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Most people would love to earn more money and become financially independent, but they just don’t have a good business idea or know how to start a new career. If you’re ready to reinvent your financial life, boosting your income is critical. And that’s what we’re talking about today. Welcome to the money girl podcast. I’m Laura Adams, a leading personal finance and small business expert. And award-winning author. I’ve been hosting this show since 2008, and I’m really glad to have you along for the ride. I believe that no matter what you want to achieve with your money, it all starts with financial education. This show is for everyone, no matter your age, who wants more financial wellness, knowledge tips, and super practical advice. My goal is to help you live a healthy and rich life by making the most of what you have planning wisely for the future and making smart money decisions.
Being a wise money manager and building wealth is a marathon, not a sprint. If you’re feeling frustrated about not being where you want to be with your finances or you’re doing great, but you’ve got questions about credit debt, retirement, investing, insurance taxes, real estate, business, money mindset, and more. You are in the right place. We cover all those topics in the show. And if you work for yourself, either part or full-time, or you want to be your own boss one day, we also cover what you need to know about building a business and your financial future. Another resource I can offer is my most recent book, which was an Amazon number one, new release. The title is money smart, solo preneur, a personal finance system for freelancers entrepreneurs and side hustlers. I hope you’ll check it out. Thanks so much for being with me today.
I’m super excited that you’re here and I’ve got a great show coming up before we dive in. I want to invite you to connect with me on Instagram at Laura D. Adams. Another option is my weekly newsletter. It’s filled with money, tips, tools, and personal fund stuff that I think you’ll enjoy. Just visit Laura D adams.com to sign up and I’d love for you to join my private Facebook group. Dominate your dollars, just text the word dollars. D O L L a R S to the number 3, 3, 4, 4, 4 for your invitation, or you can search dominate your dollars on Facebook. All right, today’s show is a very special interview to discuss career business and earning more. I interviewed Paula pant, founder of the personal finance afford anything.com. She’s also the host of the afford. Anything podcast, a writer, speaker, and media commentator, who specializes in real estate investing and creating financial independence.
If you don’t know, Paula, you really need to, she’s been quoted on outlets all over the place like Forbes, Kiplinger, life hacker, the New York times, PBS marketplace money, and many, many more. She want a society of professional journalists award for online video reporting and was one of six journalists honored as an SPJ diversity fellow in 2010. Paula is also a real estate investor who owns seven real estate units and fun fact about her. She’s traveled to more than 40 countries on the show today, we cover a variety of topics, including how self-awareness makes you better at money management and earning more ways to get unstuck from a nine to five job that isn’t right for you and transition safely into your best career tips for building a profitable side hustle that aligns with your financial goals, the role of opportunity costs in your financial life, how to really afford anything and the true definition of financial independence. Here’s my conversation with Paula pant holla. It’s so great to connect with you. I really, really appreciate you coming on the show. I will. Thank you.
Thank you so much for inviting me on.
You have been in the financial space a long time. You know, I was thinking back to when we first met, it was 2011. If I’m remembering correctly, like the very first fin con event is when we met, which I can’t believe it’s been 10 years ago. Talk to me a little bit about, you know, how you got started in personal finance and kind of the evolution of where that’s all, where that’s taken you to where you are now. Absolutely.
Wow. I can’t believe 10 years. We’ve we have both been in this scene for a long time. Um, what I love about personal finance and, and business and, and investing is that you, in order to be really great at it, you need to spend a lot of time thinking about cognitive biases, the errors, and thinking that can lead you astray. Like you need to be very self-aware in that regard. Um, you need to be constantly thinking about your assumptions around the world, you know, questioning those assumptions, thinking from first principles. And so I think in order to be very good at money at business at investing, you have to go through a lot of self-improvement for that reason. I think that was what drew me to money. Like money is sort of the physical, tangible manifestation of a lot of inner work that, uh, that I think a person can, can do if, if they want to improve their own position, you know, where they are like not relative to anybody else, but if you want to be better than what, you know, in a better position than where you yourself were five years ago kind of requires a lot of that inner work.
Yeah. Super. So you kind of started in the writing world, but then you really kind of moved more into business. How did that all evolve? I mean, you started a Ford, anything you’ve gotten deep into real estate, what made you kind of take that path versus maybe just staying as a finance writer?
