Scott, a loyal reader who has made amazing personal and financial progress in recent years, reached out to me with an idea for the guest post that follows. I’m not sure which is the more impressive feat — losing 90 pounds (combined between him and his wife) or adding a second comma to their net worth as they joined the millionaire club.
Yes, they’ve done both, and they don’t feel they’ve made any particular sacrifices to reach these big milestones.
I’ve explored the commonalities in what’s required to lose pounds or maintain a healthy weight compared to growing one’s wealth. As explained in my post, there’s a great deal of overlap on losing 10 pounds in 24 days.
What are Scott and Krista’s keys to success? Let’s find out!
Our story is not glamorous. We didn’t hit it big with a technology start-up. We didn’t receive any inheritance, although we have two sets of very loving and supportive parents. We made plenty of mistakes along the way (if only we knew then what we know now!). While all this is true, we wouldn’t trade our journey for anything.
Today, we are on the “next phase” of our journey, using our time and talents to pursue our passions and trying to create value in the lives of those around us. Several years ago, we discovered a passion for good food and healthy eating (more on this in a moment). We have also developed a passion for helping ourselves, and our family members achieve financial well-being.
More recently, we discovered a passion for helping raise funds to find a cure for cancer. Although we are not registered dietitians, have not attended culinary school, and have no formal financial planning certifications, we feel like we have learned even more through the school of hard knocks. We have learned by “doing” and reading and watching and the experience of others.
Last year, we helped our son and two of his friends raise money during a 7-week campaign for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. They participated in honoring their good friend, JC, who lost his 11-year battle with leukemia at the age of 13.
With the help of their wonderful team, the boys raised over $120,000 during this 7-week campaign. Interestingly, the Grand Finale event was on March 7, 2020, just days before the U.S. started shutting down, so we knew JC was there watching over all of us.
This experience and watching many family members and friends battle cancer inspired us to devote even more time and effort to find a cure. We recently started Décor for a Cure, which includes an exciting project to help people pray for and honor their family and friends who have been affected by cancer while also raising significant funds to help reduce the prevalence of this brutal disease.
How Did We Get Here?
After graduating college with degrees in Risk Management (Scott) and Marketing (Krista), we started our corporate America careers. We changed jobs a couple of times in our first few years. Then, what sounded like a great risk management opportunity came up in a town three hours from our hometown of Kansas City.
The move turned out to be a great one. I found myself working for a great company, and Krista found a great opportunity with a small, fast-growing hotel chain. We didn’t have much money at the time, but we were passionate, worked hard…and played hard, too!
Living Below Our Means
As we progressed and were rewarded with new responsibilities, we saw our earnings start to increase. We started discussing our finances, which we never really discussed before, beyond making sure we could pay all our bills. We both agreed that we should spend money on the things we needed and create memorable experiences while also saving and investing in building a cushion. We didn’t give a lot of thought to it but living within our means became our way of life.
Fast forward several years, add a couple of kids to the equation, and one day we decided we should step back and look at our financial situation. To our surprise, we realized our net worth had grown to seven figures (two commas)!
What did we do to celebrate? Looking back, we didn’t do anything special…we just kept doing what we were doing. We didn’t feel deprived, and it just felt like the right thing to do.
Then Something Strange Happened
We always had a desire to be healthier and lose a little weight. I was 6’1” and 230 lbs, and Krista was 5’8” and 165 lbs. We did everything the experts tell you. We tried to eat a low-fat diet.
We hit the gym after work. That didn’t seem to work. We tried other diets. We ate oatmeal cereal bars for breakfast (oatmeal is healthy, right?). We ate salads for lunch (that Quesadilla Explosion Salad is a salad, so it’s good for us, right?).
Those things didn’t work either. Our kids had become addicted to chicken nuggets and fish sticks. Finally, we hit a breaking point and agreed on something that needed to change.
We became more mindful and curious about the foods we were eating. We read books like Michael Pollan’s “Food Rules.” We started reading ingredient labels. In case you didn’t know, there is no maple syrup in most of the syrup bottles at the store.
We started shopping at the farmers’ market and buying foods we had no idea what to do with. We took them home, found a recipe for them, and were blown away by the flavors of the meals we were making. Our cravings started to change. Without even trying, we started losing weight.
The weight loss wasn’t dramatic, but it was consistently 1-2 pounds a week. Just like our net worth had slowly crept up to seven figures, our weight had gradually crept down by 70 lbs. for Scott and 20 lbs. for Krista. While losing 90 pounds together, we were actually eating more food than we ever did before.
We then had a couple of significant realizations. First, we realized we had discovered a passion we never knew we had…a passion for Real food.
With the right preparations, this food was absolutely delicious, plus it was good for us! The second realization was that the same principles that led us to accumulate $1,000,000 also helped us become the healthiest we had ever been in our lives!
Financial Independence AND Good Health
For us, these principles include:
Keep it Simple
We found both of these areas to be simple but not easy. There are so many conflicting and confusing messages about achieving financial independence and being healthy.
For our new way of eating, we boiled everything down to “keep it simple and eat Real food.” For our finances, we boiled everything down to “keep it simple and earn, save and invest.” Of course, there is a lot more to this, but these helped us stay on course and helped when others inevitably asked about what we were doing.
Slow and Steady
There is no overnight magical solution. We have definitely seen the magic of compounding, both in terms of our finances and our health. We learned that all those fad diets and “get rich quick” schemes are not sustainable.
