Watch the episode here
Listen to the podcast here
Free Up Cash With Chris MilesI’m with my special guest, Chris Miles, the cashflow expert and anti-financial advisor. I had to read that one to make sure I got the anti-financial advisor correct. It’s a tongue twister. Welcome. Tell us a little bit about yourself, Chris. Thanks, Melanie. I’m excited to be here. My story is interesting. You mentioned anti-financial advisor. To sum it up, that basically means that I teach against a lot of the traditional mainstream financial advice that you hear out there today of, “Spend nothing. Save everything. Save it forever, and hopefully someday, you have something.” I didn’t always be that way because I was a financial advisor many years ago. I wasn’t raised learning a lot about money. My parents gave me good values. It taught me a lot of good things about integrity. Your word is your bond and following your passions and things like that. Money was the thing that was scarce in our family. My mom was the painter, the artist. Money was hard to come by that way, but my dad was the strict Great Depression-era type of saver. You just save everything you can. You pay off that debt. I didn’t even know you could have debt. I thought that was illegal somehow. I was raised in that mentality. As I went to college, I want to become a business consultant. I figured if I’m going to do business, I should have real-life business experience. I should have some sort of business other than just getting an MBA. I took a sabbatical out of college and thought, “Let’s find some path to take, some business I can do to gain some real-life experience.” The first thing that came up that intrigued me was becoming a financial advisor, not knowing that they take anybody off the street, they can pass a test with 70%, and not have a criminal record. I didn’t realize it was that easy. I didn’t realize I was signing up to be a salesman. I did that for several years. I loved being an entrepreneur and whatnot. I never went back to college. I ended up staying dropped out at that point and took that entrepreneurial path. I was on that path for a few years. My dad eventually asked me. He said, “When are you going to come to be my financial advisor?” I thought, “These tables are turned.” He was the one that taught me about money, saving, and everything. I was a little bit nervous sitting down with him, especially because he was always tight-lipped about money. I don’t know if your parents are like that too. They didn’t want to share a lot of details about their money, which is why you don’t really learn about money. I sit down with him and he says, “Chris, I’m 61. I want to retire at some point. What can I do?” I looked at all of his numbers. He’s been packing away in his 401(k) and paid off his debt early. He was completely debt-free, including his house. I said, “Dad, I’m going to level with you. If you try to retire now, you better hope you die in five years because you’re going to run out of money in that period of time.” He’s like, “That’s not what I want to hear, Chris. What else can I do? What can I do to be able to retire?” I said, “I don’t know. You did everything right. You did everything by our book. You paid off your debt. You saved in your mutual funds. Your 401(k) is getting a match and everything else, everything good boys and little girls are supposed to do and it still wasn’t enough.” He followed all the rules, all the things you might hear on the Ramsey show, from Dave Ramsey, and from Suze Orman, all the stuff that’s supposed to work, all the common sense type of things that they tell you about. It didn’t work. It wasn’t because he wasn’t saving enough. Again, he was a penny pincher. The guy was so freaking cheap. It was hard to live with him. He’s the kind of guy that would steal salt and pepper shakers from Chinese restaurants, which is true story, just because he got bad service. He’s like, “I’m taking this,” and he runs off of it. That’s how cheap this guy is. He buys everything on sale. He was like in The Latte Factor, living on rice and beans. He was that guy, and it didn’t work. I couldn’t figure out why, and it drove me nuts. It especially drove me nuts when I started speaking with a friend, who I hired to be a financial advisor, but then he quit later on. He went to go do real estate investing. We’re having this conversation and we started debating about what’s better, stocks or real estate. He finally confronted me. He said, “Chris, how many of your clients are actually financially free where they don’t worry about money?” When I started to think about the clients that I had that were even retired, they were still worried about not having enough money to last them their lifetime. I said, “None.” He said, “Chris, good job there. How about this? How many of you guys, as financial advisors, are financially free, not off the commissions you’re earning, but actually just the investments you’ve been recommending?” As I thought about it and realized there were guys who had been working in my office since the late 1970s and they’re still there slaving away, I said, “Maybe there’s one in this office, but probably none.” He said, “There is your problem.” He won’t give me the answer, “I won’t give you the answer.” “Come on, please give me something.” He’s