friends. And then I got tapped into an association of lawyers in Chicago.
And three months after that—so this was six months after I got my $50,000 job—I went from selling a $500 website to I sold a $50,000 website to a medium-sized law firm. I used the same WordPress template and I built a website in about three days.
Mad Fientist: No kidding!
Grant: And literally, I remember the day. They mailed me my check. I went down on my mailbox. I remember my hands literally being sweaty as I opened the mailbox and I had a $25,000 check, the deposit for the project. And that completely changed my life. I was like, “I’m going to make, in three days, as much as I’m going to make this entire year. I could do this.” I was off to the races!
And so, then I got a realtor client. I built a couple of other law firm websites. And then, for the realtor, he didn’t know how to run digital campaigns. So I actually set up campaigns where I was using my own money to generate leads for him. And he would pay me for the leads
And so, I got into the lead aggregation game in a little rogue way. And by the end of that year, I made over $300,000 doing this.
And I’ve also gotten a few other clients because my digital agency, they had a minimum threshold of the type of client they would take. And so, a few clients that came in, they didn’t have enough money to pay for our agencies. And so the sales guys ended up giving those projects to me too. And so, within a year, I launched my own agency, and I was off to the races!
Mad Fientist: That’s incredible. And so, your income has increased dramatically. Have you kept your spending at the same level? And if so, was that all due to what you read in Your Money or Your Life? Or did you let your lifestyle get away from you a little bit?
Grant: Oh, I probably spent even less money. Once I got to $300,000, once I even realized that I was going to make over $100,000 that year, that’s when kind of everything completely clicked.
When I had been back at my parents’, I’ve set the goal of trying to make a million dollars as quickly as possible. It wasn’t retire early. Financial independence was obviously wrapped into this. But my very unsophisticated goal was like, “I want to make a million dollars. I want to save a million dollars.”
And so, once I knew that I was going to make $100,000 that year, I was like, “Whoa! Whoa, I’m going to be able to do this. I don’t know how long it’s going to take me. But I’m going to be able to do this.” And so, I got even more committed.
And to be honest, it took me five years, three months and six days from that day in August 2010 until I reached financial independence. And that five years and three months was pretty intense, man. It was like 80- to 90-hour weeks. Thankfully, I didn’t have any kids. I left unfortunately some friendships.
Some of my friends, I helped to make a lot of money. Three of my friends that I profiled in the book, I actually encouraged them to pursue their own passions. And now, one’s a really accomplished music manager and has artists Barnoroo and Coachella. Another one is making $300,000 a year as a recruiters and climbs Mt. Everest—like the craziest…
People around me, I was like getting pumped up about this.
And then, 2 ½ years in, I discovered your blog. And so you were the first financial independence blog that I actually discovered and started reading. So you’re kidn of my entry point.
First, I was like, “Oh, whoa… there are other people doing this.” And then, it was just like—I remember reading everything that you’ve written up to that point. And then, I’ve discovered Pete. And then,that really amplified everything.
I was hacking my way through this. But I was hacking my way through it through just the fact that I was so driven. You know what I mean? I couldn’t make mistakes because all I was doing was working and saving and investing.
And so, I was investing in like Amazon stock in 2011. I remember I was doing a little bit of traveling. And it was the second time that I’ve gone to Europe. And I was outside the Duomo the day that Facebook IPO happened while my girlfriend, now wife, was looking at the art because I want to buy Facebook stock when it went public.
And it went public, and the Internet connection messed up. But then it ended up dropping. And so I was able to buy Facebook for like $26 a share.
I was really driven I think by a lot of trauma, a lot of drive. When you’re 25 or 26 and single and making that amount of money and working all the time, you don’t have a lot of time to spend money.
And I was pumped, man. Once I started seeing those numbers grow, and my investments grow—every morning, I spend at least five minutes with my money. I’d wake up, I’d look at how well I was doing. I check in on Mint. Man, I was all in during this time.
And looking back, I maybe wouldn’t have made as many trade-offs as I made. I was very obsessed at the expense of everything else. I gained almost 50 lbs. during this period. I wasn’t that healthy.
