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Taking An Entrepreneurial Path To Financial Independence

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Joe DiSanto of PlayLouder.com went from being deep in student loan and credit card debt to being financially independent all before turning 45.

Learn how building a 7-figure business and investing in real estate helped him make the transformation on the podcast episode below.

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Joe DiSanto 0:00

If you just want to keep working the way you're working great, you know if you're happy, but if you're not, and you want to maybe work less or change your career or like in our case, we had a kid and we really just want to spend more time with the kid, you know, you would be in a position to do that.

Unknown Speaker 0:16

You're listening to the wedding to wealth Podcast, where you'll hear real stories from real people who are on the path to building real wealth. These stories will show you how to earn more money, pay off debt, start investing, and make better money choices so you can build wealth for your future. Now, here's your host, Michael Lacy,

Michael Lacy 0:38

what's up? What's up? What's up teammates, this is Episode 36 of the winning to Earth podcast. And today we're gonna be talking about the entrepreneurial path to financial independence. And to do this I have with me the man behind the site play louder.com Mr. Joe de Santo. Now, Joe spent 20 years in Los Angeles.

Michael Lacy 1:00

Building entertainment businesses, managing artists careers, working on some really big brands and investing a ton of money in real estate. And all of this led him to be fully financially independent before turning 45 years old. However, before all of that there was this time period in Joe's life where he was using credit cards to cover his living expenses. So the question I had for Joe and the one that we're going to answer with this episode, is just how can you go from living beyond your means to being so financially secure that you never need to work a traditional nine to five again, and more specifically, how do you do that before you turn 50 years old. And so this interview is definitely going to highlight a few ways that Joe was able to do that. And I also want to say that Joe mentioned a few different resources in this episode. And so if you'd like to check out any of that stuff, or if you just want to connect with Joe and follow along as he navigates the world now as an early

Michael Lacy 2:00

retiree. You can find links to everything in the show notes page, which will be at winning to wealth comm slash Episode 36. But let's jump right in with my interview with Joe of play louder.com. So Joe, welcome to the show today. I am so excited to have you and learn more about your story. super glad to have you here with me.

Joe DiSanto 2:23

Thanks, Michael. Thanks for having me, man. I appreciate it.

Michael Lacy 2:25

Well, jumping right in with the interview. I want to just start back at the beginning I mean back in your early to kind of mid 20s somewhere along the way you found yourself in about $70,000 worth of debt.

Joe DiSanto 2:40

It's pretty crazy. But just naturally, you know the natural course of life it that debt was about 30,000 in student loans though and about 40,000 in credit cards. And the way it happened was well when I went to college, but in college I started tapping some credit and getting credit cards and it's easy Do it's easy to get in. And those just started racking up and I, you know, paid for my college and worked in college and I supplemented some of my college expenses on credit cards. So, so the by the time I got out of college, I had the student loan and I had a few credit cards with balances. So that was that was kind of the kickoff. And then, you know, often, as is often the case early in my working days, it just wasn't earning a lot of money. I moved to New York City after college, I studied art, essentially digital imaging, that sort of stuff. So I moved to New York to pursue that. And I ended up getting a gig in the post production industry, which I loved. But entry level jobs don't pay that much. And even at that time, this is like late 90s, you know, is pricey. I live in New York. And so I was not making more than I was spending ultimately and and that's Well, I my credit card balances just kept going up. And then I did one thing that was sort of irresponsible. Well, there's probably a few responsible things, but one significant one was my girlfriend and I, at the time, we have been in New York for a couple years. And we were just a little while I kind of jokingly call it like, you know, the, the two year life crisis where you realize you're going to be working for the rest of your life. Or so I thought, at that point now is like, we need to do something fun, you know, and because I didn't, you know, keep track of my money and it never really was a good report at the end a month. And I was like, you know, what, we're gonna do I always want to go on a road trip, like, this is the time we're young. And we don't have the money to do it. But if you're up for it, let's just do it. We'll throw it on the credit cards, I don't care. And that was totally irresponsible. But at the same time, I mean, glad I did because it changed my life quite a bit.

Michael Lacy 4:57

So you say the road trip changed your life. So what do you mean by that.

