Grow Outside of your Comfort Zone


Oh hey, Smart Money Squad! For those of you that don’t know me, I’m Kayleigh (aka KB). I’m the lucky girl that’s marrying Ty - and in turn, kinda marrying Alex and Christian because they talk so much and spend so much time formulating ideas for Smart Money Seed.

Anywho, today I’m going to share a story about how I took charge of my career, pursued something different, and how beneficial it was for me as a young professional.

I will start off this article by saying that I am fortunate to work for a great company that encourages exploration of areas outside of our own. I’ve worked for the same retail company since my summer internship before senior year. I’m sure everyone can relate to that exciting moment you accept a job offer after some intense interviews. I’m sure you can also relate to those days you sit in your cube and think…

I worked so hard throughout college for this?

I was comfortable, and as much as I love my comfort zone, I knew I could grow outside of it. Marketing was my major and I really wanted to move toward digital marketing in particular. This article has some of the lessons I learned along the way as I pursued a different job. While my experience was unique because I stayed within my company, there are still lessons that could be applied anywhere!
Don't get me wrong, I absolutely loved my first job and all of my coworkers. It was an amazing job that taught me so much about the business. However, I found myself beginning to crave a different experience than the store communications role I was in. If you're like me & struggle to break out of your comfort zone, here's a few lessons I learned from my personal experience that proved valuable in the long run.

Lesson #1: Be open and intentional about your career goals with your boss

Would you think I was crazy If I told you that I went into a weekly meeting with my boss and my agenda looked like this:

1.     I found this cool job description online. I want to do this job. Oh, and, it’s not what I’m doing right now.

In hindsight, maybe a totally different job description put in front of your boss isn’t the best way to go.  However,  having an open conversation about your interests, what you see yourself doing and WHY you’re interested in an opportunity is a great start. It could feel awkward at first. Ok… it is awkward. Once you get past the awkwardness, they may help you find different projects or opportunities at work in your area of interest.

Lesson #2: Find people that do something that interests you…and meet with them

Have you ever sat in a meeting with someone and thought, “wow, what they’re talking about is really cool”? This is the perfect opportunity to build a professional relationship with someone and learn about what they do! There’s nothing wrong with following up after a meeting and asking if they could meet for 15 minutes to talk about their role. Most people love helping younger people, and like to talk about themselves (or their job if you're asking!)

Interested in an industry outside of the one you’re currently in? LinkedIn is your best friend for connecting with other professionals! Make sure your profile is updated with not only your job descriptions, but your overall career goals so that your connections know where you see your career going.

I ended up meeting with the hiring manager of that job description I mentioned before, just to get a feel for what being on that side of the business entailed. I had specific questions about the role, the team and the industry to gain a better understanding of the work.

Informational interviews can be just as important to prepare for, and all the same rules as a formal job interview apply. You never know when that new connection you made will come in handy! Below are some questions you could consider…

  •        How long have you been in the industry?
  •        What trends are you seeing that could impact how this work gets done?
  •       What traits or experiences would make someone successful in your area?

And yes, thank you notes are still strongly encouraged for informational interviews!

Lesson #3: Stay patient

It’s really easy for us as young professionals to decide we want something and want to make it happen right away.  In the months after my meeting with the hiring manager for the digital marketing role I was interested in, I continued to express interest to my manager and asked for opportunities to gain exposure to that area wherever possible.

It wasn’t until about 8 months later that a position came open on that exact same team, and I was lucky enough to interview and get the job! In today’s day and age, 8 months seems like a lifetime but as cheesy as it sounds, anything worth having is worth the wait. 


It’s easy to stay comfortable in your current job and run through the motions, but when you get that itch to do something different, follow your gut and do it! I have learned so much and been provided so many cool experiences after taking that step outside of my comfort zone. And, most importantly, I have a totally refreshed view of putting in those 40 hours a week.

Hopefully this article has given you confidence and advice!  (or just something to think about the next time you're second guessing yourself in your cubicle)

Until next time,



How Long Would It Take To Buy Really Cool Shit?

Forbes recently released their latest billionaire list which included 2,208 billionaires with a collective net worth of $9.1 TRILLION! Let's all take a moment and say a prayer for Bill Gates who was leapfrogged for the top spot by Jeff Bezos who nonchalantly added about $30 billion in net worth in the past year.

Another day, another 82 million dollars -- am I right?

Since Smart Money Seed is still a few years away from amassing a billion dollar valuation, we decided to have a little fun and dream about what a massive amount of wealth could possibly bring. But we're not interested in the desires of peasants. We're talking about really cool shit.