In hindsight, I made a lot of sacrifices that I probably wouldn’t make. But I still feel very grateful for the opportunity and the time that I started, just that it was possible.
Mad Fientist: So if you were to start again today with $2.26 , what would you change? Just maybe take the foot off the gas a little bit and focus a little bit more on the health and friendships and things like that, or would you do it pretty much the same and just make little tweaks?
Grant: Well, it’s interesting because I had a ton of energy when I was 24. And this is one of the things that, your energy—at least mine—it changes as you get older. Your relationship with time changes.
Looking back now, knowing what I know, I probably would’ve worked as intensely. The one thing I wouldn’t have done was put so much pressure on myself. I was stressed out way too much. And whether it’s like the employees that I hired, or not winning certain projects or clients, or losing clients, or things not working, I was very stressed.
Now, looking back, I realized that about a year and a half in, I had 95% of the benefits of FI… I just didn’t realize it. I was chasing freedom. I was chasing that feeling of being free. And in reality, I had plenty of money a year and a half in to stop and take a deep breath. Maybe take a month off.
Maybe I would’ve taken a month off, you know? I did this with no time off, like maybe a Sunday here or there, but it was pretty full bore.
And that’s the thing. You don’t need millions of dollars or to be financially independent to have more freedom in your life. Once I escaped living paycheck to paycheck—like two months in, I should’ve been sleeping better at night. But I wasn’t that aware. It’s like hindsight is always 20/20.
And that’s one of the things, one of the reasons I wrote the book, because people are like, “I want a million dollars. I want to be FI. I want to retire early.” And yes, those are fine goals. But just focus on the next step.
If you’re living paycheck to paycheck, just get to three to six months of expenses. You’re going to sleep better. You’re going to feel more empowered and more controlled. And then, get to two years expenses and take a break. Think about is this what you want to be doing.
I eventually realized that money only matters if it helps you live a life that you love. And I really didn’t love my life during that period. I was driven by the money. And instead of how much money I needed—
The question that was leading me was “How much money did I need? How can I make this money?” when the question should’ve been “What kind of life do I want to live? And then, how much money do I need to live that life?” And so I had it backwards the entire time.
Mad Fientist: Yeah. And I think that’s a very common problem in this whole FI world. So yeah, it’s great to hear that story from you. And yeah, the book definitely goes into that as well. And it also goes into the earning more side of it and how you’re able to do that.
But before we move on to your post-FI life—and we’re going to get deep because when I was on your podcast, we went pretty deep, and it was great. And I’m going to link to that in the shownotes because people think it was a really, really interesting discussion. And I want to turn the table and get your ideas on some of these things.
But before we do that, what would you say to somebody who’s in a similar position? It sounds like you had a lot of courage. And I’m not sure if that courage came from desperation or if you just tried to suppress the nagging voice in your head saying, “You don’t know anything about Google. You don’t know anything about websites” and all the other things that you ended up getting into.
What would you sort of say to somebody who is maybe wanting to try something out new like that but doesn’t really have the confidence?
Grant: So, one of the things that I’ve realized is, in all the people I’ve talked to, in all the people I’ve met and talked about money, you hear their stories. And most people are about two or three steps away from a life that they would really love. And we live in such an all-or-nothing world where it’s like, “I’ve got to jump in. I’ve got to hustle, hustle, hustle. It’s got to be all-passion. It’s got to be like ‘I’m going to put everything on the line’ when, a vast majority of cases, you don’t need to dive into the deep end of the pool. What you can do is just put your foot in for a little while and see how you feel.
And I think a lot of people, they’re stressed in their jobs. They feel like they don’t have enough money. They feel like they’re not going anywhere. And it’s often only a couple of steps that are required to feel less stressed, feel like you have more freedom.
And so, if someone feels stuck in their life, and they’re like, “I can’t imagine doing this” and “That sounds crazy!” and “That sounds impossible,” my recommendation to you would be like… don’t think about the number. Don’t think about “I want to be a millionaire.” Don’t think about “I want to be financially independent.” Those are great goals. Those can be in the back of your head.
