How To Get Unstuck and Build a Life You Love, with Grant Sabatier
Welcome to The MapleMoney Show, the podcast that helps Canadians improve their personal finances to create lasting financial freedom. I’m your host, Tom Drake, the founder of MapleMoney, where I’ve been writing about all things related to personal finance since 2009.
Are you feeling stuck in a rut when it comes to your career or your finances? It happens to a lot of us. The good news is that you have options, you can regain traction and begin moving forward.
My guest this week knows all about feeling stuck. Grant Sabatier is the founder of Millennial Money and author of the Financial Freedom Book. This is Grant’s second appearance here on the show, and he’s come prepared, with ways to help you get unstuck with your money and your career.
Grant’s story has been well circulated. At age 24, laid off from his 2nd job and deeply in debt, he found himself living back at home with his parents. Feeling as though he had hit rock bottom, and with only a couple of dollars in his bank account, he made the decision to do something about it, after reading a couple of transformative books on personal finance.
He resolved to get back on his feet and save 1 million dollars within 5 years. He achieved that goal, and through his blog and book he’s made it his mission to help others obtain financial freedom.
Grant recommends looking at your life through a more holistic lens. Try not to let a difficult work situation distract you from the life you already have. That’s not to say you can’t make a pivot at work, however. There is a lot of value to a 9-5 career, but it’s important to remember that most businesses are making loads of money on your time.
That’s not to say there aren’t great jobs and businesses out there. While entrepreneurship was the vehicle Grant used to gain financial freedom, many people are better off remaining in the workforce, and pivoting to a new career or company. The good news is, you can make a career change. The idea that you have to stay in the same job for decades is old-school thinking, so never be afraid to make a move.
Our sponsor, Wealthsimple, believes that financial independence should be available to anyone. That’s why they have no account minimums, meaning that you can get started investing for as little as one dollar. Don’t delay any longer, invest online by visiting Wealthsimple today.
- How Grant saved $1.25 million in 5 years
- The books that changed how Grant thought about money
- Success comes easier if you’re doing something you love
- Why entrepreneurship is not for everybody
- What prompted Grant to leave New York
- Grant’s advice for those who feel stuck
- If you want a different job, don’t be afraid to pivot
Are you feeling stuck in a rut when it comes to your career or your finances? It happens to a lot of us. The good news is that you have options. You can regain traction, begin moving forward and build a life you love. My guest this week knows a lot about feeling stuck. Grant Sabatier is the founder of Millennial Money and author of the Financial Freedom Book. This is Grant’s second appearance here on the show and he’s come prepared with ways to help you get unstuck with your money and your career.
Welcome to the Maple Money Show, the podcast that helps Canadians improve their personal finances to create lasting financial freedom. Our sponsor, Wealthsimple, believes that financial independence should be available to anyone. That’s why they have no account minimums, meaning you can get started investing for as little as one dollar. Don’t delay any longer. Invest online by visiting maplemoney.com/wealthsimple today. Now, let’s chat with Grant…
Tom: Hi, Grant, welcome to the Maple Money Show.
Grant: Glad to be back.
Tom: Back in Episode 19 (people can find that episode at maplemoney.com/019) we kind of covered your past. You went from two dollars and some odd change to million dollars. Can I just quickly recap that for people? What did it look like from that point to the million dollars?
