We buy houses we’ll never own, cars we can’t afford, and stuff we don’t need. We’re trading our time for money and not making our money work for us. Myra Oliver was 22 when she decided she wanted freedom from debt and consumerism. She designed a plan, made changes, and reinvented herself.

By 33, not only was she debt-free, but she built a rental portfolio that provided her with passive income to quit her job and find financial independence. In her new book, Down Home Money, Myra shows you that financial freedom is not about how much money you make but what you do with it.

Drew Applebaum: Hey listeners, my name is Drew Applebaum and I’m excited to be here today with Myra Oliver, author of Down Home Money. Myra, I’m excited you’re here, welcome to the Author Hour podcast.

Myra Oliver: Wow, thank you, Drew, I don’t think you could be more excited than I am to be here with you, I really appreciate this.

Drew Applebaum: That’s really great to hear. Why don’t you kick it off by telling us a little bit about your professional background?

Myra Oliver: I’m actually from Kentucky and when I graduated high school, my grandmother did hair. I moved to Texas and got my license to do hair and I started out doing hair. I bought a hair salon, at the ripe old age of 20, and that’s how I started. I started doing hair and did hair for about 12 years, reached financial independence, and then I sold my hair salon.

My husband was a policeman and I was a hairstylist, and we just saved our money and we wanted financial freedom. So, we bought rental property, and having the rental property, we were able to build a passive income stream so that we both could quit our jobs and have freedom of time.

Drew Applebaum: That is so impressive. What was the inspiration behind the book? Was there an aha moment, and why are you writing it now?

Myra Oliver: That’s a great question, I have always wanted to write it, I just never took the time. What happened for me is I am a doer and I got bored, we spent three years traveling and having fun. I just got bored, so I got my real estate license and decided, “You know what? I’m going to sell myself houses.” I could save money on commission and I’m going to get my license just for me. Then what happened, because of owning rental property, I decided to start doing some rentals and helping people find rental property, and so I got into real estate and I started seeing how much money I could make selling real estate.

I started selling real estate and I never dreamed I would do that, but I did. I just jumped in headfirst and decided, I’m going to learn how to sell real estate because I stood behind a chair doing $5 haircuts in $25 perms and worked myself to death. I thought, “Wow, I could sell houses,” and so I started selling houses and made it to the top of my industry in my town. I became the President of the board of realtors and once again, I found myself saying, “Okay, I don’t want to work like this anymore,” because once again I was trading time for money.

I decided, “Okay, what do I want to do next?” I had an opportunity to run a real estate office and so I started running a real estate office which led to running a region for my company, and now I have three real estate franchises that I own and operate. Once again, I just decided to quit, to be honest, and I hate that word because I’m not a quitter, but I needed to quit so that I could have freedom of time.

I resigned from my regional director’s position and I solely did it so that I could spend time doing some of my bucket list and some of the things I wanted to do. I no longer wanted to work for money. I built a great passive income but I got back on that treadmill and I think so many people do that.

So many people get on it and they can’t get off, it just starts climbing that mountain to success, and honestly, it’s the journey, there’s not a destination. It is the journey. What I found for me is that I just finally started realizing how much time I was trading, and I realized that time is finite. Money is infinite, I can always make more money, but I cannot make more time.

I came to a place in my life that I really realized that I’m running out of time. I need to go do the things I’ve always wanted to do. Writing a book is always something I wanted to do–to tell my story because I think so many people think that you have to make a lot of money. It’s not about how much money you make, it’s about how much money you keep and what you do with it.

I think that is just such an important message. I watched so many people struggle. Remember, I deal with a lot of people that are in six-figure incomes in my business, and I watched them spend exactly how much money they make or more. I’ve even watched people make a million dollars a year, but they spend a million too. Guess what, that’s a deficit of $200,000.

Trading Time for Money

Drew Applebaum: Yeah.

Myra Oliver: That’s what really made me realize that I’ve got to tell my story. I reached financial freedom–we became millionaires by the age of 33 through saving our money from doing hair and as a policeman. It wasn’t like we made a ton of money. Yes, I’ve made a lot of money later in life because I got back on that treadmill, but I think it’s so important for people to understand, do you want to trade time for money? Or do you want to have a quality of life and a life worth living?