Focus on what are the two or three things that are holding you back that you can do right now.
And the first one is look at your current job situation. A lot of people are like, “I want to be an entrepreneur [unclear 24:36].” But if you have a full-time job that has benefits, that’s where you need to start.
There are so many advantages to using your full-time job as a launching pad. Don’t just abandon it. Look at it very closely and say, “Am I making the most of my current situation?” Yes, your boss might suck. Yes, you might not be getting paid as much as you want. Okay, how can you fix that? You know what I mean?
And in the book, I outline very specific process how to analyze your market value and your value to your company.
I mean, most people don’t know that it costs your company between 40% and 60% of your annual salary just to replace you… just to replace you. Just knowing that, most employees actually have so much more leverage than they think they have. And we live in this world where people are afraid to ask for things because they’re worried about getting fired.
But start with your full-time job. Make sure you’re getting paid at least your market rate. Talk to recruiters to get a sense for whether they can find you a better job or what skills that you could build that would help you make more money.
If you’re on a certain career track, there’s so much data available.
We’ve talked about this. I think it’s never been easiser in history to make more money literally because there’s so much information. It’s so open. There’s more and more information every day. You can call up and talk to three recruiters in your industry and get a sense of what you should be paid.
And as a bonus, they might even have a job for you that pays more or they’ll tell you, “Hey, develop these two skill sets, and then you can make $60,000 more a year at this other company.”
That stuff, it’s all available to you. It’s all free. You just have to—
And so, look at your full-time job. That’s where you need to start. Make sure your 30-minute meeting with your HR department, simple question: “Am I making the most of the benefits? Am I taking advantage of it?” Most Americans aren’t. If you want to work remotely, and you want that benefit, it’s never been easier to negotiate it.
So, just look at your current situation. If they’re not willing to budge, if they’re not going to be flexible with you, if they’re not going to give you a raise, you’re not stuck there forever. There’s a path. Life is too short to hate your job.
And that is the thing. So many people, they just feel stuck, and they’re like, “What am I going to do without the job?”
And so, create a safety net. Save like three months of expenses, talk to three recruiters, maybe build some new skills. And in a 3-month plan, you can have an exit strategy, and you’re gone.
Mad Fientist: Yeah, absolutely. It goes back to what we were saying before. You’re so focused on this end goal of financial independence. But really, you could get so many of those benefits of FI when you’re still working. And you can get that because you do have money, and you can survive a few months without a job.
And every single big raise I ever got in my career was when I said I was leaving the job or leaving the company. And I would’ve never got that had I tried to negotiate a salary bump. But as you said, it’s super expensive to replace somebody. And it’s much easier to keep somebody that you know is good than roll the dice and pay a bunch of money to bring on somebody that may not be good.
And you can get that benefit with, what, just maybe two or three months of savings. And that’s way early on your journey to financial independence.
So, I couldn’t agree more. I think that’s amazing advice.
Grant: And a lot of things in life, people are afraid. There’s like this fear. But the thing is life, like investing, is about calculated risks.
And so, how you take a calculated risk just like we talked about in this case is having three months of expenses saved, having skills, diversifying your skills.
And then, a lot of things that a lot of people—it’s easy to see now looking back, you can almost always go back. You can almost always go back. The skills you have, there’s going to be someone who will hire you for them. And so don’t think about the million dollars or being FI. Those are great goals. Those are incredibly admirable. Just focus on those two or three steps—optimizing your full-time job, making sure you’re taking advantage of the benefits…
Try making money outside your full-time job. So much now has been written about side hustling. I have 13 different income streams at one point. And for me, people are like, “How did you do all those things?” I was like, “Well, a vast majority of them, I really enjoyed. I just found a way to get paid for things that I liked doing” like collecting domain names which is like the nerdiest thing on earth, I know. Go out!
The beautiful thing about making money on the side is that you don’t have to go all in. See how it feels. Test what it feels like making money on the side. Just try it. There’s really no risk. All you’re going to lose is a little bit of your time.
