Author, speaker and entrepreneur, Marcus Garrett has been through an incredibly impactful financial journey. From surviving the streets of an inner-suburb city in Texas, to obtaining a BA in Business Administration and becoming a certified internal auditor, Marcus has worked through a ton of roadblocks to become an award-winning freelance writer on topics ranging from love and relationships, to debt and personal finance. On the path, he dug himself an enormous debt hole but was able to successfully navigate out of this hole. He detailed it all in his best- selling book, D.E.B.T. Free or Die Trying.
Today, Marcus joins the show to talk about strategies for overcoming debt and how he helps overworked (and underpaid) professionals find easier ways to make more money and avoid the mistakes he made.
Watch on YouTube
00:50 – Jonathan introduces today’s guest, Marcus Garrett, who joins the show to share early financial lessons imparted on him by his parents, how he dug himself into deep debt and how he climbed out of it
15:40 – Hitting rock bottom and the genesis of ‘Debt Free or Die Trying’
19:31 – Why Marcus beat himself up about his handling of finances and how he managed to dig himself out of an incredible amount of debt
24:37 – The Four Steps of D.E.B.T. and other ways to get out of debt
36:22 – Marcus’ latest project
38:43 – One piece of advice on debt to heed and one thing to completely ignore
42:57 – One thing Marcus wishes others knew about him and the one question he would like to know the answer to
47:25 – Jonathan thanks Marcus for joining the show today and lets listeners know where to connect with him
“It’s amazing how much in denial you can be when you’re able to make minimum payments. But I didn’t realize the tsunami or the wave was already coming out. That first credit card was the earthquake.” (17:27) (Marcus)
“So, if you’re one of those people who gets paralysis by analysis, and you need a decision, Bankrate.com is still around, and they have an infinite amount of calculators, so still use them. But the point is to come up with a system. How are you going to get out of debt? What does that look like? How much do you actually have to pay each month to truly get out of debt and when do you want to get out of debt? Then build a budget around that, which is ‘B.’ And then, ‘T,’ ‘Trust the Process.’” (26:51) (Marcus)
“Really it’s what works for you and your personality that you’ll be able to successfully stick to. Because I tell people, unless it’s medical or school loans, getting into debt can be fun. My debt story was fun. I spent a whole bunch of money and I had a whole lot of fun. It’s the getting out of it that’s painful.” (30:48) (Marcus)
“I found what I enjoy. I enjoy podcasting. I enjoy blogging. I enjoy writing. I enjoy communicating and connecting with the community.” (33:32) (Marcus)
“You can’t spend your way out of irresponsibility.” (39:24) (Marcus)
“I actually want the freedom that I envision that being – the time that I would get back. And I believe that is invaluable. And currently, that pathway has been shown to me through having the money available to live that lifestyle.” (45:04) (Marcus)
Mindful Money Resources
For all the free stuff at Mindful Money: https://mindful.money/resources
To buy Jonathan’s first book – Mindful Money: https://www.amazon.com/Mindful-Money-Practices-Financial-Increasing/dp/1608684369
To buy Jonathan’s second book – Mindful Investing: https://www.amazon.com/Mindful-Investing-Outcome-Greater-Well-Being/dp/1608688763
Subscribe to Jonathan’s Weekly Newsletter: https://courses.mindful.money/email-opt-in
Capture the most important benefit of an advisor – behavioral support – without the 1% fee: https://courses.mindful.money/membership
For more complex, one on one financial planning and investing support with Jonathan or a member of Jonathan’s team: https://www.epwealth.com/our-team/berkeley/jonathan-deyoe/
Jonathan on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jonathandeyoe
Jonathan DeYoe: Welcome back. On this episode of the Mindful Money podcast, I’m chatting with Marcus Garrett. Marcus survived the mean streets of an inner suburb city in Texas. He obtained a ba in business administration from A and became a certified internal auditor and worked as a financial data analyst. He worked through a ton of roadblocks to become an award winning freelance writer on topics ranging from, this is quite the range, love and relationships to debt and personal finance. On the path, he dug himself an enormous debt hole. And, um, I wanted to have Marcus on the podcast as a success story because he dug the hole. He dug himself out of the hole. Then he wrote a best selling book to talk about it. Debt free or die trying. Marcus, welcome to the Mindful Money podcast.
Marcus Garrett: Thanks for having me.
Jonathan DeYoe: I’m glad to have the conversation before we get into this. Where is home? Where are you connecting from?
Marcus Garrett: I’m, um, out of Houston, Texas, right now, so I just say Texas. I moved all around.
Jonathan DeYoe: Yeah. Yeah. That’s. The next question is, where did you grow up? It’s sort of the city streets of a. But what’s the town?
Marcus Garrett: Yeah, I grew up in Texas, born and raised. And I actually met my wife and moved to Denver for seven years. And at that time we dated, and I met her seven years later. Maybe another that love and relationship story that I could tell. That’s one of our plot twists. And then we, uh, made her back to Austin. I met her again in Chicago, and then now we’re in Houston.
Jonathan DeYoe: You met her in Houston and met her again in Chicago after a stay in Denver?
Marcus Garrett: No, I actually met her originally in Denver. She was home for the summer. She was going to Leola in Chicago. So shout out to Leola. That means something to somebody somewhere. And she was 27, I think. Something like that at that age. And so we just kind of went our separate ways. Actually, I might have been 27. And then the funny quick part of it is we had a mutual friend. We knew we had a mutual friend, but she has a nickname that I didn’t know at that time was her nickname. He’s like, hey, man, I want to introduce you to L. I’m like, I don’t know, an L. He’s like, she’s going to be at this day party, man. She says she knows you. I was like, I don’t know, an, uh, l. I denied it, like, three times. Came into the party and saw what would be my future wife after. I was guilt tripped for half the party. But that’s how, uh, it goes.
Jonathan DeYoe: So going way back to growing up on the streets part, or maybe there’s a house. I want to hear about it. But what did you learn about money or entrepreneurship as a kid?
