Today, we’ll be talking with Garrett Gunderson, self-described money nerd and founder of Freedom FastTrack based in Salt Lake City, Utah. Garrett is also the author of Killing Sacred Cows, a New York Times bestseller. He’s been featured in the Wall Street Journal, New York Post, American Chiropractor, Dentaltown, and too-many-to-name other publications. Garrett is also insanely passionate about personal finance, and I’m 100 percent certain he’s going to be able to challenge our beliefs and teach us something valuable today.
In this episode, Garrett reveals:
- Why knowing where you’re leaking money and what fees you may not realize you are paying is so important to your bottom line
- What the accumulation theory is versus the utilization theory, and how that can have a huge impact on your enjoyment and quality of life
- Why focusing on the numbers in your retirement account can be dangerous to your financial life
- How knowing the difference between debt and loans is important in shifting your relationship with using a loan to accumulate equity
- Why he thinks you should invest in alignment with your investor DNA and core values and what investor DNA is
- Where to go to get your finance questions answered by a bunch of money nerds
Josh Mettle: Hello and welcome to the Physician Financial Success Podcast. My name is Josh Mettle, and this is the podcast dedicated to advising physicians how to avoid financial landmines. Today, we’ll be talking with Garrett Gunderson, self-described money nerd and founder of Freedom FastTrack based in Salt Lake City, Utah. Garrett is also the author of Killing Sacred Cows, a New York Times bestseller. He’s been featured in the Wall Street Journal, New York Post, American Chiropractor, Dentaltown, and too-many-to-name other publications. Garrett is also insanely passionate about personal finance, and I’m 100 percent certain he’s going to be able to challenge our beliefs and teach us something valuable today. With that, Garrett, I welcome you to the show. Thanks for your participation. How are you today?
Garrett Gunderson: Josh, I’m doing well, man. I actually slept in a little bit, so I’m doing great.
Josh Mettle: You’re well rested. I’ll take that any day.
Garrett Gunderson: Yeah.
Josh Mettle: Let’s bring our listeners up to speed a little bit with your background, your history as a financial advisor, and maybe just kind of full circle what you’re working on today.
Garrett Gunderson: Well, I got started in financial services because I started a business in Price, Utah, when I was 15 years old detailing, cleaning cars, and I ended up winning the Small Business Administration Young Entrepreneur of the Year and won the Entrepreneur of the Year for the state of Utah and that came with $5,000. At that time in my life and where I was from, I thought I had a lot of money and I guess I was a bit of a nerd because I wanted to invest that money. Going out there and interviewing people and whoever would talk to me about putting that money to work, I ended up working with what I would call a bottom-feeder firm, someone who showed me that the market was going to do 18 percent conservatively because this was the ‘90s. Then, if I just put $70 a month into an insurance policy, I was gonna be a multimillionaire. It took me unfortunately three months to figure that out, so I guess that wasn’t too big of an educational cost, but I paid into that policy for three months.
At the same time, I was in econometrics in school, ran a, basically an entire model including Monte Carlo Simulations, and I did a whole kind of predictive model and saw that there’s about a 97.8 percent chance that $70 a month, this thing was going to fail and not be worth anything let alone be worth millions of dollars. I guess my infinite curiosity ended up getting me an internship that I thought was with a financial firm because they had people selling mutual funds. But at that, time and it’s probably still the same way, they were really a life insurance company disguised as a financial firm, and they want to pay me any salary as long as I would sell life insurance like that. Here I was back in that same situation where life insurance got me in, and now all of a sudden I felt like there’s a lot of misinformation about life insurance and I got bored with it pretty quickly, so I started selling mutual funds.
In the ‘90s that meant I seemed pretty brilliant to the hometown folks I was working with because it was mostly you know family and friends and parents of my friends. When the year 2000 came around, by the time March hit and the market starts going down, and I didn’t have finance that was acceptable because everyone was telling me that the market was going on sell. They should buy more, tell them they’re in it for the long haul, tell them the dollal cost average, things that probably a lot of people have heard of. I actually said, “Well, I don’t feel comfortable with that.” And I actually had a professor at my school, years before that, named Steve Harrop, and he was a muni bond manager before he became a professor, and he actually used to manage international equities, but he managed a $5 billion fund for Strong Investments. He was ranked number 1 by Lipper, Money, you name it. He had 27 recognitions as the number 1 in the industry.
