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Lessons From the Rich That Took Me from $0 to a $1,000,000+ Business


Want to be a millionaire or build a business that brings in seven figures? Want generational wealth and to be debt-free? Want to know that you have enough money to take big risks while still keeping your bank account safe? If so, you need to start thinking like the rich to begin building wealth the same way they do. “That may be easy for you to say, you host the BiggerPockets Money Podcast!” Well, don’t take it from us; take it from Marc Russell.

Marc grew up without advantages. He was in foster care for as long as he could remember, bouncing from house to house until finally, at age thirteen, he was adopted by parents with a strong, valuable work ethic. When Marc went to college, he had no money to pay for it, so he fought tooth and nail with the financial aid office to find scholarships, loans, or anything that could help him graduate. He was even kicked out of school once over not being able to pay a $900 fee! But this taught Marc how the system worked and eventually led to him landing a job at every FIRE chaser’s favorite place, Vanguard!

Once Marc started helping the rich manage their money, he looked in the mirror and asked, “Why aren’t I doing these things?” Thus, he began imitating the investing tactics of the rich, budgeting for financial freedom, and investing everything he could, even if it meant a slower path to being debt-free. Now, Marc runs BetterWallet, helping everyday people start building generational wealth, no matter their circumstances.

Scott:
Today we’re going to hear from somebody who beat the odds. Mark grew up in a foster care system and experienced all the odds that you can have stacked against you. In his upbringing, he beat them through a combination of hustle, frugality, and getting in the room with rich people who knew what they were talking about and could share tips and tricks to get ahead.

Amanda:
Exactly. I’m so excited to talk to Mark today, Scott. So Mark is one of my dear friends who I met online and has turned to in real life friend, and his name is Mark Russell from The Better Wallet. So in talking to him today, we’re going to be able to hear directly from him the exact steps that he took once he became responsible for his own finances, and he’s going to talk about the money rules that he himself follows and that allowed him to get to where he is today in life.

Scott:
Hello, hello, hello and welcome to the BiggerPockets Money podcast. I’m Scott Trench, and with me today is the she Wolf of Wall Street, Amanda Wolf.

Amanda:
Hello Scott. I’m so excited to be here. I feel like I’ve been stepping in and hosting more shows with you a lot lately and it’s really exciting for me, so it’s really, really good to be back. That’s awesome. Alright, we’re here to make financial independence less scary and less just for somebody else to introduce you to every money story because we truly believe financial freedom is attainable for everyone no matter where or when you’re starting. And

Scott:
One thing I want to call out about today’s episode before we bring in Mark, is I thought there was a lot of parallels to your story, Amanda, with money and your upbringing and the odds that you overcame to get to where you are today. Which by the way, if anybody wants to check it out, you can listen to that episode of the BiggerPockets Money podcast where we interviewed Amanda on her story on the 329th episode. So biggerpockets.com/money show 3, 2 9.

Amanda:
Yeah, I can tell you that Marc and I actually really initially bonded over growing up in poverty, and while we don’t have the same story by any means, and you’ll get to hear all about his today, you can feel really alone when you have an upbringing like this. I know that there are millions of people out there with very similar stories, but you can kind of feel like you are just on this isolated island. So it certainly was a bonding subject for both of us and hopefully somebody else who is out there listening today who maybe has a similar story, we’ll just know that they’re not alone, that you can beat the odds and that you can live a life of wealth and really move past that survival mode.

Scott:
Absolutely. And hopefully some folks, between both of these two wonderful stories, you might be able to find some patterns and behaviors that Amanda and Mark pursued that I think really increased their odds of success, such as getting in the room with the right people, whatever it took. Alright, let’s go talk to Mark. Mark, welcome to the BiggerPockets Money podcast.

Marc:
Thank you. Thank you for having me on. I’m pretty excited.

Scott:
Yeah. Well, today you’re helping hundreds of thousands of people build generational wealth. I’d love to start at the beginning of your story and have you paint us a picture of what your childhood looked like and what your upbringing was around money.