Let's Make Some Assumptions

First, we have to set a starting point. Let's assume we make $50k a year and will average 3% raises in perpetuity. We'll also assume we can live and work forever because I'm sure at some point we'll have enough money to bargain with God for our immortality.

Let's also assume we'll continue to live off of $50k per year forever and will invest the rest of our money in the stock market earning 10% annual returns. We won't have many recurring expenses once we already own all the shit we use.

 Finally, our favorite assumption is that taxes don't exist. I'm not nearly smart enough to try and factor in taxes to our calculations, but our accountant is plenty smart and just shady enough to setup some sweet tax evasion strategies for us!

To recap:
  • $50k starting salary
  • 3% annual raises
  • $50k annual expenses
  • All money beyond $50k is invested
  • Investments earn 10% returns
  • Immortality. No biggie

What Really Cool Shit Should We Buy??

If I were ultra-rich, I'd want the following luxuries available to me:
  • Unlimited travel
  • Unlimited communication
  • A badass place to live
  • Unlimited awesome entertainment
  • Food. Lots of food
  • Beer. Lots of beer
  • Menial things to keep myself entertained during my travel
I think that would pretty much cover my basic needs. If I forgot something, let me know and I'll update the article!

How Much Money Will We Have?

Calculations made using The Calculator Site

Milestone recap:
  • Year 37 brings us into the top 1% off the world's wealthiest people according to Investopedia.
  • Congratulations everyone -- we're millionaires in year 40! Most people would be tempted to retire after 40 years, but not us. we've got really cool shit to buy.
  • Year 59 brings us into the USA's top 1% at over $7 million again according to Investopedia.
  • $113 billion in year 108 makes us the world's richest person (assuming they don't get any richer). Suck it, Bezos!
  • Although the world has never seen a trillionaire, we're the second in history to hit a quadrillion bucks thanks to Paypal.

How Much Money Will We Need?

Let's take a look at exactly what we want to buy and what that might set us back.
  • Unlimited Travel 
Of course we're going to need a plane, and we're not going to stop at anything short of the greatest luxury available. That's right, folks we're buying Air Force One for a cool $660 million. But everyone knows we can't have just one Air Force One or else people will know our whereabouts at all times. Two Air Force One's will set us back $1.32 billion. That's conceivable in this lifetime at 112 years, but we better get crackin on those immortality negotiations with The Big Man.

We'll stop short of buying the most expensive car ever sold, but we're definitely going to need this $14 million McLaren. And of course we're going to need some fuel for all that travel. I know the perfect $33 billion oil company we can buy. Looks like all my coworkers at Marathon work for me now!

Travel Cost: $34.334 billion
Total Cost: $34.334 billion
  • Unlimited Communication
We won't have the freedom to do everything we want without owning the two most powerful communication companies I can think of, Verizon and Apple. Verizon comes cheap at only $200 billion. Apple is going to necessitate a conversation with our financial advisor as that $900 billion check might set us back a bit.

Communication Cost: $1.1 trillion
Total Cost: $1.134 trillion
  • A Badass Place To Live
We're really not going to want people bothering us with all this wealth. A wise man once said, "No new friends." But we really don't want to move, so we're staying right here in the good old US of A. Sorry, but everyone else is getting their asses kicked out. I hear Canada is really nice this time of year.

I'll admit my reference here is a bit sketchy, but Carter Moore helped us out via Quora. The price tag of the United States? Just $46 trillion. Psh -- we'll have that and more well before our 250th birthday. We'll also need a replica of the world's most expensive home, clocking in at $300 million. That doesn't even hardly become a factor in our calculation.

Living Cost: $46 trillion
Total Cost: $47.134 trillion
  • Unlimited Entertainment
There's just no debate here. We're going to have to buy the Disney parks. Josh Arnold from Seeking Alpha estimated Disney's parks segment to be valued at $38 billion. Chump change.

Entertainment Cost: $38 billion
Total Cost: $47.172 trillion
  • Food & Beer
Quite possibly the first purchase I'd make on this entire journey is Chipotle for $9 billion. Another $218 billion nets us Anheuser-Busch InBev -- another easy decision.

Food & Beer Cost: $227 billion
Total Cost: $47.399 trillion
  • Menial Things
I'll take one of everything on Amazon, please. Again we're relying on Quora, and this time it's Kynan Eng to the rescue. $12.86 billion dollars is an absolute steal!