Because we were friends, and he is actually a client now, he helped walk me through what was really going on, and I had to go back to the people that put money with me and say, “Hey, I don’t really know what I’m doing. I collected your money, got paid a commission. I’m not really a fund manager. I couldn’t even tell you all the stocks that are being held in your mutual fund. Why they would go up or not and we haven’t even talked about an exit strategy, so I think that you should either (A) find another financial planner or (B) move all of your money to cash and let me figure out something different.”
That, right there, was the pivotal moment in my career. It led me to write a book something like Killing Sacred Cows because I now didn’t just take things at surface value or because it’s what everyone was doing because, you know what, everyone lost money for more years, 2001, 2002 where my clients were 100 percent out of the market during those two years. Actually, they weren’t 100 percent out of the market. They were 85 percent of the time out of the market, and then 2001 and 2002, we had over 40 percent return both of those years. I can say how I did that. I’m sure that’s interesting to some people, but I think that there is a much better story and bigger picture where moving forward we go to today.
Now, I’m not really – I don’t consider myself being a money manager or a retirement planner. I look at comprehensive personal finances, and I look and say, “Where are people losing and leaking money.” Now, we’ve worked with a lot of doctors in doing this. This is the number 1 category that we’ve participated in, but we’re finding $4,117 per month of leaking money because of how they structured their loans, how they manage their finances, not telling them to tighten the belt, just money that’s lost and slipping through their hands. Plus 9 out of 10 approximately 93 percent of them were overpaying on taxes to the tune of $11,300 per half million of revenue. We were helping them plug those leaks. We’re finding lost money, improving their bottom line, and then accelerating their wealth without having them put their money at risk. I really like where I’ve ended up versus where I started at, but fortunately, I had enough questions in me, and enough, like I don’t know if that makes sense in me to kind of figure out a different path and invent a different way.
Josh Mettle: I love the story, and I want to get more into your newest project, which I had a chance to check out online, moneynerds.com. I want to get into that before we wrap up, but before we move on that story, I’m hearing you tell me that you bucked the world in terms of what everybody was doing. You were like the only guy running the other direction in 2000. What do you think gave you the curiosity to question, and what do you think gave you the courage to say, “I’m going the wrong way, and I got to turn around, and I got to lead my people the other direction.”
Garrett Gunderson: Well, first of all, I didn’t enter financial services because I thought, “Hey, this is the best way for me to make money.” I entered it because I was looking to put my money to work. And in going through that, got offered an internship, is what they called it, and they paid me a $2,000 a month salary while I was in college in Cedar City, Utah, so I was, that was decent money back then. And so, because of how I entered, was an important piece. But then the second thing is, I had my money that I was doing the same thing that I was teaching everyone else and my philosophy when I started in financial services was make my money by being an investor as my primary income and have my secondary income be, teach other people, right? Because I’m trying to make the money myself, well it wasn’t working. I was going, “Wait, this isn’t working this isn’t just I made my money and let me just convince them like everyone else to keep their money in there.” Because that’s what the institutions teach and that’s what people are buying into, not because financial partnership are bad people, but they have bad information and they aren’t questioning it because their livelihood depends upon it.
Well, I didn’t have a wife yet. I didn’t have kids yet. I didn’t have major bills. I was already starting to invest in real estate. I had 14 properties at the time, and at that time, those properties were cash flowing, so I had a convenience where I didn’t have an attachment to being right. I had an attachment to what was right because I was wanting to do the best thing for myself and my own interest. But then second, I mean, my first clients were my parents and my grandparents. I didn’t want to look them in the eye at a family reunion and say, “I know the market has been down for the third consecutive year, but just hang on in there you know. It will turn around eventually, and it averaged 10 percent since 2000 B.C. It always rebounds,” and all the kind of nonsense we hear.
Because of that, at the financial firm I was at, I was considered a fanatic and a renegade and someone to be feared by the managers, but was more beloved by the people that were in the firm as independent contractors. And so, that was a very interesting experience, but I got to tell you, I was immediately rewarded because all but one of my clients stayed with me. All but one of them got out of the market during that time, and so, we saved hundreds of thousands. It would have been millions of dollars, but the problem was I didn’t have that much money under management at the time, but that professor who took time and invested in me, I remember we sat down over yogurt. We were talking, and he’s just asking he’s asking questions and drilling down. At the end, I knew what I needed to do and I had him supporting me and sharing his stories and his lessons along the way, and it really made a difference to me, so I had a very positive influence.