Marc:
Yeah, definitely. And I think Amanda has probably heard it like 1,000,012 times at this point, but just for context. So I was born in Philadelphia, born to two parents that were victims of drug abuse. So immediately I was placed into foster care after the nicu and I spent about 13 years of my childhood in foster care, bouncing around from home to home, lived with all types of different people and gave me a strong appreciation for different cultures. Lived with the Amish people for a little bit of time, which was cool. So I lived on the farm, all those things throughout the age of what, zero to 13. And then finally I found myself at a house where a very loving family prioritized education and they eventually adopted me at 13. It was my first time having a formal mom and a dad, which for a kid that just had dreams in his head of traveling and doing things and doing well academically, they definitely instilled a lot of that in me. My dad was a sailor. He was in the Navy and my mom was a high security prison guard. So I came into a fairly disciplined household.

Amanda:
Wait, so I want to take it back like a quick second because the moving around, I’ve heard your story before, but I never get tired of hearing it and hearing about the different types of families you lived with is crazy to me. So when you were moving from home to home and before you actually got adopted, were you noticing how the different families that you were living with were dealing with money, spending money, talking about money? Do you have any type of memory of that?

Marc:
Not really. I mean, when you’re a kid, you’re not as focused on money flow and who’s paying the bills or what have you. I would say some families definitely spent more money than others. When I lived with Amish, they spent almost nothing because they just lived off the land and we drove around buggies and things like that. So I kind of remember those. But no, I don’t really have as many memories. It wasn’t until I joined the family that I eventually got adopted where they would talk more about money because the area where I grew up is known as being one of the poorest small towns in the entire country. Most of the people who were around me, a lot of my friends, all grew up below the poverty line. So it was a normal conversation to say, Hey, we can’t pay for bills, we can’t pay for gas and oil and all these things. So I would sometimes have to work and cut grass in order to give the money to my parents so they can keep the heat on throughout the winter. That was a very normal thing that I had to do, but again, it wasn’t until I got older where I realized that isn’t what kids should be doing. Kids should be playing around and not necessarily working at the age of 13, 14, but that’s what we had to do to make sure the lights were still on.

Scott:
I think we should go a little level deeper here and understand, so you’re helping out and pitching in for household expenses by working at the age of 13 or 14. What was the overall mentality around money in this family? Was there a savings? Was there spending every dollar that came in? What was

Marc:
The It was basically survive in the advance, right? So how can we accumulate enough money in order to pay for food and the bills and the mortgage in order to not, or in order for us to move to the next month? So that was basically the mentality. There was no, I think the extent of my financial knowledge or financial education growing up was, Hey, make money and try to put whatever you can in the bank. Any money that’s left over from giving us money or you buying whatever I was buying as a kid, I would buy, I remember buying my first pair of shoes. They would say, Hey, make sure that money’s going to the bank. Make sure that you’re focusing on the habit of putting even five, $10 away per month. But that was the extent of it. We didn’t really learn about investing, both my parents, while my mom had, she worked with the state, so she had some sort of a pension when my dad didn’t have a 401k or anything of that nature. So I didn’t learn a lot of that until much later.

Amanda:
So then as you’re growing up, where did college come into this? You went to Penn State, was going to college, a no-brainer for you. Were your parents pushing college? Where did that all come into play?

Marc:
Yeah, so college was very much an idea versus something that was pushed on me. I just knew that if I wanted to escape that small town where everyone lived in poverty, I had only two options and it was in the Navy and going off to college. So I thought that I could go on to college, a college campus, and they’re just going to pay for it. And both my parents didn’t go off to college, so I didn’t know any better. But that was basically it. I wanted to escape the life that was currently in and I knew, I knew I didn’t want to go to the Navy. That was basically it. So me applying to schools, I just applied for schools that are around the area. I applied to University of Pittsburgh, Penn State, which was probably an hour away, and then a couple other smaller schools where I felt like I can maybe get an academic scholarship. But that was basically the extent of it.

Amanda:
At this point you’d been spending every dollar you made or putting it in the bank or giving it to other people. So then how did you pay for college? Or did that concern you at all in taking on any type of debt? Did you get a scholarship for everything or how did you fund your college?