Drew Applebaum: Now, who should read this book, Myra?

Myra Oliver: I’ll tell you who my audience was and why I wrote this book–I wrote this book for my nieces and nephews. I don’t have any children and I wrote it for them because I want them to understand about money. We don’t teach our kids about money.

In my generation, we wanted to make sure we gave to our kids and I did it with my nieces and nephews. We wanted to make sure we gave them everything we didn’t have. I think it’s so important that if you’re raising children or if you’re struggling financially, that you’ve got to understand money and you’ve got to change the way you look at money. There’s a lot of professionals out there.

I’m going to tell you right now, I am not a financial guru, that’s not what I see myself as. I’m an ordinary person who did extraordinary things by living off and making less money than a lot of people. A lot of people don’t have those opportunities and so I want to share with people that it truly is not how much money you make.

I know a lot of people, Drew, that make six figures but when you spend more money than you make, it’s still a deficit. Consumerism is taking over our country. I mean, all you have to do is turn the TV on. I watch people buy bigger houses, they want nicer cars, they go spend hundreds of dollars for a dinner. There’s a reason that so many people are struggling financially because they’re living way beyond their means. It’s just so important that we figure that out.

I don’t live in my money, I don’t drive my money, and I sure don’t wear my money. My money makes money. That’s what this is about, it’s for anyone who is tired of the same old, same old. And ready to make some changes, because when the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change, you’ll make changes–that’s who this book is for. It’s for the people that want to see an ordinary person show you that you can make a difference with their money and it’s about how you see it, how you manage it, and how you spend it and save it.

Drew Applebaum: Now, you started off with modest means with dreams of being a millionaire one day, and you had a few rental palaces under your belt and after not too long, you and your husband were worth a million dollars. Talk to us about what that feeling was like when you finally got there?

Myra Oliver: It took us from start to finish, about 12 to 13 years, and that was always my goal. Even growing up, my mom and dad both worked two jobs, they gave us everything we wanted, not necessarily what we really needed, which was time with them, because they were so busy working in order to give us stuff. I think that as a young child, I had this dream of being a millionaire someday because that just seemed like the status that you wanted to be at.

It felt like that would give me all my happiness and give me everything I needed. That was my number and I stayed focused on that because what you focus on expands. I truly started focusing on that. My husband and I did our balance sheet every year, and we always did it on New Year’s Eve. That was our plan, we would look at our net worth and see how we had grown it and see where we’re going next. We really made a game out of this and made it fun, and saving money became really fun for us. We got a kick out of saving money and so the million mark was something I felt like was kind of the pinnacle.

Once we got there, I don’t know what I was thinking was going to happen, I guess I thought balloons were going to drop down and cheering noises and people were going to be excited. What I found was, it wasn’t that exciting like I thought it was going to be. Honestly, I think that we all search and seek for happiness and joy in a lot of the wrong places. In my book, I have a couple of surveys that people can take, that really get you thinking about what gives you joy and what is your purpose. You’re going to find that it’s not materialistic things.

We buy material things and think that’s going to give us joy. You go buy a new car and you’re going to like it for a day or two, and then you start making the payment, then it becomes a burden. That’s where that million-dollar thing came in for me, that pinnacle point. What I found is that it’s not about that. I know people who are able to have freedom of time and financial freedom, a lot of people do it on a whole lot less, they just get their expenses under control and they really realize that having a 3,000 square foot house for two people is ridiculous. Even if you can afford it, it’s really a want.

I always ask myself those questions, especially when I was working towards financial independence. I would always ask myself, “Is this a want or is this a need?” What I found is, most of the time it was a want, not necessarily a need.

Happiness Is a Choice

Drew Applebaum: Can you talk to us about some of the daily affirmations you use to put yourself into a mindset to tackle the day?

Myra Oliver: Yeah, I still do this today. I’m just a firm believer that happiness is a choice and every morning, when I get up, I choose to be happy. I have a ritual now that I walk five miles a day. So, it’s about an hour and a half, I get up early and that’s how I start my day. While I’m on my walk, I’m talking to myself because honestly, you spend more time with yourself than anybody.

If you are not giving good thoughts to yourself, you’re going to be in trouble. I’ve learned that and so I work on that every single day. When I was working towards a millionaire, I said, “Myra, I’m going to be a millionaire.” Because you have to believe it to achieve it.