I had less attachment to the outcome than most people did, as far as keeping people. I had an attachment to the outcome being positive, and here’s the thing: what I ended up learning through it was temporary. It only worked for two years, and man, it was a cool two years in ’01 and ‘02 because what we did was anytime the market in the US was up 1 percent in a day, so you’d have a couple of big days like that a year, we would move 100 percent of people’s retirement plan into international markets. We’d keep converting cash from the international market overnight, basically, and when we could trade again, we’d put it back into cash. I would say, 4 out of 5 times, the money would go up because the international markets were following the momentum of what happened in the US. And so, here we are: 80 to 85 percent of the time sitting on cash, with a 41 percent return in one year and a 43 percent return the next year. Unfortunately, they started, you know in retirement plans that you can only do 12 trades a year or you have to leave it in for 30 days, and there’s a 1 percent fee if you trade more than once a month. They kind of killed the deal, but that was me. I was looking for a better way, and now I’m gone to lasting, sustainable ways, how to find money for people.
Josh Mettle: I think there’s a lesson there, and that’s why I didn’t want to move off of that question and that story, and I think the lesson is, from what I heard you say, was that you had skin in the game. You weren’t interested in necessarily being right. You were interested in finding the truth, so that primarily, you could put that truth to work on your own personal net worth and secondarily for your clients. I bet if you ran that prism across 100 or 1,000 financial advisors, it would not be the same, so that’s a gem and I just wanted to uncover it for our listeners. Thanks for explaining it so clearly.
Garrett Gunderson: Well, most financial planners unfortunately, are making their money through transactions, and here’s kind of the situation at hand with planning in general. One is, most financial planning is fragmented and it’s not comprehensive financial planning, so people have a false sense of security. Number 2 and the biggest problem that I have with it is, most of them get paid in ways that people don’t really understand or recognize. It’s automatic fees coming out of an account once the money is making money or not, and if people had to write those checks rather than have them automatically come out of an account, one, they would have full disclosure what the fees are, which for – until last year, 401ks didn’t even have to fully disclose all the fees that were involved. 60 Minutes did a special that there were up to 13 fees inside of these programs. I mean Time magazine had a cover saying “Why It’s Time to Retire the 401(k),” and I mean it’s just when we look at that, that’s like, in the old days when people got robbed, people showed up at the bank with guns or people showed up on horses and robbed the train, so you knew it was happening.
In the world of finance, it’s just very quietly happening, and the uphill battle that I end up in, Josh, is that when we get paid as a firm, it’s because people write me a check. I say, “This is what it costs to enlist my services,” so there’s full disclosure, and some doctors are hesitant to write the check because that’s a big tick on my – I’m sitting there going, you paid twice that in portfolio fees last year, and you didn’t even make money. I’m kind of fighting this uphill battle where I get how sneaky it is for the institutions to just automatically get their fees because it lulls people to sleep, so they can have their wealth compensated but that’s part of the way that we people make money is find where they’re losing money and have these leaky fees and basically didn’t commission, and plug those holes. It’s a lot more fun and a lot more rewarding, but it’s more of an uphill battle and a little bit more difficult than just, you know, doing a transaction.
Josh Mettle: Yeah. Well, I think you’re on the right side, and I think that the world is moving more towards full disclosure so I applaud you for it. I want to keep us moving here because I know your time is valuable and I have five questions that really I got out of Killing Sacred Cows that I would just love to uncork for our listeners, and so maybe we could spend just three or four minutes on each so that we could get to all five. Then, I’m going to recommend to all of our listeners that if you haven’t read the book to get online, buy a copy. It’s available at all the major book outlets and it’s a killer book. With that, let’s get into it. There’s some theories here that just from a perspective of thinking, I think are different for most people and that’s what I’d really like to uncork here, so let’s start with maybe if you could explain and contrast the accumulation theory as opposed to the utilization theory.