like, “Fine if you’re really open-minded to this,” and he gave me references to different types of Rich Dad, Poor Dad books, and even a radio show that was local here in Utah that I was able to listen to with these real estate investors. Over the course of a few months, I realized what I was teaching was completely false. It really was a pipe dream. Talk about living on opium. It was over-promised and under-deliver for everybody. Even if you look at the statistics, if you start to research and go down this rabbit hole, you think, “It’s the people’s fault. There are not enough savers.” The truth is, more than 50% of people are saving in their 401(k)s now that can save in the 401(k). Most people are savers, not spenders, yet it still hasn’t worked despite us as financial advisors and experts in the media saying, “You’re going to be fine.” No, you’re not. That’s why we are begging for Social Security still. You need that to close the gap. I had this integrity crisis, “Do I stay in the career I was in, or do I leave?” I chose the latter. I said, “I can’t sell something that I don’t believe in or that I know doesn’t work.” More than 50% of people are actually saving in their 401ks right now, and yet it still hasn’t worked out for them financially. Click To Tweet I’m a terrible poker player. I don’t have a good poker face. This just won’t work for me, and so I left. I vowed to go down this path of learning how to do what my friend did like doing things like real estate investing. Eventually later that year, I was financially independent at 28 years old, able to retire. That was a shocker because I was far from it as a financial advisor, yet when I learned it was about cashflow, not about accumulating money, it just changed my complete perspective. It rocked my world. That’s what I teach people to do nowadays. It’s to help them to find ways to create passive income with the money they already have to get it to work for them harder, so they didn’t have to keep working so hard for money. You become work optional. That’s excellent advice. I’ve always wondered what financial advisors thought about because everything that they do teach doesn’t work. I’m surprised that you answered the question the way that you did. If you pull back the curtain, it’s shocking. I know some of the clients that we end up getting say, “I asked my financial advisor, ‘What do you invest in? Are you retired?’” They’ll confront them and they’re almost offended, like, “Why would you ask me about my money?” He’s like, “You’re going to ask me about mine, so why shouldn’t I ask you about yours? What are you investing in? What are you doing? How’s it working for you?” That’s the thing. There are financial advisors that aren’t living what they preach. Some of them are in these mutual funds, but they’re nowhere close to getting to a point of retirement. I go to this little financial advisor mastermind once a year. I’m always the guy that’s wearing this t-shirt and shorts, whereas there are other guys from New York wearing full-on suits even to events with just colleagues. They’re like, “I can’t believe you rocked the shorts.” I’m like, “I don’t give a crap.” It’s interesting because when I’m there with them, there will always be at least one that will pull me aside and say, “I want to know what you did. How are you able to retire because I’m not there?” These are guys that make millions of dollars a year and they’re still asking me, “How are you able to be retired?” If that’s not enough evidence for you, I don’t know what is. How do you free up cash? One of the best ways to do this is to start tracking your money. That’s one thing I learned. I had to become financially independent twice. I was financially independent in 2006. I was living a great life and everything and just trying to figure out what to do with my life. Naturally, coaching became the thing. I like teaching. People kept asking me how I did it. I came out of retirement in 2007 to help coach people, especially active real estate investors, people that do flipping of properties. They’re flipping and turning properties over. I came out and did this with a partner, a guy named Garrett Gunderson. He has a book called Killing Sacred Cows. We created a company together. In the middle of that, all of a sudden, the recession hit. These were the first guys that go broke because the banks locked up the money for real estate investors not to get. It didn’t hit most of America until 2008, but we felt it in 2007. All of a sudden, we started this brand-new business with lots of expenses, just trying to get off the ground, and then our business is affected. We’re going through the hole each month. I’m personally going the hole each month because even my real estate’s getting affected. The next thing I know, I go from millionaire to upside-down millionaire. I’m in the hole of over $15,000 a month. The one thing I stopped doing was tracking my money. When money is so abundant, it’s like air. You never really count how many breaths we take. Maybe now you do because I just said it. You never really consciously think about the air you’re breathing and that you’re taking all this abundance of air. When it’s taken away, like if you’re in a place where you feel like you’re claustrophobic or you can’t breathe, you count every little