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Cashing Out: Win the Wealth Game by Walking Away

Cashing Out: Win the Wealth Game by Walking Away

by Julien Saunders, Kiersten Saunders
Cashing Out: Win the Wealth Game by Walking Away

Cashing Out: Win the Wealth Game by Walking Away

by Julien Saunders, Kiersten Saunders



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A revolutionary financial and career path to break free from corporate America's grasp, make peace with your finances, and build wealth on your own terms

When it comes to our finances, we’re told to follow the same script as our white colleagues: work hard, make money, save, and invest. Yet despite putting in twice the effort, you end up making less and are routinely passed up for career opportunities. Here’s the truth: financial freedom is within your reach, but playing by corporate America’s rules will only take you halfway there. To win, you must eventually walk away—and take up an entirely different model of wealth accumulation.
Cashing Out is your roadmap to financial freedom despite the broken system. You don’t have to sacrifice your time and mental health to maximize income. Instead, financial experts Julien and Kiersten Saunders show how to design a life that allows you to enjoy the little things now while setting yourself up for future financial security. Drawing from their journey paying off $200,000 of debt in five years, quitting their high-stress corporate jobs, and retaking control of their finances, this book will teach you:
  •  Why the mantra and glitz of “Black Excellence” is an unsustainable motivation for wealth building
  •  How to prioritize the right goals at each stage of your career so you can quit in 15 years or less
  •  How to talk about money with your loved ones without coming to blows
  •  Practical strategies to bring more money in without robbing you of time and energy you don’t have
It’s time to stop being a cog in the machine that leaves you under-appreciated and underpaid. Cashing Out shows you how to open the door to a new kind of prosperity.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780593329566
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 06/14/2022
Sold by: Penguin Group
Format: eBook
Pages: 272
Sales rank: 634,797
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Julien and Kiersten Saunders are the Atlanta-based co-creators of the lifestyle blog Rich & Regular. Together, they paid off $200k in debt in five years and were able to walk away from their corporate jobs before turning 40.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1
Your Wake-Up Call
In 2017, we stumbled upon a statistic that stopped us in our tracks. It was from a report that was making the rounds in the media because of one startling prediction: median Black wealth in the United States was on track to be $0 by the year 2053.
The report painted a grim picture of the shrinking Black American balance sheet and offered historical context for how we got here: the legacy of slavery; disadvantaged school systems; housing discrimination; the racial wage gap; unfair hiring practices, credit scoring, and lending practices; and even domestic terrorism. We were familiar with all these forces individually, but this was the first time we'd ever seen a dollar value and date assigned to the impact of their combined weight.
It was utterly heartbreaking, but it confirmed much of what we suspected to be true: despite outward appearances and a few comforts here and there, most people we knew were flat broke.
Sure, most of them were college graduates who had good jobs with salaries that allowed them to live in beautiful homes and drive luxury cars. But they were completely missing the bigger picture. To earn the big salary, they had to take on huge amounts of debt and embed themselves in workplaces they didn't feel entirely comfortable in. To maintain the appearance of success, they were in significant amounts of revolving credit card debt. And at home, with the little energy they had left after pretending to be someone they weren't, they found themselves exhausted, unable to recognize themselves. Something didn't add up.
At the end of the month, there was little if anything left over and almost nothing going toward saving for the future. After housing, transportation, food, student loans, insurance, and childcare, they'd find themselves questioning whether they could afford to get a side of guacamole with their burrito. They'd wonder where all their money went, whether college was even worth it, and why they didn't feel as good as they thought they would after landing the job of their dreams. It was clear there was a growing disconnect between the pride they felt when they were on the job and the challenges they experienced measuring their overall progress.
In essence, our friends, family, and co-workers were working their butts off to keep their heads above water, proverbial hamsters on a wheel, yet they were going nowhere fast. Even those we knew who had well-paying jobs didn't have much to show for it, because they took on massive student loan debt to get there, sometimes well over $100,000. We'd ask them, "What's the plan?" and their responses were all the same-a collection of flippant, defeated, or wildly optimistic one-liners that were great for pivoting out of uncomfortable conversations but did little to explain how they planned to dig themselves out of a ditch.
"Just gotta keep grinding."
"It is what it is . . . right?"
"If I get into this program, my debt will be forgiven after twenty years of service."
None of these instilled much confidence. Even more concerning was the number of people who believed going back to school and incurring even more debt was the only path to financial freedom. Despite being some of the smartest people we knew, they weren't thinking critically, or at least weren't being honest with themselves. Rather, they were all reading from a script, playing a character in a television drama. You know the one-the friend who projects bravado but underneath it all doesn't like the person they see in the mirror and is deathly afraid of what the future holds.