Grant: Yeah, it’s a pretty simple story. When I was 24, I’d bounced around four different jobs, got laid off twice, hadn’t saved any money. I was actually in over $20,000 of credit card debt so I didn’t have any money. I couldn’t pay my rent so I had to move back home with my parents and literally sleep in the same bed I slept in as a 7-year-old kid. I was 24, living at home, thinking about life, questioning money. Why didn’t I have any money? Why was I so stressed? Why was everyone stressed about money? And I noticed for the first time that my parents had gotten older and a lot of the dreams that they had had and talked about throughout their life, they hadn’t accomplished. And some of them they no longer had. I couldn’t imagine working for the next 40 years sitting in a cubicle. There has to be some other way. But when I started writing down what I had been taught about money and then actually researching it, I realized a lot of what I’d been taught about money was either wrong or actually outdated. There were a number of books I read like, Your Money or Your Life and Automatic Millionaire that really just completely changed how I thought about money. I made it my sole goal to try to save $1 million as quickly as possible—not make, but actually save. I realized I would need a better skill set, a higher, in-demand, skill set so I taught myself how to run Google AdWords campaigns. I got Google certified for free and then got a job at a digital marketing agency making $52,000 a year and immediately started saving over 50 percent of my income. Then I realized I wasn’t going to get there as quickly working for someone else. I needed to find a way to manage my own time and build my own company. So that’s what I did. I left after a year and started my own business. Then started a second business with two previously successful entrepreneurs and scaled those up. It ended up taking me five years, three months and a couple of days from the day that I moved out of my parents’ house to reach financial independence. I’d gone from about $2.26 in my bank account to $1.5 million in that time period and reached financial independence shortly after turning 30.
Tom: That’s great. I love the point you made about actually saving $1 million because everybody is going to make $1 million in their lifetime pretty much. But by that time it’s all gone to taxes and spending. I’ve seen people that with high, regular, day job salaries who have no money because of their lifestyle, inflation, and everything. It just seems like they spend it all the way. So while you were making this money were you pretty conscious about reducing expenses as well?
Grant: I was testing the philosophy I learned from the book, Your Money or Your Life where the whole idea was to cut back as much as you can and then try to make as much money as you can so you have more to invest. I was sold on the idea that investing was making money in your sleep. In fact, $1 I had saved at 25-years-old was worth far more than $1 I would save at 35-years-old. So I really caught on to the idea; save as much as you can and let that money start growing for you. Just this morning I looked at my portfolio and I’d made over $38,000. The market’s only been open 2 ½ hours and I didn’t work a single hour today. All those gains are from money I invested back in 2010, 2011, 2012. It’s continued to grow and compound. So the strategy does work. It’s like anything in life. I actually made it my entire focus. It was my sole focus. There was no saying, “I’m going to go out and have drinks with my friends.” Every day I was waking up thinking about how I could make more money and how to invest. I knew the expenses piece was so important. I had to control the outflow of money so I bought an $800 Nissan Maxima off of Craigslist. I rented a $700 a month apartment that my girlfriend (now wife) wouldn’t even go over and hang out in. She thought my apartment was so crappy. Even when I was making over $300,000 a year, I still drove this crappy car. My mom would make fun of me. People just could not understand it. If I were making such great money why wouldn’t I have a nicer car? I actually did buy a nicer car. I bought a Lexus once I had saved $1 million as a personal reward to myself.
Tom: Nice. There is a book called, The Secret. Normally, I can’t stand the concept but if anyone comes as close to manifesting success—it’s what I’ve seen in you over the past couple years since our last episode. You say you’re going to do something and then it happens. Is it just The Secret? Or is it a determination in you?
Grant: That’s a really great question for this moment because I would have laughed at The Secret. The older I get and the more success I’ve had, the less I believe I’m in control of that. And what I mean by that is, obviously, I took the steps to do it. But there’s a fair amount of sort of being in the right place at the right time with the right idea and then matching that with determination. I always like to say that it’s so much easier making money and achieving success if you’re doing something you love. This is one of the things about personal finance and personal finance content; I would not have worked as hard on my book or on the website if I didn’t love this topic. I absolutely love personal finance in my heart. It gets me excited. I love writing about it. And honestly, the money, success and growing of the blog—I just happened to be lucky that the thing that I really enjoy, you can make money doing. When I launched Millennial Money, I had no idea you could make money blogging or how you could make money blogging. It was just happenstance in that case. And also, I used to be just kind of “all in my own head.” I used to overthink everything, get really anxious and really worried. The more that I’ve transitioned from letting my head drive to letting my intuition, energy and just listening to myself and following paths I think will be cool in things I love, the more success I have. Without a doubt. I think our intuitions, once we can tap into them, are everything. I think they’re so much more intuitive. I think there’s a collective energy that exists that we’re able to tap into if we pay attention to it. Meditating has changed my life and a lot of ways over the last five years. If you have a “pull” and really want to do something, that’s the hint. You should go do that thing. We often try to convince ourselves not to do all those things or people tell us not to do it or we overthink it. But if you feel like you should be doing something, that is your intuition telling you that you should. That’s the case for me. When I feel like I should be doing something, I usually do it. And that tends to be what’s led to success.
