Home Real Estate Cutting Expenses, Doubling Your Income, & HUGE Savings
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Cutting Expenses, Doubling Your Income, & HUGE Savings


People spend much of their lives grinding to Coast FI, but the truth is that you’re only ever one big financial swing from achieving your FI goals much faster. Despite starting out with very little, today’s guest was able to break the cycle and reach her Coast FI goal in just four years. In this episode, she shares the blueprint for her “overnight” success!

Welcome back to the BiggerPockets Money podcast! Today, we’re speaking with finance guru and real estate investor Amberly Grant. Amberly didn’t come from wealth. Growing up, her family never owned a home or had enough money to afford simple repairs. But, at fifteen, she discovered the book The Wealthy Barber, which ignited her love for finance. After several failed business ventures and a late start to college, Amberly discovered the power of real estate investing in 2019. House hacking covered her mortgage each month, and keeping her expenses down allowed her to save most of her income and buy more properties.

In this episode, Amberly demonstrates just how quickly things can swing in your favor with a little financial knowledge and hard work. Comfortably Coast FI, Amberly now works from home, manages her real estate portfolio on the side, and spearheads FinTalks—a segment of the FIRE community that discusses important finance topics each week. Tune in to learn how she doubled her W2 income, saved eighty thousand dollars in one year, and made her husband wife-FI!

Mindy:
Welcome, everybody, to the BiggerPockets Money podcast where we interview Amberly Grant and talk about cash flow in real estate, dramatically increasing your income and immigration. Hello, hello, hello, my name is Mindy Jensen, and with me as always is my can definitely bench press more than me co-host, Scott Trench.

Scott:
Thank you, Mindy. That intro was very uplifting.

Mindy:
All right, Scott and I are here to make financial independence less scary, less just for somebody else to introduce you to every money story because we truly believe financial freedom is attainable for everyone no matter when or where you are starting.

Scott:
That’s right. Whether you want to retire early and travel the world or go on to make big time investments in assets like real estate, start your own business or build a rental property portfolio on a foundation of frugality and a few wonderful opportunities over the years, we’ll help you reach your financial goals and get money out of the way so you can launch yourself towards those dreams.

Mindy:
Scott, today’s money moment, stay with me, is strive for inbox zero. Hold on, I’m getting there. You know how you have that promotions tab in your email? Sometimes it’s easy to get lost in it and rack up some spending; 50% off on Amazon, buy one, get one free on clothes, reduce prices. And all of a sudden, you just spent like $500. If you think about it, you could instantly delete everything in your promotions tab and then never see it and never tempt yourself because if you weren’t thinking about it beforehand, some email saying, “Here’s a free thing,” or, “Here’s some money off of something,” shouldn’t tempt you to buy that product.

Scott:
I love it, Mindy. I have been running inbox zero for the entirety of my time here at BiggerPockets. Josh Dorkin, our founder, trained me on that in the first week, and I have never looked back ever since. All of my inboxes are cleaned out, personal and work, almost every day. Not every day, but almost every day.

Mindy:
Josh missed that lesson with me, Scott. And I will say that I’m not inbox zero.

Scott:
I know you don’t want your inbox at inbox zero, Mindy. I’ve worked with you for years. I know that ain’t the case over there. Great money tip from Mindy.

Mindy:
Yeah, if you send me an email and you don’t get a response, send it again because it probably got buried.

Scott:
Yeah, and then text her.

Mindy:
Yes. Yes, exactly. All right, do you have a money moment for us? You can email [email protected]. All right. Scott, today we’re talking with my friend Amberly Grant. And I am so excited to bring her in. She has quite the story of growing up without a lot of money and then starting out her real estate mogul empire by buying a house in an expensive city and making it work and then repeating the process. And not only did she repeat the process, but if you listen carefully you can repeat it too.

Scott:
Yeah. And I think you’re going to really enjoy this episode. We’re going to talk about some really wild swings in fortune for Amberly over a three to five year period. And some of the numbers sounded unbelievable at first, but then I was like, “I did that.” I lived on probably around $1,300 to $1,500 a month in Denver from 2017, ’19… In ’19, but from 2014 till 2017 probably before things started doing that. And I had some big income swings with the opportunity to come here at BiggerPockets. I just saw a lot of parallels in my story. Literally, we were on parallel streets, probably one or two streets over with one of the properties that we had around the same time, so what a small world. Mine was also an up-down duplex like hers. Just a lot of similarities there. And it was great to reconnect with Amberly and hear about the crazy success and wonderful life she’s built.

Mindy:
Amberly Grant is a real estate investor who is originally from Canada and now lives in the Denver area. She’s technically coast-fi but has a full-time job still. She’s also the host of Tuesday Fin Talks. Amberly, welcome to the BiggerPockets Money podcast. I’m so excited to talk to you today.