Obviously, in the book, I go into great detail about why I think most people think about side hustling all wrong…
Mad Fientist: I completely agree with you on that, especially for people pursuing FI. I just read a post about starting a business just saying how had I not had a business waiting for me after FI, I think I would’ve really struggled. So it’s a way bigger lifestyle change than I think anyone anticipates even though we think about it all the time.
Had I not had something there that was more substantial than a hobby that, actually, other people were relying on me to do things and giving me some sort of external motivation, not having that, I would’ve lost my mind probably within the first couple of months—which we’re going to talk about some of the struggles that people do face after FI because I know you were in a similar situation to me with some of the stuff that you’ve been thinking about, which I’m excited to get into.
I want to get back to your story. And so you did five years, three months, six days, and then you’re FI. So what happened then?
Grant: I took a deep breath. I took a deep breath but was still—it felt good. It is one of the things at least to me that—I’ve cried of joy probably five or six times in my life, and that was one of them. And I felt very grateful. I proved something to myself more than anything else.
But interestingly, I’d always thought I’d get to that number and then sail off into the sunset, write fiction and travel all the time. And when I got there, I had two companies, I had over 20 employees that I was responsible for paying them and their benefits and their family’s benefits. I built an entire infrastructure that depended on me.
That was a hard reality to face. I had enough money. I’ve made it. But here I looked, “Wow! I spent the last five years building two companies that were both successful, that were both growing. What am I going to do now?”
I could’ve never anticipated that. Do you just walk away from something that you spent building?
But what ended up happening was the more successful my companies were, and the more employees I hired, I was spending less and less time doing the work that I actually enjoyed. I was spending time managing people and HR issues and on the road.
I was on the road I think in 2015 like 30 of the weeks of that year. I was traveling all the time to clients. It was exhausting, man.
And a couple of months after I hit FI, I realized just how burnt out I was and really struggled for about a year.
I’ve written a lot about this on my blog during this period. I launched Millennial Money about a month after I became FI. And so that was kind of like, “Okay, I got through this. I’m going to write about it,” but I was incredibly burnt out.
And so, over the next year, I had to face the reality that, from a health perspective, from a mental health perspective, I wasn’t going to be able to continue to grow my companies and sustain this long-term.
I made a lot of mistakes in how I built them. The businesses were too reliant on me. There was a lot of things. I was actually traveling too much. And so I wanted to get out.
But once I made that decision to get out, it still took me over a year beyond that first year—so a couple of years—to unpack the businesses get in the right headspace.
It’s really hard to walk away from a $400,000 gig or more and a multimillion dollar company. And I can honestly say that probably a year in, so late 2016, is when Millennial Money started getting a little bit of traction.
And I remember the first reader email—yeah, I’ve gotten the “Hey, thanks! Cool blog.” But in the Fall of 2016, I got the first reader email that was like, “You’ve changed my life. You’ve helped my marriage. You’ve given me hope. I saved $13,000 this year thanks to your blog. You’ve really inspired…”
And honestly, that email filled me with a level of joy that was so much greater than any dollar than I’ve ever made.
Mad Fientist: That’s awesome.
Grant: And it hit me so intensely that I literally didn’t even know what hit me. It took me a long time to even understand what was going on. I started getting more of those emails.
And then, early 2017, the first time I was on CNBC and NPR and the Washington Post, the website grew, it started making money. So then I was like, “Oh, there’s another way to make money here.”
I hadn’t launched Millennial Money to make money at all ironically. It was just like, “I want to be a writer. I want to share my thoughts.” I want to help other people do this. And then, it started making money where that started taking away some of the anxiety of leaving the companies that I had built. And it was just this confluence of factors where I started getting more emails from readers like I never would’ve—
I would probably have laughed at who I’ve become today like five years ago literally. I was all money all the time. I was conscious and I was a nice person but it was kind of me, myself and I. That was what was driving me. I had the blinders on. It was trauma-driven. It was like, “I’m going to find a way out. I’m going to be successful.” And man, my purpose in life just hit me smack in the face, man.
Mad Fientist: Obviously, you’re much happier chasing that as a way to get fulfillment than just another dollar which is great to see.
