Brad is an Accountant & Financial Independence Podcaster
Brad led the outwardly “successful” life into his 20s: Succeeded in school, elite university acceptance, job at a top international accounting firm, CPA designation. But he had no plan other than the standard American narrative. His first year at work he saw what “success” looked like for the firm’s partners — working 80-hour weeks and not taking vacations – so Brad looked for a different path. He and his future wife also had an epiphany: eventually they would want to have kids, but with high pressure jobs in a high cost of living area, they wouldn’t have the time or freedom they desired to spend with those future kids. This led him to the concept of financial independence.
Brad returns to the podcast from episode 50 to update us on his life of Financial Independence and getting his own podcast started!
• Finding a true passion in financial independence
• Starting his podcast
• What financial independence really means
• Living a life of intentionality
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Welcome to Episode 250 of What’s Your “And”? Follow-Up Friday Edition. This is John Garret. Each Friday, I follow-up with a guest who had been on the show a few years ago, to hear what’s new with their passions outside of work and also hear how this message might’ve impacted them since we last talked.
I’m so excited to let everyone know that my book’s going to be published very, very soon. It’ll be available on Amazon and a few other websites. Check out whatsyourand.com for all the details or you can sign-up for my exclusive list and you’ll be the first to know when it’s coming out.
Please don’t forget to hit subscribe to the podcast so you don’t miss any of the future episodes. I love sharing such interesting stories each and every Wednesday and now with the Follow-Up Fridays, it’s been so much fun.
This Follow-Up Friday is going to be no different with my guest, Brad Barrett. He’s the co-host of ChooseFI Podcast and now he’s with me here today. Brad, thanks so much for taking time to be with me on What’s Your “And”?
Brad: Yeah. This should be fun, John. It’s hard to believe it’s been three years since I’ve been on.
John: I know. It’s insane. It’s insane. I mean Episode 50 and now, it’s 250. I mean it’s just wild. I appreciate you coming back, but I changed it up a little bit. Rapid fire questions up front. I hope you’re ready.
Brad: A little bit scared but I’m ready.
John: All right. Here we go. If you had to choose, Harry Potter or Game of Thrones?
Brad: Harry Potter.
John: Cats or dogs?
Brad: Probably cats. I’m not a huge animal fan but we’ll say cats.
John: Okay. All right, if you had to choose, all right. How about a favorite place you’ve been on vacation?
Brad: Oh. We’ll go with Hawaii. My family and I, we just went to Maui this summer so yeah, that was a blast.
John: That’s awesome. Very cool, very cool. This is a tough one. Hamburger or pizza?
Brad: Oh, I’m from Long Island, New York so you know, I have to go with the pizza.
John: There you go, and good pizza we’re going to assume, what’s appropriate. This is another good one. Brownie or ice cream?
Brad: I’m not a sweet guy actually. Brownies, slightly preferable but yeah, you should ask my wife that question, but yeah, I guess we’ll say brownies.
John: All right. How about this? Suit and tie or jeans and a t-shirt?
Brad: Oh, come on. We’re talking about financial independence, I got to go with jeans and a t-shirt.
John: Exactly. The last one. This one maybe is the most important one. Toilet paper roll. Over or under?
John: Over, there it is.
Brad: Definitely over.
John: There it is. Yeah. When we talked on Episode 50 back then, it was mostly about travel rewards and getting those points and using them for the travel which is awesome and that old program that you had built for that. Is that still a big thing or I think it’s transitioned a little bit?
Brad: Yeah. I mean my life has changed dramatically. This is one of the cool parts of What’s Your “And”? It can change, right? Serendipity and just new experiences. I think when talked in late ’16, I was really the travel rewards coach for the financial independence community and just generally. We talked about my site, Travel Miles 101, and the funny thing is, I was on a podcast called the Mad Fientist, so F-I, Fientist for financial independce.
It’s a huge podcast, and this guy named Jonathan was listening to the podcast and he heard me, Brad, talking about financial independence, travel rewards and that I lived in Richmond Virginia, and Jonathan’s like, I’m all of these things.
John: That’s awesome. You’re his doppelganger or something.
Brad: He reached out to me. He’s like hey, let’s grab lunch and for whatever reason, I said yes, sounded like a cool guy. We hung out a couple of times and he had this idea for a podcast. It was centered around financial independence which really has been my passion for the last five plus years but because I was in that travel rewards world, that was something that really worked, it was helping people, it was saving both my family and thousands of people out there, just tons of money. But it wasn’t my true passion. It was really the financial independence aspect.