Menial Things Cost: $12.86 billion
Total Cost: $47.412 trillion

We didn't even need to be quadrillionaires to buy everything we wanted! You can't buy happiness, but at 216 years old, we'll have $50 trillion at our disposal to buy everything we could possibly want. Give us a few years to enjoy the things we've worked so hard for, and maybe around 500 years old or so we'll talk to God about getting out of the immortality contract.

I know what you're thinking right now. Wow, what an incredible waste of time. Alex must live such a sad life. Sure, maybe I should find better ways to spend my time on a Saturday. But if I made you smile at least once, I'll consider this article a success. And if you smiled, I'm sure someone else would appreciate you sharing this with them and making them smile too!


Entrepreneurship Conversation 2: The Tattoo Factory's Brenton Potter

Huge thanks to Brenton Potter for an awesome interview!

Take a moment and remember your first couple years after high school. Maybe you were just starting out with your first real world job, maybe you were furthering your education through college or trade school, or maybe you spent some time searching for a way to both pursue your passion and put food on your table.

In any case, those first few years can be spent with much soul searching, and the pressure both internally and externally to figure out what you want to do and how you want to live can be stressful.

Brenton Potter's timeline looked like this:
  • 2008 November - Started tattooing
  • 2009 May - Graduated high school
  • 2009 July - Finished apprenticeship
  • 2010 June - Purchased The Tattoo Factory
For those of you keeping score at home, that's only 19 MONTHS from tattooing his 1st client to owning a tattoo shop. What an absolute whirlwind!

From Art On Cars To Art On People

Brenton, squeamish as a child, spent much of his youth "turned off by the idea of the [tattooing] process." Becoming a tattoo artist wasn't exactly at the top of the list of his hopes and dreams his entire life. "I don't actually ever remember making the conscious decision to become a tattoo artist."

But the creative side of life always had a special appeal to Brenton, starting with pinstripers and sign painters.

"My dad's a big old school car guy, and he drug me around to a lot of car shows and stuff when I was younger. And I was always fascinated by the guys with the big handlebar mustache and the top hat, and. . . they'd have paint all over the front of their jeans and their overalls. I just liked the idea of how like rockabilly and kind of punk rock that was that these guys were just walking around with a hand full of cash and a wagon full of paint. So I kind of at that point thought it would be really cool to do something like that. . . So that's when I started taking art a little more seriously"

So how exactly does an affinity for art on cars become a passion for art on skin. . . permanently. . . using needles. . . for a squeamish kid?

"Around the time I started tattooing, tattooing was becoming a little bit more popular. . . I remember kids coming to school [who would] go out and get their own tattoos, and I remember seeing them and thinking 'Man, it'd be really cool to have one.' So I decided to get one. And when I went into the tattoo shop and got one, it was like this was what I was missing. The feeling, the smells, once again the punk rock-ness of just like not having a real solid structure. It was just a cool environment."

Brenton Potter: Tattoo Artist

As Brenton was reaching that oh so joyous (read: dreaded and stressful) time of deciding what to do with his life after school, tattooing began to have a growing appeal to him.

"My dad would always ask me throughout my teenage years 'Where do you want to go to school? What do you want to do?' And I never really had an an answer for him. So one day it just sparked. I thought 'man, maybe this was really a route I could take.' I always considered myself to be creative, so I thought I could apply that to maybe this avenue of work."

So Brenton took action. He started taking steps to pursue his relatively new dream of becoming a tattoo artist. "I was still in high school, I had just turned 18, and honestly I thought that [tattooing] was going to. . . make me cool. . . You know, something out of the ordinary that would make me stand out in the crowd a little bit."

But of course Brenton's journey was not exactly all sunshine and rainbows. 

"I actually got a lot of ridicule from classmates, colleagues, family, and people that now support me and take me seriously. But at the time, it was kind of a joke. But, I fell in love with it. So I got into it for seemingly the wrong reasons. And then very shortly I felt like it was . . . something I could dedicate a lot of my time and energy towards."

Learning The Tricks Of The Trade

Brenton's journey toward becoming a tattoo artist did not begin in a classroom with a formal application process or a certified trainer. Brenton explained, "Tattooing is really weird because it's one of the last remaining career paths that has a true apprenticeship. And it's. . . like a secret society almost or like a club."

Brenton understands that although he has worked incredibly hard to build what he's built, there was certainly a stroke of luck contributing to beginning his journey. "I honestly probably shouldn't have been given the opportunity. At the time I didn't know a lot about tattooing, the history of tattooing. I probably couldn't even name 5 famous tattoo artists. But the guys that took me in were looking for someone, and I just happened to be there in the right place at the right time. . . So I feel very blessed that I got in when I got in."