Grant: And that’s one of the things, man, I’ve realized. We live in a world that’s like find your why, find your purpose, find what makes you happy. If you had asked me those questions five years ago, I wouldn’t have had an answer. And to be honest, I feel like a lot of those questions put a level of pressure on people that’s not necessarily needed.
If you don’t know what makes you happy or what you’re passionate about or what your purpose in life is, that’s okay. You probably just need the time and space to figure it out.
Mad Fientist: And this brings us perfectly to an article that you wrote that I’ll link to in the shownotes, but how you found that your definition of success has changed. Now, you think success is peace. And I think that’s absolutely brilliant. And I’ve not really thought about that. Contentment is something that I’ve really enjoyed about the last two years of my life that I hadn’t really enjoyed before because I was always striving for something else or striving for more money or more success or whatever. And framing it as peace is something I wouldn’t have thought to do, but I think it’s perfect.
So, can you talk a little bit about that post because I think it’s a really important one.
Grant: So, about a year—gosh, now, over a year. In October 2017, I had a couple of business partners in one of my companies. I separated with them. I sold some of my client relationships to some other people. I unpacked that other company. I’d already started writing the book. But I was in pretty bad shape in October 2017. I was burnt out. I was tired. I felt inspired by the opportunity to write the book. I felt so grateful. The blog was growing.
But what I couldn’t have anticipated was that it ended up taking me about eight months to completely detox from seven years of non-stop grind. I never chilled as hard as I hustled. It was always non-stop.
And last summer, I was sitting in England, just in Cornwall, on the coast there in England—and you might remember when I was there. Early morning, it was really beautiful. I got up. I had to write a post. I was looking at it, the water. I had a feeling. I was like, “What is this feeling?” It was something that I didn’t recognize.
And I realized that it was the first time that I ever felt at peace. And it was a huge moment in my life. I realized that that was what I was seeking all along.
I think I ended the blog post—and this is how I felt, I ended up writing that blog post the next day—“I had nowhere to go but here.”
Mad Fientist: Yeah, it’s a fantastic post. I’m going to definitely link to it. And that’s funny, that you can remember the time that you sort of realized it because I do as well.
I was walking back from the gym one morning. And the green man that tells you you can walk across—they call it the green man here. I forget what it’s called in the States, but just like the walk sign.
Grant: Yeah, it’s like a white man or something.
Mad Fientist: Yeah, the white man to say that you could walk. It turned to a flashing red saying, “You better get across now.” Any other time in my life, I would’ve hurried up and ran into the crosswalk just to get through. I remembered not caring. I just strolled up to the thing, and then I sat there for the whole light because I’d wait until the traffic stopped again. And I was just like, “I can’t believe I did that.” But I was just so content with just strolling through the park and actually just enjoying the act of walking through a park in the day time.
I was like, “That is insane. I would’ve never expected that.” But it was a super happy, joyful moment. And if you looked at me from the cars that were driving by, you would’ve noticed nothing different because I was just waiting. But yeah, it was just a realization that, “Wow, I’m pretty content right now.” I’m not running to get the next thing. It was an amazing feeling.
Grant: Yeah, the one thing I’ve realized is not only do we live in a more and more and more world. But we spend so much of our lives and we’re taught by our parents and the world to chase that next thing—whether it’s a job promotion or a salary increase or a new job or a new thing—when it’s much more valuable but harder to kind of stop and look within.
And you know, the one thing is no matter where you travel in the world or what job you have, the one thing that you’re carrying with you is yourself. And that’s one of the things. Man, I realize that’s like the peace within.
It’s not always there. Some days are crappy. It doesn’t mean you don’t have bad days. But there’s this sense of coming home that I felt where I feel very privileged and grateful to have had that. I wonder if I could’ve found that earlier. I realized that it took a lot of time and space to find that.
It wasn’t even finding it. It’s like it just arrived. We live in such a busy world where you have 10 days of vacation a year or we’re all so busy. You schedule every five minutes. We live in a productivity planner. Everything is scheduled.
Sometimes, it takes just sitting and not knowing and being uncomfortable.