Marcus Garrett: Did not learn much about money, and it was kind of a two way street. My parents, even to this day, are, like, remarkably good with money. Frugal Dave Ramsay. Dedicated listeners. Actually, I remember listening to Dave Ramsay in the backseat of the car and the radio, and then 2040 years later, I met Dave Ramsay because he invited a group of influencers out to his compound. So that was a weird coming of age story. And then we end up having his daughter on our podcast. So big world, small world thing. But we didn’t talk about money. My parents, in that same traditional sense of very old school, like, we money you child, we provide, you go to college. And so we didn’t really talk about money. And as we’ve talked about this, we actually talked more about money to me as an adult, like, adult to adult, than we ever did as me, adult to child. And they weren’t raised that way. That’s not something they did in their home. And I just wish we had more earlier discussions around it because they’re so good with money. Uh, and I wish I had known a lot more the decisions behind the actions that they were taking.
Jonathan DeYoe: Well, we’ll draw some contrasts here in a little bit. So no talk about it at home. But were you curious earlier at all?
Marcus Garrett: I was curious in that I wanted to be rich. And so I read another book recently by Damon John, the Power broke, the guy from Shark tank that named a meaning thing to you. And he’s actually profiling a story. And the gentleman talks. Know, when he looked at Batman and Bruce Wayne, he wanted to be Bruce Wayne, he thought being rich was a job. And so I was just interested in money, and I didn’t really come from the home. We were actually fairly, like I said, frugal. I would call it cheap. And now I know why. Because they had all this money saved. They were saving a bunch of money, and they were able to put me through college and do a number of other things that benefited me and my sister personally and financially. But from my head, I’m like, I just can’t have jordans. These people are like repressing my need to buy assets. Like I said, because I didn’t understand the decisions behind it. It just looked like austerity to me. I can’t wait to escape. And so I was in pursuit of money. But I will say again, the things that they did positively. They opened a savings account for me as soon as I turned 16, encouraged me to get my first job, helped me pay for a vehicle, and I had to pay half for the vehicle, so I had to be invested in it. I even had to pay half for this remote control car that I wanted for Christmas. And so they were instilling saving and personal finance and budgeting habits in me. I just never knew why. It always just felt mean. But now I look at some of my peers and I’m like, you know, I’m glad my parents raised me the way they did.
Jonathan DeYoe: Yeah. How long did it take you to see that? Uh oh. Ah, these are actually good lessons.
Marcus Garrett: I appreciate it. Like I said, I appreciate it more now. I also realize that I’m very fortunate. Someone told me recently, I have a community newsletter and every Friday I just talk to the community. I don’t even try to sell them anything. I just talk about what’s going on and a gentleman who’s been following me for a while, he replied, he’s like, you’re just very fortunate to have your parents still in your life and still instilling values in you and still being able to exchange more on a like I said, it’s almost like a friendship now, maybe less so. My mom will forever see me as a child, but my father is like talking to a friend. My mom is like talking to a friend who thinks she knows better than me. And so I appreciate it more. But I think I came to recognize, like, oh, I have a different experience here. I have something that I need to share. Probably in my late twenty s and thirty s when I was starting to get out of this debt journey, and I was blogging about it and sharing all these dualities. Like most people. I’m, um, egocentric. So I view, I think my experience is how the world operates. And when I started sharing these blogs, which would now be microblogs and TikToks, people are like, oh, that doesn’t happen. Me and my parents never talked like that, and that’s not a story that I could relate to. So I began to recognize that, oh, I might have something here that I need to share with, uh, a community.
Jonathan DeYoe: So when was it that you had all this austerity placed on top of you and then you broke free of that and kind of went into kind of a, you kind of spend a lot. So just walk us through that. Start at the beginning. How did you dig yourself into the debt?
Marcus Garrett: The first time I escaped, I was actually 18 years old. I left for college. I went to a dorm university, uh, of Texas at Austin. And I went back home after that mistakenly. I mean, there were some summer breaks, but I went back after school. I had a small loan because I exhausted some of the funding that I had. About 90% of my school was paid for based on some decisions that my parents had made and some funding that I got from accolades. And I was like, oh, I’m just going to move back home and pay this off. And my mom was over my shoulder, just like she does. I think she went to my email once or somehow to this day, I actually don’t know how she found out. But my girlfriend at that time was long distance and somehow she got to our conversation. She won’t reveal her secrets. I guess she’s Batman in this scenario. And I was like, never again. I’m not going back to Shawshank. So I put all my plans aside. I moved out. I must have been graduated at 22. And so I escaped again, or at least so I thought. And I now look back. And when I talk to young individuals, I realized that I was wrong in a lot of the friction and it hurt me financially so that I could have come out of school completely debt free. If I was just able to allow my mom to read my would have been AOL messages. I don’t know what the kids are using these days, the DMs. If I was just okay with my mom monitoring my dms for maybe six to nine more months, I could have been completely debt free. But I’m like, no, I’m going to go out here, put the world on his ear. I thought when you graduated college, that was your starting line to rich. And so I was like, I’ve got a college degree now. I don’t need you all anymore. And as you said in my book, debt free or diet trying, it didn’t quite work out that way. First job out of college, I made $9 an hour. Technically, even though it was a salary job, I made $19,000. I made less at my first job out of college than I did working an hourly job. Very humbling. 22 years old, and I got a consolidation offer in the mail. I didn’t even know what a consolidation offer was. And they mailed a 22 year old who had spent $9,000 on three credit cards at that point, not maxed out a blank check. I think it was about 15,000. And I went crazy. So the quick version of it, we can go deep or we can keep it shallow, was I spent $26,000 in 72 hours. This is Google bulls. Google a bull. So, I mean, it’s a story that anybody can read on their own time. And that ultimately started the journey where I started living the debt free or die trying lifestyle. I just didn’t realize it at the time.
Jonathan DeYoe: So you built it up to 26,000. Was that the peak of the debt?