Joe DiSanto 5:01

So we went on a two month road trip essentially in our car, like camping, I mean, doing it really cheap, you know, cheap as we could. And then we went through Los Angeles where post production and production, you know, is rampant and it's it's one of the primary, you know, two primary places in America do this kind of work. And I was like, really like Los Angeles. I was a little tighter in New York is kind of claustrophobic for me. And it's just also dense in New York. And we went through LA and I really liked it. And we continued on, but we got all the way up to Vancouver. And we were about to head back. And I said to my girlfriend at the time, I was like, I just don't want to go back there. I think like, let's go to Los Angeles, if you're up for it, like I could do as good in my career there. And she was amazingly she was not that spontaneous of a gap, actually, but she went for it. She luckily had a cousin that she really liked that lived in Los Angeles. He was going to school there. So she knew someone. So we went back down there, we stayed in a hotel, a cheap hotel, managed to get an apartment. And that whole trip did tack on like another five grand my credit card debt. So in some sense, it was irresponsible, but I have to say it turned out to be great investment. And then again in Los Angeles, you know, getting getting going in the career and continuing on it's like, I just wasn't making enough money. I mean, I you know, compared to the cost of living and it wasn't like we were living extravagantly or anything. So the credit card debt just kept piling up. And it really did I mean, it turned around like almost like right at the the, the exact time it needed to because I was at the breaking point of like making the minimum payments. I had actually used like a debt consolidation service at that time to like get the interest rates down and try to like you know, corral it, but and then finally I landed a job Like I got a good pay increase. And that makes all the difference. So I finally got to a point where I was earning more than I was making and then I just kind of really ramped up my savings and and hunkered down and I was able to start chipping away at that debt.

Michael Lacy 7:16

Okay, so so let's, let's go back to like the, like, post grad years college, right, you're coming out of college, you've got credit card debt, you've got student loan debt. And you said at that point that like, it was just kind of the normal way of doing things. So did it feel like you were struggling financially at that point? Or was it again, just like, you know, this is what you do. You go to college, you get student loans, you live off credit cards, like this is just what it's supposed to be.

Joe DiSanto 7:46

At first. And you know, I didn't feel like I was struggling because ultimately when you're not making when you're when you're making less than you're spending and you're piling up that difference on a credit card you abide by, in a sense or in reality or paying credit Record payments with credit cards, you know, eventually that's gonna run out on you, depending on how much credit you have, I was amazed it was able to amazingly get quite a bit of credit for that time in my life and, you know, so it was about right after we moved to Los Angeles about a year in like, that's where I hit the breaking point where it's like, I wasn't going to be able to figure out how to make the minimum payments anymore. And my credit, you know, score which up into that point had been okay, was going to start to, you know, be be in jeopardy. So, I really was kind of freaking out that that kind of 12 to six to 12 months up to that point, like, I gotta solve this problem. It's now a big problem. right out of college, you're just like, Well, you know, you give yourself a lot of breaks is Yeah, well, I just got done with college here. I gotta figure this out. I can't get a decent paying job right out of the gate. I mean, so you know, you kind of cut yourself some slack and you do what you have to do. So I knew that I really I needed to, like, make sure I was tracking my income and expenses, you know, just to see how bad the problem was like, it didn't take a genius for me. It didn't take much for me to figure out like I wasn't making enough, but I was like how much, you know, is the difference here, I need to know that. And I need to know, like, where this thing is going to lead me and how long it's going to take, you know. So very early on, I just kind of was always doing the math on these types of things. And I started using Quicken software, you know, and just I started essentially doing bookkeeping for my personal life, just so I could keep tabs on it.

Unknown Speaker 9:34

So essentially, like, you're at this point where you're living above your means, right? And you're aware of that because you're actually keeping track of your finances. So why was or I guess, how did it become important for you to get to that place of like, Hey, you know what, things aren't looking great right now, but the least I could do is just keep track and be aware of everything that's going on.

Joe DiSanto 10:00

Think of my personal life. And I think everyone should I, you know, my personal work, life is a business, you know, and the business is, is me, I'm the product and if you know, if you have a regular full time job, you have one customer, but you still got to keep that customer happy, you know, you want to try to get more money out of that customer at some point, you know, so, like any business, you have to do bookkeeping, you have to know if you're making more than you're spending and if, if you're not, you need to know how to adjust and solve that problem. So I started, you know, tracking the, my expenses could just like a business and it was very clear, you know, where it was going to head eventually. But, you know, I just got on the, you know, the effort to make more money and actually my first job, which I was making very little money, but I liked a lot and and I learned a good amount of from that company that I applied in owning my own business down the road, but they just weren't paying entry level people much at all. So I was like, I gotta leave that This job and I got to find something that's got more income. So I left that job and I started doing freelance work, you know, I was applying to essentially like temp agencies and stuff that they put you out on, you know, contract jobs and, and so I was able to up my hourly rate, and that was good. I was making more money and then I ended up getting a gig down in Wall Street. Actually, I was doing some more marketing and design but I was I was in the on the bond in the bond department there. And I really got a good exposure to what working in the finance world would be like. So that was a pretty cool experience and like, but ultimately in the irony of it is I realized that as much as I liked finance, I didn't want to work in the financial world. It was pretty corporate and just didn't seem like it was the vibe I was looking for. And I was like half jokingly say you have to shave every day when you work and at least back then you I'm sure people have beards down. But like I literally like to shave every day. And I have kind of sensitive skin. I know that sounds dumb, but like I never wanted to shave, I still don't shave, as you can see, because you can see me right now. Like, I use a beard trimmer. And I was like, Man, this place is pretty corporate and I have to shave every day. Maybe I should go back to the post production. So I did, I ended up I stayed there for a couple months, I learned a good amount of stuff. And it helped me kind of realize that that the original career path I chose was was a better fit for me, which is good.