Amberly:
This is so cool. Thanks for having me.

Mindy:
Amberly, let’s start off the show by telling a little bit about yourself and how you became invested in finance and investing.

Amberly:
Well, I have been really interested in this since I was very young. I grew up with a family who didn’t make much money. And I got my first finance book when I was 15 years old, The Wealthy Barber, and that changed my life. I learned all about compound interest. If I had saved $20 a month from the time that I was 15 years old to, what, 40, I’d have millions of dollars. And that just was something I didn’t think was fathomable beforehand. To me, it was really an eyeopening experience.
After that, I read every finance book I could get my hands on, from Susie Orman to Rich Dad, Poor Dad, all those starter ones back in the early 2000s, and then of course evolved into blogs and podcasts and things like that. Just something that I wanted to not mimic what my parents were going through, which is in their 60s, 70s, not having money. I could see that view of life for them, and I decided I did not want to walk that path.

Mindy:
Let’s talk about buying your first property. What was that journey like? And how do you go from growing up without a ton of money to I’m going to buy a house?

Amberly:
My family did not have a motto of purchasing property. It didn’t make sense to them for many reasons. They just could never figure it out, especially a down payment. We couldn’t even buy a washer and dryer or a fridge when it broke, so they were not putting a down payment on a house.
In 2019, I was with an ex-partner, and we decided we were going to move in together. And everyone says, “Do not move in with someone you aren’t married to,” which is really great advice; and I would continue to give that advice. Thankfully, the very practical nature that I have, I had talked in advance, “Who’s paying what? What happens if we break up in a year? What happens if one of us dies?” We went through that checklist before buying a property together. And so in 2019, we found a property that fit my criteria and a bit of his. He wanted a turnkey property; nothing we had to work on. I wanted to work on it, but decided that was something I can compromise. I wanted a property that I could split up and create into a duplex so that we could live by ourselves but someone else was paying our mortgage or close to it.
I ended up finding a property, turned the basement into a walkout one bedroom apartment, and started to offer that to actually the fire community as well as put it on Airbnb. And for a year, we didn’t pay more than $200 towards our property, which was awesome. And then we broke up. That was my first property.

Scott:
What happens next?

Amberly:
Yeah. Thankfully we were really good to each other. We had already had these conversations. What happens with the equity of the place? It’s one year. I think we lasted about eight months, and then we separated. Honestly, this is a really great thing for maybe people to do if they’re in the situation. We decided that on Friday at 3:00 PM each of us has to send the other an email saying whether we wanted the property and if we were going to buy the other person out or we wanted to sell it. And we both sent the emails. I sent him an email saying, “I will buy you out.” And we had agreed on the buyout would be no equity in the property, just down payments. We put 20% down, so $100,000. And so just down payments. And then he sent me an email saying he did not want the property, so that worked out really well.
The sad thing for me, though, was this was February of 2020. I was running an Airbnb in the basement. I think we all know what happens a month later. I was running an Airbnb in the basement. His mom had invested in the property, and we were going to be paying her back over three years, so I had to give between the two of them $80,000 before March of 2020 to get the property back, which was insane. And then in March, we all know Airbnb canceled all reservations for the next few months, and I felt like I was at a pickle.

Scott:
And, sorry, where’s this property located?

Amberly:
Denver, Colorado.

Scott:
Okay. You have $80,000. How do you come up with $80,000? And how does the journey progress from there?

Amberly:
I think in the back of my mind, I didn’t know if I was probably prepping to leave the relationship or maybe I was going to buy a new house or something. I had $60,000 in cash, so I was just saying what I would do next with it. When we had made the decision to split up, I ended up paying them out in early March, so I just put every dollar of my paychecks towards paying them out. I had $60,000 in savings, and then I came up with 20,000 over a two month period.

Scott:
Okay. And can you give us a ballpark of how long it took you to save up that $60,000 in cash and the monthly savings rate that you were able to achieve to crank out the next $20,000?

Amberly:
Yes. When we bought the property in February of 2019, we were pretty much tapped out, like everyone is when you buy your first property especially. I think I had $15,000 in savings at that point. I was able to essentially get to $80,000 for March of 2020. That took me one full year to get to $80,000. I left a job that I was making at that point, $62,000. Moved to a job that I started making $115,000. My total expenses every single month was $1,300. Literally every other penny that came in I just saved.

Mindy:
We got to stop here and go back to this giant… Did you say $50,000 to $115,000?

Amberly:
Plus a 20% bonus. Yes. It was $130,000.

Mindy:
Were you in the same field? Were you in college and then you graduated and you went from administrative assistant to CEO? Or how did you make this giant jump? We’re not going to just gloss over that. Sorry, we interrupt this finance story to talk about finances.