Marcus Garrett: I wish it was the peak of the debt would come at about 30,000. I think, for my own sanity, I’ve never done the real math with interest and carryover loans, and I did a second consolidation loan to bring all that debt together before I finally got my stuff together. But what happened? I do remember this part of the story. I bought a casio. I think it was flat screen tv, and it was 42 inches, and it survived, like, two relationships through thick and thin. I kept this tv with me. It was like the first flat screen tv. Now people are hearing this story, and in their mind, flat screen tv, maybe 300, uh, and 42 inches, maybe seven. It was $3,000 back in the day.
Jonathan DeYoe: First one.
Marcus Garrett: Yeah. It’s the most difficult thing for people to believe in my story. They can wrap their head around 72 hours. Like, I’ve seen rap videos, and, uh, I’ve been to Vegas once, but they’re, like, a $3,000 flat screen. That’s, like, the most argumentative story I have that I ever tell. I guarantee, I’m sure I have that receipt somewhere. And so that put us to 29,000. And then I met, uh, around that time, because apparently I’m rich. I met a high maintenance girlfriend, an enabler, and so we just kind of went out, and first we lived a consolidation loan, then check to check, and then eventually she left, and the money ran out, and so did a lot of the friends, and I was left with $30,000 in debt.
Jonathan DeYoe: So what was going on around you? Did you have friends doing the same thing, or were you different from peers?
Marcus Garrett: Similar to the story with my parents. I think my being so transparent and honest around money and personal finance. I’ve been blogging since the early 2000s, graduated in 2005, but I’ve been podcasting since 2013. I started the personal finance podcast in 2016. And I think my transparency and openness has bring people forward because I used to be confused. Where did you all get all you all’s money? And so they were spending their refund and college checks, uh, because I didn’t have any. My school was paid for. I didn’t get refund checks. I didn’t know what a refund check was. So basically, we were all pre social media. I guess we had Facebook at the time, but we were all trying to keep up with the Joneses on a make believe lifestyle. Like, none of us had money, but we all thought we had money because we were all spending money on credit, just different, varying lines of credit. And so I’ve heard a lot of that. Well, that would have been my mid to, uh, early 30s. Like, yeah, man, I didn’t have any money either. I was spending in my student loan. And, yeah, I didn’t have any money. I was spending my food check, which should have gone to my food. And so it’s been a nice coming of heart, if you will, of individuals and peers. And I don’t want it to come across as no one was taking advantage of me. It was more like, well, I’m here. You’ve got a tab open. Why don’t I just throw a bottle on there, too? You already got two. What’s another four? No one was taking advantage, and I didn’t stop anybody. I’m like, yeah, make it six. We were just enabling a lifestyle that we thought all of us were living, but we were all fronting.
Jonathan DeYoe: Do you think that was limited to your proximity, your peer group, or do you think this is universal across the generation?
Marcus Garrett: I won’t say my experience is unique. I can say that for sure. But I think it’s more variations. It’d be almost like the multiverse. So we were all living in the same timeline on different multiverses. So I might have been in the club, you might have been in San Jose, but I think what the similar theme is, and you can any popular or viral CNBC article, it feels like. It seems like the arc is we went to college, they were selling credit cards on the yard for t shirts and yoyos. I got a yoyo, some friends got a frisbee, and we all have this story where we got some swag, and then we ended up in debt ten years later. That credit card, I think it’s illegal these days. I don’t think they can sell credit cards on campuses anymore, but I do remember walking through the yard, and they were like, discover card, mx. Open up a line of credit. And I was like, free money. So I do think that is where the multiverse splits. And then how people spent that money or spent those credit cards is different, but we all ended up in debt.
Jonathan DeYoe: I went to college in 1990. It was my first year, and I got into my dorm room, and on my dorm room table, there was a box. Inside the box was a cookie, a coupon for the local sandwich place, and three or four credit card applications, right? So, boom, right there, you walk in opportunity for debt. Immediately. I want to bring a quote out from your book, because a, uh, minute ago, you said, I don’t want to say that no one took advantage of me, but I want to point this quote out. This is a great quote, by the way. So my credit limit, that always seemed to increase right when I needed to buy or do something I had no business buying or doing. It’s as if the credit card companies had an algorithm synchronized with my financial stupidity. I love that, by the way. And do you think they actually have the algorithm?
Marcus Garrett: That still feels true even to this day. I mean, I still get lines of credit increase that I’ll never use, and same thing with my wife now, and we’re building our credit together, and I’ll give an example. So we just bought our first home, and we’re probably going to turn into an investment property. And I think we were here maybe one or two months, and we were like, oh, we’re first time home buyers. So we’re like, okay, we wish we had known this. We had wish we had known that. And this came in the form of a letter. So I don’t know if the house is bugged, but they’re like, hey, those things that you didn’t like last week, we’d be willing to fix and repair and buy your home. It was like an investment firm. We’re like, we’ve only been here two months. We’re not so dissatisfied that we’re going to sell after two months. But both of us were like, it was a little weird. That was a little suspicious. That was a little eyebrow raising. It could be extreme. Coincidence, but it does always seem like, man, I think I’m just going to be responsible this week. And then I get an email almost like, my phone goes off right then. Like, here’s a free line of credit, or points for a vacation that you weren’t going to take, but now it’s a great deal to take. So it does feel like all these devices are listening to us in some type of capacity. I have no evidence against this, but I do look forward to the civil case.
Jonathan DeYoe: No lawsuits. So what was rock bottom for you? When did you go, like, what the hell?