I mean, it may seem crazy. My husband, he thought I was nuts. He’s a policeman, an analytical-type personality and he would say, “I can’t believe you got that all over your Myra over there,” and I would say, “Yup, it’s going to happen.”

He is just a different personality, a different mindset. My mindset was that I knew it was going to happen. I just had to figure out how.

Drew Applebaum: Can you give us some tips for people who might be interested in getting their first rental property?

Myra Oliver: Oh certainly. So, the first tip I would give you is to affiliate yourself with a great real estate agent and not just any real estate agent. You need a real estate agent that has experience in rental property, and you want a real estate agent that owns property. Real estate is very local, and a lot of people don’t understand this, but you want a real estate agent that’s right there.

I am in Danton, Texas and I was known for understanding investment property. A lot of my clients were investors because, guess what? Who better to call than somebody that’s been doing it and that owns rental property and that has a full list of contractors. There are so many perks because here is the thing, the hardest part about owning real estate is when you get that first call and the house is flooding or you get that first call and the AC is not working. That is the hardest part about owning rental property–you’ve got to be prepared and have those contractors and take care of those expenses for your repairs.

So, that is why it is important if you get a real estate agent that understands rental properties and understands the fair market value and understands the actual rental market and leases–what the lease market looks like–then they can really truly help you. But if you get somebody that doesn’t own rental properties and doesn’t really sell much in the rental market then you are not getting an expert. I want an expert.

I want somebody that has done it and then they can show me to do it, because I don’t want to have to keep failing forward. I always had to fail forward. I think it is so important if you can save people time and trouble. I think that is why my business is so good because I really worked with lots of investors helping them buy their first rental property. I sell a lot of apartments, so I help them move in the direction that meets their needs.

Retirement Accounts

Drew Applebaum: Now this might seem like a boring topic and I think you talk about early in the book that even you didn’t believe in it, but your husband convinced you. Talk to us about the importance of retirement accounts.

Myra Oliver: My parents were school teachers so I knew that they had teacher retirement, but I was an entrepreneur. I was just going to build my retirement through rental property and that is what we were going to do. That’s what we have really done, but I actually had a gentleman who I did his hair and he was a businessman in Dallas. He has a great business and he kept saying to me, “Young lady, what are you going to do for your retirement?”

I kept saying, “I’m in my 20s. I’m not worried about retirement,” and he said, “You’re not going to be able to stand behind that chair for all your life. You are young now, but you do need to think about retirement.” I had cut his hair for many years and I didn’t listen to him for the first couple of years. Then it just kind of hit me one day. He was talking to me and he said, “Look, you should do some consistent investments and do it in index funds.”

So, you know what? I opened an account with Vanguard and I set it up on a monthly basis, and honestly, it took about 20 years, but there is $1 million in that account. So, he was right, rest in peace, bless his heart, he sure helped me. He told me, “I will make you a millionaire someday if you’ll just listen to what I have to say.” He’s right, it does work, compounding works, if you can just get people to make consistent investments on a monthly level.

I started, Drew, with $100 a month, that is how I started. It progressively got more and more and more, until I was maxing out my set plan. But in the early years, it was $100 a month. I have a YouTube channel, and it is called Down on Money. I share how much money a month you need to do when you are in your 20’s and your 30’s and 40’s so that you can be a millionaire by retirement.

I think it is so important. I think we all complicate it. We complicate money and we think it has to be so much money when actually a hundred, 150 a month in your 20s, and you will probably be a millionaire within 25, 30 years. So, it is just a matter of getting started. Most people just don’t make the effort to start and that is what’s crucial, especially when you are in your 20s. I was there.

I thought I was so young, and you think nothing is going to happen to you, but guess what? You are going to get older someday and you are going to wish you had listened to your older self when you were younger.

Drew Applebaum: Yeah. We are in a weird place in the world today. How does 2020 change the way people should deal with their finances?

Myra Oliver: 2020 has been a great year for people to pause, to take a moment, to look where you are. Because here’s what happens, our worlds and our lives are so busy that it is easier to not look at where you are and just keep moving forward. You get caught up in the daily grind and, we rush to work, we rush home. We are taking our kids to ball practice, we get home, and then we have to do homework, and we put them to bed.