Amberly:
Yeah. Actually, I had graduated the University of Colorado Boulder in 2017. I got a job with the company I was working with. Turns out I’m really good at what I do. I was working at this company making college wages, starting at $52,000 with a guaranteed 10% increase one year later, another 10% one year later.
But at this job, I was known for turning around million dollar projects. Other PMs who were making $120,000 a year plus 20% bonuses would mess up projects. Then they would hand them to me, I would get back in the customer favor, I would turn the projects around, and I would close them. And I was making literally 55,000, no bonuses. For six months, I talked to the VP of our company, all this stuff, saying, “Hey, I need a raise to get close to what other people are making so that it makes sense for me to be here.” And they kept saying, “Well, you just got out of college.” And I say, “But then I do these projects.” And so it was just back and forth. And so essentially I decided I’m going to leave. Someone from my company had left to our competitor. They knew that I was really great, and so they brought me on.

Mindy:
Yeah. Anybody who’s in the hiring business or the employee retention business, don’t pay your employees like garbage and don’t pay your star employee who’s turning around projects like garbage, tell her she’s not worth what everybody else is making because she just graduated from college. There are old souls out there. You wouldn’t believe this, but Scott is only 12, and he is running BiggerPockets, and has been for 11 years. He’s just smart like that. It doesn’t matter his age. He’s actually 13. It doesn’t matter somebody’s age or level of experience, it matters their intelligence and their competence and their ability to get stuff done.

Amberly:
And I was 29 years old. That was one of my things too was I’m not just a normal college student. I traveled the world, I owned my own businesses, and then I came here and did university and came to the company. And sure enough, one year later they started reaching out to me again. They moved my manager in a different position, and they’re like, “Hey, we need star people back.” “Okay. Well, no thanks.”

Scott:
Okay, so just to some timeline things. In 2017, you graduated from college around the age 25, 26.

Amberly:
29.

Scott:
At 29. You were 29 in 2017.

Amberly:
Correct.

Scott:
You’re graduating college. Okay. And then you have this job situation. Did you graduate debt-free? Or were there other financial assets getting you going at that point? Or was it pretty neutral? Was there student loans? Yeah. Can you give us a snapshot of the financial position? Graduating college, and then how we got to that point of the big raise.

Amberly:
Yeah. Before that, I had checked my social security and I had made an average of $15,000 a year from the time I moved to the United States in 2007 to 2017. I had done odd jobs, moved overseas, just did my own business; turned out didn’t work out really well. And then when I was 25, I decided to go and be serious about university. I went to the Community College of Denver first. The great thing about that is I was a non-traditional student, which means that I can apply for FAFSA and scholarships without my parents’ income. Which it didn’t matter; my parents’ income was zero. I was able to go to university… Or to community college. And I would make about $3,000 a semester in my pocket from scholarships and FAFSA. Then I decided to apply to the CU Boulder, even though the price tag of CU Boulder is $20,000 a year for their business school, and it scared me. Oh my god, I’m Canadian. Who pays $20,000 a year for school.

Mindy:
You said $20,000. I’m like, that’s it?

Amberly:
Yeah. I also applied to CU Denver, but it was a commuter school and I wanted… CU Boulder has a much better reputation, top 30 universities in the US. Applied to CU Boulder, got in. Got a call from financial aid being like, “Hey, you actually got this scholarship which will pay for all of your tuition for the entire time you’re here.” Which then I promptly cried for three days straight and was like, “Oh my god, I did it.” I left university with zero debt, basically $0 to my name as well, and then got my first job. And literally my expenses at that point were $1,200 per month before I bought my house, which then were $1,300 per month.

Scott:
Okay, awesome. 2017, graduate college, zero. Still able to save because you’re spending so little. You’re still living like a college student it sounds like. And then we have this house situation that resolves in 2020. Leading up to 2020 of the next three years, you managed to accumulate $60,000, which empowers you to make this decision to buy out your ex-boyfriend and his mom’s interest in the property with a hustle on top of that. Okay. The other part of the equation here that is absolutely extraordinary that we have to dive into and get a beat on is how are you living in Denver, Colorado in 2020 for $1,300 a month? In a general sense. What’s the day-to-day like? What’s your car, housing, all that stuff? How do you figure that out?

Amberly:
Actually, every part of my life has a story. My car was a 2013 Toyota Corolla. I used to have a company where I would coach people on their nutrition. I worked with luxury apartment buildings. I’d make food and deliver it to people’s fridges and did workshops and screenings, film screening. One of my clients was moving to New Zealand, so she actually needed help. She had been there, needed help figuring out her apartment and getting it sent, so I helped her out. She had a leased 2013 car. This was in 2013. She gave me the lease for free for one year, it was $137 a month, to help her out. Then I bought out her lease for $13,000. I got a brand new car that she’d only driven for three months. I drove it for the next two years, bought it out for $13,000, and that was my car. I still own it today. That I had gotten in 2014.
My house, because my upstairs, I lived with my partner, the downstairs was an Airbnb or a midterm rental for actually a friend of our community, Mark Troutman, who you guys have interviewed. He stayed in our basement for a few weeks with his wife, Marge. And then that was part of helping us pay our mortgage. And then I did the Airbnb thing. My every day, I biked everywhere because I was right on a bike path. That’s one of my criteria for the houses I own is some sort of bike path or public transit.

