Sep 13, 2023

NGPF Podcast: Julien and Kiersten Saunders, Founders of Rich & Regular, on Finding YOUR Path to Wealth

Are your students curious about how they can become financially independent? How can you make personal finance more culturally relevant? Listen to this week’s podcast to hear how Julien and Kiersten speak about their experience with money and how they found a platform with the mission of inspiring better conversations about money.


Ren Makino: Hi, this is Ren from Next Gen Personal Finance and you're listening to the NGPF podcast today on the show. Tim is joined by Julien and Kiersten Saunders co-founders of Rich & Regular a platform with the mission of inspiring better conversations about money. They both joined us on this show to talk about their experience as ex-corportate employees turned influencers and entrepreneurs and the learnings they had through the struggle that they went through throughout their journey. Listen to this discussion to get a glimpse into the life of a dynamic duo who transitioned from corporate careers to become successful business owners. Enjoy!

Tim Ranzetta: So let me just give a quick introduction and then we'll kind of jump right in. So Julian and Kiersten are the, I'm going to just refer to you guys as the dynamic duo and they're behind rich and regular, which I would describe as kind of a multi platform.

We're going to let them talk about all the different ways that they reach their audience. And the focus is really. Inspiring better conversations about money because we know kind of like a taboo subject. And so they're going to kind of break down how do we work through that because we all know this in our own classrooms, right?

We know how important it is to, to get the conversation going. So not only do they have rich and regular this, you know, multimedia platform, but they're also authors of a book called cashing out, win the game by walking away. And it's gotten rave reviews. I was reading the Amazon reviews earlier this morning.

It's like, this is a must read. And, and I think what I loved about it, it wasn't just about money. It was kind of like, this is a must read for career management. This is a must read for representation in personal finance. I mean, there was different people got different things out of your book, which I really enjoyed.

So we could have this conversation over days, but I'm going to try and hone in on really four areas to discuss. First of all. Their journey to financial independence. Secondly, we're going to talk about the importance of representation within personal finance. Thirdly, the emotional aspects of money, right?

We can think we understand all the basics of it and all the knowledge we can have in our heads, but it's difficult to. There's an emotional, a very strong emotional aspect. And then I want to talk about your business because you guys are phenomenal entrepreneurs. 

Julien Sanders: Hello, hello. Thank you. Thank you so much. We're happy to be here. 

Tim Ranzetta: All right. Let's start from the beginning because that's where it all starts when it comes to money. So maybe lessons you learned or things that really stand out when you think about your early experiences within Your own households. 

[00:02:36] Julien's and Kiersten's Early Money Lessons.

Julien Sanders: Okay. 

Kiersten Sanders: Yeah. I think my earliest memory of money is when my dad would come home from work and empty his pockets. And he had this box where he would keep all of the coins from the day, the leftover coins under his sink. And I swore he was the richest man on earth because he had this box of coins. And every winter break or spring break, anytime we were off from school, he would let us roll up the pennies.

Cause that's what you had to do back then, roll them up. And take them to the bank and then do something fun for the day. And I just remember my fingers smelling like slot machines because we would just spend hours rolling up these pennies. And he appreciated it because it was like money he didn't think about.

And we got a kick out of it because we got to spend the money. And so my earliest memory was actually like physical coins, which is interesting because we have a six year old and while he recognizes coins from curriculum, like he barely. Interacts with them. Right. He has a totally different understanding of how money works.

Julien Sanders: Yeah. And I would say , my earliest memories about money, you know, is really in tandem with like the typical urban 1980s poverty story. Right. I grew up in 1980s, Brooklyn which would later on be known as the crack era. These were things that, you know, Around those times, I just thought it was normal.

So money was not something that was really spoken about. Like money was almost like a mythical thing, right? Because if you think about New York or anyone that's grown up in an urban environment, you know, you do weird stuff, you know, you play on the rooftops, which is really dangerous, but you'd go up to the roof and you could see from our roof, you could see Manhattan.

And like, that was where the money was. That's what I thought. I thought money was there. I knew it existed. Maybe I saw it on television or something like that, but it just wasn't where I was. Right. And so it was something that was over there. My mother would take the train to go to Manhattan. And so it was almost like a leprechaun or like Santa Claus.

It was just not something that I was very familiar with. It was not something that we had a lot of, but I knew it existed because I could see it on the train and I could see it in the distance, but it was a very, Distant thought and arguably a very frustrating thing for me as a kid.

Tim Ranzetta: So that's kind of your earliest experiences. I think the other thing that impacts how we think about money is our first job I wonder what your first First job you had as a young person and how you thought about the money that you now had earned on your own. 

[00:05:06] Julien's and Kiersten's First Jobs.

Kiersten Sanders: My first official job or unofficial job was babysitting and pet sitting.

My neighbor had five cats. And so every time they traveled, I would go and scoop the litter out and make like 10 bucks a day. And that was my earliest money memory. And then my first real job was selling shoes in the mall. But in each of those scenarios, the money went in my hand and out like same day. I was never thinking about saving.

Like I was in these environments where it was very easy to spend it. And so that's what I did. I thought that was the point. 

Julien Sanders: Yeah. Yeah. My first job was actually as a junior counselor. Basically, I was a big kid at a summer camp. And I got paid about 50 a week, if I'm not mistaken. And of course that was a game changing amount of money.

Only thing I cared about was being able to buy some cooler clothes than what my mom was buying for me at the time. But then I remember being in high school and the first job that I got was bagging groceries at the A& P. And that was really, really cool. And I remember really hustling and again, starting to make those very early connections, like a lot of people that the harder you work, the more money that you earn and that there was almost like a built in degree of frustration.

With that relationship, because you also realize that there are limits to how much I can work. And so even though, you work a couple more hours, you get that overtime pay, or you get that extra tip back then. They used to. Slip you a little dollar. If you bring your groceries out to help, help someone in the parking lot.

But I remember enjoying it. But yeah, also knowing very early on that it's a very frustrating thing and realizing almost the relationship or the trajectory that I was on and how similar it would be to my mother if I didn't start to make some changes early and that back then it really just meant focusing on education and using that as a vehicle to be able to earn more someday.