One of my favorite line in the book is: “Life is infinitely richer when you open to it.” And there’s kind of an acceptance and an opening and just kind of a waiting. You don’t always have to chase something because life is going to show up when you least expect it—just like you standing there on the crosswalk or just sitting randomly looking out to the ocean. I couldn’t have sought that out. But you have to give yourself some space and time.
And I wonder I could’ve done that without being FI. I don’t know. I don’t know if I would’ve had that perspective. But that’s one of the things about the book. I hope people are reading it, or someone reads it, and they just realize a) that they can define success for themselves, and then b) that freedom is already within you.
Mad Fientist: Do you have any advice for people to figure out how to find it because I think it is easier said than done because, even now, I still get into the routine of packing my days full and feeling like I need to be productive all the time? I’m still chasing, but they’re just non-monetary things these days mostly.
So, it seems like you’re the same. Obviously, you’re going to be super busy now with the book. And I know there’s times in life where you’re most busy than others. But do you do anything in particular to keep that focus or carve out time for yourself or do anything that’s been helpful as you transition from going a hundred miles per hour to now taking a step back and realizing other things that are important?
Grant: Yeah, one of the things that I’ve realized and I’ve believed in is—there’s a great Alan Watts quote. eHe’s a He’s a British philosopher. He said that “Life is like music, it’s meant to be played.” And I often wake up in the morning. And that’s in my head where I think about it. And for me, it’s not about being busy or not being busy. It’s like, “Am I playing life? Am I having fun? Am I experiencing new things? Am I awake?”
I think we live in a world where we’re kind of encouraged to stay asleep. And some of the simple things that have worked for me, man, just laying under a tree, as simple as that sounds, and just paying attention, these things like 10- or 5-minute meditation, those things are fine to kind of calm you down if you’re stressed out.
But just every once in a while, once a month on a Sunday, schedule the afternoon for yourself and just go lay under a tree or just go take a walk in the park and leave your phone at home. Just give yourself some space.
And the biggest thing that I had to do in that 8-month detox was just give myself permission to do nothing.
Mad Fientist: The tree thing reminded me of something that I’ve really enjoyed over the past year. I got to meet David Cain down in Ecuador. And he talks a lot about things like meditation. I tried one of his programs out and it was really, really helpful for just like 5-minute meditations.
But one of the things that he said was to sort of have a trigger that makes you aware of your surroundings and the present. And I’ve been doing this for the last year. Any time I go out of a door, I instantly notice everything about it which is something I would’ve never done before.
It’s amazing, you step outside, and you get hit in the face with this cold air, and then you smell some trees, and you hear the rustling of leaves and things like this. There’s so much joy you can get out of just simply smelling summer or whatever. That’s been really helpful in just getting out of my head because I’m sure you’re the same. You’re always thinking of how to optimize something or thinking of the next thing you have to do or something.
But yeah, simply just getting out of your head for just a little bit is amazing.
Grant: Yeah, one of the things, I think our minds often hold us back. We try to rationalize everything. The mind drives us to crazy places. And it’s often when you trust your intuition.
To that point, one of my exercises is if I am anywhere in the world—whether at home or in the park or on the train—and I’m feeling frazzled or I’m feeling disconnected, what I’ll do is I’ll just stop. Just be somewhere busy wherever you are and just literally close your eyes for 30 seconds. Just completely close your eyes. You don’t need to meditate. Just close your eyes. Just cut off your sight.
And then just open up and just see. You realize just how rich everything is, how much is going on, how much movement there is.
It’s like awareness is very much like a muscle. It really is.
Mad Fientist: Oh, definitely.
Grant: This might sound crazy to some of you, but it’s something that gets easier over time where you start to see. It’s easier to see. And then, you don’t have to do those exercises as much.
And all of a sudden, you realize that you’re looking at the finch in the tree, and you’ve never noticed a finch in your life before, or you’re seeing something incredibly human like someone sitting and reading a book on the sidewalk out the front of a building.
You start to have a level of awareness where, for me, the more that I’m seeing, the richer life becomes.