Scott:
All right, we have addressed the almost unbelievable $55,000 to $115,000 base salary jump and the perhaps even more unbelievable, $1,300 a month expense load living in Denver here. That explains the bulk of the $60,000, $80,000 cash accumulation that we talked about there. With this foundation, it’s not hard to imagine, one, you getting very wealthy over the next several years. Is that right? How does the journey play out and progress from here?

Amberly:
I could not imagine where I would be today five years later, and I can’t imagine where I’ll be five years from now with what I’ve learned. 2020, bought them out for $80,000 in March. Freaked out; Airbnb is going to zero. What are we doing here? It all comes back. It’s fine. Life happens. I pivot really quickly. I actually went to nurse rentals right away and never had one vacant day through all of 2020 for my rental. Awesome. Yeah, yeah, it worked out really well. I just kept switching between midterm and short-term rentals depending on what needed to be done with the law and stuff. That was great. Accumulated all of that. I wasn’t paying for lodging, so that was great. Still had my $115,000 a year job with a bonus, and so I just started stocking money away to probably buy a new property.
I like to say properties happen to me. I don’t go seek them, they just come my way. In January of 2021, I had an agent, a real estate agent I’d worked with for my last property approach me and say… Oh no, he was checking in. And then I asked him, “Hey, I have very specific criteria. Do you ever see these?” He was like, “These are never in Denver.” And I was like, “I know. If you see him one, let me know.” Turns out, he had this seller who was thinking of selling. He wasn’t sure what he wanted to do, but he wanted to get out of Colorado because he moved to Tennessee. It’s a duplex, a true duplex building. It’s multifamily, zoned three units. There’s two units on it in downtown Denver. this one is like Downey in Colfax, essentially, right by the hospital there.
I, again, don’t think I have enough money, not sure what I’m going to do here. Start negotiating with the seller. I worked directly with the seller on this one and end up getting this property for $711,000. It’s worth at least $750,000 at the time. Now it’s worth so much more in downtown Denver. And this is one address but a three bedroom upstairs, one bedroom downstairs; completely separate unit. That one I put 15% down, so I came up with $90,000 for that one. And bought that one in April 1st, 2021.

Scott:
And that $90,000 was just accumulated the same old-fashioned, old school way that we just talked about here over the course of a little over a year and a half.

Amberly:
Yep. Literally a year and a bit later.

Scott:
Awesome. Okay. How’d to go? What were the Xs and Os on this property?

Amberly:
Yeah, the roof started leaking within five days of buying it. But what I do with that, I moved upstairs. I had to do some repairs and flipping of that one, cosmetic changes to that one, so that’s what I did for the next five or six months. I think it was six months.
I had friends come in and out. Literally friends would fly in to help me do flooring. The fire community would show up, and we’d all just do a workday for my birthday. I invited them to my birthday party, which was a work on my house day. I provided food and drink all day, but we got 25 list of items done on my house.
It’s also an 1885 house, but with new systems, so very finicky type property. I inherited the tenant downstairs who I love. He still lives at the property, but now he’s moved upstairs. The tenant downstairs was great. We would hang out. He decided to move in upstairs, and then eventually I moved out. And then we short-termed the downstairs as the tenant is in order because it’s a primary residence for him.

Mindy:
I want to point out that is a way around the… I don’t want to say around. To work within the Denver Airbnb laws, which state you have to have that… You can only Airbnb your primary residence. Now Amberly isn’t running it, it’s the guy who lives there as his primary residence. He’s running it.

Amberly:
Correct. He is the owner of it, and I just co-host with him. I help out. I’m the owner. And as the owner for Denver, you actually have to write a letter saying that, yes, the tenant can use the property as a short-term rental, so that’s what we’ve done.

Mindy:
Yep. And that’s a win-win for both people.

Scott:
Nuts and bolts, how are we doing on the finances in this? And how would we be doing on the finances if it was a long-term rental alone?

Amberly:
My mortgage taxes and insurance all in is $3,000 a month on that property. Upstairs rents for $3,250, so it covers all of that plus $100 of incidentals. CapEx, vacancies and repairs, I put aside a percentage of that. Because all the systems are new, but the home is older is in that weird where I don’t need to put a ton away, but I also don’t want to put too little away. And it has a new roof. I put approximately, I think it’s $550 a month for that contingency.
And then the downstairs, if it were long-term, would rent for about $2,000. Rent in Denver’s changed a bit, so that was two years ago. It’s a one bedroom solo apartment, so about $2,000. Airbnb, I average about $6,500 a month between… Well, $6,000 a month all year long. Wintertime, it’s seasonal, less. Summertime, I make more. I make about $8,000 a month in the summertime.