Tom: A couple times on this podcast, I’ve said how people shouldn’t necessarily start a blog because it’s hard to make money in the first 6 months. You have to have the passion for it. But going further down the road, to have that passion makes it so much easier. It doesn’t feel like work. I will spend 40 or more hours a week online doing the blog, social media, these podcasts, and everything else. I know my kids often find that I’m busy, but I do try to get it across to them that it’s not really work when it’s something you like. I don’t want them thinking that I have to be down in my office working all the time. Sometimes it’s just my hobby. It just happens to be a hobby that makes money. If I have some spare time, instead of watching TV, I might just tinker and change something on a website or something like that. I’m always staying busy with it but it is out of passion, not just a sense of duty that it’s a job and it’s what you have to do.
Grant: Yeah, you have to love it. I spend a fair amount of time planning my moves and I think a lot of people rush into things maybe too quickly where they don’t really understand what they’re getting into. One of the best things you can do in business and a lot of areas of your life is spend more time listening and watching before you plan your move. When Millennial Money blew up, a lot of people were wondering how the heck that happened. What had I done for that to happen? By that time, I had spent 1,000 hours working on the website and countless hours thinking about what was different about my approach. And probably even more time than that was spent looking what everyone else was doing. That’s the thing, everyone often jumps in and that’s fine. You can get your feet wet. But, if you’re not successful, you’ve got to pull back. Even before you dive in, analyze what everyone else is doing. I probably know more about personal finance, blogging and blogs than anyone on Earth. Well, maybe not. But I can tell you, how any website has changed over the last six years since I’ve been watching it. I don’t do this much anymore but I still do a fair amount. I just spend massive amounts of time analyzing other websites and getting to know them. I can tell you the posts they write, what they’ve changed, what they’ve done and how bloggers have changed and who ranks for what, and how that’s changed. It’s just better to know “the market” or your competitors. The easier it is to find your path because it starts to become clear when you’re steeped in that information. You might find that something someone else is doing is something you should be doing too. Also, if no one’s doing these other things, you shouldn’t either. Knowing your market, what makes you distinct, knowing the opportunities makes all the difference because a lot of people just get out and do the same thing as everyone else and find they’re not successful. The reason why is because they don’t really understand or they haven’t found their path.
Tom: The idea of doing what you love sounds great. It’s often connected to going out and doing your own thing, starting your own business. Can this apply to regular careers as well? I see people that are truly in jobs they hate. That doesn’t necessarily mean you have to go do your own thing and start a business. Maybe it’s just time to find that right fit for them. What would you suggest if someone that maybe doesn’t have an entrepreneurial spirit but know they’re in a job they hate, what can they do to find something where they actually want to do that job?