Mad Fientist: Yeah, that’s a great way to look at it. I also agree with what you said about it gets easier to sort of see some other things that you probably missed. Just with practice, it is like a muscle.
I was out on a walk with my sister-in-law and her family and my wife and stuff. I guess we were near the ocean and I just got a whiff of the sea breeze. And I was just talking about how nice that was. And my sister-in-law looked at me and she thought I was being sarcastic and I was miserable on my walk or something. And I was like, “No, really…”
And yeah, I think it’s all because of just practicing just being in the present and just enjoying them. And you’re right, the richness of it all is just immense. There’s so much going on. And it’s something I would’ve never expected. If you would’ve played this clip to me five years ago, I would’ve been like, “What are you talking about?”
But yeah, it’s a privilege to enjoy all that stuff and you’re not going and going and going all the time.
Grant: Do you think you could’ve had this awakening without being FI?
Mad Fientist: Oh no, I don’t think so. I was too focused on…
Grant: Yeah, me too…
Mad Fientist: …more money, more money, more money or less spending. I was just too focused on that. So I don’t think it would’ve happened.
Grant: This is the irony of all these. Money does have diminishing returns. You get to a point where you realize how it is a path to freedom and to be thankful and grateful for that.
And if you do feel stuck in your life, money is a way out. I mean it really is. It’s like of anything that I know. But then you get to a point where you realize it’s such a small thing in comparison to everything out there.
But for me, the immensity of it is incredibly freeing because it’s allowed me to let go of a lot of my own competitiveness and expectations. And I always wanted to be the best or be a millionaire or win. And I don’t have that anymore.
Mad Fientist: It’s not all butterflies and rainbows…
Mad Fientist: So, I want to talk a little bit about that. Do you want to maybe just chat a little bit about some of the things maybe you didn’t expect of post-FI life or anything you struggled with because, like I said, it’s not all just happiness and laying under trees all the time.
Grant: Awareness can be really scary. And at least for me, you don’t wake up every day and you’re just like, “Oh, the world is so rich. I see all the colors.” Some days, you wake up, and when you have kind of unlimited time—
At first, it felt like I had a lot more time in the day. And now time has become a much more fluid thing because I have less markers of it. I’m not waking up getting ready to go into work, coming home, taking the dog out, getting kids.
And the routine, a lot of people feel very safe in the routine—my father is this way—because it kind of bookends their life. And when you lose that, you can either do what—I know you’re doing it, Brandon, build another routine.
I really struggled with that. And for me, I’ve kind of let go of needing one. And that’s had its own challenges because, some days, they’re very creative and very inspired, and other days…
For a while, I felt guilty like, “Oh, I’m not getting anything done.” I’ve let that go at least at this moment. The past couple of months, waking up and doing nothing, I’m totally cool with.
I read everything Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote in like two weeks. And this is at a time when I should’ve been doing a ton of other things and should’ve been blogging and should’ve been blah-blah-blah. And I was like, “No, I’m just going to sit here and read. And that was cool.”
But I think I’m finding ways through some of those challenges. I feel very grateful that I have a mission—which another word could be work. You could say that’s my “work.” I moved from Chicago to New York City so I have a lot of distractions. I have a lot going on. I’m going on a 40-city book tour starting on March. So I’m going to be on the road. I’m actually going to be on the road from March until December of 2019. So I know that’s happening.
And 2020, I’m planning to take off the entire year, and I’m going to work on a second book, Not a Bad Money.
Mad Fientist: Oh, wow! Nice.
Grant: And so, I’ve kind of put that in my head of like, “2020 is the year you’re going to do nothing.”
So, once again, I’m like pushing off. But I’m very happy, man. I’m very happy because I’ve realized that happiness is not my goal anymore just like money wasn’t. It’s that peace. Am I following the rhythms that I’m feeling? Do I feel fulfilled?
I care less and less about happiness. Happiness has kind of exploded into so many other particles now for me where it’s like, “Am I kind of floating? Am I doing what I should be doing? And does it feel good?” It’s more about like “Does this feel good?” I think.