That’s a really good question. And that this probably my answer will probably shed like a tangible example into some of that like reflection and first principles thinking that I was talking about. So my background was as a newspaper reporter, I graduated from college in 2005 and from oh five to oh eight, I wrote for a very small newspaper. My starting salary was $21,000. That was in 2005 at the time that I quit, my ending salary was 31,000. And that’s the most money that I’ve ever earned as an employee of somebody else. During that time, it was clear to me that the future of journalism, the future of writing was going to be online and it was going to be freelance or independent. Um, and so while I was at that newspaper, I was re you know, I was writing freelance articles on the side, like during the evenings and weekends.
And at the time I was making my peak, I was making, um, what was around $75 an hour. And so as somebody with a full-time salary of $30,000 a year making $75 an hour with a side hustle, it was clear to me that there was more upward potential. If I were to freelance, if I were to go take it, you know, go the independent route. And there was a lot of pessimism in the industry at that time, Craigslist had just come out. It had destroyed all of this classified ad revenue in the newspapers. And so everyone was like, oh, the internet killed all the jobs, you know, and I didn’t, I didn’t see any reason to be pessimistic. I, I, my feeling was very much the opposite of a lot of people in the industry where I was thinking the internet created so much, so many more jobs, the internet has created so much more opportunity.
Um, and so that I think was just one of those differences in thinking where I watched the rest of my colleagues compete for declining jobs in the print newspaper world, and feel very, very frustrated at the fact that they weren’t earning very much. They didn’t have any leverage to negotiate because there were so many more people who wanted their job qualified people who wanted their job. Then there were positions, they didn’t have leverage to negotiate. They couldn’t ask for raises. They couldn’t really move on to diff to different careers or different jobs. I was seeing that stuckness when it came to earning more, I looked at taking that more entrepreneurial route, something with unlimited upside potential. And so I think for anyone who’s listening, if there are people who are listening to this who are also in a place where they’re feeling stuck in their careers, like, you know, one thing that I’d invite you to do is ask yourself, am I in an expanding industry, or am I in a declining industry? And if it’s the case that you’re in a declining industry, then what pivot can you make so that you can use basically, you know, you a lot of your same core skillset, but apply that core skillset to an industry that’s expanding where you’ve got a lot more opportunity in the upward earning potential is so much greater.
Did you have any teachers or role models who may have affected your entrepreneurial drive? Was there anyone or anything that kind of made you go? Yeah, I could do that. That’s, that’s going to work for me.
There were many, there wasn’t, uh, one person who stood out above the rest, but a few examples that I would give one is that I would go to conferences and these conferences were broken out into tracks, like a newspaper magazine, radio TV, and there was a track called freelance. And I had never heard of freelancing before that concept was brand new to me, that was when I discovered that it was possible to earn money outside of traditional W2 employment, going to those conference sessions, following up with the speakers, invited, you know, finding the ones who were local, uh, and inviting them out for coffee. Um, that sort of thing was the, those were probably some of my early role models in the space. I do strongly remember going to a conference. They would pair a conference attendees with like mentors. Um, and so I got like randomly assigned.
I don’t even remember the person’s name anymore, but randomly assigned to, uh, talk to somebody for an hour. That was, uh, right after, you know, a few years after I had quit the newspaper. And I was trying to make a go of full-time writing. I was kind of doing these two things in parallel. I was building a Ford, anything, which is the platform that I run today. So that is, it’s a podcast, it’s a website, it’s a, an online course. It’s, it’s just a whole digital financial education platform. So I was building out a Ford anything. And in parallel, I was also contributing, uh, as a freelance writer to a handful of, you know, publications. It was starting to become clear to me that I was going to have to eventually choose one or the other. I couldn’t splinter my time between the two. And I was really at a crossroads for which one I would choose.
And, uh, and I remember talking to this guy and he said, you know what, if you are always freelancing, he was like, it’s great that you got started that way, but what’s the best thing that could happen from there. Maybe you’ll make more money as a freelancer. Maybe you’ll get nicer assignments, but fundamentally it’s still trading hours for dollars. He was like, if you build your own platform, you know, there’s a distinction between being self-employed as a freelancer or as a gig worker versus building a platform in which you can hire people, you can build out a team like you can build something that’s scalable, and that will eventually outlive you, you know, that that really does become a legacy. And so he was like, if I were you, I would, I would put your, and you had to choose between the two. I would put your attention there.