Scott:
Okay, awesome. And the person upstairs is paying rent to you, and Airbnb being the downstairs to get to this $6,000 to $8,000 a month total income number that you’re describing there?

Amberly:
Yeah. I say total income for the entire property is approximately $9,000 a month. And then obviously I have my expenses after that.

Scott:
How do we get to the $9,000 a month? Is that Airbnb being both units?

Amberly:
No, just the bottom. Airbnb on average makes about $6,000, and then the upstairs makes $3,250.

Scott:
Okay, okay. The bottom unit’s bringing in $6,000, and plus $3,250 for the upstairs. And then you’re sharing this income with the tenant, I imagine, to some degree.

Amberly:
Yes, exactly.

Scott:
Okay, awesome. Wow. Okay. This property is hugely profitable. And I think that’s a great way to work within the rules that Denver has set for short-term rentals here. Okay, now we’re really minting money. We’re continuing to live a $1,300 per month lifestyle. Perhaps it’s increased to $1,500, I don’t know. Are we relaxing a little bit at this point in this story? And we have the two income properties, the first property plus now this one downtown. What happens next and what year are we at at this point?

Amberly:
I moved out late, what, 2021? Yeah. Then I become responsible for another human, and it’s not a baby. We decide that my partner, who I am dating, is Canadian. We’ve known each other for 13 years. We were friends for 10. We decide that we’re making this work. He’s from Vancouver, and so I’m now commuting back and forth. I’m sometimes in Denver living at one of the properties, sometimes I’m in Vancouver building this relationship with my partner, John. Husband now.
And that’s going on, I’m stocking away a ton of money towards index funds. I’m doing $800 a month towards index funds because I have nothing in retirement other than a couple of years of 401(k) and IRAs, which I only learned about 2015 or something. I start putting tons of money away towards my brokerage accounts, and that’s where all my money’s going. I got a little bit on the side just to… I don’t know, maybe another property will happen to me. Who knows? And we’re just going back and forth. And so that’s my life.
My costs start to increase because as he comes down to the US, he cannot work, so then I’m responsible for him. When I go to Canada, it’s a pandemic. He works in films, so I was contributing towards his rent during that time just to be fair. I don’t know, it just made sense. My costs have started to increase at that point. I think I’m probably spending $3,000 a month between plane tickets and all the back and forth and stuff.
And then I do that until end of 2022 where we bring him down for six months. And then I’m now responsible completely for family finances, meaning everything I bring in pays for him and for me. We moved back to Vancouver for visa reasons, have a baby. Costs now are insane. I don’t know where money’s going; it’s just flying out the window. And then we buy a property in Longmont, which I had intended to consult Mindy, but I was literally two weeks into having a baby, and this property came up on the street that our good friends live on. I have three friends on the street, and so we decided to buy it site unseen. And so only had a little bit of money for this one because all my money has been going towards investments for a year and a half, so only put 5% down on this property.

Scott:
Okay, this is an owner occupied single family home.

Amberly:
Correct. Yes.

Scott:
And then this brings us essentially to the position that we’re in today at this point? Or was there anything else in the story?

Amberly:
Well, other than the fact that three months ago I took over all the expenses of the property of my father who’d inherited it from his sister. And he just can’t afford it, so me and my little sister have taken that on. And then I manage John’s property in Vancouver. We have tenants in there in the condo in the best part of Vancouver, in West End that we lived in for a while. And we’re never getting rid of that.

Scott:
Okay, so we’ve got a property nearby where my duplex was in southwest Denver, we’ve got one downtown, we’ve got the primary in Van… Sorry, in Longmont, we’ve got a condo in Vancouver, and we’ve got your dad’s property in-

Amberly:
Ottawa, Canada.

Scott:
… Ottawa, Canada. Okay. This five unit portfolio amassed over the last three and a half years is incredible. And what’s the overall picture? What is day-to-day life for you, your baby, and your husband? And what’s next?

Amberly:
It’s chaos. My day to day is essentially I do my W-2 job. Thankfully it’s work from home. I absolutely love my team. I do that. I have increased my salary greatly there as well. Take note, other companies. And so absolutely love it. I got six months of mat leave too through my work, so that was really nice, reprieve as well before coming back to a W-2 job. Then manage all the long-term rentals, the short-term rentals by myself, as well as the Vancouver property.
Gosh, what is else [inaudible 00:29:37]? I go for bike rides with Mindy. Essentially my partner, since he cannot work for probably up to the next 24 months, he’s responsible for fixing all the properties. He goes and makes sure everything looks good. We’ve had a couple of floods over the past two years of properties, so he fixes all that up. Learns as he goes. Fixes washers, dryers, things like that. That’s his job for our partnership. Mine is to bring home the bacon. And then, yeah, going for bike rides, hanging out, going to the gym, trying to get back in shape, running Fin Talks. I have an online community that I’ve run. And yeah, it’s a lot.