Mad Fientist: Oh, that’s great, man. It’s awesome to see just your transition and how you’re dealing with everything and everything that you’re producing. It’s definitely inspiring. And I’m sure, yeah, you’re inspiring millions and millions more with the book.
So, Financial Freedom, it’s out today. And the book tour will follow next month.
And anything else you want to tell people about it? Obviously, there’s going to be links and stuff on the shownotes. But I’m also going to include an amazing trailer for the book—which I’ve never seen a trailer for a book. But this makes it seem like a movie trailer. And it’s really well done.
So, if you’re interested at all, definitely check it out. It’s like a couple of minutes. And it’s as engaging and action-packed as a movie trailer.
So, is there anything else you want to say about it before we head out of here?
Grant: Yeah, check out FinancialFreedomBook.com. That’s the website for the book. There’s nine calculators that are in the book. Those are all already built. They’re for free. You don’t even need the book to use them. Those are in FinancialFreedomBook.com—and a bunch of other resources.
And yeah, pick up a copy if you want to hear what Brandon has to say about happiness and if you want to hear his story. There’s nine other people in the book who reached FI before 35 that are also profiled.
And yeah, I can’t wait to get it in people’s hands. And if you’re into FI, and you have a friend that you’ve really wanted to convince or kind of get them onboard, I think this might be the book for them.
One of the reasons I wrote it is I wanted something that you could literally hand to someone and say, “Hey, this is what I’m about. This is what I follow. This is what’s important to me.”
Mad Fientist: Absolutely! Yeah, I’m super excited for you. And yeah, I definitely recommend people check it out. As I said, it goes deeper into all your story and everything you’ve been able to do and all your recommendations. But then it also brings in these 10 other voices and their input.
So, it’s a very entertaining book. But also, there’s lots of good pieces of knowledge in there that will help anyone on their path to financial independence. So I definitely recommend it.
And people can also find you at MillennialMoney.com. Do you want to plug your new site—which I’m really excited about—the GrantSabatier.com.
Grant: Oh yeah, man. Yeah, GrantSabatier.com. I started writing about more than money. Man, I appreciate that. I wasn’t going to plug that. So you can sign up. I’m sending out weekly emails with some, really, kind of thoughts on life and existence and being alive. And so check that out as well.
Mad Fientist: And you’ve also got the podcast, the Financial Freedom Podcast.
Grant: Yeah, Financial Freedom Podcast. And then, if you want to follow the book around the world, or join me anywhere, check out @FinancialFreedom on Instagram. The book has its own Instagram account, the book and the podcast do.
And yeah, if anyone wants to go to Japan, I’m planning that out right now. I’m going to be doing a bunch of dates there. And yeah, it’s going to be a wild ride.
But hey, man, I just wanted to say, before we end, thank you because this is a true, true bar and a true honor to be on the show, man. You really changed my life when I found your blog. Just keep doing the work you’re doing. And just speaking as, first, a fan, now to be on this show, I think I speak for most people, probably everyone out there, thank you for what you do, man. I really appreciate it.
Mad Fientist: Oh, that’s very kind of you. I appreciate it. And yeah, it’s an honor to have you on. And it’s been a pleasure chatting with you over the years.
And like I said, I’m going to link to your episode with me because you dug dip and got some really good things and made me think about a lot of stuff that I haven’t thought about. And yeah, it’s just been a pleasure just interacting with you.
And I’m super pumped for you about the book.
And I can’t let you go until I obviously ask you the question I ask everyone since the beginning of this podcast: “What’s one piece of advice you’d give to somebody on the path to financial independence?”
Grant: Just take a deep breath.
Mad Fientist: That’s great! That’s the shortest response, but I think it’s one of the best.
So Grant, I appreciate it so much, buddy. Congrats again on the book. And hopefully, I will see you somewhere in the world on your tour. And I will buy you a beer to celebrate.
Grant: We’re just getting started, man. We’re just getting started.
Mad Fientist: Talk to you soon! Bye.
Grant: Thanks, man. Have a good day. Bye.
Enter your details below to join the Mad Fientist email list and receive an instant download link!