Marcus Garrett: I remember it exactly. I’m 27, and by this time that the girlfriend that had enabled a lot of the money is gone now. And I had moved back to Austin, and I had, like, made this pledge that I’ll never go back home. I’m too good for this city. Which is interesting, because she went to New York. I ended up back in Austin. And so, uh, I missed a credit card payment. And to this day, I would testify in court that I didn’t get the letter. This was back before I’m old enough. Elder millennial. We got letters, they mailed things to us. So I didn’t have an electronic bill. I don’t even think I had an electronic profile. My perspective, I never got this bill because I’ve never missed a credit card. It’s like a point of contention for me. And I got the next bill, and the interest on that bill was 29.99%, which I think credit cards could still do. I thought it was illegal, so they had, like, quadrupled my interest rate overnight. And I was like, and this was the same company I had signed up for back in college. Small world, Bic world. And I’m like, hey, this is obviously a misunderstanding. We’ve been in a ten year relationship together. I’m just going to give my boys a call. We’re going to work this out. And I was like, hey, guys, what’s going on with this interest rate? I can’t afford this. And they’re like, well, basically, good luck. And I did several ego based poor decisions from there. I was like, close this credit card. I’m taking this industry down. And I transferred that credit over to another car, thinking I was going to prove a point. They’re still in business, and I think they’re a multibillion dollar entity. If you’re, you know, as I think a lot of your listeners would know, I messed up my credit utilization. All things that I did not know at that time. But rock bottom actually came a couple months later, because I can’t make these payments anymore. And I was at that time working three jobs already. It’s amazing how much in denial you can be when you’re able to make minimum payments. I’m like, everything’s fine. But I didn’t realize the tsunami was already going out. The way was already coming out, and that first credit card was the earthquake. And so the wave is coming back, and I just don’t realize it yet. And so while I should be running to higher ground, I’m just going about my normal life, working my three jobs, living paycheck to paycheck. And, uh, once I realized I couldn’t make the payments, interestingly enough, I wasn’t getting any credit card increases, and I wasn’t getting any consolidation loan offers because I imagined, which I didn’t know, my credit score was probably at rock bottom as well, similar to my emotions. And I finally got one loan offer, and I hadn’t seen one in a long time. It was like the white whale sighting. I was like, I got to get this loan. And I called him up, and I remember I couldn’t answer basic financial literacy questions, but I think if it’s an SAT test, the only thing I would have got right is my first name. And he was like, what’s your utilization? What’s your credit card debt? How much do you owe? What is your debt to income? And I couldn’t answer any of these questions, and it was so embarrassing and just so demoralizing. And I’m sure this is just a guy in a call center actually probably making more money than me, so I can’t really diminish him at that time. And I realized when he put me on hold, I need this guy to say yes. I don’t know what I’m going to do if he comes back and says no. And fortunately, he does come back and say yes. And he’s like, we’ll transfer the funds to you. And I just remember hanging up, and I was like, I’ll never be in this position again. I will never allow this to happen. And that’s why I started living what would become debt free or die trying. But that’s why I call it that is pre pandemic. It’s not the best tile in the world now, but I’m not going to do this until it’s inconvenient. I’m going to get out of debt if it kills me. And I went to still around bankrate.com, probably not as large as they were then, and I looked up a debt consolidation calculator. I was like, what would it take to get out of debt? And that was my first plan. I printed it out as a pdF.
Jonathan DeYoe: So there’s points in the first half of the book where it’s honestly hard to keep reading because you beat yourself up pretty hard. Like, I think the word that comes out the strongest in the first half are words like stupidity and irresponsibility. So why hit that so hard one again?
Marcus Garrett: I wanted to be transparent. I didn’t want it to seem like, oh, yeah, I put this loan together, and that was that. And I wanted people to feel, and either two things empathize, like, oh, man, this guy’s at bottom, or recognize because there’s people at bottom. Listening to this show right now that I’m not alone, I remember I felt alone because I can’t talk to my friends about it. They’re all rich. Remember in college, they’re all rich. We aren’t talking about money at this time, so I can’t talk to anybody about this. This is a very real struggle that I’m going through, but in my mind, I’m the only one going through it. No one can relate to this. No one’s ever been in this amount of debt. No one’s ever missed a credit card payment. I’m the only one nine. And so I wanted that to come across in the book, and I want to set the stage for what a comeback will look like. Um, I was talking to my wife, and I’ve talked on a few shows about this. In today’s reality, it’s also much more expensive. I almost think that I might need to revise or update the book. When I was getting out of debt, interest rates on credit cards were about ten to 14%. If they’re under 18% on average, I would be shocked right now. And so it’s a very different reality that people are facing, even if they were just getting out of $30,000, like myself, that are more. I do want people to recognize that. I recognize that this is a different environment that they’re facing, and I wanted that to come across in the book what I was feeling and experiencing going through that.
Jonathan DeYoe: Yeah, I’m curious. You talk a bit about this in the book, about how you had to solve this. I have a limited income. I have to pay minimum debt payments and hopefully some amortized principal, but I also have to pay for daily living. You have to make choices. How did you manage that?
Marcus Garrett: I would say a little bit of luck. And, uh, the reason the awkward pause. There is. I only knew at that time how to trade time for money. So I only knew how to get nine to five. So the three jobs had a nine to five. And I’ll disclaim, it’d be a hypocrite of me not to say them. So I was making $50,000. I, uh, was putting Dell computers together. I apologize to people now because I hated that job. And you probably got a pretty beat up computer because I was slinging it all around that warehouse, taking out my frustration on these computer parts. So I apologize if you got a computer between the years. I sound like one of those infomercials. You got a computer between 2005 and 2007. I apologize. Please contact this number. And then I was selling, which was, again, the luck part. I started working at singular. Singular. Got bought out by at t, and they came out with this amazing device called the iPhone. And it was the iPhone one. You could not keep the iPhone in store. So I was getting this ridiculous commission check because people were, like, fighting me, like, take my money and give me that phone. I was, like, making money. But I was working three jobs, and for one point there, I started working at a hotel on nights. This is how much. Because, like I said, all I knew was time. Trade time for money, get hourly jobs, do hourly work. And I started working nights at a hotel on the graveyard shift. But you can imagine, I wasn’t old, but I was getting older, so I couldn’t pull all nighters like I could in college, which in my head, I thought I could. And so I just started what now? It’s called burnout. I didn’t have a term for it. I was like, I’m exhausted all the time. What is this called? Ten years later, I learned it was burnout. So I started burning out, and I was like, let me look for a job that consolidates all these payments or all these salaries in this case. And I started looking in 2008, which means something to some people at the start of a recession. I was like, I’m going to get a job. And I started looking around. And once again, where preparation meets opportunity. I had gotten two certifications as an internal auditor at that time, and I applied for a job in Denver, Colorado. You see me bringing it home. And I learned later the director was very impressed. He’s like, oh, this guy has two certifications. He’s clearly very dedicated to his job. Not realizing I was $30,000 in debt and I was doing whatever it took to get ahead. And I remember I had a job interview, and, uh, I was reading online, it’s the recession. Jobs, on average, take 24 months to get six weeks. He called me. I had a phone interview, and an hour after the phone interview, he’s like, you’re hired. How much do you want? I had never negotiated my salary in my entire life. I never even thought about what I would want. And I had watched a movie once about a guy who said he wanted 70,000, and in the movie, he was supposed to be making a lot of money. So I was like, 70,000? He’s like, sure. To this day, how much money I could ask for. It haunts me. I lose sleep over this. And so, fortunately, that 70,000 would be the stepping stone. Basically, it ignited my journey to getting out of debt. So I’m not one of those people that’s like, oh, just austerity and live on beans and rice until you’re out of debt. I upped my income and lowered my expenses, and I exploited that gap.