Grant: Yeah, that’s another great question. I actually think entrepreneurship is definitely not for everybody. It really sucks in a lot of ways because you have to take a lot of risk and you’ve got to spend a lot of time. If you’re not willing to put in a lot of time doing whatever you’re going to do (whether you love it or not) you’re just not going to be successful as an entrepreneur. You have to be willing to put in the time and the effort. And as you mentioned, it’s a lot easier to do if you love it. It’s also a lot easier to do if you don’t care about the outcome because it’s a hobby and you’re enjoying it. There are tons of ways to get value from something beyond money in terms of the connections you make and the information you learn. I always wished that I had a full-time job that I loved. That was something that seemed really cool. I know a lot of people that love their full-time work. My best friend works at the EPA and he absolutely loves his job. He gets government benefits. He literally can’t work from home very well because they restrict access to certain systems so he’s not checking his email at 7:00 p.m. He loves his life. It’s perfect and he’s set for life. He loves his job and loves making a difference. I always wished that I could find something like that. I just wasn’t that lucky. And I tried. I searched a long, long time to find a job like that. It’s like anything. It always takes some time to make money doing something you love. Whether you’re an entrepreneur or in your full-time job. And that’s the thing… Say you like vintage watches. You read all the blogs and just love it. You have such a passion for it but you’re working in IT at a company so you can never imagine working in the vintage watch trade. Well, first off, if you don’t believe you can, it’s not going to happen. You have to get out and get yourself near people who are in the industry you want to work in. By going to vintage watch shows and writing your own blog, it’s the perfect way to do this. Start creating content around the topic you love because that naturally connects you to people who are also interested in it. Then you start becoming an expert where all of a sudden, you’re in IT with a watch blog on the side. And you never know, in four years maybe Christie’s Auction House reaches out to you saying, “Hey, we love your blog. We’d love for you to be a consultant for us and write for our website.” Then you start writing them and a year down the road they say, “Geez, you know so much about vintage Rolex watches, come work for us. There is a job that just opened up.” So because you created a blog, it’s possible that in a few years you might be working at one of the top auction houses in the world in a field that is your true passion. There are stories like that everywhere, in every single career. You just have to move in that direction. You just have to make that slight pivot.
Tom: That’s a great point. We had Ashley Barnett on the show and she kind of changed my mind about starting a blog for that reason; you could get other jobs from it. Sometimes a blog just leads to other jobs. It gives you that experience.
Grant: You connect with the people you want to chat with. I had Kevin O’Leary, a Canadian from Shark Tank, on my podcast. I would never in a million years have imagined that I would be able to have a conversation with him. But just starting a blog and building a platform I was able to have that awesome conversation. And I also made a great connection that could pay dividends down the road. I’ve met some of my best friends through doing this. The value of creating a blog—the personal and emotional benefits have far exceeded the financial benefits. I’ve made a lot of money blogging. It’s made my life better.
Tom: Another thing I wanted to cover was how you’ve moved a couple times. I’d like to go into why you make those decision because for me and my family, moving’s a big deal. It’s something we want to do as little as possible. So let’s start with the first one. Why did you move to New York? What set that up?
Grant: I went to college in Chicago when I was 18 and then I moved back home with my parents when I was 24 and lived there for about 6 months. Then I moved back to Chicago because my girlfriend was there. I lived in Chicago (minus 6 months) for 14 years, most of my adult life. My wife really loves New York. I like the idea of just moving somewhere different. It was one of those things where a lot of paths crossed at one time. We wanted to leave Chicago. I had a book coming out. Obviously, New York’s the center of finance and media for the world so being in New York, where you can just do interviews, meet other people and do the things you like to do was a no-brainer. It was also for my wife. I’m financially independent and have retired early but my wife is a professor and is really kind of at the beginning of her career and a lot of cases because academia takes a long time. She’s kind of on the upswing in her career and I’m on the downswing. She got an opportunity to teach in New York so everything kind of aligned so we decided to do it. We packed up and moved there. New York was a lot more intense and a lot more expensive. And New York’s a thing, man. It was just starting to feel like home. It was great launching the book there. I had a lot of friends and a lot of great experiences. But it was somewhere after a couple of years, both my wife and I realized it would be really hard to live in the city raising a family, long-term. The tradeoffs you have to make—everything in New York is about 40 percent more expensive and more challenging. That’s why we recently moved to Ohio.
Tom: So what’s up with that again? I’ve got to say, with New York, I love the reasoning. One, your wife is growing her career but it also benefited your career just to get to the next step. Now, you’ve moved again to Ohio. Were there similar reasons? I know, personally, you’re liking the more laid-back lifestyle there but what were the reasons for moving there?