Garrett Gunderson: Well, I’ll start with a quote. Benjamin Franklin said, “Wealth isn’t the man that has it, but the man that lives it.” What he’s talking about is living wealthy. Accumulation theory only works under the assumption that first of all we live within our means, which when people hear that, they initially think that means I have to cut back, save, sacrifice, delay, defer. Right? So it’s a reductionist theory. When people get into that thought processes, they take and set aside money. I don’t know if everyone has seen this Fidelity commercial, the guy leaving Fidelity, sees these classic cars and his eyes get wide and the music breaks you know, kind of like in lightning, and then all of a sudden, a Fidelity woman comes out and shakes her finger, wags her finger like, “No, no, no. Follow the green line to retirement.” Because he can’t enjoy life along the way. It’s just about saving, saving, saving, and setting money aside.
And so, here’s what utilization is: it’s still living within your means but looking at two other factors that are often neglected and misunderstood. The first factor is being more efficient with your means. We find 10 percent or more people’s income is being lost to fees to financial institutions, to taxes, to duplicate coverages within insurances, improper structures or you know all of this kind of stuff. Why not just be more efficient and keep more of what you make as the primary focus with utilization.
The second is, increase your level of production. That doesn’t mean you’ll work harder but what can you do to expand your means? What can you do to improve your output through leverage, through effectiveness, through marketing, through an associate, through whatever it is that works for your situation. You know, if those two things make a big difference, now utilization is, what can you do to create cash flow along the way versus just accumulate for the next 30 years? Because cash flow keeps your money in motion.
If you have cash flow, and it turns off, you know something is wrong. If you have cash flow, you have choices and options of what to do with that cash flow. If you just reinvest and accumulate because everyone’s told you that compound interest is where it’s at, well the problem with compound interest is that it doesn’t work very good over 10 years, but the problem with compound interest is what if the market doesn’t perform as projected or as advertised or what are the fees doing to that compound interest?
I look at it more like utilizing your assets to maximize output through cash flow, through certainty. And then, part of utilization is, taking a portion of what you earn and setting it into an account that’s your living wealthy account that’s merely used for improving your lifestyle along the way, and it’s used to have guilt-free spending now. Most people are waiting until retirement to enjoy life, missing out on everything life has to offer, but here’s the fundamental shift: you’re the greatest asset. If you are not energized, if you don’t feel good about yourself, if you’re not feeling happy, and if you’re constantly drained because you don’t take care of yourself and go out and relax and enjoy things every now and again, you’re going to burnout.
Utilization and setting aside 1 or 2 percent of that income that you earned, just to spend it on whatever you want without any worry, and that’s not how I grew up. I grew up with you know with, hey, you just save every penny. You know I grew up in a scarcity household, scarcity mentality, this Italian family that put cash in coffee cans and left them in the cellar. We joked that my Aunt Mary probably buried money in her backyard. I mean she never spent anything, and she told everyone she was poor yet she lived in a town where you could buy a home for $20,000, $30,000 and she had over $500,000 in the bank.
What good is the money if you always live in scarcity, and there’s a lot of financial pundits that will tell you, you know live off beans and rice, get a second job. If you’re a doctor, don’t get a second job because you’re going to lose credibility as a doctor. But that’s kind of some of the myths, the unfortunate advice out there that’s a little bit misdirected where utilization is: create cash flow, focus, don’t diversify, and that’s the crazy thing for some people here, but put all your eggs in one basket and watch that basket well, insure that basket well. Only invest in things that you know and understand ‑ how they work, why they work, how they benefit you now, and how they benefit you in the future. That is a major shift in investing and it gets people to have a lot less risk and a lot better life between now and retirement.
Josh Mettle: Really well said, and that kind of brings us on to the next question, and so in chapter 3 of your book, you discussed the myth that links prosperity with the number in one’s retirement account, and as you were telling the story of your aunt there, she came to mind. Maybe not retirement account but the amount of money in the coffee can, and tell us a little about that myth and how you believe it’s dangerous. You allude in the book to that kind of a mentality being dangerous to focus solely on the retirement number.