Tim Ranzetta: So we're going to skip ahead a little bit here because I think your background is really instructive because when we think about entrepreneurship, it's often, it's the kid in the college dorm room and you all took a very different path and I think there was some benefits you've got from that path.

So maybe kind of, again, hearing, from both of you about your corporate journey , and then we'll get to the point where you, jumped off the corporate bandwagon and went off on your own. 

Kiersten Sanders: Yeah, I think what our what our corporate stories have in common is both of them kind of started in the service industry.

Julian was on the food and beverage side, and I was on the retail side. I was a assistant manager at Target as my first job when I graduated college, and we learned through that practice one how hard it is to be on your feet every day and how fulfilling it is when you can serve people and help them in any sort of way, whether it's finding something that they're looking for or promoting a really ambitious team member.

Like it was where we kind of cut our teeth before we entered the official, white collar, sit at a desk, be at a cubicle and type emails all day kind of jobs. So once we finished our stint in service, we both ended up at the same travel company. And that's actually where we met. We met at a.

Global company that has thousands of hotel rooms and we were on two different teams, didn't know each other for the first four years, but I was in sales and then moved into marketing. And Julian was in, 

Julien Sanders: yeah, I was in operations and, you know, basically operations. And then we met. When we both got promoted, you know, that dream job that you get.

And so she got her dream job. I got my dream job. We ended up on the same team and we were wondering why we had never heard of each other or ever met each other. Cause at that point, we'd worked for the company for a pretty long time. And again, we loved it. I mean, we had a lot of fun back then. That was like 2012 to around 2015, 2016.

And it was just an amazing experience. We learned a lot about what it meant to work hard, what it meant to travel. Cause we spent about 40 to 50%. of our time on the road. And so we met a lot of different people. We always say it was all good until it wasn't anymore. Right. Right. The the sparkle started to fade away a little bit.

And we just started to realize that something was awry. And, and part of it was just kind of by design, right. We were brought on as like this new class. of People that were kind of replacing the old cast of people. And then after a while, we started to realize that actually, I kind of feel like I'm on the same assembly line here.

You start to look forward, you peek ahead, you peek, you know, I guess behind the curtain and you start to realize actually, like I'm actually on the same path. And so we need to start thinking a little differently about our careers and be maybe a little bit less optimistic. And that happened around the same time where we were also paying attention to what was happening in the internet and what was happening with people who were striking out as entrepreneurs.

And not just, let's say, the fancy startup culture that we saw maybe 10 years ago. There were people that were just doing fascinating and amazing things. We tell the story in our book. And it's about my experience because Kirsten was far, was far more successful in growing her career in corporate than I was, but I call it my 10, 000 story.

I wanted a raise. I felt that I deserved a raise. And I, instead of getting a promotion, I kept getting a promise. It was like, Oh, I promise you next year, you know, if you work a little bit harder and then they just kept raising the bar and raising the bar before I knew it, I had all this responsibility and I never got the raise that I asked for.

For until finally, I want to say after the second year, I said, you know what, I think that instead of pouring all this extra time and all this money into, you know, I was doing everything you can imagine. I'm going to upgrade my attire. I'm going to do more networking. I'm going to take on more responsibilities and so on and so on.

And it just didn't, net me anything. And so I realized, you know, what would happen or ask myself, what would happen if I decided to just take all of that investment in time and poured into paying off my debt and poured into my own ideas. And that was really the beginnings of rich and regular.

And what's interesting is I hold onto that. 10, 000 story because I remember that the years where I didn't get that 10, 000 that I knew that I deserved. But I also remember when we started making 10, 000 a month. I remember when we started the first time we made 10, 000 in a day or 10, 000 for doing something that honestly we could have done in our beds, just tweeting or something like that.

And it just completely changed my mindset. And that matters to me because I remember at the same time that I was asking for that raise being responsible for this big budget at work, and this was right around the early days of influencer marketing, and we basically paid a group of influencers to travel to.

several of our hotels, take their families on vacation, eat at our restaurants. And I just remember thinking like, how is it that I can't get a 10, 000 raise, but they're willing to pay people who are not celebrities to take a vacation with their families. I just couldn't, the math just couldn't make sense in my head.

And so at some point I realized like, you know, Worst case scenario, do I think I can do that if I had to? And the answer was yes. And that was kind of the beginnings of what ultimately became rich and regular, because we were paying attention to our own little world, which was the financial independence for tire early movement.

And a lot of people were doing some amazing things on the internet. And we knew we had a bit of a strategic advantage given our experience. The desire was there, everyone had started a family. The frustration was there, which I think is an important part of the entrepreneurial journey.

And so we just took all of that stuff together, turned it into exactly how you described it, Tim, a multimedia, a mini multimedia empire. And it's been a fun, creative journey ever since. 

Tim Ranzetta: Wow! There's a lot there. There is a lot there. So yeah, that's an incredible story. I love the epiphany where you're like, wait a minute, we're paying these people, people are getting paid going to go on vacations to popularize, but there's that element of it then.

But it's interesting. You didn't focus on, boy, I wonder how hard it's going to be to build an audience. Cause you probably looked at those influencers and were like. Okay. They're not that impressive to me, but look at the followings they have. How are we, how are we going to do this? I wondered if, you and Kirsten kind of were doing this as kind of a side hustle, you hear about a lot of folks, the way they get started in the creative economy is like, yeah, I got a full time job, but we're working from six to midnight, kind of building our brand.

And I wonder kind of how that, how that evolved, or did you just cut the cord with corporate and say, Hey, we're going for it. 

[00:13:27] Julien and Kiersten Being Dualpreneurs.

Kiersten Sanders: No, we definitely were what they call dualpreneurs for a while, which is when you have a nine to five and then presumably a five to nine. Ours didn't work exactly that way, but yeah, for the first three years before Julian left, was it three years?

Yeah. Something like that. First couple of years before he left, we were both working full time and doing this on the side. And to your point, there was a concern about building an audience, but we noticed two things that we knew we could make a difference in. One, at the time, everyone who was talking about money, was also under this anonymous persona.