Grant: Very similar in a way. I love New York. I will always love New York. I wish I would have lived in New York when I was 25, not 35. I feel like I just didn’t cut it in New York, honestly. I love going there and I love the people I’ve met. But there’s an immense amount of energy you kind of have to want to be a part of. And I found that pretty exhausting after a while. I like to work hard. I’m competitive. I’m intense. But it wore me out in a way where I thought it place could legitimately kill me on a number of levels. I also realized that I’ve been going pretty hard for a decade. I’ve gotten a lot out of life. But what I haven’t done is chilled out and just kind of enjoyed the fruits of my labor. I realized, ironically, through this process that the things I love most in life tend to be pretty inexpensive or even free. I really like reading books to the extent that if I find a topic that I’m interested in, I just love going down the rabbit hole so I’ll order a bunch of books on Amazon or go to the bookstore and just read to my heart’s content. I follow the paths. And I’ve had so much fun doing that. I’ve learned so much. I learned so quickly. And so I love that. I probably spend 30 hours a week just sitting on my front porch in my hammock or on my couch reading. I mean, just straight up—very simply. It makes me really happy and I learn a lot. I’m such a nerd in that way. And it’s the same with writing. Things I really enjoy are pretty inexpensive. You can kind of do them anywhere. So it’s like, “Why do I need to be paying so much living in New York, doing these?” And my wife also got her dream job opportunity as well. I was complaining about New York quite a bit (in some cases) so she also realized it would be hard to stay there. Once again, it was just a pivot. Now she has her dream job. She’s teaching two classes and stays super busy while I get to lay in my hammock. Sometimes she bothers me saying, “Why do you just lay in that hammock all day?” But hey, I feel like I’ve earned it so I’m going to enjoy it. It’s funny. It’s like that retirement image where you always see a guy in a hammock. Hammock’s are pretty nice.
Tom: So, now you’re lying around in a hammock. It sounds a lot more relaxed and it’s cheaper as well. When you’re online and your wife has the right job for her, then why live in New York? I don’t mean to hate on places like New York. Here in Canada it’s always Toronto and Vancouver. I’ve struggled with this too, seeing if I could find somewhere that’s maybe cheaper—also warmer. That would be nice but there’s only so many options I have here in Canada so it’s tough. I might have to end up on Vancouver Island at some point.
Grant: Where you live is beautiful, man.
Tom: Oh, it is nice. And that’s part of the problem. Actually, it’s one of the cheaper areas and the weather’s not that bad. So even though I find myself constantly looking, it’s hard to beat it. I’ll probably just be stuck here for a while. Just to give people some motivation at the end here what would you suggest if someone is sort of stuck in a rut? Maybe they’re in career they don’t like? What should they do first? What’s that next step to find something they love?
Grant: I think the first thing you should do is just take stock of your life. Be honest with yourself about where you’re at, your job, your career is just one part of life. A lot of people are really stressed in their job. They’re stressed about money and it’s kind of all they can think about. But I encourage people to look at your life more holistically. If you live in a place you love and you love your family, your kids, your friends… Maybe you’ve got a poker game every Thursday night with your neighbors that is really awesome and makes you happy. Maybe you’ve already kind of won the game. Maybe your job’s just a job that helps fund these things but don’t let the job and the stress from it distract you from the things you already have and the life you already have. If you feel you want more for your kids or you want to move somewhere else or want to grow as a person—be more stimulated with your work, make sure you take stock of your life first. And be grateful for what you already have. Then use that as a position of strength to think about the tradeoffs you’re willing to make. First off, every company is different, but most companies are built on making money off you. They’re legal pyramid schemes. I’ve always said this; the guy at the top that owns the company, they’re trying to make money off of your time. So remember that it’s a business. You’re a part of a business. Every single company is different.
