Today I want to share an “Academy Success Story” with you. My hope is that, with these stories, I can help inspire you to throw out your limiting beliefs, see yourself in a different light, and make the changes you’ve been wanting to make in your life.
This is the story of how Justin Miller, owner of Limitless365.com, turned his life of debt and anxiety into a life of feeling calm and confident about money and his financial situation.
I won’t BS you. This wasn’t a case of rags to riches or anything, much like most of the folks I help with their money.
Justin was doing fairly well on his own and just needed a bit of knowledge and guidance to set him on the right path.
He had a positive cash flow and had a general idea of what he wanted to do. He just wasn’t sure what steps to take to get there. The uncertainty of having so many different options, but just not knowing which one to take, was paralyzing him.
This is actually VERY common, and is known as a paradox of choice. The more options you have, the harder it is to make a decision, especially if you’ve got a shortage of information.
To get through this, Justin really just needed someone to talk to with experience to help him get his facts in order, shape his behaviors and systems, and point him in the right direction.
It took us just a few emails back and forth along with some discovery questions, and then a 60 minute strategy discussion to get on the right track. I also shared my financial checklists with him to walk him through setting up a few automated systems for his goals.
After these initial sessions, Justin did the rest on his own.
Often times all there is to getting yourself in a good financial situation is creating rules for yourself, making a few decisions, setting up your systems, and instilling just a small amount of discipline to follow your guidelines and your plan.
You’ll see how Justin did this in the interview below. My hat goes off to him for doing a great job following the system we created for him.
Here’s how things unfolded along the way, told through a follow-up interview after just a few months. I’ve also summarized some of the lessons you can learn within this piece.
Cody: What was your initial financial situation when your improvement process started, and what is it now?
Justin: Not including school loans I was in about $6,000 worth of debt. I consider it good debt, it was mostly related to a trip around the world and some educational classes related to my business that have really helped me to become a better coach.
However, what led me to contacting you was a huge medical bill that I was hit with (around $10,000). The amount of money that was involved completely drained my finances – it was a good wake-up call that I better start taking them a little more seriously.
I’ve always been sort of free with my money.
Justin mentions that he considers most of his debt “good debt,” and I would agree. Experiences like traveling around the world are important and often unforgettable. Just think of the last time you were with a group of friends.
What did you talk about? All of your stuff, or the life experiences you’ve had? Most likely the latter.
Beyond that, people often automatically assume that all debt is bad. To me, it depends.
If you’re incurring debt to enrich your life, and have it under control, then a little bit of short term and low interest debt can be OK.
But if you’re incurring high interest credit card debt, or never-ending debt just to buy cars, stuff, etc, then you may want to reconsider if being buried under debt your entire life is something you’re OK with.
It’s also important to understand that even if things are going well, anything can happen at any given time. Make sure you are prepared for financial emergencies and don’t be surprised by setbacks. One small event can set you back years if you’re not ready for it.
For example, my appendix ruptured just a few years back. It ended up costing me a few thousand dollars, but if I didn’t have insurance to cover it, I would have been in debt about $35,000
Cody: What were your primary drivers for wanting to improve your finances? What was the most important?
Justin: In all honesty a lot of it has to do with getting a little bit older (34) and wanting to make sure I can be a provider for my family when I eventually have one. I really think there’s a lot of masculine psychology behind that and I was really feeling the pressure and anxiety of it all.
I felt like a failure and not much of a man because my finances were such a mess.
When you’re young, you often don’t think too much about how money will come into play in your future, so it doesn’t affect your mentality that much to be a little bit reckless.
But as you get older and things like buying a house, buying a car, saving for your retirement, increasing your credit score, and supporting a family begin to become a reality, all of the sudden the way you manage your money becomes much more of a concern. This can even have a dramatic effect on your psychology and self-worth as you age.
If you’re young, it’s never too early to think about your financial future. If you’re a little older, don’t let the fact that you may be in a little bit of a hole hold you back.
Cody: How are your emotions about money different than they were when you started this process?
Justin: I feel calm and confident mostly because I have a plan. I’m a bit of a free spirit and plans aren’t really my thing but I have to say that having a plan of action that I am following through with has really helped to relieve a lot of the anxiety and stress I was feeling.
Money is highly emotional, and has a huge effect on how you feel each and every day. Getting your finances under control can be a huge confidence and security boost and can get you in a much better state of mind for your future.
If you’re feeling stressed about your future, getting your money right is one of the largest steps you can take.
Cody: What were the major changes that you made, and how did behavioral science help you make those changes?