Marc:
Yeah, definitely. So I stepped on the campus at Penn State, and the first email I got from Penn State was, Hey, welcome to Penn State. The second one was, you owe us $20,000. So I’m like, okay, well, I think of all the things, right? So when you don’t know anything about college, you just assume that everything’s going to be paid for. So in my head I’m like, okay, I was adopted. I’m black, you have to find some scholarship for me out here, there has to be one. And I found that there weren’t many scholarships for those criteria that are out there, at least the year that I applied. And I found myself on campus needing to figure it out basically. So I did what I knew I could do, and I went to a student aid office and basically begged for money every single day in the beginning of every semester.
And Penn State, they’re great at a lot of different things, but one thing that they’re notoriously bad at is finding money for their students. So you either have or you don’t. The funny thing is, maybe it’s funny now, but it wasn’t funny. Then my roommate, who’s one of my best friends, he had a 5 29 account, so his parents were able to write one check pay for all four years of Penn State, and then he was good to go, had a laptop and everything. I found myself on campus not having books, no laptop, literally nothing. And even at Penn State, they also do not allow you to know what your grades are until you fully pay off your schooling or pay for that semester. So you’re basically flying blind for multiple semesters if you don’t have it paid off. So that is something I learned the hard way. But yeah, no, it’s begging the tuition, the student aid office. And I think also I was able to making connections with the vice provost at Penn State as well as the dean because I knew that if I was going to pay for school, then they’re going to have to jump in and help me figure it out. And luckily they were able to pull some strings to maybe pay 3000, $4,000 here and there, but then also had to apply for scholarships and grants, all of which I took away from my academics.

Scott:
Alright, we’re talking to Mark from Better Wallet about his journey through the foster care system and growing up in poverty. We’re going to take a quick break, but when we’re back, mark is going to tell us the steps he took that got him to beat the odds and find his way to financial independence. Welcome back to BP Money everybody. What were you doing? Were you working during college?

Marc:
I had to sell plasma. I was an RA resident assistant for some time. I was a referee. I was doing whatever I possibly could to put money in my pocket and make sure I didn’t starve and then also pay off my tuition. I was a barber as well, so I learned how to cut hair when I was a kid because it was one of my side hustles I would do. And it started off with maybe three or four people that would come in every Saturday and get their haircut and I wasn’t doing it. I mean the haircuts now you have a really nice haircut, maybe a two on the side, maybe three or four top before the last 10, 15 years, it would just be a buzz cut, especially if you’re in college, you don’t care. So I would charge ’em about $10 and I’ll cut their hair for five minutes and then I’ll have clientele more and more clientele coming in. And that’s how I went about affording food and paying for tuition. So when everyone else was hanging out in the afternoons on Saturday and Sunday, I was cutting hair,

Scott:
So I can’t resist. It sounds like you operated your college years with razor thin margins here. Can you tell us about your situation graduating college? What did things look like after graduation? How much did you have and what were you doing next?

Marc:
Yeah, no, definitely. So after, I should mention after freshman year, I was actually kicked out of Penn State because I couldn’t pay $900 on my tuition bill, which I look back at it now and I’m like, I got kicked out for $900. That same summer, maybe even, I want to say it was probably three months later, I ended up losing my adopted dad literally right before my eyes. So you kind of combine all that together and your life changes overnight. I was definitely, I would say a little bit more immature my freshman year, but as soon as sophomore year popped up and I had to go from a boy to a man overnight, all lot of that stuff changed. I went on just overdrive trying to figure out how I could pay for school, how can I graduate within the next three years? And one of the things I would do, because my dad was really passionate about giving back informed of cooking for people, or he would often bring people into the house that were homeless or maybe they served time in jail, whatever it might be, and they didn’t have a house to live in.
So giving back was a big part of what I did when I was at Penn State. It was my way of living on my dad’s legacy. So what I did was I would help kids afford school the way I went about affording school, and I remember building different guides on how can you go about applying for scholarships? How can you apply for grant? I taught ’em how to negotiate with the people in the student aid office in order to get bigger scholarships. So a lot of that I love doing. And you combine that with the fact that I was a resident assistant as well. And then Penn State being a pretty good business school, I applied to every financial firm that I possibly could At that time. The company that I heard back from the quickest was the Vanguard group, which at the time I had no clue who they were.
I remember having a conversation with my mom and I was like, Hey mom, I got into this place called Vanguard. Well, I got an interview from them and she’s like, oh, Vanguard. And I was like, oh, something about securities. And she was like, oh, like a security system, like a DT. And I’m like, no, not a DT mom, like Wall Street stuff. And she’s like, oh, I don’t think you should take that offer. I think that’s a little bit too much. And I’m like, okay, we’ll see. So I ended up interviewing, getting in, and they love the combination of everything that I went through and the giving back that I did when I was at Penn State. You combine that with a little bit about investments in finance and then also I had an business economics degree. You could combine all that together and that was exactly what they were looking for. One of the, they had this management leadership development program at Vanguard where they only choose maybe 20 people out of the country. And luckily I was able to get into that program, which completely changed my life.