Garrett Gunderson: Well, no amount of luck, no amount of savings, no amount of discipline, no rate of return, no financial planner, none of that matters or can save you if you live a life of scarcity where you’re constantly in fear of loss, where you constantly feel like there’s never enough, where you feel like everything is coming to an end tomorrow. That’s just not an enjoyable situation. I think people, especially investors feel out of control, they feel very out of control, when they’re handing their money over to someone else and they have to completely trust them, and if the market doesn’t perform during those times.
It’s like, “Okay, I’m working hard. I’m doing all this, and now I get this money and now I set it aside, and then the market goes down.” That can create and inculcate more scarcity for them. Because we thought of investing as synonymous with the stock market, yet most people that invest in the stock market can’t tell you much about how it really works, why it would earn what it would earn, what stocks they hold, who their fund manager is, all of that list of questions that I went down earlier. And so, I think that we’ve set up an investing and retirement system, that has people focusing on a number that is a moving target with a myriad of variables, and so it’s a hard target to hit. Even when we get there, we might find out that wasn’t the right target because 30 years ago, Josh, if we asked people how much would be good to have in retirement, what do you think is some common answers would be 30 years ago?
Josh Mettle: A lot less than they’re going to need today.
Garrett Gunderson: Right, like maybe $500,000, maybe someone with a big appetite might say a million.
Josh Mettle: Yeah.
Garrett Gunderson: What we find out is that they’re grossly underprepared, so I don’t say this to be a doomsdayer or anything now is because what I’ve been saying is there’s money that’s being lost and it’s leaking. When you plug those leaks, that money is back in your life, you can get there a lot quicker, you know. And especially if you own your business as a doctor, you have even more options there of building equity or some people even have their own building. There’s a lot of ways to get there, but it doesn’t just have to be by handing your money over and hoping for the best.
When you link your prosperity to the dots on a piece of paper, the numbers in the account, that you have very little control over the outcomes on, you’re setting yourself up for a lot of disappointment and a lot of frustration along the way. Even worse is when the advisor say, “You’re in it for the long haul,” because it shirks responsibility and creates a bigger risk that someone isn’t going to be able to make up for the losses. Because even when they say, “The market’s come back and it’s rallied.” Well, let’s just say we had $1 million and the market goes down 10 percent this year. Now, we’re at $900,000. Next year, if it goes up 10 percent, 10 percent of $900,000 is only at $900,000 plus 10 percent, which is you know $990,000 not $1 million. We’re still $10,000 short plus we had to pay fees for those two years, which was say they were low and they were 1 percent, we’re actually probably more at like $970,000, and now where all the markets rallied, but we lost two years. We lost two years, and we’re not even back to zero.
I think you know protecting the downside is absolutely critical. Finding lost and leaking money is absolutely critical. Fully funding your business is absolutely critical. Investing in things that you know is critical. Investing in things that provide cash flow is critical. If you do have money in the market, creating downside protection with a trailing stop-loss, so I just threw a lot of information out there pretty quickly, but I want to make sure and give some value. You mentioned people should buy my book. They can go to FreeBookForDentists.com, and just grab a copy for free if they want. I’m okay with that since they’re your listeners, you know building relationship is good for us and they can find it at FreeBookForDentists.com. I know we have one for physicians, but I don’t remember the website right now, so you can have doctors. So everyone will fit under the umbrella of doctor right now. It’s FreeBookForDentists.com so that’s the website.
Josh Mettle: Very nice, very cool. All right, I always know when we run out of time, and I’ve got through my questions it is an excellent interview, so I want to keep moving. Myth number 8, and this was possibly the hardest for me to learn personally as I began accumulating rental properties. One day I had the realization as we were sitting down, going over our monthly profit and losses for our rental properties that my monthly debt on those properties, the debt service on those mortgages was greater than my personal non-rental income. That was kind of a scary moment, and so Garrett, I want you just to volley this one back at me. Obviously, we know debt is bad, debt is dangerous, and debt is scary. We should keep out of it altogether, right?