So they had these nicknames, Mr. Money Mustache, Mr. 1500. Like it wasn't their name. It wasn't like Pete and Steve and Linda and Tanya. They had these personas. And so we came out with a brand name, but we also very much were Julian and Kirsten. And so we were not anonymous, which added a layer of trust. And then the second thing.

was around being honest. And we felt like a lot of people were honest about the really good times, but weren't honest about how it feels to make the trade offs that you have to make when you're trying to pay down a ton of debt, or when you're trying to support a family member, or when you don't actually like the job that you need in order to accomplish these financial goals.

And what we've realized through even the five years that we've been publishing online is that literally anything can be interesting. As long as you're honest about it. So you can create a niche in any area, whether it's serving students or what you pack in your lunch every single day, or how much you hate traffic or what bees attacked you on your walk that day, as long as you can be honest about it.

And, you know, they call it authenticity online, but that's just such a long word for. Honest, like just, just being honest and truthful, that was the two things that allowed us to build an audience because people were starved for that at the time. And they still are. 

Tim Ranzetta: Let's talk about that. Cause I think one of the reviews I read said, talked about tough love, that some of your book some of your podcasts, you know, that tough love, what is the honesty?

What's the authenticity that's lacking as you see it in the personal finance space? 

Julien Sanders: That's a loaded question, Tim, but I will be honest, I'll tell you one of the so part of this realization that I came. To was also because I worked in marketing, right? And so when you work in marketing, especially brand marketing, you have the benefit of doing things like focus groups or in surveys and all these kinds of super expensive and elaborate modes of research.

Ultimately, you learn a lot about human behavior in the way that we make decisions. And one of the things that really would frustrate me is that back then when we were starting, there was so much emphasis on financial literacy, right? Like everyone thought that the problem, why most of these people weren't doing these things with their money was because they simply didn't know how or they weren't taught.

And I just thought that that was a load of BS. I was like, that's just BS. I know these people. I work with these people. Some of them were in... 

Kiersten Sanders: Their class. It definitely was taught. 

Julien Sanders: And in some cases I've been that person, right? If we all, you know, there's a whole idea of when you know better, you do better.

I fundamentally disagreed with that premise, which is part of the reason why we were able to differentiate what we do, right? Because we did not overemphasize on education because I didn't believe that education was bad. Problem. I thought culture was the problem. We had a culture that basically over road or would override what we believe to be true.

No different than why people decide to jaywalk. It's illegal to jaywalk. That is a crime and you're a criminal if you do it, but we do it all the time. And if there's no car coming, it just kind of makes sense to do it. We all know that we should all drink more water. We all know that we should be eating more vegetables, but we don't because our culture overrides what we know and believe to be true.

And so I found that to be really interesting. And I spent a lot more time telling those stories to Kirsten's point, being honest, being vulnerable. About those internal conflicts and using that as a way to help people see themselves and to identify what the real problems were. And so that that's what I thought was, it was a really, really big issue.

And I would say that's still a bit of an issue today. , we over simplify the problem. And we do that if we're being completely honest, because there's a lot of money to be made in financial education, right? It's very difficult to do that when you're focused on trying to shape or change the culture.

That takes time and people don't want to wait. the amount of time it takes to do that. They would rather do something or boil it down to, I will teach you how to do these things. But the reality is there are plenty of people doing or taking action, which is contrary to what they believe. And I would imagine teachers feel that and experience that all the time.

You say something, you know, you taught it. Then people say they didn't know. And it's like, all right, well, , there's a reason there, or maybe they, they don't. Take action, you know, in accordance to what they've been taught. That to me has been the far more interesting part. And I think is , the biggest issue when it comes to financial education.

Tim Ranzetta: So we had an interesting conversation yesterday about culture. Yeah. So let's, let's dive a little bit deeper. You know, some of culture is family. Some of it is broader society, some of its place, you know, maybe talk a little bit about , the money cultures for each of you. Cause they're, as you described them quite different.

[00:18:56] Julien's and Kiersten's Money Cultures.

Julien Sanders: Oh, yeah, sure. I mean, 

Kiersten Sanders: yeah, my family's from Texas. That's where I was born. And anybody, any Texans on the phone know that like Texas, it can almost be its own country. It's got a very planet, its own planet. It's got a very strong culture. And so that's where my parents were born. They're both from small towns in Texas.

And then when they got their first jobs, they soon relocated us, me and my brother. To Atlanta and Atlanta has a long history of examples of black wealth, black politicians, like there was black upward mobility far earlier than some of the other places in the country. And so that's what I was immersed into from a money perspective.

I always felt like there was a trajectory or a path for me and that where I was, was just the beginning. So I've always had this naive optimism about how much money will be coming in, how long it would last. What my potential was, I believed in just like abundance with no regard around what to do when you're given all these blessings and how to, continue to sustain and give it to other generations.

And so that's my story. Julian's was. Probably the exact opposite of that. 

Julien Sanders: Yeah. So I grew up in Brooklyn, New York city, but both of my parents immigrated here from the Island of Jamaica. And so my cultural upbringing, I mean, there were foods that she'd had and things that she would talk about. Granted, I was born here in the United States, but I had no idea what she was talking about, you know, and even though I had spent.

15, almost 20 years down here in the South. Like there were still things that I was just completely unfamiliar with. And when I made the move from New York to Atlanta, you could not have told me that I wasn't in another country. I didn't understand what people were saying, the language, the sense of humor, the music, the style, even though on paper, you know, you can look and say, well, you're all black, right?

Let's just check that box and go a layer down. Surely, you know, or listen to the same things. And I didn't, I didn't fit in. I didn't understand. And they didn't understand me. And I think that's also important because even when we try to attempt to make or introduce these layers of diversity into our education, we oftentimes kind of, it's like, think about it in terms of food, right?

That's like kind of taking a little bit of Tex Mex and mixing it with like jerk seasoning. I don't know about that. Like, I don't know that I would eat that, right? Like, I kind of want my jerk to taste like jerk, and I want my Tex Mex to taste like Tex Mex. They don't necessarily need to be blended together, but the same things happens when we're trying to communicate with people or connect with people.