And that was, you know, one of the best conversations I ever had because, um, you know, shortly after that, I started putting my attention towards afford anything. And just the other day, I, uh, I promoted one of our employees. I just promoted her to CEO. So it’s, um, it exists in, in itself. And it has somebody who is not me running it as the CEO. And, uh, it’s kind of cool to be in this spot where I’m, I’m watching afford anything and I’m going, yeah, this is, this is growing to the point where it will, you know, it will last beyond me. You know, something that I hope will exist for many, many generations to come.
So, you know, thinking about that concept of what’s the best that can happen. I think that’s also a really useful line of thinking from a W2 job. You know, if you look at your boss and your boss’s boss and your boss’s boss’s boss, and you don’t necessarily want to be them, maybe either you need an another company or another role, or it may be that you do need to start a side hustle that could turn into something that you truly want to do. And so that’s always been very true for me when I was working early on, I would always look at my boss and say, Nope, don’t don’t want that job. If you do that consistently, you will figure out what you want to do and what you don’t. And a lot of cases, it’s a little bit of a process of elimination, and you need those experiences.
Even if you hate the job, you need the experience to go. Yep. That’s not what I want to do. So I always tell people it’s not, don’t think of it as a wasted time. It’s, it’s really part of the learning process. You know, I’ve got young nieces right now that are in college and, you know, they are so worried about like, what’s the job that they should have. What should they be when they get out of school? And, you know, I’m looking at them saying, Hey kid, you’re going to have like probably 10 jobs, you know, easily within your lifetime. You’re going to figure it out really quickly, what you like and what you don’t like. So don’t, you just have to jump in and get started and not obsess about making the wrong move, because you’re not going to get the perfect job right out of the gate. You’re not going to have the perfect company, you know, freelance a gig right out of the gate. It takes some tweaking to figure out what’s right.
Exactly. Exactly. And, and everything is feedback and everything is iteration. So, you know, once you’re in a, a given job or even in a given career, when you observe what you like about it, what you don’t, how your, if you think of like the Venn diagram of your skills, your values, what the world wants, you know, how you can be of greatest contribution to society. Like, I, those, these are big lofty heady questions, and almost no one gets it, you know, right when they’re 22, like straight out of the gate, but everything you do will provide you with some feedback and that feedback will allow you to. And when I say feedback, I don’t mean like words from a supervisor. I’m talking about the experience that you have and your feeling about that experience and your intuition from that experience that will inform your next steps. You know, your feelings and intuitions about those next steps will inform your next steps. And so that’s what I mean by feedback, I’m talking about like a feedback loop that becomes an iterative process of constant improvement.
Paula, why did you name your blog, your business, your podcast afford anything.
I love this question. So the idea is that you can afford anything, but not everything. Every choice that you make is a trade off against something else. And that doesn’t just apply to your money. That applies to your time, to your focus, to your energy, to your attention. So fundamentally afford anything is the concept of opportunity cost. Um, it speaks to the implicit trade-offs that we make when we make one choice over another. And oftentimes those, those choices are unconscious or, or hidden, right? We, if someone asks us to spend money on X or to spend our time on, Y we don’t think to ourselves, oh, well, that means that I can’t do these other 12 things, right. We look at that choice in a vacuum without considering what the opportunity costs are. And so the notion of afford anything is tries to bring that to light heat.
And I’ll give you a real world example. So I mentioned that in 2008, I quit my job. Part of the story that I haven’t talked about yet is that there were two years, 2008 to 2010, where that was, you know, after I quit my job, but before I really started trying to make a go of my career, um, and I basically kind of took a two year gap year. And during those two years of gap year, uh, I mostly traveled, um, you know, I went to Egypt, I went to, uh, on a, on a one-way ticket, um, spent six weeks there. And then I flew to Southeast Asia and I spent another year there. And then I flew to Australia, spent 10 months there. And my friends at the time kept saying, oh, I would love to do that, but I can’t afford it. That was the number one thing I, I heard.