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Michael Lacy 12:37

Gotcha. Okay, so so then from that point, you end up in California, right? And you find honestly fine work there that you're making a decent income. So what were you doing at that time when you landed in California?

Joe DiSanto 12:50

Well, I I was working in post production as back in post production and if for anyone who doesn't know what that is, like, my businesses that I own in California In Los Angeles, primarily was a post production company. We also had a production company, but we made commercials, music videos, television shows, feature films, all that kind of stuff. And whenever you're making something like that, and also online media, web based media nowadays, whenever you make something like that, first you do the production or you shoot it, you know, you get the material in a camera. And then when that's done, it gets delivered to the post production company, and they do all the services that happen after you shoot. So like that's editing, that sound design, sound mixing, mixing and visual effects work graphic design, that sort of stuff. So that's what I was doing in New York before we left and Los Angeles is an even better place to be doing that. says like, and it's great weather sunny all the time, beach, all that stuff. So I was like, yeah, Los Angeles. Sounds great. Yeah. So I was just gonna kind of hit the scene there and just, you know, work working away trying to find gigs in the post production field. And you know, like anything in a new town, you gotta you gotta meet people, you got to socialize, you got to figure out how to like Wade your way in. And that took a while. But I finally managed to, like, make some friends in the business and got a couple gigs and, and then things started moving.

Michael Lacy 14:22

So okay, so things are going well for you. So where did that desire to kind of start your own business come from?

Joe DiSanto 14:29

My dad, like growing up, he owned a plumbing and heating business. So the fact that he owned a business, I was like, to me, I get I think, in a way, it made it easy for me to think that I could own a business because I was like, you know, it just was something that was a was happening in our family and I could see the value in it, obviously, and, and so I always wanted to own my own business that just seemed like something that I was going to get to. I just needed to figure out like what it was and when I got introduced to post production industry I was like, yeah, this is a really cool business. This is the kind of business that I like being in, it's a could be a lucrative thing. It's the kind of company I'd want to own. And it is all about, like, you know, what I studied and when I like do our design and that sort of stuff, and it also mixes in a lot of technology, like I, I've kind of like a math brain and an art brand. So I like our in technology kind of coming together. So I saw it as like, you know, the perfect fit for for starting a business one day and I was like, you know, that was always on my mind to like, someday I'm gonna have to, like see where this opportunity arises and then strike and go out on my own. So it's always like thinking that I was thinking real estate, I want to do that I got to get a house. And eventually I want to start my own business. And I know that's doable, you know, like it was, I just gotta like stay focused and wait for the time to strike I guess.

Michael Lacy 15:56

Okay, so you go into post production, right? And you start making connections as you mentioned, so then from that point like what were some of the accomplishments that you had in that career,

Joe DiSanto 16:08

I guess early on it was the accomplishment of like getting up to like a higher level position is kind of the accomplishment You know, when you're when you're an employee of a company and I I ended up getting a job at this company and brass knuckles editorial was called and when I got there, I was like a project manager will become a producer and I was managing the projects so like, you know, they get a project to work on a music video and I would be the, the manager of that brass knuckles and make sure it went well and everything got done and interface with the client and stuff. But the company really like just didn't have any good management. Like I could see like, you know, the staff was kind of commodity like no one wanted to do anything like it was it was a struggle to properly manage the job. Because people above me and below me like we're not just like that interested in doing a great job, you know, and I could see that one of the owners was an was an older guy, he hadn't kind of invested, but he wasn't really coming around every day. And so it just had like a management gap, or void. And I was like, well, I kind of took that on of my own accord because I needed to get people organized and doing a better job so I could do my job better. So I just took it upon myself to, like, get the place organized, do whatever I could to get people motivated, you know, like, give people a sense that someone was caring about their career. And if they did a good job, like, you know, I would watch out for them or I would try to find opportunities for them and, and it was really successful, like people started responding, they were just happy that someone seemed to care, you know, that, you know, they saw the ship maybe kind of fallen apart or needed repair and like someone who was willing to step up and take on that challenge. So I did that. And then I got promoted to essentially like the company manager, it's called an executive producer role at the age of 26. Like, within within a year, I had improved the place so much and got people were, you know, feeling good about it, like people were doing better jobs, we let go some people that were just, you know, not going to change and kind of, you know, soured to the point of repair and then we hired some better people and it just like, everything was starting to just feel better. And so the owner promoted me to the executive producer, producer position, which increased my income, which is awesome, and just gave me more sort of control over the shop just in general. You know, I was officially now like the overseer of the operation, and that's it was pretty good responsibility for that age of 26. The company had about 20 people and that two and a half million dollars of revenue, so you know, it was so Thing sizeable to be managing, you know, and that was a really big accomplishment for me at the time. And it kind of proved to me too, that I could manage your business and kind of solidified the idea that I can do this for myself and given the right circumstances, and it helped me get that downpayment for that house Finally, which was a great so yeah, things really started to crank in, you know, around the age of 25, like the first four years that have called were dicey as the for a lot of people but and then things kind of turned the corner and started moving pretty quickly at that point.