And it's like, well, yeah, I mean, I know what those things are. But I am not necessarily close to those things. And as a result, I'm not able to connect with people. And again, I think , that's something that has relevance , in everything. I think culture shapes and affects everything. And it's something that needs to be incorporated , in the way that we educate people.

If you understand their culture, your ability to communicate with them is going to be so much better. This is exactly what marketers do. This is what they know. They know that, Hey, whatever we can do. To better understand the culture of the people that we are trying to get to buy our product, our service.

Let's use that as an opportunity to connect with them, to help them see themselves in our brand and use that to build this lifelong relationship. I think, you know, marketing is far more than just a business skill. I think at this point it's arguably a life skill. 

Kiersten Sanders: Yeah. And it's interesting because even now.

You know, , we use geography place where we were born as like , the center of our identity and our perspective of the world. But the kids today who were born, you know, we were born pre internet, like it existed, but no one was using it. We didn't have household computers at the time, certainly didn't have smartphones.

So now when you think about the kids, like our son that are growing up in a world where. The internet shapes the culture and what they center as part of their identity is more of an aesthetic or a lifestyle versus a place or a region in the country. Then you see like where the challenge comes from because my son watches YouTube kids and he's watching kids in Russia and China and in Florida.

Like sometimes he talks with an accent because of Peppa Pig or whatever, whatever cartoon he's watching. And so. It's a very interesting gap demographically where, you know, you've got some people who are so tied to place and region and a whole generation that it matters, but not to the extent where it defines or shapes their perspective the same way that it did for us.

Tim Ranzetta: So we talked about culture and I know a lot of educators here are when they're in a classroom, they've got a very diverse class in front of them. Tips you have on how to make this topic of personal finance culturally relevant. Knowing again that you can't just look at someone's race and say, Oh, they must have similar values and think about money the same way.

 How do you do that when there's so many variables that impact how people think about money? 

[00:23:47] How to Make Personal Finance Culturally Relevant.

Julien Sanders: I think pick the thing that you're good at. Right. So if you listen to our podcast I, you know, you learn pretty quickly that I had a strong background in food. And so I've got food metaphors for days.

It doesn't matter what we're talking about. Like I can come up with that stuff for days. Maybe you're a comedian or you have a strong appreciation for comedy, use that to your advantage and don't veer outside of that. Because again, culture is also a very sensitive thing, right? You get something wrong, people take offense and all of a sudden you have offended someone and it creates an entirely different set of issues.

But I think really just focusing on your strength and to what Kirsten was saying, acting almost like an influencer, because in many ways, as an educator, you are. But it is on you to be authentic, to be your authentic self. I think a lot of people, regardless of all the craziness that the media and the news wants to tell us, we all kind of appreciate that, right?

Like you are who you are. Tell me more about who you are and where you're from. But I think if you just continue to be yourself, stick to your sense of humor, it doesn't matter what it is, you know, your cuisine, your style, and then you use that as a way to connect with people. I think that's it. Now that is hard.

Right. Like that's an easy tip, but it's hard to do that. It's hard to have those relationships. And I empathize with teachers you know, , who have these 25, 30 different personalities that they have to connect with. You know, my training with that came when I was waiting tables and I'm really grateful for that experience because at any point in time, you may have 10 or 15 different people with different expectations.

Maybe someone's celebrating an anniversary over here. Someone else is maybe trying to, you know, get in and out because they've got somewhere to go and, but everyone wants to kind of feel special. And so to some extent, I can kind of understand how difficult it is, but I know that the best teachers are able to do that , and it's the thing that really makes the light bulb go off for people and it lasts forever.

Kiersten Sanders: And I think it's also like, don't be afraid to be excited about the things that shaped you and talk about them with as much enthusiasm as they talk about the things that are shaping them. I think ultimately, like last night we showed our son, Michael Jackson, we watched, we pulled up some YouTube that had Michael's top 10 dance moves.

And explain the moonwalk. And he was just fascinated wanting to know, like, how does he do that? Which is different from like a world of Tik TOK dances and flossing and all the things that they do now. But we wanted to show him like in our day, I sound like a fossil, but in our day, this was what dancing looked like you had to move your whole body and lean and do things.

And so I think there's something to that. Like when they talk about , the people and the influences that are shaping their world, whether it's. A celebrity or just somebody talking in front of a camera, sharing their day, go and tell them like, who was the news anchor that you looked forward to seeing every day?

Or who, what was the show that you liked and, and maybe let them watch it, let them experience it and get their feedback so that you can understand where the gap is. They may say, oh, well they're cool, but I don't like that he's wearing a suit. Cause that makes me feel like, you know, he's an authority figure versus just somebody.

 Like just understand where the gap is because we were all shaped by influences. It's just that ours were not available to us. 24 hours a day, 365. You had to wait until five o'clock on Thursdays to see your favorite person on TV. And you only saw him once a week and everybody was watching the same thing, which is what's missing from this generation.

And what makes it so difficult is that out of 30 students, five of them like the same thing, but another 10 are onto something totally different. And so you got to. You know, allow that that that exchange to make sure that you know, just to see what the common themes are. 

Tim Ranzetta: Yeah, you're bringing me back to my third grade class.

We're talking about happy days and the Fonz, but that's only going to mean something to some subset of people. You also probably were in. You know, it's almost like you were sitting in my car as I was taking my son to school the other day. And he requested to listen to Bruce Springsteen. Which to a guy from Jersey, like, that's about as good as it gets.

Julien Sanders: That's my mother's favorite artist. Right? Bruce Springsteen. She's a a 75 year old Jamaican woman, not Bob Marley, Bruce Springsteen. But again, that's, that, this is the point 

Kiersten Sanders: that I work to find that thread, that connection. Yeah, that's, that's an example where it's like, okay, we got a third grader. A 75 year old Jamaican woman, two, two, two middle aged men all liking the same, artist that exists.

We just have to work so much harder to find it. 