Jonathan DeYoe: Yeah. So I’m wondering if you sort of developed this four step process at that point, or did you do these four steps and then look back and go, oh, my God, there’s those four steps, and tell us the four steps.
Marcus Garrett: Definitely did not develop them. Um, at that point, actually, that was the first book, so I was blogging by this point, and I was actually making a little bit of money doing freelance writing and blogging as well. Like I said, anywhere I could get money, I was scraping and clawing, because all of it was going towards the dead at that point. And I released that book, actually, I was talking about it on the blog, and people were like, hey, you need to release a book. And my brother in law says, I force gump my way through life. So people were like, you should write a book about this. I was like, all right. I didn’t really think much of it. I was already blogging, so I just took the blog, I dumped them in a book and released it. I released it, like, in the depth of night, too, because I was like, oh, it’s going to read this book. And once again, no one can relate to being out of debt, uh, or being in debt. This is stupid. No one will read this. It sold well for how poorly written and organized it was. That was 2016, in 2020. I was like, you know what? Maybe I should. Like, people are actually reading this book, and I’m embarrassed by it, and it’s my product. So I worked with an editor, and she was like, I think you shouldn’t organize this chronologically, which is what I did. I told my story. You read version two from beginning to end. She’s like, you should organize this thematically. Like, what are the lessons and takeaways that people should have? And that’s how we jointly came up with the four step plan. So it’s debt, and the debt is an acronym. It’s d. Define the problem, which for most people, it’s a ridiculous statistic. It might be 60, but I know it’s. At least 30% of people don’t even know how much debt they have. They get a bill, they pay it. They don’t know their interest rates, they don’t know the credit card limits. And if they’re lucky, they pay it and people miss their payments. And so for me, it’s defined the problem. How much debt do you owe? Um, and a lot of people have to go to annualcreditreport.com to get all their reports because they’ve never looked at them. Tally that up, go to sleep, because you’re going to be stressed. Probably have a little anxiety that night like I did. E is establish a plan. So after you’ve come back and you’ve gotten past your anxiety, for me, my plan was bankrate. There’s so many tools now that credit karma, uh, nerd wallet, like you can name drop all day. They’re all great. But the point is to come up with a plan and pick a system. So if you’re one of those people that get paralyzed by analysis and you need a decision, bankrate.com is still around, and they have an infinite amount of calculators, so still use them. But the point is to come up with a system. How are you going to get out of debt? What does that look like? How much do you actually have to pay each month to truly get debt, and when do you want to get out of debt? Then build a budget around that, which is b, and then t. Trust the process. And as part of trust in the process, I recommend that people automate it. That is one thing that I stumbled into. I automated all my payments. I’m an auditor by trade. That’s the day job that I do. So that already made sense to me. So a lot of people need to remove themselves from the process. And that’s why I say trust in the process. You got a proven system, you’ve ran your calculators, trust the process, and get out of the way.
Jonathan DeYoe: Yeah, that’s awesome. You also wrote, and maybe this is function of it being the second iteration, but there’s a chapter you start describing if you have a $30,000 salary or a $50,000 salary or $100,000 salary. This is how much car home you can afford. And then you go into some, um, this is the three or four different kind of budgeting methods. You start talking about specifics with a pretty broad brush. Was that part of the first or was that the second duration?
Marcus Garrett: That was the second edition. And that was probably informed by. So I have a giveaway. It started with a blog. Some things don’t change. So I wrote a blog. I like looking at data. Even to this day, I still like looking at data. And I had looked at, like, the Census bureau and their cost of living and debt to income recommendations, and I broke it down at that time by 30,000 thousand, which was the median income earner. It’s 40,000 now, 50,000, which was just in the middle, and 70,000 at that time was around household. Then, as you said, I did 100,000, because a lot of people just see that as a benchmark. And I was like, this is what your debt outlay based on these recommended tools and best practice should look like. And it did. Ridiculous numbers. Once again, Forrest Gump. I’m like, oh, here’s this boring data that no one to look at. I think it was like one of our best performing blogs. And so I ended up turning that into a pdf, and I give it away for free. And a lot of my personal finance and debt tools, I give away for free because I feel that’s just so foundational for people to grab. And I do that all on my YouTube channel. And that likely made its way into his book, either some iteration of that. I might not know the genesis behind it, but it’s some iteration of that likely influenced that decision.
Jonathan DeYoe: Got it. You talk about, well, I want to ask you, you said you got out of debt by raising your income, but I’m assuming you have a lot of feedback from other people, people saying, hey, I read the blog, I watched the YouTube channel, I read the book. Do you get a sense if that’s how most people solve it, or are there still people just trying to cut, cut, cut expenses?