Amanda:
That is insane. When you were teaching your friends about money and you were giving back with the financial empowerment, how did you teach yourself all of that stuff? How did you figure out what grants and scholarships to apply for? How did you figure out how to budget your money and how to create side hustles for yourself? How did you do all of that?

Marc:
Yeah, I mean that really came down to, I mean, I had really great mentors when I was at Penn State. People that met when I was in high school or people that went from my high school that worked at Penn State because Penn State was basically one of the bigger employers in my area. So I end up connecting with them and ask ’em, Hey, how do you go about budgeting your money? So at a very young age, I’ve just always been curious about how older people did certain things as related to money. And then also the internet’s great as well, trying to find these scholarships, trying to find the different grants, talking to a student aid office and asking them what I can do that other people are not doing. And that allowed me to really get a leg up on getting a lot of those grants and scholarships that a lot of people wouldn’t apply for.
And then I would say I also learned a lot about how the school worked and interest rates and loans and how they work. When I got kicked out of school, when I got kicked out, that is the perfect way of figuring out everything about finance and everything about applying for school because you see the inner workings of how everything happens. So when you go through what they call retroactive registration, which basically means you get kicked out and you have to find ways to pay for school that are out of pocket because they take away your student loans and you take away any student aid, you learn all about personal loans because we had to try to take out personal loan. You learn all about interest rates, which this was 2009. So interest rates were through the roof. There’s a lot of different factors and a lot of different terms and skills that you learn in a short period of time when you’re trying to get back into school and you don’t have the money to pay for it.

Scott:
Well, I’d love to move to this next leg of the journey. It sounds like we have those three parts of the journey here to discuss today. And I’d love to move to, I’m going to call part two here. You might have called something else love, but this phase of we get the job at Vanguard, and it sounds like life. What happens after college? How does your money story continue and how do you go on to begin accumulating

Marc:
Personal wealth? Yeah, definitely. So as I started my first job at Vanguard, my first job was basically if you call it Vanguard or Fidelity right now and you want to talk about your 401k, you probably would’ve called someone like me where I would help you kind of navigate what you should be investing in. If you want to take a loan or withdraw your 401k, I would handle those transactions. So though I was giving financial advice or financial guidance during that time, because I was a stockbroker, I found myself in debt up to my eyeballs. So I had my student loan debt, I have credit card debt that I accumulated from college because I needed to. And then I also had a used car that I just bought. So I had that loan as well. And I found myself thinking, well, I’m making $55,000 a year and I worked really hard to get here, but I’m living paycheck to paycheck, very similar to everyone that I grew up with.
Did college actually help me or did it hurt me? And at that point I said, okay, well I need to understand how to go about budgeting my money the right way. I need to understand where my money is going and I need to figure out how the heck I can get out of this debt. So as a very curious kid, as people will call in, as I mentioned, a lot of them were multimillionaires from their 4 0 1 Ks or whatever it might be. I would ask them, Hey, how did you accumulate this wealth? How did you pay off your debt? How do you budget your money? And that was very inspiring for me. It led me to say, okay, well there’s a formula to making this money. And they would say, okay, well, I was a business owner. I did all these things and then I would just focus on habits. I would focus on habits of putting money away every single month, every year, whatever it might be. And then also building businesses in order to fund my investments.