Tim Ranzetta: You know, we've gone this far and we haven't talked about finances yet. So you guys did an incredible thing. You retired 200, you retired 200, 000 in debt. Yeah. Tell us a little bit about your financial journey. And I think there's an element of this, which I think can be really helpful for all of us, which is.

You know, money and relationships because we're not making, if you're in a partnership, you're not making decisions solo. And so really important in that I'm sure in the courting process, there's like, Hey, how would, how do we think about money here and finding that, you know, person who has similar or close to similar thoughts and goals and the like, but yet talk to us about that financial journey, because you guys have accomplished an incredible amount together.

[00:29:01] Julien's and Kiersten's Financial Journey. 

Julien Sanders: Thank you. Yeah, you know, I actually think this is the least interesting part about our story because I think it's, it's pretty boring, right? We... You know, people ask me all the time, like, what separates you guys from everyone else? And honestly, it was just the decision to believe in the evidence that was placed in front of us.

Right. So I graduated with my MBA in 2008. And even before then I bought my home in 2007. Right. And so immediately, like I was just gutted. Right. It was, it was a horrible thing, but it just so happened that I studied business. And while I was not a genius, I knew what happened. The only thing that could come out of this deep, great recession.

Was a great rebound. And I remember making very, very difficult decisions. Then I tell Kirsten all the time, this was before I met her, but there was a lot of hot dogs and a lot of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, but you'll play right? Like that was getting me by. And I just stuck with it. And Kiersten had her own version of coming through college, again, just like everyone else. You get through college, you get the best job that you can. You do the best that you can. We met in 2012. 

I had already started to chip away at some of my debt there again, getting that big job that both came with a big raise. But that led to some conflict because, you know, she wanted to keep on partying like there was no tomorrow and I was very much. I was very much interested in building this life that I was reading about in these weird corners of the internet. And it was because I had had a fundamental distrust with corporate America at a very early age. I'd seen people get discarded. I had started to sense that maybe we were on that same trajectory.

I had no Examples of anyone that I could say had retired successfully. And so I was very skeptical of all of these things, right. After seeing people get laid off and heartbroken and seeing how it just turns into all this stuff. And so we just made some very difficult decisions or daring decisions, I should say, to just play it safe and say, you know what, what if we just.

Continue to max out of 401ks. What if instead of taking endless vacation, we decided to invest in real estate? What if we decided to eat in more? We literally asked that question, like, how much happier would you feel if you went out to eat? Three more times a week. And we were, it was interesting because we realized that actually, I don't know that it would make me any happier.

Actually, it becomes more stressful. It's more annoying, more vacations. There's a certain point where like if I have to leave home again, it actually starts to create and introduce disruption and disorganization into our life. And so we basically Right size, like this amount of money that we could spend on an annual basis, and we were fortunate to have high incomes at the time.

And we said, you know what, let's go big. We fired our financial advisor, because again, we said, you know what, if you believe what you've read, And then you can do it yourself, right? Like why would I pay someone else and then try to convince them to invest in the things that I believe that I want to invest in and that I think is going to lead to the greatest return for us.

And so all of that to say time investing in real estate, the convenience of being on the early ages or the early stages of what would ultimately become the greatest bull market in the U S history, investing predominantly in index funds, eating at home. driving a old beat up Honda. And now hers is a beat up one.

My car is a little older, but she still, she still has her car that she drove and probably paid three times a four when she first got it in her twenties. But it's really just a matter of all of those things compounding, right? Like, I don't have to explain how that stuff works to you guys, but it was like, you do that for over a 10 year period.

And then on top of that, you build a business that is very lucrative and you enjoy one that doesn't drain you one that is also purposeful. And this is kind of where you end up. And so this is, that's, that's really been our story. There's also a good bit of luck in there. Right. Like there's a lot of luck involved in that.

But I think that luck really started with us gaining confidence to take and make daring and bold decisions and believing that our skill sets, certainly when they worked together were far more valuable than the constraints. Of the budget placed on the roles that we were employed in, right?

That was the big bet. I said, wow, you think you're making a lot of money now. I bet if you bet on yourself and you continue to do and develop yourself that you would, you'd be in a better position. And all of those things kind of together have really gotten us to where we are. 

Tim Ranzetta: So Kirsten, at least in Julian's telling, it sounds like this might've been a bigger adjustment for you. 

Yeah. Talk about that. I know he's a marketer. I know he's kind of a good sales guy, but this can be difficult and I want to hear about your personal transformation. 

[00:34:01] Kiersten's Personal Transformation.

Kiersten Sanders: Yeah. When he first brought me the idea, I was completely anti, absolutely not, interested because I believed the narrative that I had been shown that I would just continue to out earn my spending.

I would continue to get promoted. And then when I ran out, like when that budget hit the top, I would just go get another job. And then that was my plan was just to keep getting jobs. And eventually I would run somebody's company and never have to worry about money again. And to his point about having a confrontation with the truth, he asked me to pull up all of the org charts of all of the big companies in Atlanta that I thought I could work for and point to like, where do you see somebody that looks like you?

Why do you believe so strongly that you can be the exception? Where does it exist in the world? And while it hurt, it was, it was hurtful, but it was honest because To my imagination was so strong that I really believe that this could be a viable path and it is for some people, but those people are the exception and not the rule and I wasn't living like an exception.

I wasn't committed to working, you know, 20 hour days. I wasn't staying up late and doing all the networking. I wouldn't do none of that. I just assumed that I could hit the same path. And so we had that conversation and he also started to introduce me to other influencers in the space that were living the life that I actually wanted.

They were able to sleep in. They were able to take as much time off of work as they wanted. They were able to write freely. And that was what sold me was when I saw examples of other women who were living lifestyles that I thought I could live in. Like, the idea of sleeping in was really the one that sold me.

I was just like, oh, I don't have to use an alarm clock? Like, that's wild. And so once I understood what it looked like and actually had a body of evidence of people who had done it. The algorithms, because this was at the time where blogs and podcasts and Facebook were still like at their peak, started adjusting. And I started seeing more and more of it.

And it felt more natural to me than this counter cultural bold move. It felt like, Oh, this is what a lot of people are doing. Let me just do my version of it. 