There are amazing jobs out there and amazing bosses and amazing companies. You might just have to make a pivot and look for those. If you really like the industry that you’re in, that’s great. That’s a bonus. Just try to make a lateral move to a different company by contacting recruiters in your industry, reaching out on LinkedIn, just getting out there and trying to see what else is available. We live in a time where talent is in high demand, especially if you’ve got a pretty good skill set. Use that to your advantage. It often cost employers 40 to 60 percent of your annual salary to replace you so they don’t want to lose you. If they feel like they might lose you, they might just give you a raise if money is the issue. But if you want a different job, don’t be afraid to pivot. A lot of people make the mistake thinking that staying in a place for a year or two is a mistake and they don’t want that on their resumé but that’s old-school mindset. If you’re unhappy, you should move and get a different job. Even if you start a job and you’re unhappy leaving after a couple of months, it’s completely normal in today’s environment. Just be honest and open when you’re interviewing with a new company by saying, “Hey, it just wasn’t a right fit.” Often, employers are increasingly appreciating that sort of self-awareness. They want it to be a good fit for you and a good fit for them. Everyone’s kind of looking for that right fit. But you got to get out there and start testing things. If you’re in an industry that you don’t like and you want to be in a new industry, don’t be afraid to take a pay cut. Just try to get as close as you can to that other industry you want to be in. You might have to restart and go in at a lower level but that is going to help position you for more happiness over the long-term because you’re in an industry you like. You’ve got to get in and learn the ropes. I don’t recommend spending years and years at the entry level but get in and test it out. When I worked at a digital marketing agency (and when I had my own agency) some of our best employees were people who were on their second or third career. Probably one of our best sales people was a guy in his mid-50s who never worked in digital marketing at all. He took these old-school kind of skill sets and brought them into a younger agency. He said, “I just know digital is a thing and I want to learn about it. And I want to be here.” He completely started at a much lower level because he didn’t know anything about digital but learned an immense amount. That was 6 or 7 years ago and now he’s immensely successful. He’s executive vice president at one of the top agencies in the world, making tons of money. And that’s just because he was able to humble himself, make a big pivot and get out of that old-school marketing and do a new thing. And he’s had a lot of fun doing it. So don’t be afraid to make that pivot and take that risk. And also, the last thing is, don’t sell yourself short. Life’s too short to not have a job you love. A lot of us have an irrational amount of fear that we’re not going to be able to make enough money to keep a roof over our head. But, if you’re smart and dedicated and you’re hungry, you’re going to be able to go out there and find a job that you love. It just might take a little while. It literally took me four jobs, getting laid off twice, to find an industry that I liked. Then realized I didn’t like working for other people so I became an entrepreneur. But even when I was an entrepreneur, I got full-time job offers. Even today, I sometimes get full-time job offers. It’s attractive. Not having to chase down payments and vendors and have employees, contractors. Just to go to work for someone else; get your paycheck, your benefits, clock out at the end of the day. There’s a lot to be said for that but you’ve got to take the risk. Everything’s on the other side of fear. And oftentimes, our fear is just irrational. If you want something, you either have to go after it or just come to terms with the fact that you’re not going to have it.
Tom: I love it. Thanks for being on the show. Can you tell people where they can find you online and what you’ve been up to?
Grant: Yeah, if you want to learn more about my story and my journey and really dig into the weeds, check out my book, Financial Freedom. Just search Financial Freedom book on Google or Amazon. It’s the first one that comes up. That goes really deep into everything I’m talking about like optimizing your career, your life, happiness—all of that. You can check me out on Instagram, @millennialmoney.com, or you can check out Millennial Money, my website. It’s at millennialmoney.com. Check out my podcast, which I’ve kind of relaunched again because I’m doubling down and have a lot of cool guests. You can find that at Financial Freedom Podcast or financialfreedompodcast.com.
Tom: Great. Thanks for being on the show.
Grant: Thanks, man. Good to see you again.
Thank you, Grant, for sharing your story and showing us that it is possible to get out of a money and career rut. You can find the show notes for this episode at maplemoney.com/113. The Canadian Financial Summit is happening in mid-October. This is a virtual summit that features many of Canada’s top experts in the personal finance and investment communities, including yours truly. Closer to the date I will be giving away free tickets to the entire summit. Be sure to get your free ticket. Sign up for my newsletter at maplemoney.com/newsletter and wait the email next month. As always, thanks for listening. I look forward to seeing you back here next week.