Amanda:
Can I ask how much debt did you have? Because you keep saying, I had debt up to my eyeballs. So how much are we talking?

Marc:
Yeah, so $80,000 of debt. So 50,000 that came from student loan debt and then 20,000 for my car and then 10,000 for high interest credit card debt. Oh

Amanda:
My gosh. So that is a lot. And then I was also shocked when you just said that you made 55,000 at Vanguard. I guess you would think a big financial institution would be paying top dollar. So then having all that debt with that salary too, I’m sure just to your point, added to it, you’re like, oh my gosh, I got educated. Where’s my money? Why don’t I still have any? So

Scott:
I’m on your LinkedIn here just looking at this to get the timelines here. So you started at Vanguard in 2012 and you finished in 2017. How would you articulate at the highest level the progress you made in your personal finances over that five, six year

Marc:
Period? Yeah, so 2012 came in, I was basically just a kid from the hood that didn’t know anything about finance beyond regular, how do you budget and all the things you will learn while you’re in college, as I mentioned about scholarships and grants and personal loans. So you started off with that. And then I was around a bunch of basically trust fund kids. A lot of people that are within the program, both all their parents were either hedge fund managers or big manager at different firms. So you learn a lot about your overall debt. So understanding, okay, what are the interest rates? Why does it matter? What are my minimal payments? What happens if I make more than a minimum payment? And then that transitions to just understanding how investing works in general. A lot of the eye-opening moments for me, were talking to people on the phone and them saying, well, I need you to help me out with this issue.
And then I fixed the issue and then a few months later they call in. I look at the same account and realize they appreciated by $20,000 passively. That was mind blowing to me. My dad, who he was in the Navy, but he worked a job where he moved boxes from one conveyor belt to another. He made $40,000 a year, said the fact that they were able to make $20,000 passively half of what he made in this crazy job that he worked blew my mind. I didn’t know that that even existed. So that was a big moment for me. And then as I’m starting to figure out my own 401k and how it worked, investing for your 401k investing in my brokerage account and then also paying off my debt, it just becomes more and more complex as you go. So from 2012, literally knowing nothing about personal finance, at least the more complex strategies to leaving Vanguard and understanding everything in between, even understanding how to invest for your kids, the 5 29 department was great. I was talking to grandparents and parents and even extremely rich people that would high money in 5 29 accounts because it’s not including your taxable estate. That’s something we could talk about later, but you kind of learn about all that and you start asking questions and you understand how it applies to you. So by the time I left Vanguard, I already had a 5 29 set up and no, I didn’t even have a kid because I knew of different tax strategies I could take advantage of with a 5 29 that a lot of people did not know.

Scott:
How about your debt? How much of that did you chunk down over this five year, five or six year period as well?

Marc:
Yeah, so from 2012 to maybe 2017, I would say that I have it somewhere, but I want to say I probably by the time 2018 came up, I paid off my car and I only had my credit card debt left. And also my student loan debt, I probably had 30,000 left from 2018 to 2020. Okay. So

Scott:
You made a choice then it sounds like to invest rather than pay off the debt. Can you walk us through that philosophy and how that guided your decision making and what you chose to put your money into instead of paying down the debt?

Marc:
Yeah, definitely. So one thing I did not want is to become debt-free, and my goal was to be debt-free by 2020, not knowing the pandemic was going to happen, but debt-free by 20 and also have a retirement account. And I mentioned that at Vanguard, they were great with benefits. So one thing that Vanguard offered was 10% of your salary would go towards your 401k every quarter, which again, I didn’t know what that meant when I was at Vanguard. But then afterwards when I realized that benefit, I was like, oh my god, this is amazing. So that was basically the extent of me investing was making sure I had enough money in my 401k. Vanguard also had the match, so I’m putting that money away. I wanted make sure when I was debt-free, I also had an investing account, but yeah, wanted to make sure I had a balance between paying off debt and then also investing with my retirement. So I had enough or I had at least the money that I put away for retirement by the time that I became debt-free. Stay

Amanda:
With us when we’re back from a quick break. Mark will reveal to us his three money rules that guide his financial decision making. Welcome back to the BiggerPockets Money podcast. And then I have a question. Okay. You are balancing the debt payoff and the investing. You are talking to a lot of rich people. I feel like maybe some of us don’t have a lot of rich people that we can just ask these types of questions to. So what would you say was the common theme when you worked in these different departments? You’re talking to wealthy people, whether they’re parents, grandparents, what would you say are three common themes that they would say of how they built their wealth or how they basically got to the point that they were at that time?