breath. That’s what happened with my money. I started counting my money when it wasn’t there anymore. That’s the worst time to do it. You should count it all the time. Checking your money is great. I use Mint. It’s a great app. You can use or go to Mint.com. When I’ve used that one, it’s great because it downloads all of my transactions for my bank accounts into one place. It can categorize it for me. In fact, you can teach it at first. Once it picks up on it, it starts categorizing it all for you. Pretty soon, you’re just going and managing it, maintaining it, maybe going once a week just to update your numbers and just understand what truly the numbers are. Don’t do all this budget junk. The problem with budgets is that people will create a budget, but they’ve never tracked their money. They’re just really guessing. They’re just guessing what they’re going to do. When the numbers are off because they were just guessing in the first place, they think, “Budgets don’t work. This is impossible. I give up.” It’s hard to create anything when you don’t know what it is. That’s one of the biggest things. Start tracking your money, what’s coming in, what’s going out, both sides of the equation, and then figure out, “Which expenses aren’t productive for me in my life?” It doesn’t mean you cut off everything. You don’t even have to cut off the lattes like some people might preach. You don’t have to do that. Saving a few bucks a week or a day isn’t going to add up to a whole lot anyways. The truth is that you should start tracking everything. I’ll tell you, even if you’re a W-2 employee, when tracking money, and I find this in my experience with hundreds and hundreds of people doing this, it usually frees up at least $300 a month just doing that. Not because you change your lifestyle, but because you’re paying attention. Whatever you put your attention towards will expand and grow, including your own money. You’ll start to have more of it. That’s a big important thing to do. If you’re an entrepreneur, a minimum of $500 a month. Especially if you say you’re too busy to do this kind of stuff, you’re probably losing at least $1,000 a month. It’s what I’ve found. Even a W2 employee can free up at least $300 a month not by changing their lifestyle but by simply tracking their money. Click To Tweet I have one entrepreneur who told me that same thing. After we had her start to do that, she found $1,800 a month. That’s over $20,000 a year she was able to find just because she was paying attention to where her money was going. Sometimes she noticed, “There’s these subscriptions coming out automatically. I wasn’t even thinking about it. I’m not even using this subscription anymore. Why are we paying for cable at $300 a month when we could just get standalone internet for about $100 and stream for $20 a month?” That kind of stuff comes up. You’re like, “What am I doing spending this money in these places?” It’s amazing what you can find and how you can free yourself up. That’s always the first step. That’s a great tip. When something’s plentiful, you don’t think about it. You just take it for granted. I like that. It’s about stewardship, being wise with your money. That abundant mindset needs to be there. Maybe we’ll come from scarcity when they do money. Everybody has a saver mentality, which is what all the financial experts are teaching, “Teach from a scarcity mentality.” They teach you that there is never enough that you don’t have enough, and you can’t save enough or pay your debt off fast enough. The problem is that those people, as they start to grow their money over time, it never ends up being enough. They can never stop working. They can never feel they can stop to enjoy anything. That’s dangerous. That’s not just affecting your money, which it does, but it affects you. It affects your family. It affects your quality of life. You got to be very careful not to go down that scarcity and fear-mongering path that so many go into. I love the sign behind you, “Live your life now, not tomorrow.” I love that because it is so true. Money motivates us to live in fear and not want to live or not feel we can live. How do you turn your assets into regular passive income? Three things I give people advice for is to get lean, get liquid, and get out. Get lean, we addressed. If you track your money, you can figure out what’s productive and what’s not. By the way, there are lots of things you could be saving money on. There are potentially tax savings you might be not taking advantage of. It could be paying off or consolidating some debt, helping free up some cashflow that way. There are so many cool things you can do, but get liquid and get out. Get liquid, for one, goes along with, in some ways, getting out. They’re tied together in a lot of ways. Liquid means you have cash available to use. Unfortunately, conventional financial advice teaches you to do the opposite. They teach you to put the money in their control, in the control of the financial institution or the banks. Think about it. The two ways these things that my dad was taught and conventional financial advice told you is, “Lock your money up in 401(k)s and IRAs.” Even though it’s your money, the truth is it’s not. There’s the contract, even with the 401(k) that says that you are the benefactor of