These were the same friends who I knew had higher salaries than me, which when you’re making $31,000, that’s not hard. They had nicer apartments, they drove nicer cars. They would pay for, you know, a hundred dollars concert tickets and $14 martinis. And, you know, like, uh, their discretionary spending was, was quite high. It wasn’t that they couldn’t afford it. It was that they hadn’t made the same trade-offs that I had, but they didn’t consciously realize that they weren’t. Every time they go to a bar for happy hour, they’re not thinking, oh, this money that I’m spending on happy hour right now is taking away from my ability to travel. Like they’re not consciously thinking that in their head. They’re just thinking, cool. It’s Friday night. I want to go to happy hour. And she’s, wouldn’t it be nice if I could travel too bad, I can’t afford it. So that’s the notion of afford anything that you can afford anything but not everything.
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So much, so much things that I spend money on. I travel a lot. There’s a pandemic and I’ve been very pandemic safe and COVID safe. But in non pandemic times, I travel for a significant amount of time. And a lot of people would consider that to be a luxury. But to me, it’s worthwhile eternally. I upgrade the business class every now and again. Um, usually I’ll use miles for it, but those miles, those airline miles for those upgrades that has an opportunity cost as well, right? Because if I’m spending my miles on a business class upgrade, then that means I’ve got fewer miles that I can spend on buying airline tickets, which means that I’m more airline tickets out of pocket stretching to make an upgrade like that. That’s certainly a luxury currently. We, you and I were talking about this right before this call, I’m currently kind of splitting my time between two cities, um, which has costs associated with it.
You know, it’s, it’s got costs associated with maintaining apartments in two different places and going back and forth between two different places. So that’s certainly a luxury, I guess a lot of them are fairly travel related or location related, but yeah, that’s, that’s where I like to spend my money. You know, I can easily cherry pick examples in other areas of my life. Like I, I dye my own hair, color, my own hair. Um, and that’s not a pandemic thing. I was doing that since long before the pandemic, you know, I don’t go out and get manicures and pedicures. Like that’s, I just don’t care about that. It’s not priority for me. I enjoy cooking. So I do a lot of cooking at home. Uh, so, you know, those are sort of areas in my life that, uh, you know, where I don’t spend in the way that others do, I don’t care at all about cars. If something gets me from point a to point B, that’s great. I don’t care beyond that. So I’ve never bought a car that’s newer than four years. And even when I bought a four year old car, I was like, whew, this is, this is real luxury. I don’t know if I need this, you know? Um, yeah. I drive nothing nicer than a Honda civic. So those are all of those, those areas of my life, where I don’t spend so that I do have the ability to travel more.
Oh, I love it. What do you regret either doing or not doing when it comes to either your personal finances or your business finances at any point in your life?
Good question. So, you know, I would say in both areas, um, I probably have regrets around not spending enough. So in, in terms of personal finances, when I was in my early to mid twenties, I lacked confidence. You know, I lacked the confidence in believing that I could earn more. And as a result, I was really a penny pincher, but I pinched pennies without regard to my time, you know, if going out like way out of my way in order to save $3 and 60 cents, like I would do that. And largely that over frugality, that obsession with frugality was a reflection of anxiety that I felt around money. It was a reflection of low self esteem, um, lack of confidence, lack of believing, Hey, my time is worth something and I can earn more. Um, so, so that obsession with frugality, that obsession with cutting costs rather than creating value and getting compensated for additional value that I’ve created.
That’s probably one of the big things that held me back in my twenties. And even now I think I still, to an extent do the same thing, except I do it in my business. Um, I am much more inclined to grow slowly, be very conservative when it comes to reinvesting back into the business. Um, I’m more, I’m inclined to like pull money out of the business and put it into an index fund or pull money out of the business and put it into, you know, a real estate deal rather than invest it back in the business because the, you know, index funds, rental properties, like these are more, um, traditional like methods of investing. They’re more trackable. Like I can, I can understand what my year over year returns are in a much more clear way, a much more spreadsheet based way. Then I can understand that when I’m putting money into, you know, back into the company, sometimes that can be a little bit more nebulous or, or harder to, you know, you, you can see your growth, but you can’t necessarily see what investment contributed to that growth and what investment didn’t either.