Michael Lacy 19:40

Okay, so I mean, you're, you're on this great career path, right? You've you've been promoted and you're like, you know, about to put the down payment on the house and like, all these things are seemingly going well in this career. So when did you start to have that desire to reach financial independence and you know, potentially retire early and kind of winded all of that stuff.

Joe DiSanto 20:00

That didn't start till probably like a decade later. You know, like, like I said, I honestly, the idea that I would retire as ever was so far off like, I really did think I'd just be working forever. And I love working and I, you know, said that it's not that that was like a terrible thing or anything. I just I didn't care about everyone. I just wanted to do a business I want I wanted to, like get some stuff done and have some successes, you know, some stuff that I was proud of in, I wasn't worried about retiring. So, you know, we got the company kept going pretty well. But there was finally an opportunity arose where I could make a move and step out and start my own company with along with my partners who are also working at that company. And we did it. I mean, that's all I was focused on. At that point. I wasn't thinking about retiring early or anything. I just wanted to get a business going. So we jumped ship, and I was about 30 and And we started our own business like in just built a brick by brick. I mean, honestly, looking back, it's, I'm surprised with I mean, it's a tough business to start a new company in. And, you know, we were young, we didn't have a big, like, kind of clientele of our own. But we just work like dogs basically did everything ourselves. And it started to work and I really like being in business for myself for a couple of reasons. One, I'm a bit of a control freak, and you know, I really have a strong opinion of way things should be done in a company and I wanted to put myself in a position to be the final, you know, decision maker on on many things because it just makes my life easier. And I and I learned, you know, that I could do it like at the at the other company I was at. So there was that and I just you know, being in control also means you can control your own destiny and your own pay. Those sorts of things to I mean, you don't always make the most money at the company as an owner. As it turns out, a lot of times you have to take pay cuts first, you know, in my opinion, if you're doing a good job, if when things are tight, you know, and then when when you have big wins, well, then you get to take the extra and you hope the latter is happening more than the former.

Michael Lacy 22:19

Yeah, right. So again, at the same time that you're building this business, you're also focusing on building that real estate portfolio. So can you talk a little bit about just that and doing both at the same time,

Joe DiSanto 22:34

Real Estate's kind of simple, it's like, you buy it, you rent it to someone, everyone needs housing, you know, it's a pretty steady business, the returns of real estate and appreciation had been very steady, you know, over the, you know, over history along with the s&p 500 but less volatility. And like I get the product it's like there's a heating system. There's a system you know, there's a roof there's a hot water heater, It's not that complicated, you know? So I was like, Yeah, I think I just you know where I can I want to keep that going. So I started saving for more down payments to buy rental properties. And the first one I bought was a duplex in Austin, Texas. And the reason I went there was because in Los Angeles real estate is expensive number one, and when I was doing the research on like, kind of tenant laws and things like that, like there's it's a very pro tenant stay there. You know, rent control is a big thing and you know, multi unit stuff, like, there just seemed like a lot of ways that it could go maybe go bad and being it's so expensive. Like if you end up owning a place and you know, you get someone that won't leave your place for six months, which is very easy for a tenant to do without paying rent there. You could totally get you know, squashed basically and you know, so I was like man, maybe California is not the best place for this rental thing. So I started poking around different things. And trying to figure it out and just reading things and back then I mean, it was honestly still not that much info like online, believe it or not, so I was still reading magazines and various things and learned about Austin and had good stats and like there was, you know, that was, you know, Austin in 2005, you know, was starting to really crank but it still wasn't that expensive. So I found a realtor down there talk to them and I thought was a plane ticket went down there, he showed me around and like then offense eventually I went home and I just had to buy a rental property that had that I was not going to be able to see. And I was like wow, can you can you buy a house that you haven't actually gone into that just seems like a bad idea? And he's like, don't worry about it. You'll be it'll be fine. You know, it's got tenants in it anyway. And so I you know, I took the leap, I guess you should say and bought my first like rental property. And then from there, you know, you get comfortable and you're like, Alright, I want to keep doing this. I want to I want to buy more and keep this real estate portfolio thing growing.