Marc:
Yeah, so I think there’s a lot of different avenues that you can go within the three routes. So number one was knowing where your money was going. That was number one. I think a lot of people, we spend money and I think we hope to know where money is going throughout the month, but a lot of us don’t even know how much we spent over the last 24 hours. So number one, understanding where your money is going I think was number one. Number two is definitely paying down your debt, especially your consumer debt. I understand mortgages and leverage, if you will, but paying down that consumer debt, paying down your credit cards, paying down any personal loans that you might have could basically increase your overall discretionary income. And then number three, most all the people that I’ve talked to, they will always say, have a side hustle, have a different business on side, whatever it might be.
That way you can increase your discretionary income and then you can invest. That’s basically the formula that I think so many people make so difficult knowing where your money’s going, paying down your expensive debt, I should say. And then also increasing your overall income. That was the overall strategy, how you go about doing all three of those. It really depends on who you are and what makes you happy. I mean, we’re all creators online, but for some people it might be, I was just talking to my barber not too long, and he’s trying to build his own barbershop and he doesn’t like anything about being online or being a creator. So whatever that might look like for you, I say go after it. But those are the common themes.

Scott:
So we come out of Vanguard, we still have a little bit of debt left, a couple years go by with two additional firms. And then you transition to business. And I want to set the stage here, and you correct a bias I have around this, but I have seen a lot of business owners go into business after accumulating a financial position that gives them a nice cushion that they feel comfortable with. That’s not always the case, and there’s plenty of exceptions, but what was your situation? Was that something you intended to do or did you build a cushion in order to go into entrepreneurship a few years

Marc:
Ago? Yeah, I would say that the cushion would be that I had a fairly high discretionary income. Being that I had a decent salary, I never really made six figures, but I didn’t spend that much. And because of that and because I didn’t have that much debt, it makes it so much easier. At the end of the day, the number, that number that you’re trying to hit, I’m trying to think what the correct word is, but the number you’re trying to hit is basically how much can you pay for your living expenses, maybe plus a thousand or two. So once you hit that and you have enough money for 3, 4, 5 months, that’s entrepreneurship. But basically as you make sure that you have enough money accumulated per month in order to put food on the table. But for me, I mean starting off, I didn’t even think that I would even become an entrepreneur.
It was very much a hobby. I thoroughly enjoyed being online and teaching people personal finance, and I wanted to get to the point where I wasn’t making millionaires multimillionaires. I wanted people that came from my background or look like me. I wanted them to understand the basics, budgeting, paying off debt, investing, how to build a business. So a lot of times when people are like, Hey, what was your strategy for building a business? I’m like, I fell into it in a way. I accidentally built better wallet in a way. So when 2018 2019 rolled around, that’s when I started thinking, okay, well how can I take all these tips and things I’ve learned from the school of hard knocks and college and working at these Wall Street firms? How can I take all of that and help the average person do all the things? So I did what any millennial would do and go online and start talking about it.
But at first it was on my personal page and all my friends who are very, I use the word candid with me, said, Hey, I don’t want to learn anything about this stuff. You should take it and put it on a different platform. I was like, you know what? I’m just going to go and I’m going to put it on a different page. I took one of my old pages that I had and just transitioned it to Better Wallet, and I would just go and document my own journey, but also adding in different tips of things that I learned. The first person that followed was my auntie, and every time I posted, she would leave a comment on the bottom, good job, mark, you’re doing a great job. And I’m like, thanks auntie. And then that went from one person at 10 to a hundred to a thousand and kind of took off from there, especially with the help of the pandemic.
And again, as I mentioned, I kind of slipped into this whole business thing because once you start building digital products and those products do very well, you have to get recordkeeping, bookkeeping, then you have to protect your name, you have to get the trademarks, and then you look back and you say, wow, I have everything that you would want within a business. But I happened to be managing the business and my nine to five at the same time. And then at a certain point, I had a conversation with a friend that’s very near and dear to Amanda and I, and she was like, mark, how much money are you making? I told her, and she was like, you don’t need to work your nine to five anymore. Have you considered making a jump? And I was like, I don’t know anything about being a full-time entrepreneur. I worked so hard to become this executive at this FinTech firm. And she was like, you can always go back if it doesn’t work out. And after that conversation, I went back to, went back to my boss and told him, Hey, I’m playing my two weeks and then three years later we’re here now.

