050: Using Your Values and Goals to Reach Financial Independence with Matt Miner

Matt Miner and FamilyMatt Miner is a coach, author, and speaker who works with folks to get the most out of their money by understanding his clients’ values and goals, and then helping them do what it takes to gain control of their income and increase their savings rate. Check out his work at DesignIndependence.com.

Matt holds a Bachelor of Science in Finance from Arizona State University in Tempe Ariz. and an MBA from Duke University in Durham, N.C. On weekdays, he leads the sales organization of a thirteen-store John Deere dealership.

Matt lives in Raleigh, N.C. with his wife and their three terrific, entrepreneurial, and money-savvy children.

Let’s dig in. Let’s meet today’s Master of Money….

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An Intense Plan to Get Rid of $225K of Debt

The thing that drew Matt to becoming a master of his money was the very same thing that we hear over and over on this podcast: school loans that he racked up during his time in business school. When he and his wife had their lightbulb moment, that realization that they needed to get rid of this debt as quickly as possible, they pursued what he calls some “pretty intense measures.”

One of those intense measures they took was developing and following a zero dollar budget each month. A zero dollar budget simply means that you have every dollar allotted before the month begins. They also moved to using cash for food and entertainment in order to tighten up their spending in those areas.

They didn’t rely solely on cutting expenses to get their debt paid off. They also raised money by selling a car, trading another car down by several years, and even selling their house and renting for a year. They sold personal items online to raise even more cash. They were working their plan to pay off more than $225K in debt sooner rather than later. And they did indeed knock that debt out in 3.5 years.

Doing a Monthly Net Worth Check-Up

Now that it’s been a couple of years since they got the debt paid off, Matt and his wife have moved out of that intensity they lived in for those 3.5 years and have been able to relax a little bit. That doesn’t mean they’ve become wasteful or increased their lifestyle though.

Matt’s wife actually still prefers to use cash for their grocery budget so that she can stay on track. But now she can be a little bit freer in what she purchases since things aren’t as tight as they once were.

Instead of focusing on that intensity in their budget, they now do a monthly check-up on their net worth. They currently only have their mortgage left as debt and everything else is assets. The mortgage is being attacked with the same intensity as the $225K was. Their savings are automated at this point and they are actively working toward financial independence. Matt has a simple spreadsheet with each of their savings and retirement accounts on it and he checks in every month to see their progress.

Why Increasing Your Income Won’t Solve All Your Problems

From as far back as he can remember, Matt’s goal was to substantially increase his income. He had the mistaken notion that you can spend as much as you want if you have to income to back it up. His first step in pursuing that goal was to go to business school and get his MBA. He did that, thus accruing the $225K in debt.

After graduation, he was hired by a Fortune 100 company at a salary that met his personal goal for his income. Of course, he soon discovered that earning more money doesn’t exactly correlate with how much you bring home once Uncle Sam gets his piece of your pie. It was around this time that a cousin gave him Dave Ramsey’s book, The Total Money Makeover.

Matt read through the book several times, disagreeing with some things but realizing that a lot of it actually made sense. That’s when he and his wife decided to get rid of the school debt. As successful as they were with that, and with his income on the rise, Matt was not seeing the future he wanted at his current job.

His goal had been to go from managerial type positions to a director and eventually to the vice president level. What Matt started to notice was that while he was super impressed with what his colleagues at those levels were accomplishing at work, their family life wasn’t what he wanted for his own family. He ultimately left the company he was working for to move the family to North Carolina and take an executive position with a John Deere dealership.

His ultimate goal is to be free of having to do salaried work. He took another step in that direction in the summer of 2016 by taking on some writing, coaching, and speaking roles within the personal finance community. His desire to help others, combined with his own experience in paying off debt and working toward financial independence, has helped him take each step toward changing his family’s life and becoming free of the salaried job lifestyle.

Milestone Goals for the Future

Now that Matt has a job that allows him the family time he wants and the only debt left is the mortgage, he and his wife are focusing on some of the goals they have for the near and not-so-near future.

Their first goal is to get the mortgage paid off but interestingly enough, they aren’t throwing every dollar they have toward that. As Matt was watching the mortgage get lower and lower, he also was aware that their payment every month wasn’t changing at all. He decided to go a different route with the payoff. He now has the extra cash moved into a savings account every month and continues to let it grow.

Once there is enough in there to pay off the remaining mortgage, he will use it to do so. This allows him to take advantage of any investment opportunities that come along in the meantime and to sustain the family if there was an emergency and he couldn’t work.

Achieving Full Financial Freedom

Matt has a number on his spreadsheet that will signal being fully free from needing to earn a salary in order to live a comfortable life with his family. He sees the culmination of that goal being about ten years out at the rate of savings they are following right now. Obviously, things can change so there is no guarantee, but I was curious what his plans are if and when he reaches that goal. Would he leave his career?

Matt joked that since his boss listens to his podcast, he has to be careful talking about leaving his career but on a serious note, it would depend on the circumstances at the time. Rather than being caught up in not working, his desire is simply to have the freedom to not be dependent on the income earned from working to live. He would like to have the freedom to make that decision himself instead of having to remain in any career.

Show Notes

  • 00:00 Intro
  • 02:40 The intense measures Matt and his wife took to pay off $225K in just 3.5 years
  • 07:10 Doing a monthly net worth check-up
  • 11:50 Should increasing your income be your primary goal?
  • 17:40 Why you should pay off your debt sooner rather than later
  • 23:50 Working on the budget as a couple and living below your income
  • 28:20 Taking the next step beyond extreme debt payoff to an abundance mindset
  • 30:40 Milestone goals for the future (paying off the mortgage, financial security, and complete financial independence)
  • 33:55 Emergency funds, retirement accounts, Backdoor Roth IRA, 529 plans, and HSA’s
  • 39:35 Will Matt leave his career when he reaches full financial freedom?
  • 44:00 The people who inspire Matt in the financial arena
  • 45:20 Matt’s advice to anyone considering graduate school

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This show is part of the FinCon Podcast Network and was produced by Steve Stewart.

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One Comment

  1. Avatar Matt Miner says:

    Hey PT – I really enjoyed our interview, and am delighted to see it released. I hope it will be useful in the FinCon community and beyond!

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