Garrett Gunderson: What? Well, check this out. We have to define debt first of all because everyone, it’s kind of like you know how there’s a tissue and there’s Kleenex, and one of them is a brand, but we kind of refer to them either way, and they both mean the same thing. That’s maybe not the best example, but we do the same thing with debt and loan. We confuse debt and loan, and so here’s the technical definition of debt by generally accepted accounting principles, by textbook definition, debt is simply when we look at a balance sheet, which is your assets and your liabilities. If you have more liabilities than assets, that’s called debt. That is a bad place to be. You know it means than you owe more than you have if you liquidate everything. That’s scary. That’s something to definitely avoid, but when you have more assets than you have liabilities, you actually have equity, more assets than liabilities is equity. Let’s just say that you have a neighbor and they’re like, “We need to sell our home today. We’re willing to sell it for half of the appraised value.” If you have to get a loan to buy that home, are you in equity or are you in debt? I would say you’re in equity if you bought it for half of the appraised value.
Josh Mettle: Absolutely.
Garrett Gunderson: Yet most people would call it that they just get debt. They actually just got 50 percent equity, but they do have a loan. One of the things that I’m really careful about my language is when I have a loan, I call it a loan. I don’t call it debt. I call it a loan. It’s a loan. It would only be debt if that loan has an asset that’s worth less than the loan attached to it. Let’s say someone bought a home, the market goes down sharply. Yeah, that could easily be they’re in debt because maybe they financed at 95 percent or 100 percent in the old days, right? Today, it’s maybe more like 90 percent or 80 percent even or less depending on the size of the loan.
We really have to define debt as we owe more than what we have. When we have more than what we owe, we need to remember that’s called equity and that a loan is simply a tool that is the creation of liability that could be attached to an asset. Here’s a couple quick rules. You don’t borrow money to consume. That’s one of the ways to stay out of debt. Don’t go borrow money for an elaborate trip. Don’t go borrow money for a television. Those kinds of things, they aren’t really assets. They’re either be you have nothing to show for it, you have depreciating asset that no one is going to buy for what you paid for it, so if you borrow to consume, you’re in debt.
It isn’t necessarily bad to borrow to get an asset. Maybe you buy the building that you’re in. Maybe you buy some equipment that’s going to help you be productive, but when you look at those kind of things that doesn’t necessarily put you in debt, it simply creates a liability. It’s only debt if the asset is worth less than the liability. That is actually traditional accounting that would back me up. It’s just that in our language and in our culture, in our community, we’ve confused and collapsed debt and loan or debt and liability to be the same thing, but it’s not.
Josh Mettle: Well said. I was obviously throwing that out at you because I wanted you to really explain that whole piece.
Garrett Gunderson: All right.
Josh Mettle: It can be – there’s fear attached to loans. There’s fear attached to debt, and the way you explained it, there should be fear attached to debt. That’s something that obviously can take you down, and there should be consideration, but also an understanding that if the cash flow or the equity and the asset or optimally, both are greater than the payment on the loan, then that leads to leverage. You know I’m a fourth-generation landlord here in Utah. We own and manage about 100 rental units now, and I’ve watched over the last 15 years as the debt or the loan has gone down, my payments have stayed the same or have been refinanced and gone down. Our cash flow has more than doubled over that period of time, and the net worth of properties have gone up about 250 percent. Without leverage, without those loans and without the discernment or understanding between the difference between debt and loans, you really could never be able to reach that kind of a cash flow situation over the long term. Thanks for so clearly articulating the difference in those two. Financially‑
Garrett Gunderson: I’ll just say‑
Josh Mettle: Go ahead.
Garrett Gunderson: Before we go over to the next question, I just have one quick thing to mention about that.
Josh Mettle: Please, please.
Garrett Gunderson: You know I get a question: what’s better, a 15-year mortgage or a 30-year mortgage? What’s better, being totally debt-free or having a loan? It’s all situational based upon the individual’s habit, the individual’s mindset, the individual’s preferences. I could say economically, if I have a 4 percent 30 year mortgage and I can earn 5 percent on my money, then a 30-year mortgage would make a ton of sense. If I couldn’t earn any interest, but there is no interest to be paid anywhere zero, you know shortening my loan might make a lot of sense or paying off the loan might make a lot of sense, if the most I can earn is 2 percent. I always want to look at the economics behind something and how the individual operates within the economic. And you, your plan and your situation, how you’ve done it is perfect for you if you’ve done very well with it, you know. I just want to make sure to make that one point that what type of loans someone gets, how they pay it off or if they pay it off, you know that’s all a situational thing and you know that’s a whole other podcast, probably to get into the details there.