the money, but the IRS essentially owns your money. You’re just the benefactor. It’s in your name, but they’re the ones that control the rules. That’s why they can change the rules on you whenever they want. They can change a 59-and-a-half age limit to go to 62 or 65 at any time and you have no say in the matter. You would just have to go with it. Whatever they tax you, you have to go with it. What happens is that a lot of people get their money locked up and it gets locked up there with the financial institutions, who are the ones teaching the advice. How do I know? Because I was the financial advisor. Guess where all of our training came from? The financial institutions. They’re teaching us not just financial wisdom. They were teaching us how to sell products for them. A lot of people get their money locked up in financial institutions, which are ones who are giving them financial advice. Click To Tweet Think about it. Everything was about locking your money away. I said that in the beginning. It’s like you just save everything. In fact, you can never save enough if you’ve noticed. Sometimes people will say, “Now, save 20%.” When I started over, they’re saying 10% should make you financially free later on in retirement. Now, you hear people saying 20%. I’ve already proven by the numbers on my podcast that 20% is not even enough. You pretty much can’t even save enough in those mutual funds because they don’t return high enough. That’s what they’ve told you. They keep telling you, “Save more.” Who gets paid when you save more? Not you always, because if the market goes down, you lose money. The one person that always gets paid is the financial company. You put your money with Fidelity, they’re always pulling their fees out whether you make money or not. Those fees also pass on to pay financial advisors. Think about it. Everything’s told to lock your money up with them and they talk about the miracle of compounding interest. They always say that. Why? Because they want you to lock it up, and then when you take it out for retirement, they tell you, “Don’t take out any more than 3%.” It used to be the 4% rule many years ago, but that’s been since debunked. The sad thing is there are still a lot of people, especially on TikTok and Instagram, saying, “You live on 4%.” It’s already been debunked so long ago. This is old information. Live on 3%. Think about it. You have $1 million you put in there. If you happen to save that much and then you live on $30,000 a year, that’s a broke millionaire. You’re living at the poverty level as a millionaire. That’s just ridiculous. That’s what they want you to do. They want you to keep that money in there. Don’t ever run out and take out less than the interest because of inflation and everything else. You’re trapped. Even paying off your house, you pay extra cash to the bank. Pay those extra payments, do biweekly payments, or pay a little extra principal on your mortgage or pay it down faster. I was a mortgage broker and I was telling people, “You want to stick it back to the bank? You pay more to the loan.” All I was teaching them to do is put the bank at less risk because now you’re just paying them the loan. If you ever go late, now you’ve got equity that they got and foreclose on you. They’ll foreclose faster on you if you have equity versus if you don’t. You’re putting all that money in their possession, but not your own. You want to be liquid. Have that money in your possession instead in your control. You be the steward, you be the boss of your money, the CEO of your own money, not the banks, not the financial institutions. From there, you can get your assets working for you. The greatest place to do that is in places that generate cashflow, which is passive income. Like I said, the accumulation mentality of building it all up and living on 3% is a horrible, broken system. It just hasn’t worked ever, at least not for creating a great lifestyle. What blew my mind, especially as I left the financial industry, was it was always about passive income. What kind of income can you get? That’s ultimately what we all want. We want our money to pay us. Even in retirement, we still want it to pay us. What blew my mind was someone who had let’s say $1 million lived on $30,000 a year in retirement. When I learned that there are investments out there that could pay you 10%, 11%, or 12% plus a year, even contractually and backed by real assets like real estate. I thought, “This is great.” When it usually has a real estate base to it, there are even some tax advantages from time to time. Not only do you get more income, but now you also get to keep more of that money too. For example, I had a client who had $1 million in his retirement account in California, retired. His financial advisor said, “You can live on $30,000 a year.” He said, “No way, I’m in California. Nobody lives on $30,000 a year unless they’re homeless.” He said, “I want to do something different.” He found us. As we started, we have him look at different investments. He got a few duplexes. We got turnkey duplexes. He’s not the property manager, he’s hands-off. He doesn’t do anything. He got a few duplexes there that have little income from that place. He got some things in oil and gas, where he gets paid on the lease of the land and he gets