Tim Ranzetta: So you mentioned kind of a couple different sources of wealth. What would be in two sentences or less your strategy when it comes to real estate?

[00:36:19] Julien's and Kiersten's Strategy When It Comes to Real Estate.

Julien Sanders: Buy and hold keep it simple, buy and hold but , we sold all our real estate. We got out of real estate in 2000 and 2020 again, look, perfect timing. We closed on after liquidating our last property I wouldn't want to say. Right before the pandemic. I mean, , days before the pandemic started.

And so here we were, you know, while the world was sort of changing for us, flush with cash and able to kind of go through that period quite comfortably. And so yeah, again, like, that's not because I'm a genius at all right like that those things just kind of happen. You know, out of luck and circumstance, but but yeah, we got rid of , our real estate.

Our last properties at our peak, we had two properties. One of them was paid off entirely because we paid off our mortgage on the home that we were living in back in 2017. And even when I say that flippantly, I apologize if that sounds, you know, flippant. I get it, but I don't know what to tell you.

You know, it's something that we did and it was hard work and we were glad that we were able to get there. But that property eventually ended up becoming a debt free rental. But again, it goes back to the beginnings of the creator economy. And, you know, we were fortunate in that we were able to, I mean, If you've got a choice between being able to earn, let's say, $5,000 for creating a video or $5,000 slowly over 12 periods of time and hoping that a dishwasher doesn't break or that you have these other things like it, it kind of seemed like we were just far more interested in that, what the creator economy had to offer.

And we were Right. Right. You know, , and we've been able to, Create a business that allows us to do a variety of things from collaborating with brands, to speaking like this, to writing a book, to doing, you know, almost like creating a television quality show from start. And being paid to learn like my friend Chris Browning was able to tell us or share with us in terms of how he framed up his experience in the creator economy.

And so it's new, it's rocky but it's really fun. And if you can do a well, it can be very lucrative. 

Kiersten Sanders: Yeah. I think that kind of is our advice for side hustles in general or our argument for them. You may not need the money, you may not want to pick up something very, you know, heavy or hectic or add another thing to your plate, but it is important, we think, in general, to have something to compare your paycheck to right if you've earned money in one way your whole life, which is trading your time in exchange for a paycheck, you owe it to yourself to say like what does earning look like in a different context, whether it's through collecting rent on real estate or flipping houses or short term rentals or.

driving Uber or selling templates on Etsy or whatever it is, like you owe it to yourself to have something to compare it to. So that when it comes time to make a decision about whether you want to continue or whether you want to double down on something, you at least have two options instead of always feeling kind of cornered into one.

And so with us, we tried real estate investing. It was great in terms of lessons learned. It's a fun story to tell, but ultimately because of our longterm plans for our lifestyle and just the amount of work and individuals involved to get a deal done, it just didn't feel like something that was going to be sustainable with a family and with all the other things that we wanted to do, we wouldn't have been able to make that decision if we didn't have something to compare real estate investing to, so.

Julien Sanders: And I'll also say this. I think a lot of the kids today share the same sentiment. So when we talk about earning potential, right, they aren't just comparing, you know, one profession to the other, right. They're comparing the amount of time and effort and the trajectory and the lifestyle and the earning potential to all, to a significantly wider set of possibilities that they've learned about and have access to on the internet.

Some of it is real. Some of it isn't but, but they're factoring in all of these things. And I think that's why I, you know, I would argue it's actually more difficult to teach financial literacy than now, than it was even 10 years ago, because the amount of rebuttals and harebrained ideas that people are coming up with these days, some of which actually work.

It's like, oh my gosh, like, well, I don't know that I would want to wait. 30 years for my money to compound either. Right. If I knew that I can be an idiot on YouTube and make 50, 000 and get paid for it. Yeah. 

Tim Ranzetta: So, yeah, in hopes that teachers will take multiple snippets of our conversation and bring it to their students.

A lot of students, as we were just talking about the influencer economy, the creator economy influencers, what are two or three things people don't know about the influencer economy and about the challenges? Because, right, they only see Mr. Beast, they only see the huge success. Two or three things, a realistic picture maybe, as well as...

Maybe a little encouragement too. 

[00:41:16] Things People Don't Know About Influencer Economy.

Kiersten Sanders: Ooh, what don't they know? 

Julien Sanders: I would say what a lot of, well, I think the obvious is that everyone underestimates how difficult it is. Right. And so I remember , even Kirsten, , when I'm the one that walked away and stepped away first, there were times where Kirsten would go to work in the office and I would come back and I would just be exhausted.

And she'd be like, you do all these, take pictures. And it wasn't until she came on full time and she struggled that she was like, Oh my gosh, like you're your own tech support. You, you're your own photographer. You're your own videographer. You're your copywriter. You are your own administrative assistant.

You are your own finance. You're your own CFO. You are your own salesperson. You're your own negotiator. You are your own lawyer. You are all of those things , as a influencer, especially if you're doing it at a high level, you're your own talent manager. You book your own travel. Like it is really, really complex work.

If you enjoy that, if you don't, you're like, absolutely not. I don't want to do that. Because by the way, even if you do all of that, there's no guarantee. That you're actually going to earn any income doing it. Right. And so a there's a very huge kind of balance between the risk and the reward there.

But I think people really underestimate the complexity of the work. I think they just, when they think, you know, and I blame the Kardashians for this, but they hear influencer, they think Kardashian and they assign that, right. Kind of personality to everyone that does that kind of work.

And , it's actually a very, very difficult work to do. It's this, there are upfront costs. Right, that you have to bear like no one's doing that. And then on the back end, even if you do get paid, you don't get paid immediately. Like, there were some times where we didn't get paid for work that we'd done six months ago, months ago.

Yeah. Right. And so that means that you're taking on that debt. It costs you money to do it. It's difficult for you to manage your bills. And so , it is a challenging I don't wanna call it a profession, but it is certainly a challenging thing to do or to ultimately become, and So yeah, I think now there's a little bit more respect for the complexity of the role, but it's certainly not people taking selfies and just getting paid for it.

Like , there's actually quite a bit of work. Gosh, I didn't even add graphic design. You can add graphic design to that list of other things that you would have to learn how to do. 