Marcus Garrett: I actually would say it’s probably about 50 50. This is my third podcast. We used to call it putting the personal and personal finance. So a lot of it you have to tailor to the person. I would say going back to that multiverse, that, uh, story I wrote in the book feels like someone else’s life now. Not only does it feel like another lifetime ago, it almost feels like I’m reading about someone else because I don’t spend like that. I’m not as materialistic anymore. And I had a need to show that I had money, or at least at that case look like I had money because I actually didn’t have anything. And so because I don’t have that anymore, and the example I would use, I was actually doing a speaking about the book once in New York and a young man came up to me, I say, young man, he’s in his twenty s. And he was like, hey, how do you cut back on expenses? I’m in New York, obviously. And I knew some cost of living analysis. I was like, yeah, it’s about 30% expensive out here. Homes are 300% more expensive. I get that. That’s a very real reality. I was like, well, you might consider going out less. It looked like I told him he might as well grow a third arm. And I thought about it later and I was like telling a 22 year old not to go out, that doesn’t resonate with him. And so that and many lessons like that and lots of coaching, I realized I need to better tailor. You can give it, like you said, a broad brush. Here are some general know Dave Ramsey has a debt snowball. I go over four tools and one of them is the debt snowball. But really it’s what works for you and your personality that you’ll be able to successfully stick to. Because I tell people, unless it’s medical or school loans, getting into debt can be fun. My debt story was fun. I spent a whole bunch of money and I had a whole lot of fun. It’s the getting out of it that’s painful. And so doing something you don’t want to do, and that’s not fun. For twice I tell people it’s usually going to take no less than twice the amount of time. Because not only have you spent a lot of money in a short period of time, in most cases, your interest rates, as I mentioned, are 1014 18% on that debt where you spent it along. And so yes, you can tackle the principle, but it’s not going to be as fun and it’s probably going to take twice as long as it took you to get into it. So you need a system that you, your personality can tap into. So I can tell you all the systems in the world. I could run all the numbers and the math I could put into, like you said, an algorithm I could put into Excel spreadsheet, I could put it in a blog, YouTube, TikTok, whatever. But what resonates with you that you’ll be able to stick with twice as long as you were doing it to get into it.
Jonathan DeYoe: Yeah. If you don’t stick with it, you just end up back where you did you. So you have this job, you got a great job. You’re data analyst, financial data analyst. Did you start writing the blog then? And then, was that a side hustle? And did you ultimately replace your full time job with the side hustle job, the income from the side hustle job, and how did that work?
Marcus Garrett: So it’s two versions. At that time, I was just blogging. Once again, Forrest gumping my way through life, and I’m still friends with this guy. I didn’t realize how popular our blog it was. Seven writers on this particular blog, and he was like, yeah, we were doing 100,000 visitors a month at our peak. And once again, the ignorance and benefit of youth. You kind of extrapolate that your experience is everybody’s experience. We were doing news sites, numbers. We should have monetized a lot more. Is kind of how this story ends. But that being said, that’s a lesson learned for all of us. I was just kind of taking whatever I could get. So I pick up. People would read the blog and be like, oh, you are a good writer. Do you want to write for us? I’m like, yeah, sure. How much will you pay me? I didn’t have a rate sheet. I didn’t negotiate. I was just like, they’re like, well, give you $50. I was like, cool. They’re like, we’ll pay you in likes. I’m like, all right, whatever. I like likes. I had a different perspective at that time. I was in my twenty s. And so the second half of the story is, that’s where I’m trying to get now, because as I opened with, I’m more focused on my purpose. Uh, my wife, we debate this, but I think I would at this point, take less money for more personal satisfaction, more time, freedom. That’s actually more important to me. I don’t have a car with rims anymore. It has rims on it, but it doesn’t look as shiny as the one that I had in college. And so my perspective has changed, and now I’m like, well, this is duality that I fight with. I found what I enjoy. I enjoy podcasting, I enjoy blogging, I enjoy writing. I enjoy communicating and connecting with the community. I think maybe some of your listeners can resonate with, not to be dismissive, but that’s kind of social and community work. And when you’re familiar with those terms. Those jobs don’t pay very much, and so do I follow my passion and my purpose and cut my salary in half or, uh, maybe even a third that I’ve worked towards. And right now, that answer is no. And I’m trying to replace the income, and that’s been recognizably m more challenging than I thought it would be, but it’s because I was so successful in the workforce, so I scaled up to six figures. Uh, another story that tells I grew my salary by 400%. My success in itself has created a golden handcuffs of creating a lifestyle that aligns with the income that I have. And it’s like, man, if I had just been, uh, aligned with that income at 40,000 and found satisfaction there, got out of debt, and that was all I’d known, where would I be? So I’m trying to find peace with those very real worlds. And right now, what it’s looking like is I’m probably so, uh, I have my own business now, and the pandemic has, coming out of the pandemic will probably open up some revenue streams. Speaking used to be one of my most trending up as my most lucrative, and I just remember all of them getting canceled on March was, uh, that 2020. And so I’m trying to bring that back and just kind of find my place. Not to get extension, but in the world. That also aligns with the income that I want to take home.
Jonathan DeYoe: Yeah. So are you an influencer?
Marcus Garrett: I don’t like the term, but I have, yeah. Okay, good. And I am an influencer campaign. I am literally an influencer. That is how I get paid. That is my contract term. They’re like influencer, LLC or comma, LLC. And so at the same time, I’m not going to block my blessings or my bag. So if you want to call me an influencer, pay me a few thousand dollars, I’ll take it. It’s not like how I introduce myself. I don’t have any business card that says influencer.
Jonathan DeYoe: Do you have, like, a target audience that you’re trying to reach and teach, or is it really just anyone that reads the blog and loves the book?