paid royalties from the drilling. He’s getting paid essentially twice on that money. During the money there, he’s also got money in some apartment type of syndications that they call, where you pull your money together with other investors and invest in a project. He’s got some money in projects like that as well. Now, his income is about $11,000 a month of that same $1 million. Not $2,500 a month that the financial advisor is recommending and then you have to pay taxes on it. He’s getting paid $11,000 a month, and some of it he’s able to keep more than others depending on the tax benefits. That’s the difference. Same money, just done differently. Here’s the cool thing. Remember that 3%. What financial advisors are trying to do is we talk about the golden goose. I used to use that example as a financial advisor. They’re laying golden eggs. Usually, we use that example as to not kill your goose before retirement. What they don’t tell you is when you have that golden goose at retirement, you’re starting to slice away at that goose. You’re starting to starve it and you hope that the goose doesn’t die before you do. You’re taking out more than just the interest. You’re usually pulling out principle and interest, hoping you don’t run out of money by the time you die. Here in this example, we’re only taking interest. The goal in goose is to be left fat and happy. You’re not taking from it. You’re just getting paid the interest or the cashflow, and then that’s what pays out to you. That’s the big shift that everybody has to make. It’s realizing that this is not only possible and not only has been happening for millions of us that do this very thing. The great thing is you don’t need to spend a lot of time, you don’t have to become an expert, and you don’t necessarily have to have a ton of money saved up for retirement to do it. I have one client who had about $600,000 that she had saved up, and it’s generating for her almost $70,000 a year. She wants more than that. Most of our clients usually want at least $10,000 or $20,000 a month of passive income. That’s pretty dang good. Remember, having $650,000 trying to live on 3% means you’re living on $19,500 a year. She’s like, “No, I’m going to make $70,000 a year, take some of that money, and keep reinvesting it.” It just creates a snowball effect on income. It’s like an income avalanche. Is it best to start making some of these changes when you’re younger? Absolutely. I know that’s a ridiculous question because you should start as early as possible. That’s one thing a lot of younger people don’t think about. You’re in your 20s or 30s and so, “I have plenty of time. I am not really planning to retire anytime soon, so I’ll figure it out later.” One of the big mistakes that a lot of younger people are making is they’re not planning for up ahead. It’s true. I saw a video from Ramit Sethi. He had his Netflix show that came out. My wife and I watched it, and a lot of the stuff I agree with. He heard me talk about spending and how he deal with that. Him and I agree on a lot. You don’t just live on rice and beans and cut out that latte and that kind of thing. The one thing that I don’t agree with, I remember him showing advice for younger people in their 20s. He was saying, “Put your money in that company 401(k) up to the match, and then when you have extra, put in some more and buy this Roth IRA as well and then you put your money.” It’s all stock of market-based. I’ve already seen the proof that the stock market doesn’t cut it. It doesn’t over the long-term. The true actual return, the 30-year average of the S&P 500, which is the gold standard, is about 7.65% as of now from ‘93 to 2023. It is 7.65%, not 10% or 12%. Remember, even financial advisors admit this. Over 90% of mutual funds don’t even earn as high as S&P 500. That means most mutual funds aren’t even earning an average long-term of about 7.5 %, and then you have fees and everything else taken out. For example, I looked at Fidelity. They’re all their funds and they have this retirement target date funds that say, “At 2045, 2055, or 2060, you’re going to retire, then put your money here.” In fact, I just saw a survey that over 80% of Millennials are using these very funds. When I looked at the 10-year performance, they were averaging 8%. That sounds good, but the S&P 500, when I went to look at that performance was 10.1%. It was doing 2% less than the S&P, and that’s before the 3/4 of percent was taken out for fees. What you had was almost a 3% gap between them. Let’s just say that the actual average, going back to that 30-year average of S&P, is about 7.65%, but you’re almost 3% less on your money. That’s about a 4.75% average return if you’re just in the average market. This is a big reason why there are only 299,000 401(k) millionaires as of the end of 2022 with Fidelity. Even though they have tens of millions of people with 401(k)s, there are only 299,000 people that have $1 million or more. In most of them, 35% of those people who have at least $1 million in investible assets believe, “It will take a miracle for them to retire.” Think about that. That’s just crazy. With the same pieces they could have over $100,000 a year of passive income if they have $1 million, they could legitimately have an amazing lifestyle and even retire