Kiersten Sanders: That's actually where I was going with it. Is that a lot of people Underestimate that it is an industry and they assume that the only role that's available is like the content creator, the person in front of the camera, and I think it's important for us to tell youth, young people and even older people that this is a whole industry and to assume that the only person that is a value is the creator in front of the camera is like assuming that the real estate industry is propped up by the Real estate agents alone.

And it's like, no, you got to remember, there are developers, there's contractors, there are mortgage lenders, there are the adjusters who come in and, and inspect the property that there's a long tail of jobs. That support this industry. And so you don't have to be in front of the camera to be a creator.

You don't even have to be solo on your own to be a creator. You can look at several jobs, several big companies that have entire content strategies, and you can go be a creator with a biweekly paycheck. I know a couple of friends that work for creative agencies or large companies that have social media followings, and they do the same work that I do, but they get a consistent biweekly paycheck.

They don't have as much creative freedom. Some of them do, but like. You don't have to take this, I'll call it rogue or riskier approach of becoming an entrepreneur. If you're interested in creating content for the internet, everybody creates content, like the news creates content. Good morning. America is showing content.

There's content everywhere. And so just decide what kind of content you want to make. And to Julian's point, double down on one of those skills. Maybe you do accounting specifically for content creators. Maybe you do graphic design. For people who have a Pinterest account, maybe you support an entrepreneur by writing their scripts.

There's a lot of ways that you can get involved in the creator economy without. Standing in front of a camera, you know, 24 seven. 

Tim Ranzetta: And then there's this element of time. How long into your journey did you look at each other and say, I think we're onto something here? 

[00:45:47] How Long Did It Take For Julien and Kiersten to Realize That It's Working.

Julien Sanders: We didn't really. We didn't really take it seriously as a business.

I would say until 2019. It was really so about two years afterwards. And the beauty of that is that we were just creating content to connect with people. Like if we earned money in the process, great. But we were still employed at that point. And so it really took, it wasn't until 2019 after we had won an industry award.

And after we got our first. That really made us say, okay, let's just do the math, right? Cause you only need a couple of those a year for this to be a viable business, assuming we can manage our cost of living, which we are pretty adept at doing. And so, yeah, for us, it took about two years. And yeah, it's been really, really interesting.

But again, it has this piece, just like any other industry or business, you've got , your ups and your downs. And so what you ultimately end up doing is try to figure out ways to normalize that so that you can better plan and budget , your money and your calendar. But yeah, I would say about two years.

And which is interesting because a lot of people we've seen are now going on. Five years or six years. And a lot of people are long gone, right? They've tapped out by then. And so , it's kind of interesting. And now we are , the young kids call me unc, I'm uncle, I'm old now, I'm an old influence.

Kiersten Sanders: I'm not auntie yet. I'm just big cousin.

Tim Ranzetta: This question is about wanting to hear more about if finance decisions are more influenced by culture and not education, how do we change and shift the culture for personal financial success?

[00:47:37] How Do We Change and Shift the Culture For Personal Financial Success?

Julien Sanders: That's a big question. I can tell you. Yeah. So no, no one person can do that. But I do think that that is at the heart of Our mission, which is to inspire better conversations about money, and the reason why we landed on that is because we actually believe that that that is how people we learn through these day to day conversations.

We like to think that we learn in between the point in which we crack a book open and when we finish it or when we start a class and when we finish it. But the reality is even when you've met a student, you're not teaching them about money for the first time. They've learned something about money. They have some deeply ingrained belief or memory.

Some of those memories might be traumatic as it relates to money. And so it may take some unlearning before we can introduce some new information to them. and so I think , it's having those conversations focusing on not just. , the math, but also the emotions and the psychology that are also affecting the way that people make decisions about money, whether it's investing or saving or spending, you name it.

Obviously all of it is shaped by, by culture. And so, yeah, I think having more of those conversations, one of the other things that we do is we introduce food. We have a series called money on the table. We've done two seasons of it and it is basically a cross between a cooking show and a travel show. And so if you can imagine , we big fans of Anthony Bourdain and parts are known and we would love the conversations and the things that he would be able to pull from people just by having and sharing a meal with them.

And it actually started with us having meals with our financial heroes, you know? And so what we decided to do was say, Hey, well, why don't we connect? With some of our financial friends and learn more about their story over a meal. Even Yanely was on an episode that we did in season two, when we went to New York with Carmen Perez and Jamila Souffrant.

And we basically went to Sugar Hill Creamery. We had conversations over ice cream and I learned more about them in that 45 minutes than I ever did. I would imagine if someone wanted to learn more about them or Yanely's story, there's something about food that just unlocks. Something about people that gets them to tell stories and to share things about their culture.

And so for us, going back to what I was saying before, find the thing that is unique to you that you are, you can go deep on and you use that thing as a bridge. It could be music, it could be the arts, it could be sports, it could be travel, you name it. But that thing is, you know, you talk about your culture and then you use that to create that bridge.

And once that bridge is formed, I think then you can start to talk about, all right. If we were to rebuild this bridge, what might that look like? And you're building this new culture or shaping this new culture with those people together. And the more you do that, the more conversations you have, the more bridges you build.

I think the more you are naturally kind of creating change over time. 

Kiersten Sanders: And lean into your wisdom. You know, what we have is the ability to see things longer and further because we're older, right? We're older than a lot of times the people that we that we teach. And so sometimes it's a matter of knowing that you're not going to shift the culture, but you understand how trends work.

You understand that these things, what was cool yesterday is not going to be cool in 10 years. And while you don't want to be condescending to your students and say, Oh, that's just a passing thing. You can remind them that you've seen something like this before and plant that seed to say, you know, there are some things that are evergreen and, and going to always be consistent.

And those are the things that you should focus on. Not to say that you can't have fun with the trends, but like, there are just some things that this country is built on and that are always going to be the case. And so align yourself, position yourself to be in the right trajectory of those things. 

Tim Ranzetta: I love this concept of money on the table and having conversations over food because think about how much in a family unit, how much happens at the dinner table.

Exactly. Right. 