Mindy:
It is a lot. Before we jump into Fin Talks, which I do want to cover, I want to dive into why you can work and John can’t.

Amberly:
We are importing him from Canada.

Mindy:
You’re from Canada.

Amberly:
I am from Canada. Oh, you want to know that reason. I was born in the United States. I was born in California, so I had a social security card. I have citizenship. I have two passports. I can go between the two countries freely. And so I can work in the United States and have been working here since I moved to the US in 2007. And then he is only Canadian, so we’re going through a marriage visa for him to be down here. And we just applied for the green card. And according to Denver, it can take up to 24 months for that to get approved. And once that’s approved or the work permit we’ve asked for, he’ll now be allowed to work at that point. And he loves being home with our kid.

Mindy:
Yes. Yeah, and you’ve got an adorable baby. I love being home with your kid. Every once in a while he comes over to my house too.

Scott:
He’s wife-fi.

Amberly:
Yes, he’s wife-fi. That’s literally what he tells people.

Scott:
Nice. Yeah.

Mindy:
Hey, if you want to be wife-fi too, come up to Longmont because this city is full of wife-fi people. He can’t work for 12 months? Or it is probably going to be 12 months? If his green card came in tomorrow or his work visa came in tomorrow, could he then start work? Or is there a specific amount of time that he has to be in the country before he can start working?

Amberly:
Great question. The green card has been accepted as in the application has been accepted. Denver says for the green card to be you get it in your hand, and essentially that’s your residency permit. You are allowed to work at that moment. Denver’s saying that will take 24 months. We have applied for what’s called a work permit as well. The work permit is now taking about 12 months to get, so we might be able to get that work permit in 12 months, and then he’ll be able to work without the green card, because his you are allowed to do it. He’s also not allowed to leave the country until he gets the green card or a travel permit, which we also applied for. Essentially, it’s a big cluster. We have a lawyer for this, a gal who’s in the fi community actually because it’s so much to navigate.

Mindy:
Yeah, that sounds like a lot.

Amberly:
And there’s no film here in Denver, so when he does get to be able to work, now he has to figure out what does he do next? And we’ve talked extensively about the fact that he’ll probably just start some sort of handyman business here in Longmont because he’s very handy.

Mindy:
I can keep him busy.

Amberly:
Yes.

Scott:
Okay, just zooming back out and going back to the story, we talked about the three properties you acquired, and the last one being the primary residence, covered by the income from mailer properties and then your job income here. And your husband had a condo, as you presume, for many years, financed at a great rate in Vancouver, and that’s why you kept it.

Amberly:
Canadian financing is different. Canadian is five year arms or less. You have a 25-year period of your mortgage and then you have to renew it every one, two, three, four, or five years at a new interest rate. And then basically that’s what’s happening to a lot of Canadians right now is they’re getting interest rates that are double what they had originally gotten in the first place. The good thing about Canadian banks is that they actually vet people a lot more than US banks. But still when you’re going from a 2.5 rate… We went from I think 1.89% to 3.85%. That’s a change. He, thankfully, bought this in 2011, there’s only $230,000 left on his condo mortgage. It’s not a big deal for us to have these jumps in interest rates. We have to renew again in five more years as of last year.

Scott:
That’s really interesting. I had no idea about the Canadian housing market. We often get asked from our Canadian friends about whether we’re going to have a BiggerPockets Canada friendly rental calculator, and answer’s always been next year, next year. We’ll get to it at some point for our Canadian friends. Don’t worry.

Amberly:
I’ll say one more thing about the condo. One of the reasons we want to keep it is because having property in Vancouver is such a luxury. This condo now costs $550,000 to $600,000 to buy. It’s so cost prohibitive for a one bedroom apartment. That doesn’t make sense. We want to keep it for that reason, but also in Vancouver, development is a huge thing. What that means is someone will cite the building and say, “Hey, we’re actually going to develop an eight story building or a 16 story building,” and then they pay out each resident a certain amount of money based on what they’re going to make off the building. In Vancouver, this specific building right before COVID was getting specked by developers, and it was getting specked for $1 million of property. That’s the other reason why we’re keeping it, because if we can keep it and eventually the development’s going to come into that area again… It left and now it might come back. They’re zoning. We saw some surveyors for utilities. That’s the other reason we’re keeping it is because there could be a very big payout in the next 10, 15 years from the property. And that was eight story, it’s now going to be zoned for 16, so that’s great.