You may have someone like this in your life. And if you're being completely honest with yourself, that someone may be you. To get ahold of people who have all the intellect but seemingly little courage to act, you need a wake-up call.
A Quick Introduction
Before we dive in, it's best if we pause for just a moment to introduce ourselves. We're Kiersten and Julien Saunders. After meeting in 2012, we set out on a path to learn as much as we could about money and apply it to our life. In the next five years, we'd go on to achieve complete debt freedom, including paying off the mortgage on our primary home, student loans, credit card debt, car loans, and tax debt. We took it a step further by choosing to self-manage our investment portfolio instead of using a financial adviser, boosted our saving rate, and built a small rental property portfolio in addition to working our corporate jobs. Through frugal living, simple investing, grit, and creativity, we've amassed a net worth that ranks us in the 90th percentile of families in our age-group in the United States.
But our goal has never been to build wealth simply to benefit ourselves. We have a deep love for our community and understand the critical role money plays in helping families build better lives. So through our award-winning blog, podcast, video series, and more, we're focused on inspiring, educating, and empowering as many people as possible to achieve their financial goals.
As you flip through these pages, we'll share everything we've learned with you; you'll learn more about who we are as individuals and as a family. You should also know that for the majority of this book, we'll be speaking in the first person and from a plural point of view. On the few occasions where we do change it up, we'll be sure to let you know so you don't get confused.
The Wake-Up Call
One night as we were lying in bed preparing to go to sleep, the phone rang. It was Julien's mother, and the strain in her voice indicated something was wrong. She said she was in the emergency room because her blood pressure was high. Even after taking her medication, she hadn't been able to get it down to a normal rate. This wasn't the first time she'd gone to the hospital for this reason, so we were worried.
We attended her next cardiologist visits with her, and while there, we were taken aback by how frank the doctor was. He told her she had two choices: She could lose weight, and as the pounds fell off, he would slowly wean her off the array of medications she was on. Alternatively, she could do nothing. He would keep tweaking her prescriptions until they found an effective treatment plan, and she would sign up for an ongoing battle to find the right blend of pills for the rest of her life.
The doctor was matter-of-fact but charming (in an old Southern Baptist kind of way). He knew when to play dumb, how to gently probe for answers, and when to be the adult in the room. He even shared his story of helping his own mother lose weight so she could live a more fulfilling life in her golden years. But we were most impressed with his ability to set expectations for the coming months. He made it very clear, in no uncertain terms, that she would set the tone for her treatment, not him.
In the middle of all this, Kiersten received similar news. Her father, whom we affectionately call Blue, had been diagnosed with stage 2 cancer. It was a somber and slow conversation where the pauses and silence took up more space than the words. "Well," Blue said in his signature Texas drawl, "it looks like years of living the good life finally caught up with me."
He was careful not to convey too much optimism-he wasn't quite sure that everything would turn out okay-but he told us his doctor said his was her "favorite kind of cancer." She reassured him by saying, "You do your part, and I'll do mine."
In two separate situations, two doctors had found a way to help their patients understand the stakes and accept less than ideal solutions. Within weeks, Julien's mom completely changed her diet, tripled the distance she usually walked, and lost several inches around her waistline. Blue started chemotherapy, quit smoking, and gave up alcohol during his treatment. We were relieved, but, perhaps even more so, we were shocked: our parents, in their sixties and seventies, made swift and drastic lifestyle choices for the better. Losing weight and chemotherapy are both notoriously imperfect and uncomfortable solutions. Both required our parents to limit or entirely remove parts of their lifestyle they'd come to enjoy. But with seemingly little persuasion, they found the will to live. And what started as terrifying moments for our family turned into much-needed stories of recovery and resilience.
Once our parents were given a wake-up call (sprinkled with some encouragement and humor), and then given the control of their own destinies, they made life-altering changes. Changes they probably knew they should have made years earlier but for some reason hadn't sunk in. We hope to do exactly that for you. Deliver a bold wake-up call (sprinkled with encouragement and humor) and offer you the reins back to your own financial health.
Now, you may be thinking the stakes for a life-threatening physical health condition are higher than those for financial health, or that you can treat improving your understanding of money with less urgency. But we believe otherwise. We believe your ability to earn, save, and grow money is central to your quality of life. In fact, the inability to manage your money effectively can have a direct impact on your health and career choices. It can also affect your ability to maintain relationships, support family in need, or take breaks when you need them.