This apprenticeship process can be extremely stressful for someone not only learning a new skill but having to find a way to put food on the table. "I spent a year doing an apprenticeship which is 40 hours a week that you don't get paid for. Luckily at the time I lived with my mom. . . I did work 2 other jobs during my apprenticeship and went to school for the first half of the year." 

Talk about work ethic and dedication!

Brenton's not necessarily certain his path would've played out exactly how it did in today's environment, so he's offered some advice for aspiring tattoo artists. "Typically how you would get into something like this is being a well-rounded artist. . . having a portfolio of paintings, drawings, digital media. . . and then presenting that to a place that's either looking for an apprentice or a place that you're interested in the people who work there and apprenticing under."

The beginning period of Brenton's apprenticeship was spent learning all the menial tasks that an aspiring tattoo artist isn't exactly dreaming of doing, including learning "how to clean up, setup, tear down for the artist that you're apprenticing under. You would learn how to interact with customers, all of the work that nobody wants to do -- answer emails, answer messages, mop floors, stay late."

Finally, this arduous and seemingly endless process of learning about the equipment mixed with grunt work leads to actually beginning to practice as a tattoo artist. "Once you get to a point where you're comfortable with your machines and your devices that you would use to tattoo, and you're well-rounded enough in the art that you do, that's when you start doing small tattoos."

Being the canvas for a new tattoo artist's first tattoo seems like a scary thought I would think most people would want to avoid. But Brenton is grateful for his friend group's confidence in him which allowed him to hit the ground running.

"Luckily for me, I had a lot of friends that were very confident in me -- probably a little more confident than they should've been in the beginning. . . Usually during an apprenticeship, every tattoo you do is overseen by your mentor. . . The ultimate goal is never to have somebody leave with a bad tattoo, obviously."

11 Months From Tattoo Artist To Business Owner

Brenton's apprenticeship ended in July of 2009, and he purchased The Tattoo Factory in June of
2010. Let's take a moment to reflect on what an amazing accomplishment that was especially considering that Brenton had just worked 40 hours a week unpaid for a full year!

Although Brenton explains that the industry is moving toward collective groups of tattoo artists gathering under one roof to provide a well-rounded set of styles and services for prospective customers, he did have aspirations of owning his own shop from the beginning.

"At the time, I would've said that [owning my own shop] was something that I wanted to do, but I think it happened a little bit sooner than I probably would've liked it to. I'm glad it did -- it worked out for me. But ideally that wasn't the way I would've liked it to go. . . But it's worked out. . . It's been a great 8 years."

Brenton's business acquisition and subsequent work as a business owner did not come with a handbook or any sort of formal business training. "I acquired the business in a really roundabout way. Some things happened between the old ownership that allowed me to come in and take over where they left off. . . Once I took it over, I vividly remember. . . coming in and hanging things up on the wall. . . and I remember looking at my mom and telling her 'I have no idea what I'm doing.' And she owned a business at the time, so that was a nice help. . . But she had never had any formal business training, and I hadn't either. So it was kind of the blind leading the blind."

Although that process must've been incredibly difficult and frustrating at times, Brenton speaks of it with a sense of calm perspective. "I think you just kind of grow and you learn as you go. Sometimes you have to fall flat on your face to stand back up and make something out of it. It was a very rough time. There were plenty of days where I was very discouraged, my pockets were empty, and I didn't know what my next move was gonna be."

How did Brenton overcome this turbulent period in his journey? Plain and simple: hard work. "The good thing about tattooing is it knows no boundaries. If you have to tattoo at 2 in the morning to make money, or if you have to tattoo at 9 in the morning to make money, it's normally there for you to do that. So it's all based on your own personal work ethic. I busted my ass. I still am probably now more than ever. But at the time, I did everything I did to keep things going."

Of course Brenton is extremely appreciative and complimentary of Tori Robinson, the only other artist on staff at the time who remains on Brenton's team to this day. "With the help of Tori. . . she was a huge help, we made it happen in some way, shape, or form."

Managing & Growing The Tattoo Factory

The Tattoo Factory pays homage to
 its Bucyrus roots
Brenton utilized some networking collaboration opportunities with a shop in Mansfield to help build
his out of town clientele which he estimates makes up about 60% of his business. He also utilized the power of social media. "Social networking has been huge for tattooing. . . Instagram and Facebook were really big. . . And that was huge because you could market to people who maybe didn't know we were here. . . So I spent a lot of my time on social media trying to market to the particular kind of clientele that I wanted to gain. And I did rely a lot on the repeat customers that we had."