Amanda:
Yeah, that is crazy. Especially I feel like becoming a business owner, it sounds like so sexy in theory, but it’s also really scary. So how did it feel going from the instability growing up and sometimes not even knowing where your next meal is going to come from? Then you get interviewed and you get a job at this little place called Vanguard where now you have a lot of stability and then you go into entrepreneurship where you’re back to instability. The growth potential of course is huge, but how did that feel like, especially those first few months or even that first year being a full-time business owner and leaving the nine to five to focus solely on that?

Marc:
Yeah, I would say it was probably the common theme of my life. I, I’ve never felt stable in any form or fashion. When you’re in foster care, you don’t feel stable, you don’t have a family. Then even after five years after foster care, you always think to yourself, well, they can just give me a way maybe, and you’re constantly trying to please people in order for them to like you. And then in college, it was never all four years I could have got kicked out any year. I ended up getting kicked out freshman year. And even at Vanguard, it was like I never felt like I belonged in a way because no one looked like me. No one on the senior executive team looked like me. Luckily I had some great mentors that put me underneath their wing. But I would probably say the first time that I felt stable was when I owned everything where I can control the income that’s coming in, I can control who’s working with me, who I decide to partner with.
And I would say creating better wallet and making that jump has definitely made me think to myself, man, I feel like more people should do this, especially if they feel instability in their life. Even working in finance, you are always constantly worried that you’re going to get laid off. I’m not going to get laid off from my own company. You just work harder and build different products and then next thing you know, you have enough money to pay yourself. So I would say it went from, I guess, 29 years of having instability to the last, what, three or four years of being stable because you can control everything that’s around you for the most part.

Scott:
Can you give us a little bit of an overview of the trajectory of the business? Has it, and maybe in relative terms has replaced, surpassed on the path to surpassing the income that you were generating from work a few years back, or how is it going?

Marc:
Yeah, no, it’s going really well. I mean, the first year, first full year, I surpassed my full-time salary and I put a lot of time and energy into it. It was also the pandemic and everything, so I had nothing but to work on the business last year was a phenomenal year, and then this year should be God willing in a million dollar year given how the first few months have gone. So it’s definitely taking off beyond my wildest nature. I don’t know of people that have, well, I know people now on the internet, but personally growing up I didn’t know of anyone who had a million dollar business or got paid million dollar in their throughout a year. So it’s all about just staying grounded and focusing on the end mission. I think, and Amanda knows this of me where this is probably one of the first time that I ever even publicly talked about how much money the company brings in.
I am trying to be better with it because there’s a lot of people out there that on the same journey and they need to hear that for motivation and inspiration and knowing that they can do it. But I’ve always never talked about it mostly because of my upbringing at Vanguard where Vanguard was really big and Jack Bogle, the late Jack Bogle would always mention that money is just a byproduct of doing the right thing. We very rarely, even the management positions, we never talk about how much money was coming into Vanguard even though they were making millions, billions of dollars when I was there, $4 trillion under management and maybe once or twice of my five years of being there. Did we ever talk about that? It would always be how can we improve the client experience? How can we make sure we’re doing right by the people? How can we give people a fair chance at financial success? That’s literally their mission statement. And I definitely have that at the core of what we do at Better Wallet, where it’s like, how can we make sure everyone’s good? And if money comes in, that’s great. If we have enough money to eat, that’s great. And then everything else is icing on top of the cake.