Kiersten Sanders: Exactly. 

Julien Sanders: That's exactly what we did. And so in season one, we did it right upstairs in our home and we would bring the crew in and we would have a conversation about money while I prepared a meal. And again, luck just so happened to be during 2020 and everyone was home and it sort of gave people the sense of having dinner with us while we were having this engaging conversation about a financial topic.

And some of them were very uncomfortable and many of them were inconclusive. Why? Because that's what happens. You don't walk in, you don't always sit down and you have all the answers. Sometimes you are just comfortable and you accept the fact that, okay, well, we're just different and we're going to be different.

Now we can move on about it. And so that's what we wanted to do. We figured the best way to inspire. Better conversations about money were to show people what it looked like. And hopefully they could use that, which many people did to say, Hey, look at this conversation and that would help spark their own conversation with other people and so on and so on.

And so, yeah, I think there's something magical about food and I give. A lot of credit, honestly, , to Anthony Bourdain for kind of being , my hero in a lot of ways and giving me the inspiration to say, Hey, like we've got to think about financial education differently. And we can't just focus on education and lecture.

It has to be entertaining because to Kirsten's point, we may say we value education. But I think educators know that , America values entertainment significantly more. And there's nothing wrong with that, right? There's nothing wrong with that. I think about the role that reading Rainbow and Sesame Street played in my own journey to learning, right?

And so what are the things that we can do as creative people who like being entertained to Educate people. That's, you know, the whole idea of edutainment, I think is, really, really valuable and there's something to that. And so instead of being frustrated by that, I think it's something that's worthy of embracing and incorporating into what you do.

Tim Ranzetta: Yeah, I want to make sure. People have an opportunity to learn. I've talked about the platform that you all have it rich and regular. We've talked about money on the table. We've talked about the book you've written. Let's share ways people can in other ways that people can engage on your platform. 

[00:53:48] Ways People Can Engage on Your Platform.

Kiersten Sanders: Yeah, you can subscribe to our newsletter.

We send a newsletter a couple times a month where we update people on what we're learning and where we've been and what we've read. That's really cool. There's a section called brain candy that kind of assembles. the odds and ends of the internet that I found. You can sign up for our newsletter at richandregular.

com slash mail. We're also on Instagram, YouTube, Facebook Twitter, which I think is now called X. And I think that's it, right? Pinterest. We're on all the social media accounts under Rich and Regular. So just, except for TikTok, just look for us there. And we're very responsive, so you can always shoot us a note.

We'll respond usually immediately. 

Tim Ranzetta: And you've got a couple of podcast formats too, right? 

Julien Sanders: Yes, we do. Yeah. Gosh. So we have the rich and regular podcast, which we do in partnership with success magazine. There are partners and sponsor in that effort. That's a weekly podcast. And so we talk about life at the intersection of.

Money episodes are around 35, 40 minutes long. And then we have a podcast which is inspired by our book. And that's our effort of, again, continuing the conversation going that we started in the book and going deeper in all of the subjects that we weren't able to go that deep on in the book. And so we have conversations about parenting with.

Experts in parenting. We have conversations about divorce because we know that that has a huge impact on people's financial lives. We talk about the relationship between technological illiteracy and financial illiteracy in someone. And so the Cashing Out podcast is what was a video first podcast. We launched that last year in support of the book.

Hopefully a season two is coming around the corner, but if you just want more regular contact with us, I think which a regular podcast is probably the best way to go. 

Tim Ranzetta: This could go on and on. I just love talking to y'all. And so inspiring the work that you do. I'm going to let you, you all have the last word, no pressure. 

Kiersten Sanders: I mean, that's all the pressure.

Any last words? No. I'm giving it to you. 

Julien Sanders: Oh, yeah. I, I would say, you know. Risk. I've been thinking a lot about risk. And I think a lot of people are thinking about risk, not just from a standpoint of investing, but it could be from entrepreneurship or, you know, their own frustrations with risk. But one of the things that I've realized, certainly because people often ask, like, how do I define, you know, what rich and regular means or what it means to be rich.

And I say it's whatever the point in which you embrace. Risk. And it could be financial risk. It could be your willingness to jump out of a plane. You know, it doesn't matter what it is, but I would, I would encourage more of us to get cozier with risk. And it could be asking that difficult question to a child that you're trying to inspire.

And maybe you're afraid that you're going to offend them or that you're going to pronounce their name wrong or something like that. But I think to me, you know, there's a whole idea of breakthroughs. Like you can't have a breakthrough without. Breaking something first. And I think that starts with being willing to take a risk, some risk, whether it's a creative risk, you name it curse, if you can, whatever it is.

But I found those things to be really, really important in terms of being able to connect with people. And so take the risk. And I think more often than not, you will be rewarded for it. Love it. 

Tim Ranzetta: Julian and Kirsten, keep on breaking things and, and keep on inspiring people. I was watching several of the videos from your book tour and boy, the look on people's feet, they were so engrossed in the conversations that you were having with them.

So I want to thank you for your work. Thank you for your inspiration. Thank you for all the work that you do to lift, people up with your platform. 

Kiersten Sanders: Thank you so much. Thank you. Really appreciate it. 

Tim Ranzetta: This was so much fun, Julian and Kirsten. 

Kiersten Sanders: Of course. Thank you for having us.

Ren Makino: I hope you enjoyed this episode with Tim, Julian, and Keirsten the show notes and full transcript can be found on You can also join these sessions live and ask the speaker questions by signing up for the NGPF speaker series sessions that occur on Thursdays at 4:00 PM. Pacific time. You can sign up to attend on Please be sure to subscribe to the NGPF podcast on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts better yet. Leave us a review. We love hearing from you and it will help us reach a broader audience. On behalf of Tim, Julien, and Kiersten thank you so much for tuning in to this ngps podcast

About the Author

Ren Makino

Ren started interning at NGPF in 2014, and worked part-time through high school and college. With his knowledge growing alongside NGPF, he joined the team to work full-time after graduating from college in 2020. He is also the producer of the NGPF podcast. During his free time, he likes to try out coffees from different roasters across the world.

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