Michael Lacy 25:09

Yeah. So I mean, let's talk about it. So what were some of the things that you did to keep growing your real estate portfolio. At the same time, as you're building a business,

Joe DiSanto 25:19

we kind of always have done what I like to call the live in flip where you buy a house, you know, that needs work, and you just plan on doing this work over time while you live there. You know, because the greatest one of the greatest benefits of the houses if you would, up to $250,000 of of profit on a house for an individual and up to $500,000 of profit on on the house you live in for a couple is tax free. So like if you make $250,000 profit on your home, you pay zero taxes on that money. That's like, you know, just on a 25% tax Just $62,000 gift, you know, from the government that if it was a strict investment property, you would have to pay taxes on that game. So if you can find, you know, good reasonably priced property or lower, lower priced property and whatever you're looking because it needs work. And you can do that yourself slowly over time while you live there, you can capture a good profit and it's tax free, you know, so I always try to like whenever houses we buy for ourselves, you know, I treat them like investments. I don't overspend on renovations, I, you know, I look at the property and I say, Would this be a good thing to buy as an investment only number one, and if so, well, I'll buy it and live there and renovate it and do whatever I can do to improve it. And then I'll take that profit tax free, meaning you also get tax benefits along the way with interest in in property tax deduction, though in the most recent tax law changes of 2018 that tax benefit has has been clamped down on a little bit for sure. So it's not as great as it was when I bought my first house, but it's still, it's still there, and it's still a good tax benefit. So,

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Michael Lacy 27:10

so let's talk about something that I saw on your blog I came across you mentioned this four act structure a little bit. Can you go into some detail on that and how that thought process can be applied to real life?

Joe DiSanto 27:22

Yeah, well, the four extractor Yeah, so actually, that that kind of cuts to the answering your last question, which honestly, I don't even know if I answered I meandered. I don't I think I talked for an hour and I didn't even answer your question. So sorry about that. You had mentioned asked like, when did you start thinking about the early retirement stuff and all that and I'm gonna answer them both because they're kind of tied in like we started thinking about it, like in our late 30s. We're getting a little bit burnt out on the work thing. And, you know, just you're kind of like, man, it'd be nice to maybe retire. today. You know, it's just something that you sort of think sounds good. So I was like, you know, we should do we should look at buying some property in a place where we think we might want to live, you know, like in the future, like in a cheaper town, like maybe a college town, you know, let's start doing some researches of places where you get a good rental, but we might want to move there. And whether we do or we don't, who knows, but if we decide we want to do it, the place will be there for us, you know, so we started going online and looking up like one like good places to retire. and stuff like that. Kind of trying to pick a town and we found a couple things when we started looking this up. Well, one we found the whole like financial independence retire early group of people like I didn't know there was a group of people out there called fire and like, thinking about this sort of stuff and, and trying to figure out ways to like retire early via, you know, a variety of methods. And then also, we found It's kind of weird said that we found this magazine called international living magazine there was a lot of articles about like retiring and retiring early and and basically what this magazine is about and I would recommend it to anyone it's pretty cool is like people go overseas or they go to South America and they retire there because maybe they want to retire sooner or maybe they just have weren't able to save enough to retire in America. And basically you go you know, I call it retreating to cheaper ground. You go to like Central or South America where the cost of living is way lower and you can retire on like less money. And I was like, Wow, that's cool. Like that puts this early retirement thing possibility like way more in our scope. Now like if say, we moved to like Central America, like we could probably retire way earlier you know, because we were already saving and had some stuff gone. So that just kind of get the wheels in motion. You know, kind of kept us motivated to keep plugging away and saving and doing the real estate thing and, and all that sort of stuff. And I was like, cuz, you know, who knows, maybe we could amass enough money to like retire in Ecuador like a way earlier than we could retire in America. I mean, it sounds like a fun, fun adventure anyway. So you know if that kind of was like, yeah, maybe you could retire early, maybe that's possible. And then I started reading you know, all the fire people and like, you know, the people that are super money savers and you know, trying to crack this code, you know, from all angles. I was never like super, super frugal, I'm financially prudent, but I am a person of convenience. So like living on you know, just like next to nothing and never going out to eat and all that sort of stuff. Just that's just not that fun sounding to me. So I'm guilty of like, you know, not being super fruity. But, but so we kept on and then but then the big change was we had a kid. And up until having a kid my wife and I, we work together at the company that I own with my partners, and we all loved working. And it was a great environment. I was friends with everyone, we we all work together, we were all friends, we hung out together after work and on the weekends, but we worked a lot like our life was work, we work, you know, anywhere from 10 to 16 hours a day after work, we'll go out and party, you know, like nothing to worry about besides that, well, all of a sudden, you throw a kid into that and you're like, Whoa, I was like, man, kids, kids are really time consuming, man. Like, you have to have eyes on this thing like 24 seven and if you can't do it, like you got to pay someone to have eyes in this thing like that didn't really line up with our extreme work hours thing, you know? And like all of a sudden our life just became like really complicated and like Just trying to get home and leave the office and deal with the demands of that and, but also trying to do the kid thing and do a decent job. We just were like it after the first year, we're just like, oh, man, this is crazy.

