67 minutes | Sep 14th 2020

#061 | Habits, happiness, and hard work with 5am Joel

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When Joel was 22 he moved from Australia to Hawaii and met his soon-to-be wife, and then they eventually settled in LA.  Joel worked incredibly hard in sales for many years and was quite successful, and then in 2018 he decided to take a sabbatical and has since discovered a lot about himself and what makes him happy. Joel further proves our theory that talking about money can improve your life and the life of those around you.  

We discuss a number of topics with Joel:

  • Joel explains how 5am Joel was hatched at a party one night talking with a friend.  It started as a 30-day experiment, and turned into a new way of life.
  • He explains the many benefits that getting up early has brought into his life, including increased productivity.  He believes the pros outweigh the cons.  The main benefits include: 
    • Productivity - he just got more stuff done.  Instead of playing catch-up at the end of the day, he was doing preparation and planning in the AM and he helped me.  
    • He started crushing it at work.
    • He spent more time learning and learned how to do a ton of new things.
    • He thought proactively about things he could do to help his wife.
    • His health improved as he had more time to work out.  Even just 20 minutes in the morning would make him feel good all day long.  
  • As Maggie and Joel debate the merits of getting up early and Maggie considers changing her own habits, Joel equates getting up early to paying yourself first.  Everyone is given 24 hours in the day, and they often don’t pay themselves first and do the most important things first.  Getting up early is a good way to pay yourself first.
  • In the years since Joel started getting up at 5am, he had an epiphany of why he gets up in the morning.  He used to get up just for work.  Now he gets up for himself, for his wife, and for many personal reasons that are for him and not for anything else.  
  • His parents taught him a lot of great lessons about money.  His mom taught him how to budget, save, and work hard.  His parents taught him how to be an independent self-sufficient human being so all credit to them.
  • The Bigger Pockets Money podcast is the first time he heard the term FIRE.  And as they sat down and reviewed their finances they realized they were already half-way there just based on how they had been living. 
  • Joel’s biggest financial pillars and focus include: (1) Believing you can and knowing it’s within your power to change things. (2) Track your spending. If you don’t track where your money is going, you don’t know what your future looks like.  To build a good future you need to know where your money goes.  (3) Earn more income when you can to keep growing your net worth.  
  • Joel now focuses more on the lifestyle along the way.  He used to just focus on the numbers, and then realized it’s not all about the numbers.  He started to think, why can’t I have some of those benefits now.  His focus right now is more around the lifestyle vs the numbers.  
  • Joel is also figuring out how to be happy along the way.  His biggest focus right now is happiness no matter how much money he has.  He wants to live his happiest and best life.  
  • He once thought “when I hit financial independence, I can do all these things” and then he realized he can do all of those things right now. He realized that the benefits of financial independence can be enjoyed along the way.  
  • He is ok extending his financial independence date because he’s finding more happiness in a slower journey.  
  • He encourages people to focus on what makes you happy now and what fills your life with joy, and focus on building that now vs later.  
  • Everyone’s path is different.  Doing what everyone else is doing led him off path a couple times in life.  Figuring out for himself is a better way to go. 
  • Getting married and talking about money a lot more catapulted their financial journey too.  They realized they could be different and not live like everyone else.  His wife is his accountability partner.  
  • He started this habit of writing each morning when he got up at 5am, something positive and motivating.  His email started to spread and people asked to receive it.  He writes a little bit about personal finance in that blog, and he once got a reply from “J Money” who subscribed to his list.  They reached out to him to ask if he wants to write for the blog budgets are sexy, and that is how that opportunity came about.  
  • Joel quit his job in 2018 to take a sabbatical.  He admitted it’s tempting to go back for the money.  He admits the biggest thing he was scared of in life was having no money.  To confront his fears he quit his job.  He just needed to step away and remove work and income from the equation.  
  • Joel says the epiphanies and life lessons he’s learned since taking time off his previously demanding job has been life-changing.  
  • Joel talks about how it’s hard work to build wealth.  Life is hard work.  Life itself is work.  He used to think work was the enemy in life, and how he realizes it’s a tool.  Mindset shift that work is on your side.  The second you think you’re going to stop working, you’re taking a lazy way out.  No matter what it will always involve hard work.  Money doesn’t come easy, it’s a lot of hard work.
  • The more effort you put into life, the more you’re going to get from life.  
  • People can sometimes have unrealistic expectations about work and retiring early.  Your financial journey has nothing to do with others, it has to do with what you were dealt with and you have to work from that. 

Our top 3 takeaways for this episode:

  1. The importance of your mindset and believing that a better financial path is possible.  And tracking your spending to get there!
  2. Enjoy the journey.  Focus on your lifestyle and happiness along the way.  Don’t just focus on the numbers.  
  3. Life is hard work, no matter what path you choose.  And money doesn’t come easy, it’s the product of hard work. 

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Show References

5am Joel 

Budgets are Sexy

The Bigger Pockets Money podcast 

The Minimalists

The Fioneers 

Rich + Regular

Book - The Bag Lady Papers - The priceless experience of losing it all

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Other Links

Maggie’s Blog: Mostly Minimal Life

Mike’s Book: Your New Relationship with Money

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