Marcus Garrett: It’s an excellent question. So I’ve actually recently made what I guess would best be described as a pivot, and I’ll answer it this way. Before it was everyone, I was take all comers because my brand was personal finance. I had the story of getting out of debt, and mind you, this is a 2030 year story now, um, which gives people an idea of how old I am. And while I’ll still always be passionate about that, like I said, I’ve tried to pivot towards, okay, I might need to niche down and maybe even speak to a smaller, more lucrative community if I want to do this full time to support a lifestyle that I want. And so I still want to speak to that community. And the pivot is actually right there, available on YouTube. I’m starting up a new channel, which sounds cliche because YouTube is old, but I’m starting something new on there. But YouTube is. I was talking to somebody about this earlier. It has stood the test of time as far as monetization and building business. It’s actually pretty impressive. And so that being said, I’m starting a new channel that will tailor to a different audience and probably a smaller audience.
Jonathan DeYoe: Do you want to name the audience or no?
Marcus Garrett: Yeah, right now it’s how to with the Marcus Garrett. And so I plan to monetize it through three different ways. You said influencer, so I’ve been building billing and building affiliate campaigns since probably a decade. And so for those who don’t know, you partner with, let’s say, Amazon. And actually I am an Amazon partner. If you click a link, one of my links, I get a small percentage know, you buy a couch, you buy a tv or whatever, I get a small percentage of that. The other way I was going to do it is speaking, um, to coaching. So the reason it’s specifically a how to channel is because I already know. You’ve told me you’re a lead because you’re like, how to. You’re asking the question that you want answered. And if that video can’t fulfill that answer for you, I’m going to offer coaching and basically upsell services from there. And then I’ve been trying to figure out how to monetize my voice since I was age 16 because people have been telling me for years, like, you got a great voice. And it has been frustrating me for 20 years. That means nothing to me if I can’t monetize it. And so I’m going to start seeing if I can. I’ve done some before, less formally, but like voiceover and speaking services. So it’s basically a three tiered audience. You can get paid just by existing on YouTube. If you have a channel with 1000 subscribers, I got like 500 right now. Number two would be tailoring coaching and lessons like an upsell. Here’s the video. And then number three would be like, hey, do you want me to voice over your video. You can see in this video, I did a voiceover. Is this something that you like for your service? And so I’m really excited about this because I’ve talked to somebody who’s made millions doing this. He made, like, one video. It just blew up. I’m like, I’ve produced 250 videos, but it wasn’t like, a focused business plan. So this is going to be, like, a business. I’m really coming at it with the lens of data driven. And how do I scale this to monetize?
Jonathan DeYoe: That’s awesome. And just from my perspective, you can have a great voice and not monetize it. That’s fine. It’s okay just to have a great voice. Like, it’s okay to just be good at something.
Marcus Garrett: I hope so, because 20 years, I have not been able to. Beyond, obviously, the speaking engagements.
Jonathan DeYoe: Yeah. So there’s just a ton of noise out there. And I ask every single guest to simplify something for us, and I’m going to ask you about debt. So if someone finds themselves in debt, what is just one thing that they should do today to more financial success? Get out of debt faster.
Marcus Garrett: First thing I’m going to say is stop. Most people in debt are still spending. They’re still digging. And I don’t say that dismissively, and I don’t even say that harshly. It’s because you’re in denial. Like, well, I’m making the minimum payments. I’m living paycheck to paycheck. There’s a report that came out that said millennials are living paycheck to paycheck at 60%, and people at six figures are living at paycheck to paycheck at 48%. So it’s not an income bait. You can’t spend your way out of irresponsibility. So I guess that answer there, the inverse of that would be some accountability. Even if that accountability is, I know I’m in debt. I know how much debt I have. I know all the interest rates on my credit cards, and I don’t care. I’m going to keep spending. I can live with that. I can respect that. I’d clap my hands if I wasn’t on a podcast. I respect the accountability of that. But usually what I see is people are like, I don’t know how much I have. I don’t know where all the money went. It just runs out. It’s a mystery. There’s just more months at the end of my money, and I’m like, have you checked the numbers? And then they kind of just fade off to the black. And so that’s like, do you know how much debt you had? Do you know your plan? Do you know your purpose? Do you know the personal and personal finance, I guess, tying it all together. And if you can answer those questions, like I could, not at age 27, at rock bottom, at this call center, who’s probably just going through a questionnaire, and I couldn’t answer any of his questions. If you can answer that questionnaire, hey, that is, to me, the personal choice that you make to live your life. We’re all adults here, as majority of us are. I’m fine with that. So, uh, if you’re in debt and you don’t know and don’t like where you are, I would say to stop and start planning. And for me, it’s building a system, and like I said, automating. If you’re in debt, you know where you are and you like it, keep doing you. If you’re not drowning and facing bankruptcy. I know some people who live paycheck to paycheck, and they’re the happiest people I’ve ever met.
Jonathan DeYoe: So just really quick, uh, it’s very interesting that one of the two key levers that you have are have a plan. Stick to the plan, because for 25 years, I’ve been saying the same thing about building wealth. So building wealth is having a plan and sticking to the plan in the same way that getting out of debt is having a plan and sticking to a plan. I think there’s something interesting about that. Someone should write a book. Maybe it’s you. One other question, and that’s, uh, what is one thing that they’re doing? I don’t know what you’re going to say. It’s a simple, what’s one thing that they’re doing right now that they should stop doing? Don’t say spending. That’s an obvious one.
Marcus Garrett: Well, if I’m not going to take the obvious, and I’ll actually plug a book right there. As far as wealth, my favorite. I read 25 books when I rewrote my book. It’s the simple path to wealth by J. L. Collins. So if you read other prospectal finance book other than mine, and you don’t have to read mine, read his. His is the best roadmap of those 25, and it’s at my number one. The thing I would say is, if you’re struggling and in debt, is to look at ways to monetize. And so the cliches, as you mentioned, too. So these influencer side hustles and a lot of time they’re pandling mlms and all that type of stuff. I’m not saying that, but I was able to monetize skills and passions. I like writing. I like looking at data. I’m a money nerd, and I thought I would never be able to build an audience over that. And I was completely incorrect. I didn’t even believe in myself. My audience believed to be before I did. So if you’re struggling with that, you might already be able to increase your income, and it may be no further than what’s already on your resume.