Joe DiSanto 32:15

And so somehow we were like, you know, we had been thinking about that early retirement thing, like some of the real estate stuff was paying off. Like we had some really good wins on a couple of places. And we in our house that we're living in, had a lot of equity in it had appreciated and we had done a live in flip kind of renovation. And we were like, you know, maybe we could retreat to cheaper ground and see if we can put this thing in motion. And it was really hard to do. It took a long time, like when from the start of that.to actually executing it. It was probably like two years. But we we did it and that's where we kind of created this whole idea. have like a fact you maybe your life should be a four act thing. I mean, being kind of filmmaker II type people, like, you know, thinking and acts and stories and stuff is just, you know, our nature, but we're like, you know, it's like a life, you're kind of, you're kind of thrown in this idea of like, you educate yourself and get ready for working for 20 years, then you work for 30 to 40 years, and you retire when you're like 65 or 70. But you're like, old at that point, you know, you're like, you have less energy, you know, you're just like, you kind of just are supposed to, I guess, get in your rocking chair and just, you know, start your slow descent it

Unknown Speaker 33:45

doesn't sound like that great of a story and

Joe DiSanto 33:50

you work for 40 years and then you just, you know, no, good. We're likes to wither away. Yeah. So we're like, maybe Like, so we kind of had just started this idea of like doing the retreat to cheaper granting and freeing up our time. And we're like, you know, maybe, maybe, maybe life is for us, it's the first 20. Then the second 20 is you work like a dog and try to accumulate enough. So you can do this. And then the third, the third act, maybe which is like 40 to 60. If you can get those first 40 years, right, like, you'll give yourself this option to change up this third act, like if you want, like, if you love if you just want to keep working the way you're working great, you know, if you're happy, but if you're not, and you want to maybe work less or change your career, or like in our case, we had a kid and we really just want to spend more time with the kid, you know, you would be in a position to do that. And then that would be your third act from like 40 to 60 of like this revised life if you want you know, when you have some more free time, but maybe you still work or you change your job, you spend more time with your kids, maybe you do some other stuff you want to do Those hobbies or you know, whatever, and then maybe you're 6065 and you're tired, and then you're like, Alright, you know, I'm ready for the rocking chair, bring out my cocktail, and I'm just gonna sit here and watch the passers by and just relax and maybe, you know, take it easy and not do anything not work.

Michael Lacy 35:21

So and so in that. So you you would consider yourself on the third of the four acts, right?

Joe DiSanto 35:27

Yeah, we're Act Three, four.

Michael Lacy 35:29

Okay. And so what has just all the work that you've done and getting to this point, what is that done just for your quality of life at this point?

Joe DiSanto 35:37

I mean, it's, you know, I don't want to say it's improved. It has improved, I think by your basic terms, but again, like I really liked act two, you know, we worked a lot but like we really dug it like and it was fun. But once we had a kid, it just didn't really work anymore. And it became super searchable. So now, like I we kind of say we're semi retired like my wife's networks. anymore. And I'm working essentially part time. And then we have like, you know, our portfolio or net worth or whatever, which is producing the, you know, returns for the future and also some, you know, cash flow to spend right now. So I'm merging some of that money in with the money I'm making working part time. And that extra time I have now like, you know, I get to spend with my kids, you know, my wife and we take, you know, we have like, three day weekends all the time, instead of two day weekends, or one or zero day weekends. And prior to, you know, the corona situation, we would always go do some fun on Friday mornings, because like, there's way less crowds out on Friday, we'd go to like Busch Gardens or something. And it's like, no one's there because it's Friday, but we can do that, you know. So it's just made our life like way more flexible and like way more, we can kind of do whatever we want with it. We're not stuck to the business and always having to go and deal with that. Then prioritize that over everything else and you know learning about the blogging kind of learning about the fire people and all that and just learning about like this whole remote work life thing was also a thing we were like if we can figure out how to get to creating my work to be a remote you know we do it anywhere work then we could you know we could be working earning some money but we could be doing it from wherever so if we want to like you know, we kind of wanted to go like like many people in the back here like go travel and maybe go to another country for like six months you know, and just see if we can do that and see what that's like. And if with the remote working setup, you can do that, you know, maybe you got to be up like longer hours or whatever if you're really far away. So and then like my overall just stress level is way down. I mean, the you know, doing a business and having like 30 employees and having big clients big brands like people Extreme deadlines and you know, it's it's taxing you know, it's great. It's a lot of adrenaline, it's really fun. It's great to build, but it's like that, you know, very high just always expectation, so I don't have to keep up that pace anymore. And it's like, definitely reduced my stress level.

Michael Lacy 38:19

So Joe was, I mean, was there a, like, was there a certain net worth or, you know, anything like that, that you felt like you needed to hit for this to become a reality, like back at the beginning?