There’s that saying, like, I know half of my marketing budget is wasted. I just don’t know which half. Right.
True. Yeah. I, and I totally can relate to that. I think it is tough to know, okay. If I hire somebody to do social media for me, like, you know, what is the return on that? It’s very difficult, even though, you know, there are certain tasks and things that you want to get done, um, that, you know, need to get done. So it, yeah, I can, I can totally relate to that. But you said you have hired a CEO recently, so you’re obviously doing something, right. What would you say has been the secret sauce to your success?
I would say we focus more on creating a ton of value for our audience. Then, you know, trying to optimize the, you know, the metrics game. Like there, there are a lot of platforms out there, not just personal finance platforms, but lots of fitness in any space, whether it’s food, fitness, finance, fashion, like, you know, no matter what the brand is, there are a lot of digital brands that focus on the SEO game search engine optimization game, or they’ll focus on conversion metrics. You know, how many people are opting into their email newsletter and of those people, how many of them are converting to, you know, join a course or to blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. We don’t really do that. So at a Ford, anything, we focus all of our attention on creating really, really good stuff for our community. And we don’t really pay attention to metrics. Actually, I have a web developer who was commenting. He was like, you ignore metrics to a fault. He was like, Paula, if I can be clear you, if I, if I can be, um, blunt, he was like, you, you ignore to a fault. And somehow it’s, that’s worked for you because you just focus on, um, quality content so much, that’s been our strategy.
And it’s worked when you think about afford anything. You know, I, I think of financial independence and the whole fire movement. What does financial independence mean to you personally? I think it’s a little bit different for everyone.
Yes, absolutely. In my view, financial independence is the point at which your potential passive income typically through investments is enough that you have a safety net. And so let’s break that sentence down. So first when I say potential passive income, what I mean is that you don’t necessarily have to be harnessing that passive income and living on that passive income. You know, if you have a portfolio of a million dollars worth of index funds, well, a million dollars in index funds at a 4% withdrawal rate is $40,000 a year, right? But you don’t have to literally be taking $40,000 a year out of your million dollar portfolio. And literally living on that, like you you’re, you’re free to reinvest it. Um, but knowing that you have that as potential passive income, knowing that you could draw down if you needed to. That’s what I mean by potential passive income.
Um, same thing goes with rental properties. You don’t necessarily have to be living on that. The cashflow from a rental, you could be reinvesting that you have that option, that option is available to you. So your potential passive income, typically through investments. Although for some people, it might come from royalties from some software that they’ve created. Um, you know, it doesn’t have to come from investments, but that’s how I, I normally see it happen. So potential passive income typically through investments. And then the last part is, is enough to build you a safety net. And what I mean by that is that in my view, you don’t have to be able to cover every single penny of your like current luxurious life with this potential passive income. You know, it doesn’t necessarily need to be enough to cover dining, you know, taking a staycation at the Ritz Carlton or dining at some fancy Italian restaurant, um, going to a hair salon or playing golf or whatever.
Like if you want to have that lifestyle, that’s great. And don’t feel pressure that your potential passive income has to cover it. If you’re, you know, like it to, to fit some in the box definition of FYI, it’s just, it just needs to be enough that it gives you a safety net. It needs to be enough such that if something were to happen and you needed to take six months off of work in order to be able to care for a sibling, um, who’s maybe sick, right. If that were to happen and you were to go into emergency mode, you would be okay. You know, you’re not necessarily living a luxurious lifestyle, but you could keep the lights on. You could keep food in the fridge, you could keep the basics covered, or you’ve got a safety net.
Yeah. That definition. And, you know, it really comes down to, you know, your confidence and your ability to kind of, you know, maintain that minimum lifestyle that you’re, you’re looking for. And I was fortunate enough to reach that point in my early thirties, but it doesn’t mean that I wanted to say, oh, well, I’m just gonna, you know, go sit on a beach for the next, you know, 40 years or whatever. It really kind of fueled my ability to move forward and think about projects in a new way, thinking more about, you know, what do I really want to accomplish versus what do I have to do, you know, to earn income, to pay the bills. So I do think it gives you, um, uh, flexibility to really explore how you can serve others and do what, you know, a true calling for you. And, you know, that confidence can be, um, you know, not only help your own life, but really ripple through many other lives.