Jonathan DeYoe: That’s awesome. Just as a quick aside, my nephew texted me this morning and said, hey, jonathan, what’s the best book that you can read for personal finance? And I told, you know, absolutely. That’s the number one book. But I said the second one was my book. Not your book, but my book.
Marcus Garrett: I understand. On my page, mine is actually listed first, but Jl’s is second.
Jonathan DeYoe: I’ll tell everyone. Read it first.
Marcus Garrett: Yeah, that’s my Amazon shop page. So you all more than I am an influencer on there, and I will get a small kickback, but it’s like less than $4 because books are usually ten to twelve. So if you want to, it’s out there.
Jonathan DeYoe: So, just before we wrap up, is there anything that people don’t know about you? I mean, you’ve been way out there, been very honest and very open, but is there anything that people don’t know about you that you really want them to know or maybe they just don’t remember?
Marcus Garrett: Actually, it would be difficult. I think what I’ve done a good job of, and I think that makes me relatable, is I am so transparent, open. I mean, we began this conversation, I call it the black box, before you actually hit the record button on the podcast, is like, I tried to be an open book. I haven’t had a question yet that I haven’t answered. Like, I got the camera. I remember probably one of my most awkward interviews, actually a radio show with, uh, Tom Joyner. I’m not even sure if he’s still on the air. And, uh, I was doing a review of another book, and this was back when I was doing the relationship writing, and it was about Kobe Bryant and how he cheated on Vanessa at that time. And, uh, it was like saying, why? That’s okay. That’s basically his book was advocating for it. Controversy has sold 20 years ago. It sells now. So that’s why I was on the radio show. And they were like, have you always been faithful to your wife, or, uh, I wasn’t married at that time to your girlfriend. And that pause felt like 22nd. That pause was so long, people called in to talk about the pause. I have a track record. And the answer was no. I think I said something like, well, you know, I do my best. Even at 21, 22, I was like, wait a minute. I’m not going to say yes or no. I gave the politician, answer the question you want to answer. And so I, uh, think I’ve been fairly transparent for 20 years, and all of it’s out there and available on Google. So, uh, I don’t think I have anything that, uh, people don’t readily know about, aren’t ready to ask about.
Jonathan DeYoe: All right, we’ll shift it up then. I’ll ask you a different difficult question. If you could get the truth about any question about the future of your life, and you knew you’d get the truth, what would the question be?
Marcus Garrett: Basically, I’m like talking to a psychic. They’re going to be able to tell me where I’ll be in 20 years. That type of, I would like to know if I’ll be rich. I’m still after that, at least passively still after that. Uh, Bruce Wayne money, maybe not Bruce Wayne money, but Bruce Wayne lifestyle. And really the only thing that’s changed is I see freedom in that. So it’s not to live the. A lot of people ask, and it’s actually interesting that people’s interpretation of that, like, oh, you want to be rich? Oh, you want to be a playboy? You want to be Elon Musk and you want to lay on beaches in San trope. And I was like, no, I actually want the freedom that I envision that being the time that I would get back. And I believe that is invaluable. And currently that pathway has been shown to me through having the money available to live that lifestyle. So I would like someone, if they were psychic, to be like, yeah, you’ll be good. 1020 years. You’ll achieve that. I mean, I’d like it more. They said two years. So that would be nice to know. That would be my question to them.
Jonathan DeYoe: So what if the answer is no?
Marcus Garrett: I have a response to that, and I actually just came up with it recently. Another book plug I was reading, simon Sinek’s both start with why and find your why. I’m reading them out of order because I got the titles wrong. So I’m reading find your why, which is the second book. So y’all should start with why which is the first book, which I got to reread. And, uh, you go through that journey, you find your why. Basically, it’s explorative book for you to determine your why and purpose in life. And I’m going through this just kind of the point of where I am in my life, and I realized that it’s somewhat of the pandemic. I need to connect again. I just felt disconnected from the purpose. Like, I’m making good money. I’m making more money than I’ve ever made in my life, have more followers than I ever made in my life or I had in my life. But it felt like, for what, like you said, influencer, for what? Uh, I get likes. I’m like, okay, I can’t pay my bills and likes. And it just kind of seemed arbitrary. And recently, which is big world, small world. I was actually at a meeting that I wasn’t even supposed to be at. I got last second invited, like, oh, you’re here. Come on in. I’m sitting in the meeting, and everyone there was just so connected to their job and their work, and everyone that came in the room was excited. They’re like, yeah, and I love working here. And I’ve been here 15 years and 13 years, and what it was is everyone that worked there was connected to a purpose. I mean, it’s one of those purpose driven mission organizations. And I was like, I want that energy in my life. And so I jotted down a bunch of names and I text my wife. I was like, I need to. In this case, it’d be like, get into the community and start working with these groups and having hands, uh, on and face to face interaction, which I think has been lost a lot in the pandemic. And I’d have lost my way as well. And so even if I didn’t reach Bruce Wayne level, financial freedom, and I can control that and never make a dollar, and that would still bring satisfaction to my life.
Jonathan DeYoe: Yeah, purpose definitely fills most money holes, if you can find the purpose. So tell us how people can connect with you so they can find you your website, YouTube, you name a few things.
Marcus Garrett: Yeah, I’m universally branded under the Marcus Garrett. And as you said, my big focus is YouTube. So if you are, ah, into YouTube videos, check me out at the Marcus Garrett. If you prefer podcasts, I have the Marcus Garrett show where every week we have motivational conversations with your favorite influencers and entrepreneurs about life after debt. And then if you are a. I just rebranded this, if you are an overworked and underpaid professional struggling with burnout and looking to monetize, visit themcusgarrett.com. Literally just wrote that tag like a week or two ago, so still getting the rest off of it.
Jonathan DeYoe: That’s awesome. And I just want to say thank you. It’s been great chatting with you. I’m glad you’re here. We’ll put all that stuff in the show notes, and thank you for being present.
Marcus Garrett: Thanks for having me.