Joe DiSanto 38:30

At the beginning, like we first started thinking that No, not necessarily. I mean, we were just like, let's just keep you know, let's keep this kind of earlier time and idea in there, but we weren't like, you know, really, like committed to it. But then, as we learn more about it and thought about it, I was like, yeah, the $2 million mark seemed to be a good Mark if you use the basic formula of 25 times your annual money. requirements. I was like, Alright, well $80,000 annual income would be about 2 million bucks. And let's see, you know, that formula is a good general guide. I mean, it does. It does rely on a lot of important things to go down. Like you need to get that 7% return and all that sort of stuff. But it's a good, it's a good mark. So I was like, Okay, yeah, like if that system works, you know, and you get the return. And I was like, I 2 million seems like a number. That would be plausible. If you'd asked me that 10 years ago, and you were like, What number? Do you think he needed to retire? I probably would have said something like, you know, 5 million or 10 million or something like that. But as we started to kind of think about it, and like, how can we find ourselves if we moved? You know, that's where we started thinking we have to move like, we can't do this in Los Angeles, because it's too expensive, which was really hard. Actually, we really liked Los Angeles, but we were like, Well, you know, this that's a sacrifice. Do we want to make that sacrifice to have more time? More family time? You know, we decided Yes, we do. We were like, Okay, well, you know, maybe if we can get to that point, we can do it. So but you know, and we did, but the reality is it, you know, a lot of money's in real estate. So it's like, your values of your holdings do fluctuate, you know, and so, who knows, you know, like if we had if we had like a real estate bust, like we had in 2009, like, we wouldn't have that money more on paper, you know, to the input. And obviously, right now, people who had that money on paper that are mostly in the stock market, you know, probably don't have them on paper. But that's just part of the scenario. So you got to figure out you got to kind of figure out Can you have enough money to like, get yourself through the times but so I was like, you know, you know, I'm being financially prudent number one and sort of like paranoid number two as like, I need to keep working like I'm we're not gonna go do not I don't want to do nothing number one, but we need to have, you know, a more reliable income stream. I'm not ready to like, throw caution to the wind, but I was like, I if we can, if I can put together some remote working scenario consulting, whatever. And even if I'm doing a part time, but I'm making like a decent revenue stream, then, you know, we're not completely relying on everything to go perfectly you know what I mean? So that's kind of how we approach it. That's kind of why I call it kind of like a semi retired, like, I just work way less.

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Michael Lacy 41:24

So now you've you've hit this point of semi retirement, right? And you've got your income you've got your net worth is where you want it to be. I mean, is there anything that you're working towards at this point going forward? Or are you just content with just the way things are right now?

Joe DiSanto 41:41

It's a good question. I tell you what, like changing our life up so drastically, it comes with you know, it doesn't it answers a lot of questions and then it creates a whole bunch of new ones I have to say like, that's something like, it took us a really long time, like our whole identity and everything we do. kind of knew and thought about ourselves was wrapped up in Los Angeles and in our business and you know, the ages of my age are 20 to 40 in my life, you know, so now that we're not in that we're like, Who are we now? You know, and what you just asked is kind of like one of those questions like, What? Do we want to do anything now? Do we try to accomplish anything, you know? And I found that it's hard to not for me, it's hard to not want to accomplish it. And the same goes for my wife. I mean, we're both like, like working and like getting things done and like doing things. So we're trying to figure that out, you know, and I think I mean, right now we want to focus on our son, he's four you know, and really try to put the time in to him right now. So my wife isn't working as much as it kind of is hard for her. She'd like to help me more but she's, she's like focused on Luca all day. And I've been able to do like this consultant work that I'm doing which is kind of financial and business consulting. And I'm doing it mostly for small companies in Los Angeles and started our blog and I was like, you know, along the way like I you know, I had a lot of young employees in my company and you know, we had open workspace that whenever I was on the phone about real estate or anything that they were they were listening you know, and they would ask me, what should I be doing? You know, so I kind of was always trying to educate them not all of them wanted the education ironically some did some didn't. But I would try anyway and a lot of times people will be like you should you should like teach a class I mean back then was like you should go to the junior college or you know, the city college and teach a class or something like that, you know, like and I'm like it but then I learned like, wow, you can just teach teach stuff online now, you know, so I was like, that would actually be cool. You know, so I got in I kind of learned about the blogging and all that sort of stuff. And and you know, when I'm not doing work for pay like I am putting extra time into The blog and putting as much information that I can and then I've amassed on our blog and kind of putting some courses together, I'm going to try to create a good educational resource for these topic.

Michael Lacy 44:13

So let me pose a hypothetical to you. So let's say that there's somebody out there that's listening to this right now. And they earn a pretty good income, but they feel a little overwhelmed when it comes to just the practical things, the managing the everyday stuff with money. And maybe they just can't seem to get ahead or you know, anything like that. And so, what are some actionable steps that that person can take to kind of start turning things around and start working towards their own version of financial independence?