Scott:
And so what’s next? How are you going to continue expanding the empire?

Amberly:
Yeah. Always open. I just had talked to Mindy last week, and I was like, “We want to have another baby.” That’s our next step. That, and then we figure we’ll take on another property right after that. We’ve been fixing up our home. We just got rid of all the popcorn ceilings in it, painted it all. We’ve got a kitchen. We just ordered countertops this weekend. At Ikea, it’s 15% off right now. It’s not going to be by the time this airs, but great for anyone in this call. Ordered them this weekend. We’ve got the kitchen going on. And then basically our house is complete at that point for the updates we want to do to it. We’ll replace all the doors; they have a bunch of things in them. But at that point, it’s in so much better shape than we bought it. Then we feel comfortable taking on a new property.
And so more than likely, we’ll probably do some sort of owner-occupied property, which we want to actually fix up. With two small children, always a great idea. And then we’ll rent this one out. This one isn’t going to be great numbers. It’s a single family home. We paid a lot for it. High interest rate. Not like today’s, but 5.85% on this place, so quite high. It won’t cashflow the way that others have, but we want to hold onto it because we really love the property.

Scott:
Awesome. And I love the fixing up the property with the little ones because our 10 month old is super happy in 100 square foot room with some toys. The whole thing done doesn’t really make a difference at that point.

Mindy:
Yeah. They just want to spend time with you. I can tell you from personal experience that fixing up a property with two little ones is the easiest thing you’ll ever do, and you should totally do it. Bring them over to my house when you need to do dusty, dusty work because it can be a chore. But yeah, you can also do it. I did several with two little ones, and it’s totally fine. And with John not having a job right now, he can bang out that property. I teased about Fin Talks, and then I want to circle back to Fin Talks because I find this so fascinating. Let’s talk about your Tuesday Fin Talks. For people who don’t know what this is, what is your little Fin Talk session?

Amberly:
Yeah. I also call it a little Fin Talk session. Fin Talks is a community of people that I started in March of 2020. As we already know from the story, March 2020, I was going through this crazy breakup. I paid $80,000 of money, everything I had towards this property. Airbnb went to zero, the world’s shutting down. I’m sitting in my room eating popcorn for dinner, drinking wine. My partner at the time had taken all the furniture out of the house, so I had a couch, a TV, a stripper pole in my kitchen because I didn’t even have a… I was like, “Well, I may as well just exercise and have fun here.” Had that since I was 21. Haven’t had it in a house since then, and a bed. That’s literally everything I had in this property at that time. A pretty sad state of affairs.
I decide I’ve always wanted to do some sort of financial education for people. I have a lot of knowledge, and there’s a lot of people who could be hurting during COVID, so I decided to start doing just daily finance talks on Facebook Live. And got a little bit of the following. And then some people had mentioned, “Hey, we should meet up and talk.” And I was like, “Great. Why don’t we do this?” Mark Troutman, OG of my Fin Talks. It started with me and five friends.
I would pick a topic, and we would get on for one hour, everyone drinking a glass of wine or a beer all alone in our houses and talk about the financial topic. It started to grow and spread. At my highest heights of Fin Talks, we had 55 people joining every single Tuesday. And then Google was really upset with me for sending out a calendar invite to 300 people every week and decided I was not allowed to do that anymore. Then I had to change it out to Mailchimp, and now we average about 31 to 35 people. I choose a topic every single week, I send an email saying, “Here’s a topic. Here’s why I’m thinking about it. Here’s some questions to ponder. Jump on the call, let’s talk it out.” And then that’s what we do.
And so people have saved thousands of dollars from having these conversations about taxes or mental health, meditation, 401(k)s, everything. And we’ve become a really close community. I then started an in-person meetup for Fin Talks. Third year this past year. And so we all meet up in person in Colorado and do a weekend event. And yeah, it’s really fun. I’ve been doing it since March of 2020 every single Tuesday.

Scott:
Awesome. And this is free to attend as long as you are willing to replace your roof or hang a door or fix the windows at one of their properties. Is that-

Amberly:
You know my style. Yeah, it’s been free for the past three years. I’m actually changing that up literally this next three weeks. I’m going to make it a very nominal $10 a month. And it’s just paid yearly at that point. And I’m going to see if it survives. It might not. And the reason I’m doing that is it’s been three and a half years that I’ve been doing this. I checked it, it’s 182 sessions that I have done for Fin Talks. And my life has changed a lot in that time, and so I think this is my test to see if I should keep it going. I also have to pay Zoom memberships and all this stuff, so I decided, you know what? Let’s just try this. And so I’m basically sending out the email literally today, which is just telling everyone, “Hey, if you want to join, it’s $10 a month for a yearly membership.” And then if not, then we might just go down to one time a month, and I’m going to enjoy my three extra weeks a month open.