Jonathan pitched me like, he was a pharmacist. I mean, he literally, when I met him, he worked in a retail pharmacy, big nationwide chain. He’s like, let’s test this out, let’s try the podcast. What’s the worst that happens in essence? I mean we were complete strangers. We had met a couple of times but we thought there was a need out there for kind of more regular podcast in the FI world. It sounds quaint now honestly because there are dozens upon dozens upon dozens of FI-centered podcasts but at that time, there were very, very few. We just thought we could carve out a niche for ourselves.
John: That’s great. So corporate tax manager and a pharmacist get together for lunch and then this happens. That’s great, and based on a shared passion that you both had of financial independence and educating people on how to live that way. That’s really cool. Everyone can listen to ChooseFI. Check it out on your podcast listening device, app of choice, I guess.
Brad: Yeah. I think we have 300 plus episodes to this point. I mean it’s crazy to say this out loud, John, but we are at the point where we’re getting just about a million downloads a month.
John: That’s incredible.
Brad: Insane like one of the top I don’t know 300 or 400 biggest podcasts in the world. This started from nothing. It started from just our spare bedrooms in our houses in suburban Richmond, Virginia.
John: Right, right.
Brad: I mean it’s so wild. It’s so, so wild. To the point where now, ChooseFI has grown so significantly. One thing we realized very early on was community matters. It is everything. People are craving in real life connections and meet ups, probably especially in this digital world. People are really craving that. We created ChooseFI local groups, actually.
John: There you go.
Brad: I think we’re up to about 250 of them in 30 plus countries, 250 cities across the world.
John: That’s awesome.
Brad: Right? People are getting together and forming community around what ultimately is life optimization. That’s how we look at financial independence. It’s not about the boring nuts and bolts of money. I mean that would get really tiresome. It’s about living a better, happier, healthier, more intentional life. I think that’s something that really brings people together and we’ve seen it just remarkably.
John: Yeah, that’s incredible. I mean what a deep meaning there. Like you said, better, happier, more intentional life is incredible. Whatever that looks like for each person, they define it but be intentional about it I think is the most important part.
Brad: Yeah, without a doubt. If you’re at a point now where you’re paycheck to paycheck or just getting by, or even worse, putting things on credit cards, something has to change. You need to get up off the couch and take action and truly be intentional.
Honestly, that’s probably a worst case scenario starting point but even for someone out there who’s making a nice median or above median income, if you’re just kind of keeping up with the Joneses, going along on that hamster wheel as we call it, which is regular life for most white collar employees, for most Americans, it’s just you buy these expensive things to make yourself feel better that you’re working all the time but that you don’t realize it’s a trap because you have to work more to afford the fancy car and the big house. For me, it truly is about being intentional.
It’s maybe for that very first time in your life, sitting down with yourself or your significant other, your spouse, and saying, what do we want our lives to look like and how do we get there? What do we value? Truly, what do we value? If it’s stuff, honestly John, I’m perfectly fine if it’s that fancy car and big house but as long as you’re doing it from that intentionality.
My wife and I decided very early on in our marriage that we didn’t care about cars, we didn’t care about a fancy house, Laura wanted to stay at home with the kids, the future fictional kids at that point honestly.
John: Right, totally.
Brad: And still have a savings rate that could get us to FI. Obviously, that requires some choices. I wouldn’t say sacrifice, but I would say choices. Again, to me, the ultimate luxury in life is my time. I have it in my spades now. It’s because we need those hard choices that to other people might have seen deprivation, but to us, it was the polar opposite of that. It was this goal that we were working on together to reach this place where we can spend our time for the next five or six decades as we see fit. That’s really powerful.
John: That’s super powerful, and I think it’s something that really marries up with the What’s Your “And” message as well of just people feeling like they have to live a certain way or do a certain thing or be a certain somebody that maybe they don’t want to be or they don’t have to be. It’s realizing that you don’t have to do that. You can carve it out your own way which I think is really incredible.
Brad: Yeah, I totally agree. I mean there are these other paths out there. You don’t have to live — this is exactly what you’re talking about with What’s Your “And”? You don’t have to live according to the standard narrative. You get these precious years and decades on this planet, spend it how you want.
Don’t live up to society’s ideals or some other nonsense that’s been stuffed on your throat. Take a step back and figure out what do you want your life to look like and how you get there. You have to make decisions and you have to take action. But again, it’s not my place to tell you what to do but you got to do something because for most people, the regular everyday life just isn’t lightening them up.
John: Within the office, what you’re talking about is more of like outside but you know within the office, it’s conforming to what you think is an accountant supposed to be or I mean I’m sure, when you were a tax manager, there was some of that in your head when you first started your career of well, this is how I guess I’m supposed to act because that’s what I saw in TV or what the manager now does or modelling behavior that you’ve seen. It’s like no, no. You can just be you. You’re the lawyer, the engineer, the IT person. Be you type of thing. Bring that to it and be intentional about that. I think it’s great, man. It’s really awesome.