Joe DiSanto 44:40

The direct answer your question is you you literally have to put the work in like you can't not pay attention to your finances. If you do it at your own peril. You really have to understand how much you're making how much you're spending, and you have to make the most out of the money that you're making. And when you do this work, you also see How much more money you need to make in order to reach your goals. And then you have to work on making that and like you can't get that information, if you don't spend the time working on your finances, and that basically means tracking your finances tracking your income and expenses in some kind of computer software. And looking at it, you know, once a week, in my opinion, at least twice a month, and like, just having it become part of your thing. Like if you want to stay fit, trim, and you know, not, you know, not die young have poor health, you need to do the work of exercise, whether you like it or not. But that's way easier said than done. You know, and I also say that life is what happens in the meantime. And it's like, in the meantime, while you're thinking about doing all this work that you know, you should do, like 20 years go by, and you don't, you don't get the benefit of having done it, you know, and then it's kind of too late, you know, or it's like, I don't wanna say it's never too late, but it's like it's now way harder. You're way further behind, you know, it's easier to keep the weight managed than it is to try to lose 70 pounds, you know when you're 50 years old. So, to that end, like, I think you have to decide, you know, what, what is your Who are you? Are you someone that just hates finances? Or are you someone that thinks he can get into it, if you can get into it, do yourself, if you can't get into it like and you know, you're not going to do it. I think it's worth spending a little bit of money with somebody to keep you on task of doing it like a coach, like, you know, kind of like you would get a personal trainer or something. Even if it's like you, you check in with this person, like once every two months, you know, it is an expense, but I think it's an expense that more than pays for itself in the long run. Or you know, it would because oftentimes people that know what they're doing with money know how to save you money like they can save help you save more money than you were spending with them, you know. So I really think you got to look at this seriously, and make a decision of how you're going to tackle, controlling, you know, get corralling and controlling your financial life.

Michael Lacy 47:16

So, Joe, Hey, thank you so much for coming on. Man. I've enjoyed talking to you for this time that we've chatted today. But I do want to give you the chance as we wrap up here to just let people know, anything you have to offer that could be helpful and where they can find you if they want to follow along.

Joe DiSanto 47:32

Yeah, yeah, well, you can find me on my website play ladder.com and I'm always adding to it but I'm basically putting all my time research and all the effort I've put into like figuring these things out for myself. I'm putting that information there. I mean, ultimately, my kind of philosophy is in life you kind of have to be financially prudent business minded and investment focused. That's that's kind of my strategy, my thinking and all the stuff I put there are kind of around corralling and, you know, doing that kind of stuff for yourself. So check that out. It's just a bunch of free resources. I got some free mini courses on budgeting and all that kind of stuff on setting up a business for yourself and doing real estate analysis. And, and yeah, check it out.

Michael Lacy 48:25

Awesome. Well, yes. If you enjoyed this interview, head over to play louder.com to connect with Joe. But Joe, thanks again for sharing your journey with us on this episode of the podcast. All right, so now it is time for this week's win of the week. earlier on in the interview, Joe mentioned getting a job as a project manager when he got to Los Angeles, and how as he was navigating his day to day responsibilities, the horrible work culture there really impacted his day to day ability These are his day to day responsibilities, and that there was no real leadership. No Joe didn't complain about the situation, he didn't whine about it. He just took action by stepping up and filling a need in the business. And ultimately, he turned the culture around. Now, this led to a promotion and more income for Joe, which helped him buy the house that helped him become debt free and build wealth and all those great things. But as Joe said, it also solidified the idea that he can manage a business for himself. I am not saying that you need to subject yourself to a toxic work environment or anything like that at all. However, the win this week is to find ways to make yourself more valuable to your employer. And yes, this often leads to more income. However, the experience that you gain and the connections that you make could possibly lead you to something even greater than that promotion. And in Joe's case, it was building his own company that did seven figures of rent. Revenue annually. So again, find ways to make yourself more valuable to your employer be more visible at work. Now, if you enjoyed this episode with Joe, all I ask is that you do one of two things. First, you can reach up and tap the subscribe or the Follow button wherever you're listening to this episode. Doing this ensures that you get notified whenever we release another interview. The second way you can support the show is to leave a five star review. Leaving a review lets other potential listeners know that we actually put out great content on this show. This helps the show and the community grow which as we grow, we get more people sharing and talking about money openly and sharing tips and strategies and we're all better for it. So reach up and tap the subscribe or the Follow button and leave a five star review. But hey, thanks for listening to another episode of the winning to wealth podcast until we talk again, keep reading Backing up those wins one at a time. Take care.

Unknown Speaker 51:04

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Joe went from deep in credit card debt to financial independence by age 45. He did it by starting his own business. Learn how entrepreneurship can help you reach financial independence in this episode of the winning to wealth podcast.

 

Resources Mentioned

International Living Magazine

Joe’s Courses

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