Josh Mettle: Yeah, absolutely. That’s really my wheelhouse. A lot of our property started off on seven-year ARMs because we were most concerned about cash flow. We wanted to make sure that we have enough coming in every month that we could cover the loans, and we can cover renovation and capital improvements. Seven or eight years later, we’re refinancing them all to 15 year or 30 year fixed because we’re almost on the downhill slide now and we’re saying, “Okay. We can still have cash flow and really start to eat away at this principal so that we’re looking at an exit strategy.” I totally agree with you. The answer to the question is where you are in your career, where you are in your cash flow. It’s very, very individualized. Great point. The final chapter of your book is about defeating myths. Talk to us just a little bit about that formula and specifically how defining and following one’s soul purpose fits into the equation.
Garret Gunderson: Well, I would give a soul purpose like you know it can stand a little bit like an airy-fairy kind of deal, or you know, like what does that mean. Let me say it this way: we all have our own investor DNA, and that investor DNA kind of looks like this. First of all, what are our core values, you know. We have to know our core values to know where to invest is one example. The second thing is what are our core abilities or our core competencies, right? Which is what is that we know, what is it that we naturally study that we’re really good at? Then we look at, what is our core kind of drivers, what are the things that we’re really engaged or interested in and that motivates us. Then, really our core focus, if there’s all these possibilities out there, where is it that we’re going to get tons of expertise, and we’re only going to focus in that area instead of diversify it amongst a bunch of things we don’t really understand. That’s the first part.
The second part is what is important from a lifestyle or quality of life standpoint? Because it may not make sense to invest in an investment that might do okay and creates tons of fear and worry and concern for us, you know. That’s why a lot of people aren’t taking their chances. They’re creating an investment that even though it might work out, it might not have been a good investment for someone because they couldn’t sleep at night. They didn’t know what they were doing, so really what soul purpose has to do with, even investor DNA, is what are you best at? What do you know? Why don’t you stay in alignment with that when you invest? Only invest in things that you have an interest in, that you understand, you don’t rely completely upon someone else’s expertise. I mean when I think about you Josh, and your real estate portfolio, you knew to focus on cash flow and go to seven year ARMs because you thought through that. You didn’t just hand your money over and hope that it works out. But in finance, far too many people do that.
Now, I’m not telling people they have to get daily involved in their money and make it a second job. That’s not what I’m saying at all. I’m just saying they have to know why they’re doing, what they’re doing, how it works, how it benefits them, and stay in things that are aligned with their wheelhouse. I don’t invest in technology, not because I don’t think there’s a lot of money to be made in technology. I just don’t keep up with it enough that I’m always a few steps behind and there’s too many acronyms, and I get bored talking to people that know tons about technology, so that’s not just where I put my money. I put my money in the world of finance because I have more of a photographic memory and a deep set of knowledge inside of it and even more specifically, I put it primarily in my business that I control because we’re in this great time right now from the standpoint of how cheap is money? I mean money is so cheap, you know, compared to, you know, the early ‘80s or late ‘70s. I mean money is cheap which is a very efficient way for business owners to access capital and build their businesses to a whole different level.
The downside to that is it’s harder to get really great return in the traditional way than handing your money over to money managers. The days of 10 percent, I believe, are so far long gone in the stock market. Even though we have a nice little run up for a couple of years now, Warren Buffet, who is the greatest investor of our time, says that if you can get more than 6 percent, you’ll be lucky, you know. I just feel like you know we saw a lot of the wealth go down from ’08, the first few years, and we saw it kind of run back up, and I just expect that to go down again because we’re in this time where really small companies are disruptive.
Small companies can really harm big, sustainable Fortune 500 companies because they find old bureaucratic ways that people have done business, and they bring it in a much more efficient, highly leveraged, and technological way that allows, you know, if you think about companies like Airbnb or Uber, puts the regular person to work instead of having a big union and a big workforce and a lot of bureaucracy and not a great experience for the customer. I think we’re in a really exciting next 10 years, but I think that there’s going to be a lot of companies struggle, a lot of the S&P 500 decline massively as the small companies can have so much more muscle.