Staying disciplined and having faith that our daily habits will help us achieve our after is the key.
Tune Out the Noise
Your readers understand all the “noise” from market pundits and others, which can tempt you to make decisions different from what you know to be the right ones. The same is true with food.
There is so much “noise” that can cause you to stray from what you know to be right. We learned how important it is to tune all this out, stay disciplined, and stick to our philosophies of keeping it simple, eating real food, earning, saving, and investing.
Costs of Healthy Eating
We also realized that financial independence and good health go hand-in-hand. We hear many people say that eating healthy is more expensive, and we also used to have this perception. However, the reality is that healthy eating isn’t more expensive. We enjoy in-season foods, which is also when they are most affordable.
We have also become avid farmers’ market shoppers, where we have developed great relationships with local farmers and producers and can find some great deals. While we were never taking any medications, our health improved, and doctors’ visits decreased when we started focusing on Real food.
While we may not have as much control over our health insurance cost (ridiculously expensive), we believe our lifestyle helps us minimize our out-of-pocket costs.
Pursuing Our Passion
As we became the healthiest we had ever been, and we were absolutely loving all the meals we were making, we said, “this isn’t rocket science…if we can do it, anyone can do it.” So, we decided to try to help others discover and enjoy all the benefits of real food, just as we had discovered.
Since I was still working in risk management full-time, Krista started a business to share coaching tips, recipes, and meal ideas to inspire and motivate others who wanted to eat healthier. We certainly didn’t have the perfect business out of the gate…and still don’t. We have adapted the business along the way, learning what works and what doesn’t.
We are still learning, and there are several areas where we know we could do better. But we are getting so much fulfillment from seeing the results that others are achieving. We get feedback every week about people who can stop their medications, are losing weight, see significantly reduced arthritis pain and inflammation, and so much more. We even had one person tell us that the resources we were providing helped save her marriage!
For several years, we continued along the same path, balancing corporate responsibilities and obligations while trying to help as many people as possible through our business and volunteering. We struggled with “one more year” syndrome and the question of “how much is enough?”.
After many discussions, we went out for coffee one cold, wintry Saturday morning and made the decision – “let’s do it!” We decided to leap of faith and transition to dedicate all our time to our passions and use our time and talents to serve others in whatever ways we can.
We have now been in this next phase of our journey for just over a year. Things have obviously been a little different than we expected with Covid (we laugh and say, “surely our decision didn’t bring on Covid?!), but we are enjoying all the opportunities in front of us, especially some of those that were put on hold over the past 12 months.
What Do We Mean by Real Food?
People often ask us what we eat. Sometimes, they ask if we are vegetarian or vegan or if we only eat organic. When we say we focus on REAL food, we sometimes get a confused look, and we know they are thinking, “what exactly is REAL food?”
Basically, we eat anything that grows from the ground or a tree or grazes on the prairies or swims in the oceans. When we started changing the way we ate, we found some of Michael Pollan’s “Food Rules” helpful. Rules like “If it came from a plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don’t” and “It’s not food if it arrived through the window of your car.”
We eat A LOT of fresh, local produce. Our meals are focused on whatever is in-season and local farmers and producers are selling at our local farmers’ markets. Our dinners always include roasted or grilled vegetables and a big salad loaded with various flavors and textures, along with a simple homemade dressing. We also eat a lot of nuts and seeds and beans, along with a wide variety of whole grains (including bread and pasta), and, yes, we even enjoy our meat, cheese, and sweet treats.
We tend to use meat to complement our “veggie-forward” meals and focus on quality vs. quantity, preferring grass-fed and finished meats. Let’s say there is no deprivation going on in any of these meals. We also love pairing the right wine or craft beer to bring everything together.
When people ask us for some of our favorite meal ideas, we typically respond, “how long do you have?” Some of our favorites include Thai Pizza, Southwest Quinoa with Simple Guacamole, Tropical Pork Cuban Sandwich, Kicked-Up Kale Salad, and Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups.
With springtime produce coming into season soon, we look forward to things like the Asparagus with Catalan Vinaigrette and Spring-Inspired Cobb Salad. These are just a few examples of the types of meals we enjoy…again, how long do you have?
We feel like we can continue to learn so much more from others than any advice we can share. However, if we were to offer any advice, it would be:
- Have a plan but know that your interests and passions may evolve.
- Stay disciplined and trust the power of compounding, both financially and with your habits and decisions. And be aware that it works both ways (good decisions compound as making poor decisions).
- Don’t deprive yourself. It is important to spend money and time on things that bring value to your life while also consistently saving and investing.
- Eat Real Food. Ignore all the fad diets and confusing and conflicting messages. Focus on eating real food, and you will likely achieve the best health of your life.
- Be willing to take some risk. Evaluating and analyzing things is good, but at some point, you must be willing to act. You can’t get hit by the luck truck unless you are playing in the street. Don’t be afraid to take calculated risks while having contingency plans to adapt and adjust.
We are so thankful for all the people like you who so freely and candidly share your experience, thoughts, and ideas. It has greatly influenced our approach in areas such as our investment policy statement, donor-advised fund, solo-401k, and so much more. We are still learning and adapting…and will for the rest of our lives. Hopefully, we can pay it forward by sharing our experiences to help others in some small way.