I guess do you have any words of encouragement? I guess this whole thing was really words of encouragement but specifically for people that are listening that maybe think that hey, maybe — because I mean your travel rewards hobby that you had at the time, the benefits that was that we talked about on Episode 50, but even just in general, hobbies and passions, how they might impact our career or just being intentional about it?
Brad: Yeah. I mean I think for me, and we did talk about this on episode 50. I think at that point, my hobby and passion for travel rewards really did help my career. It can hurt to reiterate this story again which was because I was able to help people in my corporation at that time, help them save money on travel just using comments and strategies with credit card rewards plans, I was able to get on the radar of senior level executives that would’ve never knew I existed.
Even if it’s subconsciously, they think of you as a more valuable person and employee because of that. You’re there to help them. Even just as a tie breaker. Either a positive of promotions, it’s a tie breaker. It’s just humanity. I mean, that’s how we look at the world whether right, wrong, or indifferent, personal relationships matter and they really matter especially in corporate America.
John: That’s so great. Congrats on all the success, man. That’s really awesome that it’s blown up like this and the impact that you’re making on everyone’s lives. That is really cool and getting them to see things a little bit differently. That’s great.
Brad: No, I really appreciate it, John. Thank you.
John: Absolutely, man. It’s only fair since I rapid fire questioned you out of the gate to open it up, if you’d like to ask me any questions, I’m all yours.
Brad: All right. They might not be quite as rapid fire.
John: That’s fine.
Brad: I’ll ask you three of our hot seat questions we ask people on ChooseFI. What is your favorite blog, podcast, or book of all time?
John: Okay. My favorite book is the War of Art by Steven Pressfield. That’s a really, really great book. It’s pretty rare that I recommend books to people but yeah, that one’s probably my favorite.
Brad: Nice. Very cool. I’ve never read it.
John: Oh, you’ve never read it? Oh, yeah.
Brad: It’s interesting. I’ve heard about it repeatedly on the Tim Ferriss Podcast but, unfortunately, I never snagged it at a library, so I think this might be the impetus too.
John: My favorite part of it is micro chapters which is the way I’m writing my book as well. A chapter could be half a page, and you’re like wow, I am a fast reader. Well, no. There’s just not a lot of words, but it’s really impactful. It just gets right to the heart of it. It’s really good.
Brad: That is very cool. All right. Question number two. Your biggest financial mistake.
John: Biggest financial mistake. Oh, man. I guess it would’ve been one year. This was totally stupid. I was going to sell some stock that I had, like an investment, and I waited until the next year because I was like oh, I’ll wait and get the dividends but the amount of dividends that I got versus the amount of tax that I paid in the new year didn’t balance out. That was a pretty bonehead move for sure.
Brad: All right. Well, if that’s your worst financial mistake, that’s not so bad.
John: Well, I’m an accountant on the outside, man. That one type I didn’t use a coupon when I bought something for full price.
Brad: If you’ll indulge me, I’ve got one more. The purchase you made in, let’s say, the last year or year and a half that’s added the most value to your life.
John: Okay. Well, I bought a house. I guess if that matters. It’s pretty cool. My wife and I bought a house in downtown Denver and yeah, it’s been really cool. That was my first time going through that process, what a weird process. Buying a house makes no sense at all to anyone that hasn’t. Then all the realtors are going to email me, no, it makes total sense. No, it doesn’t. You’ll never convince me to that.
Brad: To a CPA’s brain, you see all the utter absurdities and inefficiencies, right?
John: You don’t find out what it’s really worth until the very, very end but that’s when the appraisal comes through. You’re like well, no, nothing else you buy, do you but it and then find out what it’s actually worth after, you know. It makes no sense.
Brad: Maybe healthcare.
John: Maybe healthcare, right. Exactly. But yeah, definitely the house. I guess that was an easy one.
Yeah, and congrats on all your success. This was so much fun, Brad. Thanks for being a part of What’s Your “And”?
Brad: Yeah, awesome, John. This has been a blast. For any of your listeners who are looking to check out ChooseFI, obviously if they’re listening to this podcast, you just subscribe to ChooseFI, and I would suggest starting with Episode 100. That’s our general welcome episode to the FI community.
John: And everyone, if you want to see some pictures of Brad or maybe connect with the podcast or find him on social media, you can go to whatsyourand.com, all the links will be there as well. While you’re on the page, please click that big button and do the anonymous research survey about corporate culture.
Thanks again for subscribing on iTunes or whatever app you use and for sharing this with your friends so they get the message that we’re all trying to spread, that who you are is so much more than what you do.