Scott:
So I want to backtrack a second here and go to the start of the business journey. You put in your two weeks notice, what do your expenses look like at this point in time? How frugally are you living and did that have any correlation with your confidence in just going out on your own with your business?

Marc:
Oh yeah, definitely. A lot of my confidence came from the fact that I didn’t spend that much. So at the time living in Philadelphia had a nice apartment, not too nice, but after paying off all my debt, so kind of giving you guys the timeline, so pay off my debt July of 2020. I didn’t leave my full-time job until November of 2021. So I had a full year of not having really any debt, which took up a lot of my income. And that allowed me to not only put some money away, but also just consider the fact that I could leave my job. So that was really helpful. In terms of expenses, I was probably spending 3,500 per month with that 3,500. You multiply that by three months, and I had that kind of put away and I said, okay, well if I make the jump, chances are unless I have a really, really bad month, I’m going to be able to make that up per month. At that point, I want to say I was making like 15,000 per month and just profit. So I thought it would be totally fine. And then that number continued to increase and my expenses haven’t really increased all too much. I mean, Georgia renting is more expensive, I would say, if you want to live in a decent area. So that’s something you had to weigh up. But same car still no debt, maybe a little bit more like business expenses, but otherwise, same old G, same old guy from Philadelphia is the same one that’s down here.

Amanda:
Yeah, so Mark is six two and I think we were talking like last summer, and he’s not even splurging for Economy plus. So this man is tall and he is stuffing himself back and just a regular old plane seat. So I feel like he takes frugality to the next level. He is a seven figure business owner and sitting in regular economy at six two. So wanted to add that

Marc:
In. It’s something where if I’m on a longer flight and I’m learning, I’m learning, I’m learning to appreciate Comfort Plus at least, but it’s one of those type of things. If I’m on a shorter flight, when last week I flew up to Pittsburgh and it was only an hour and a half, I’m like, I can do economy, that’s totally fine. By the time we are in the air, we’re going to be in the air for a half an hour, we’ll be coming back down. But if I’m to California, I definitely pay for Comfort. Plus now it’s really difficult for me to wrap my head around getting first class because Comfort Plus is enough. But again, a lot of stuff comes from my upbringing. My dad wasn’t a fancy guy, he just, everyone knew who he was, everyone respected him. He was the coolest guy in my entire town, and he didn’t have to wear the Gucci, he didn’t have to have a fancy car or whatever. So a lot of that I still have instilled into me, but I have a lot of rich friends now, so they are encouraging me to spend more money on things that can make my life a little bit more comfortable. So that’s one area where I’m looking or hoping to expand in the future without going overboard.

Scott:
Well, mark, where can people find out more about you?

Marc:
Yeah, definitely. So you can find me really anywhere where you see Better Wallet. So Better Wallet and all social media channels outside of Twitter. Twitter is the Better wallet.com, we’re working on that. Or I should say The Better Wallet is the screen name and then Better Wallet and on all other things. And you can also find me at The Better Wallet, the Better wallet.com. So send me a dm. I would love to get to know whoever’s listening personally. I’m really big on, if you walk into someone’s house, you have to say hi. So send me a DM and introduce yourself, and I look forward to help you reach your financial goals.

Scott:
Awesome. Well, thank you so much for sharing your awesome story here. Congratulations and all the success you’ve had and all the challenges that you’ve overcome on your journey so far. And I can’t wait to see what comes next and what you do over the next 10 years.

Marc:
Thank you. Appreciate it. Thank you for having me on.

Scott:
Alright, that wraps up this episode of the BiggerPockets Money Podcast. She is Amanda Wolf, AKA, the she wolf of Wall Street, and I’m Scott Trench saying, see you next time.

Outro:
BiggerPockets Money was created by Mindy Jensen and Scott Treach, produced by Hija Ed, by Exodus Media Copywriting by Nate Weinraub. And lastly, a big thank you to the BiggerPockets team for making this show possible.

 

 

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Note By BiggerPockets: These are opinions written by the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions of BiggerPockets.



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