Scott:
Awesome. And where can people find out more about these Fin Talks?

Amberly:
Yeah, amberlygrant.com/fintalks.

Mindy:
All right, Amberly, you are a member of the fi community. You are coast fi. Do you have any advice for somebody who is just getting started?

Amberly:
First of all, fine community. There are so many events. We’re doing a cruise in January. January 27th, Mindy’s joining, I’m joining. We have 39 finance freaks joining this cruise. It’s literally $500. It’s nothing. And so go to an event, go to economy, camp [inaudible 00:41:59]. Come to Fin Talks. Find community, because I think the best part of the journey is being able to actually talk openly about finances with people. My friends at the gym now talk about finances because I’m just going to say it. I’ll say what I make. It’s not a problem to me because we’re all in this together to bring each other up. That’s my number one advice.
The second advice is if you are… I find a lot of people who are starting on their financial journey, they get really caught in numbers. They get really caught in reading books and knowledge. But after knowledge comes action. And so whether that’s buying your first property or engaging even a bank for financing for a property to see what you can even afford, those types of actions will just get you one step closer to what your goal is. And I think it’s really important. And I always like to say build the parachute on the way down. Take that action and see what happens. And then you get to pivot from there.

Scott:
Love it. I think that’s great advice. It’s really hard to take action if no one else in your world is on the same page or they’re along for the ride with you. And I think that’s something that I think speaks to your journey because you had this community. I bet you that that community was what allowed you to spend that $1,200 $1,300 a month, which really I think is the foundation for all of your success over the last three to four years. In addition to the creativity and the opportunism and finding these deals and that new job, but that foundation of frugality just meant that there’s no way you could fail, really. It’s just a matter of time before you built wealth in some form or other with it. And I think that the community that you built probably is a big factor in that in helping you defray expenses in certain cases, but also just live a happy, wonderful life at a very low cost in the Denver area.

Amberly:
Yep. And my Fin Talk community is so much smarter than I am. Any problem you bring to them, they solve it. They got it.

Mindy:
All right, Amberly, this was a lot of fun. Thank you so much for sharing your story with us. I think that there’s a lot of things to learn for many of our listeners. And I appreciate your time.

Amberly:
Thank you both, I appreciate it.

Mindy:
And we will talk to you soon. Okay, Scott, that was Amberly Grant. And that was such an impressive story. Being a member of the fi community, being coast fi, she has all of these fantastic opportunities for two reasons: She’s frugal and she has a lot of courage. She’s frugal in that she doesn’t spend every dime that comes in, she saves it. And she has courage to take advantage of opportunities when they present themselves.

Scott:
Yeah. I think it boils down to that spending pattern. $1,300 a month in Denver in 2017 to 2021-ish in that period, it is possible. You got a bike to work, you got a house hack, you got to make a bunch of smart decisions, but if you can earn a $55,000 a year job and spend $1,300 a month, opportunities are just going to explode in your life over the next couple of years in ways that you can’t predict. That’s the fundamental thing here. You’re piling up cash, and you have every option in the world for another property to buy or business to start or whatever. You have essentially no risk in your life and unlimited upside because of that low, low, low, low expense load. And to her point, community was a big factor in that. I think that’s the underpinning secret sauce here is the ability, the option to sustain a lifestyle at that level for an indefinite period of time, and then the opportunism to go after the opportunities that presented themselves one by one to her over the following year. She’ll live the rest of her life with financial abundance because of that foundation.

Mindy:
Yeah. And Scott, you just said something really funny. You said opportunities that you can’t predict. That’s what you’re investing for. That’s what you’re saving for. That’s why you’re not spending every dime that comes in, so that you have a pile of cash so that when an amazing opportunity pops up, you can pounce on it. And that’s exactly what she did over and over and over again, and will continue to.

Scott:
Probably makes you a really good employee too, if you’re able to find all those things in your personal life, ways to cut costs and increase opportunity. Not surprised she got a huge raise and has been wonderfully treated by her new company.

Mindy:
Exactly. All right, Scott, should we get out of here?

Scott:
Let’s do it.

Mindy:
That wraps up this episode of the BiggerPockets Money Podcast. He is Scott Trench and I am Mindy Jensen saying adieu, cockatoo.

Scott:
If you enjoyed today’s episode, please give us a five star review on Spotify or Apple. And if you’re looking for even more money content, feel free to visit our YouTube channel at youtube.com/biggerpocketsmoney.

Mindy:
BiggerPockets Money was created by Mindy Jensen and Scott Trench, produced by Kailyn Bennett, editing by Exodus Media, copywriting by Nate Weintraub. Lastly, a big thank you to the BiggerPockets team for making this show possible.

 

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