And then we get up the next morning and we do it all over again. We never pause to look where we are so that we can make a roadmap and be purposeful about where we want to go. I am hoping and I am seeing it, because I do wealth coaching and I am seeing it with my clients. It is so exciting because they’re really seeing where they are and they’re really seeing that financial freedom is obtainable because what’s happening is that they’re spending less money.

They are being forced into saving. I just think this time is a great moment in time for people to really evaluate where they are. Because if you don’t know where you are, you’ve got to do that through doing a net worth sheet, putting all of your assets, and all of your liabilities in one place. Look at it, evaluate it, see what you have been working on all these years and if you have a negative number, you have not been obtaining wealth.

It’s okay because tomorrow is a new day and you can start tomorrow. Fire yourself today and start tomorrow building your wealth. I meet with so many people who during that evaluation their net worth is negative, and it is big numbers because they’re in such debt. Debt has been so easy to get that it is so easy for people to just get so consumed by debt. When you are in your 20s you are going to have student loans and you’re going to probably have some credit card debt. So, you are probably going to be in a negative number. But if you wake up and you have gotten to your mid-30s and you’ve got a really large negative number, you need to evaluate that because you are going to also wake up in your mid-40s and have the same.

It is just really important because you’ve got to inspect what you expect. What happens is that people don’t spend the time. I really think 2020 has been a thought-provoking time for people, to realize that they have to take control of their money because where you are today is a result of what you did five to ten years ago. Where you’re going to be in five to ten years is a result of what you do today. So, this is an opportunity.

Drew Applebaum: That was a really powerful statement, thank you for saying that. I just want to congratulate you, Myra, writing a book is no small feat, so congratulations.

Myra Oliver: Thank you.

Drew Applebaum: If readers could take away just one thing from your book, what would you like it to be?

Myra Oliver: They can do it. I want to empower them to take control of their future. I get a little emotional about this because I think that if people would just realize that if they have delayed gratification, they can have a big life. Delayed gratification is hard. It is interesting how we go to college four years, six years, some doctors, eight years, ten years, and we’re okay with delayed gratification for that. But yet, we are not okay with delayed gratification when it comes to creating wealth.

If people could see their money differently and see what it does for them because money gives you options and it gives you the freedom of choice. Money has allowed me to work because I want to work, not because I have to work. I think when people realize that they’re in control–you are in control, and there are two ways to financial freedom. You can cut your expenses, or you can get a side hustle and make more money. It is your choice.

You have choices in this, and money gives you options. I just hope that people see that it is not how much money you make. Drew, I have people I work with that make 50,000 a year that have half a million saved, that they have saved in the last 15 years. I want people to understand that it truly is not how much money you make, it is how much money you keep, and what you do with it, and what kind of investments you make.

So, there is a lot to it. There are so many ways to make money. I think sometimes we get put in a box and we think, “Well, this is my degree, so I’ve got to do this.” I have watched ordinary people make extraordinary incomes in real estate. I mean honestly, I have seen incredible things. I have seen agents making millions of dollars a year selling real estate with no college education. So, it just proves that with grit and ambition and a sense of purpose and some direction anybody can do this.

The delayed gratification part, you’ve got to become a student. A student of frugality and saving your money, and when you do that big things happen. There is nothing better than working because you want to work, not because you have to work. There is just nothing better because I get to choose every day what I want to do. I say no to a lot of things, and I love that. I love that I have the ability to do that.

Drew Applebaum: Yeah that is special. Myra, this has been such a pleasure and I am so excited for people to check out this book. Everyone, the book is called, Down Home Money, and you can find it on Amazon. Myra, besides checking out the book, where can people find you?

Myra Oliver: They can find me at my email, it’s [email protected] I am @downhomemoney on Instagram, Twitter. Of course, my website is downhomemoney.com, and then also be sure to check out my YouTube channel. We post once a week and it is a great way to stay in touch every week because this is a journey. There is not a destination with this. If you are the sum of the five people you spend the most time with, spend time with me every week on my YouTube channel and it will help you apply frugality, how’s that?

Drew Applebaum: I love it. Myra, thank you so much for coming on the show today.

Myra Oliver: Thank you, Drew. I really appreciate you having me.