early. By the way, if you want to retire early, don’t put your money in a 401(k) or an IRA where they make you keep it in there until 59 and a half. Otherwise, they give you a 10% penalty and taxes. You don’t want that. You want to have the right vehicle for the type of goals you have. I know a lot of people don’t even really want to retire. I get that because I’m in that position. I’m here now, but I like the work to be optional. I like to have the option to say, “I can quit that job. I can follow-up passion projects or do more service-based type things.” For me, this is a labor of love. This is my service-based thing of giving back and helping open up people’s eyes and give them another option. That’s some great advice. You’re giving away your eBook, Beyond Rice & Beans, 7 Secrets to Free Up Cash Today. Everyone can go to FullerWalletMedia.com/moneyripples to get their free copy. What do Beyond Rice & Beans cover? I mentioned tracking your money. That’s the first step. There are actually seven common strategies that I teach in there. These are the strategies that, with hundreds and hundreds of clients, we found that freed up the most cash for people. It was not just for me to help me get out of my situation because I was over $1 million in debt. After the recession, I didn’t file for bankruptcy, which would’ve been way easier if I did. I’m just too dang stubborn. I’m like, “No, I’m going to pay this back. Dang it. I’m going to make this work.” I ended up paying back the debt and being able to get myself back out of the rat race once again with no money and no credit and then $1 million in debt. I was able to be financially independent by 2016. It took me almost a decade to get there from -$1 million. The point is I want to inspire hope. It’s not like this is like an investing book. This is a good starting point to say, “How do I find more money so then I have money I can invest? Where’s the money that I didn’t know was hidden before?” On average, the clients that we’d worked with that implemented these strategies found about $34,000 in the first year alone. Like I said, most people find at least $300. I had one couple that was making less than $2,000 a month living in a very tiny trailer, very much the hick lifestyle. We found out as we’re looking at their numbers, they were in the hole $250 a month. They were short $250. What I found out as I was looking at their finances, they were paying $300 a month in overdraft charges because they charge them $25 every time that a bill went and it didn’t have enough money in there. I said, “Look at this. This is just because you guys aren’t watching your money. You plan it correctly and you have your bills come out at the right time, or at least you pay your bills because a lot of it are just paying it, not realizing there wasn’t money there. If you just pay your bills the right time, that alone will get you a deposit of $50 a month, and then you’ll have a little bit extra to put away.” I recommend people put away at least $5 a month. Try something automatically coming out of your account. It is by doing that alone, not even doing anything of their lifestyle because it wasn’t like they were living high. They made less than $2,000 a month. They weren’t really living much, but still, we were able to find more money that they never knew was there. That’s what I mean. That’s what that book helps expose. It’s a short read. It’s more focused on taking action and getting results. Those are some great tips and great information. Like I said, that’s something that a lot of people don’t want to talk about anymore, to say that it’s not working the way that the old rules or advice went as it’s just not. I’m battling a lot of big money to say what I’m saying. There are billions of dollars at risk if people would awaken to the truth and choose the alternate path. It’s funny because I’m fighting against Wall Street. Do you know what they call investing for real estate? They call that Main Street Investing. Even though people say, “I’m a conservative investor. I put my money in the stock market,” I’m like, “You’re a gambler. I don’t put any money in a place that I can’t control. That’s crazy. To me, you’re risky if you’re putting your money in any kind of mutual fund or 401(k). That’s a risky thing to me.” When they think of me being risky, I’m like, “No, I buy actual assets.” The S&P 500, for example, is controlled. Over 25% of the price of the S&P is controlled by only six companies. That’s it. It’s not diversified like everybody thinks it is. If Apple, Microsoft, or NVIDIA, all these companies, drop, it affects your account. The crazy thing is as of the first part of June of 2023, the S&P 500 is up 9%, but the Dow Jones, which has more spread out actual risk, is flat. It’s actually -0.2%. Think about it. That means the opposite could happen. Most stocks are still not going down. Yours could be if you’re based on the S&P 500. You just got to be careful with taking those high risks and getting mediocre returns. That’s very brave of you to say so as well. We know some great tips now. You can go to FullerWalletMedia.com/moneyripples. Thank you very much for joining us, Chris. You’ve given out some amazing advice. Everyone can get their free copy of Beyond Rice & Beans: 7 Secrets to Free Up Cash Today.