And I would say that what you’re doing is definitely a huge part. As you mentioned of service, you’re providing value. You’re bringing people into kind of a whole new way of thinking and giving them the ability to have their own definition of financial independence. Um, it truly is unique. You know, what one person, what means what’s meaningful to one person is going to be super different than another. But I like that definition of the potential of that passive income, Paula, is there anything that you would recommend for listeners who really are struggling right now and they need to earn more income, um, to just kind of overhaul their entire financial life. If somebody is really struggling right now, what advice would you give them?
So the way that we’ve taught about earning more at afford anything is first we, we differentiate between opportunities that will provide an immediate short-term hit of income versus opportunities that are scalable, but that takes some time to grow. We start by inviting people to say, you know, to answer the question, all right, what’s your current situation? Is it that you are in a place of financial stress where you need money immediately. You need something this month. If so, here are a lot of opportunity. Here’s like the road that you can go down that, uh, we don’t recommend that you stay in forever. This is short-term instant hit of cash type of these are, you know, those types of opportunities, but here’s what you can do if you need money in the next 30 days. But once you’ve done that, if you need to do that, cool, here’s those opportunities.
If you don’t need to, then actually, you know, we recommend that you don’t follow this path because the people who do follow those paths tend to get frustrated because they, they very quickly hit a ceiling in terms of what they can be making. And they just find themselves trading hours for dollars. And then they feel like they’re working too many hours and they never see their kids. So we don’t recommend unless, unless it’s an emergency. This is like the in case of emergency break glass set of opportunities. And then meanwhile, if you don’t need that money right away, here’s sort of the path towards building a scalable business, doing something that will increase your earning potential in a long-term way, and in a way that eventually will require less of your time rather than more of it. So to answer your question, the first thing that I would ask people to do is to get clear on what their goals are when it comes to earning more, do you need to earn more right now? Or do you want to overall increase your earnings, but you’re, you’re willing to take one year, two years to slowly build that.
That’s great advice. Yeah. I love it. Paula, thank you so much. I’ve so enjoyed catching up with you, and I’m so proud of everything that you’ve accomplished, and I know there’s just going to be a lot more growth and a lot more going on in your world. So I hope you’ll keep us updated. Thank you.
Thank you so much. And thank you for inviting me on the, to talk to you, um, and to share this with your community.
I hope you enjoyed this interview. I would love to know what questions you have about investing and retirement. Leave me a voicemail by calling 3 0 2 3 6 4 0 3 0 8, or send an email using my [email protected] That’s also where you can find more about me, my work books and online courses. That’s all for now. I’ll talk to you next week until then here’s to living a richer life. Money girl is produced by the audio wizard, Steve Ricky Berg with editorial support from Biatta Santura. If you’ve been enjoying the podcast, it would mean the world to us. If you would rate and review the show, and don’t forget, we have backlist episodes and show notes that are always [email protected]
Most people would love to earn more money and become financially independent, but they don’t have a good business idea or know how to start a new career. If you’re ready to reinvent your financial life, boosting your income is critical.
To discuss career, business, and earning more, I interviewed Paula Pant, founder of the personal finance website, AffordAnything.com. She’s also the host of the Afford Anything podcast, a writer, speaker, and media commentator, who specializes in real estate investing and creating financial independence.
Paula has been featured in numerous financial media outlets, including Forbes, Kiplinger, Lifehacker, The New York Times, PBS, Marketplace Money, The Washington Post, and many others. Paula won a Society of Professional Journalists award for online video reporting and was one of six journalists honored as an SPJ Diversity Fellow in 2010.
On the Money Girl podcast, Paula and I cover a variety of topics, including:
- How self-awareness makes you better at money management and earning more.
- Ways to get unstuck from a nine-to-five job that isn’t right for you and transition safely into your best career.
- Tips for building a profitable side hustle that aligns with your financial goals.
- The role of opportunity costs in your financial life.
- How to really afford anything.
- The true definition of financial independence.
This article originally appeared on Quick and Dirty Tips.
Published by Debt.com, LLC