Justin: It’s funny really. The changes you asked me to make are very similar to the ones that I ask my fitness and nutrition clients to make.
First, I focused on making one tiny change at a time, something I felt comfortable and confident with – and the changes were set up so that I didn’t have to think about them. Many of them were so simple yet my own psychology kept me from making them.
I opened up a savings account in a separate bank and had an specific amount I felt comfortable with deposited there every week. Having this account in a different bank made it more difficult for me to extract any money (which I have not).
I’ve never been much of a spender as I live a pretty minimalist lifestyle but one thing I did do was put my credit card in a block of ice in the freezer and started paying for everything in cash. It’s too easy to spend mindlessly when we actually don’t see the money being exchanged.
I also removed any credit card or debit card information from websites like amazon so that I could not make any impulse buys. I’m a book worm so ordering books on Amazon with one click is a vice of mine.
I also created Jars. I can’t remember the book I read it in but basically I dedicated a percentage of my income to areas of my life that I value.
- Long term savings
- Freedom fund
- Fun and leisure
The various accounts fund different aspects of my life which has made budgeting easy and convenient. If I don’t have enough money in my education fund then I can’t take a new class, order a book, or pursue a language learning course. I’ll just have to wait until I save up.
The more decisions you have to make, the more difficult it will be to stay disciplined, especially with something like your money. Eliminating as many decisions as possible helps you stay disciplined with the decisions you do have to make, such as avoiding impulse buying, as Justin mentions.
By using financial automation with automatic deposits to drive your savings, you eliminate the possibility that you will miss a deposit. You also force yourself to live on what is left after your deposits, not the other way around.
Additionally, by locating your savings and investing accounts in separate banks and even purely online banks, it makes this money more difficult to access. That way your savings account never becomes a spending account.
Also, by categorizing your savings accounts into named goals, you easily know at a glance how much you have saved for each goal, and you can easily prioritize between them. If you don’t have enough money saved for something, then it’s just going to have to wait until you do. It’s much easier to see what you have saved this way.
Capital One 360 allows you to do this very easily.
Lastly, to eliminate unnecessary spending, make it more difficult on yourself to spend. The ways you can do this are by deleting stored credit card information from online accounts, leaving your credit cards at home, and even going to a cash only system if you need to do so.
Cody: What were your main sticking points with getting started improving your financial situation?
Justin: I simply did not know where to start, which is funny because to start all you really have to do is make one tiny decision and run with it. Looking back all I had to do was make one of those tiny changes that I made but for some reason I just couldn’t. I think what got me to do it was discussing my problems with someone (you) and trusting the opinion of someone much smarter than I am in this particular field (you again).
It’s that damn uncertainty that strikes so much fear in us. Am I doing the right thing? If this doesn’t work then what? Is what I’m doing worth it?
Damn fear 🙂
Sometimes you know what you need to do, but you may not be 100% certain. It often helps to talk to someone who is more experienced to bounce your ideas off of, and just make sure you’re doing the right thing.
Often times, this person will confirm your ideas and even offer improvements on them.
Coaching isn’t always cheap, but the time you save and the experience you gain by paying for it, as well as the massive leaps in progress that coaching can help you make in your life, are often far above and beyond what you end up paying.
Cody: Since you have made your improvements, have there been any unexpected benefits?
Justin: Holy shit yeah. Far less stress for one. I’m also more confident in my relationships. I have always had a difficult time committing and one of the big reasons was because I felt inadequate as a provider.
Again, you hear the emotion in Justin’s response. Think about how often you fall asleep stressing out about money and just telling yourself how much easier things would be if you just had a plan.
Sometimes that security of just having a plan and knowing you’re doing the right things can make all of the difference in the world.
Cody: What is the next step for you now that you’re in a better situation? Are there things you feel are possible that you hadn’t felt were before?
Justin: I have a savings goal of $50K in my long term bank account so my main focus is that.
I feel confident about the savings plan you and I came up with and the strategies to take to reduce any spending – now I’m focusing more on increasing my income and saving more to meet those goals.
Despite what a lot of people think, no one is going to take care of your money for you. If you want to improve your financial situation, set some goals, figure out how to execute them, and set up your systems to get into the situation you want to be in.
If you need a little help, get in touch with me for a one-on-one personal finance coaching strategy session.
Again, I want to publicly congratulate Justin for the strides he has made, and thank him for being open to publishing this interview.
Make sure you swing by Limitless365 and give his website and resources a look. Justin is changing lives daily and may help you change yours.