Let's be honest, haven't we all witnessed an increase in GoFundMe campaigns in recent years because families don't have adequate insurance or estate plans? Don't we all know older workers who are staying on the job longer than they originally planned to because they don't have enough retirement savings? Haven't we all seen people work jobs they don't enjoy despite being sick because they need the money? All of these instances are indicators of how fragile life has become for millions of people, yet too many of us are ignoring the problem.
In this book, we'll help you understand and make these connections so that money becomes less of a topic you avoid and more of an everyday habit.
Math Is Simple. Black Life Isn't.
We know most financial experts have developed their point of view in a world that doesn't look like ours. Of course, you've likely thought, as we have, that hard work, saving, and investing can improve your life. But even if the math adds up, the advice lacks the necessary context that makes it relevant. The math and tactics are simple, but unfortunately Black life isn't.
Getting a good job, climbing the corporate ladder, buying a nice home, growing a successful business, and making financial decisions are incredibly difficult feats for the majority of Black people today. There are different qualitative variables that require us to do emotional calculus while others perform basic arithmetic. This calculus has a tremendous effect on our decision-making process, mental health, risk tolerance, family, and ultimately financial life.
For instance, many of us are all too familiar with having to choose between investing for our own future and giving back to support our parents in their later years. Or having to choose between responding to a child's developmental needs, nurturing a broken marriage, and our own self-care to keep the family afloat. And on top of it all, we earn less than our white peers for doing the same work, we're less likely to be promoted, and we have to deal with a constant slew of microaggressions in predominantly white workplaces. This is why so much of the standard financial and career advice falls on deaf ears. It doesn't acknowledge the other factors that play a huge role in how so many of us earn money.
In this book, we promise not to hide from those touchy subjects; rather, we'll face them head-on and incorporate them into our advice. Just as if you were preparing to climb one of the world's most difficult mountains, we will equip you with guides, alternative routes, resources, and a community of cheerleaders. This requires us to do more than just tell you what to do. We need to share our experience and the experiences of others whom we've met along the way.
Our journey started on opposite sides of the tracks with one of us being raised in an upper-middle-class household while the other was raised on the edge of poverty. And though we met at the beginning of our professional heights, we were both ill-equipped to navigate managing money, relationships, and our careers at the time. In fact, our very first conversation about money led to our first argument and ultimately a breakup.
But rather than roll over in defeat, we found the will to overcome our differences and vowed to never allow conflicts about money to keep us apart. While learning about managing debt, investing, and entrepreneurship, we explored our respective pasts to understand how we'd come so far yet knew so little about how to properly manage money. And over time, as our lives became more intertwined, we found our rhythm. At our peak, we saved 70 percent of our income in a single year. We owned a cash-flowing rental property that was appreciating handsomely in market value, and we completely renovated our primary home in preparation for it becoming our second rental. We even went so far as to pay off the mortgage on that home on Kiersten's birthday in 2017.
Altogether, between 2013 and 2018, we paid off $200,000 in debt. We were obsessed with debt payoff and wealth building, having completely immersed ourselves in the personal finance community, churning through books, podcasts, documentaries, articles, and blogs. If it had anything to do with money, we were on top of it. Occasionally, we even attended in-person events to gain access to a network of other wealth builders around the country. We were able to support our friends who started business ventures and help people in need. And we did it without sacrificing our own financial stability. We were living the Black American Dream, but we were incredibly naive.
We assumed everybody knew about this stuff. And if they didn't, all we had to do was flip them an email and they'd follow through. But after repeated attempts we realized we needed to take a different approach. Instead of introducing an exhaustive list of new ideas, we needed to meet people where they were. Instead of boring a hole into their heads, we needed to build a path into their hearts. We needed to respect the cultural taboo of talking about money, not trample all over it. So we started sharing stories about our own experiences managing life, paying off debt, transitioning careers, and investing on our blog. Over the years, this blossomed into a podcast and a video series, Money on the Table, where we hosted friends over a delicious meal while tackling a financial topic. Almost immediately, our approach resonated with people from all walks of life around the world. We soon began to receive heartfelt messages from readers, listeners, and viewers about how our story and approach helped them to confront their own challenges and improve their financial lives.

Table of Contents

Part 1 Rethink Your Money

Chapter 1 Your Wake-Up Call 3

Chapter 2 Rich and Regular 19

Chapter 3 The Purpose(s) of Income 44

Chapter 4 The Fifteen-Year Career 74

Chapter 5 Freedom Starts in Your Mind 103

Part 2 The Daily Struggle

Chapter 6 Whatever You're Thinking, Think Bigger 123

Chapter 7 Put Your Money to Work 149

Chapter 8 The He Said/She Said Dance 179

Chapter 9 Find Your FI Community 204

Conclusion But What If We're Wrong? 225

Acknowledgments 237

Appendix: Some Tips on Saving 239

Notes 245

Index 251

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