You can have eight employees and sell a company for $1 billion today. That’s insane you know. That’s unheard of, but it really changes the way we used to think about investing, and it makes it more important to invest in what you know because if you don’t, the diversification is a surefire way to have more losses than you could ever imagine or expect because now you’re spread thin. You have more things that have an opportunity to lose, and sure even though you’re in it, it’s almost like admission of, I don’t know what I’m doing overly diversifying. I mean you know, so stay focused, protect what you focus on, invest in alignment with your investor DNA, and enjoy life along the way. That’s kind of probably the main message there is for today.
Josh Mettle: Fantastic. I’d like to wrap with this. You’re working on a new project or I guess the current project is the askthemoneynerds.com. Very cool website, extremely simple, and I love the concept behind it. Do you mind just introducing that and tell our listeners, especially, you know, if I can just paint the picture of many of our listeners, young in their professional careers, maybe residency, fellowship, young in their attending career, often have a negative net worth in terms of student loans as compared, on paper at least, as compared to assets and they’re going into a career field that has increasing regulation, all kinds of change on the boards with Obamacare and the things that are going on there. And so, with that in mind, with that listener in mind, how would they use AskTheMoneyNerds to their advantage and get some value out of that?
Garrett Gunderson: So askthemoneynerds.com is something that came out of a little project I started in 2008. I started a site called Ask to Get Rich, which did sound a little too, like, out there for me, but it was just the site. We had people that knew us that were inquiring, emailed the database and say, “Hey! I’ll introduce you to my financial people. You can go in and ask a question and then I’m going to interview them on the top 10 questions.” And so, there’d be all these questions come in, we take the top questions, and I would do a teleseminar or a podcast kind of thing and answer the top questions.
Well, we stopped doing that because just busy and a lot going on and too many things happening and simplifying. And then, I’m in the middle of writing a book and it reminded me of this book about Google that I read that was like where we’re in a Google economy where people, they no longer build a company, then release it to the world. They get feedback from their customers along the way and the customers help them build it. I’m writing this book right now called Budgeting Sucks, and I’m like, “You know what, I want to create a website where I get like real questions from real people that are like, “What are people dealing with everyday so I could be in real touch with them?” It’s like research for me, but here’s the cool thing: anyone that goes to AskTheMoneyNerds and types in their question, we have people at my firm that personally respond to that question, so you’re getting a real answer from a real person, not a robot. It’s customized to your situation. It gives us research, but it also helps us a relationship with you. We have kind of some cool surprises and gifts that come along the way, but go to AskTheMoneyNerds, ask your question. It helps us keep a pulse on what’s going on out there in the world and allows me to let the rest of my nerds to work because it’s better than keeping them in a corner researching 100 percent of them. I’d rather have them take that research and have them impact people, but yeah, I think you’ll really like it. It is very direct. It is very simple. I think it’s kind of a revolutionary concept: ask a question, get a real answer from a real person. Why go it alone in finance? I mean finance can be complicated. Don’t make a mistake, get someone’s expertise, and we have a whole group of nerds that handle the different areas. No one person can be an expert in everything, so we have access to all sorts of experts. We have a bunch of different nerds, and we can answer your question, so askthemoneynerds.com. I mean it’s been a lot of fun, and it’s brand new. We just redid it and re-launched it and we’ve got some exciting things coming out over the next couple of months with it. We’re just taking it a step at a time.
Josh Mettle: It’s an awesome site, and I’m going to go there right now, and I’m going to ask a whizbanger question, so I’m excited for the response, askthemoneynerds.com.
Garrett Gunderson: Right.
Josh Mettle: I encourage our listeners to go there, especially with questions pertaining to student loans and net worth and should I buy, should I rent? I mean there’s a lot. There’s probably more questions in my mind around physicians and private practice physicians and finance because of all the leverage with debt, with student loans, and you guys need some solid advice, so askthemoneynerds.com. Garrett, thanks for your time and for debunking some financial myths for us. This was a pleasure. Obviously, askthemoneynerds.com, is there any place else that clients can go to find out about you or to converse with you?
Garrett Gunderson: FreedomFastTrack.com is our main website, Freedom FastTrack F-A-S-T-T-R-A-C-K.
Josh Mettle: We’ll put both of those links on our website. Thanks for joining us for the podcast. It was a pleasure, and I look forward to connecting with you soon, Garrett.
Garrett Gunderson: Thanks, Josh. Have a great one, man.
Josh Mettle: Thanks. Take care, buddy.