As Brenton has worked to find that perfect formula to lead his business to success, his focus has shifted from learning how to manage and market a business to learning how to become a more well-rounded artist and provide an exceptional quality of work.

"I got tattooed by a tattooer that I've idolized for quite some time, and I talked to him about some things. And I realized that trying to gain followers on social media and trying to create this image for yourself on social media in order to get the people to walk in the door is not the way to go for tattooing. That may work for some other form of business, but with tattooing if you just. . . put the time and effort that you need into painting and drawing and producing good art and good tattoos, the money will come. . . So once I realized that just producing the best possible work that I could produce and not focusing so much on being online and creating this certain persona for myself wasn't the answer, that's when things started to get better for me."

The Tattoo Factory has really begin to pickup steam and gain some positive momentum, which Brenton estimates started to break through around 2 years ago. "I still sometimes look back and wonder, 'How did these these things happen? How did I get to this point, or how did something that I sat and drew in my bedroom become so popular?' It's still very surreal sometimes -- it's a very surreal feeling to know that people are coming in sometimes from as far away as Canada to get tattooed and to wear something that you created out of your brain and off your hands. It's sometimes unfathomable."

Brenton is still blown away by the level of outreach and recognition The Tattoo Factory has been able to achieve. "I was in Pittsburgh one time. . . and there was a guy at the bar that recognized me from Instagram, and it was like 'Man, this is insane.' You don't really realize how many people see the things that you put out there and appreciate them even from afar. So things like that are crazy sometimes."

The most frustrating part of Brenton's journey as a business owner? "I hate being a boss. That's really hard for me just because I like to treat people the way I would like to be treated. As tattooers, we all have this we're our own boss sort of complex. Not in an arrogant way, but in a we kind of stay in our own lane and do our own thing kind of way. . . So it's always been hard for me to say 'Hey, I need you guys to mop the floor. . . Do this. . . Don't do that.'"

Despite plenty of opportunities to make money doing something against Brenton's value system, he has remained focused on doing his due diligence and staying true to himself.

"Doing your research is a big thing because people will ask for certain symbolization that you may not know the meaning behind. Whether it's gang related or sacrilegious or whatever the case may be, it's important to know what those things are so that you can deny them accordingly or accept them accordingly. . . We try to keep an eye on those sort of things, and we try to be a moral compass for younger people that are maybe making some bad decisions. . . For whatever reason having crappy face tattoos has become a trend recently. . . But we try to be a moral compass for those people and try to talk them out of it. At the end of the day, if they want it tattooed, somebody will tattoo it on them. But I can go to sleep at night knowing that I didn't take their money and do a morally wrong tattoo on them."

If I walked into The Tattoo Factory drunk on a Friday night for a face tattoo, Brenton might not exactly take me to Tim Horton's for a coffee, but he will deny me a tattoo and send me on back to Baker's or Dillinger's for another drink.

The Future Of The Tattoo Factory & Brenton Potter

Although The Tattoo Factory has been gaining momentum, Brenton stays humble and true to his roots. Brenton speaks often of his humble beginnings which have led to his somewhat conservative nature. Candidly, I'm not certain Brenton fully realizes the level of success he's been able to attain and what doors that success may open to him in the future.

"This right now is the most I've ever had, and I know what it took to get here. So I'm constantly working to maintain that. . . This isn't something that I feel like I'm ever going to be rich from. I don't think tattooing will make me a millionaire. But it makes me happy. And I can make a comfortable enough living to run a business, have employees, and maintain a good life for me and my family. And I don't know really what can get better than that."

In 5 years, Brenton wants to focus on travel and outreach. "I work with a group called The Ink Fusion Empire. . . That opens a lot of opportunities to meet people. Last year, I worked 2 Ohio shows and a Florida show. This year, I'm going to work Cincinnati, the Florida show again, and then a Boston show. It's cool because each year you tattoo a handful of people there, and they maybe tell their friends about you. So you build a mini clientele in each city that you go to where you're either tattooing the same people or friends of theirs. . . And I can bring my family too, and they can kind of enjoy it."

Brenton's commitment when discussing future plans never wavers from his strong values. "If you just produce good things and you're good to your people, the money will come, and the money will grow. . . My eye is not always on the money. It's more on the experience for the person and the experience for myself. The money is just a bonus."

As Brenton contemplates his long-term future, again the themes of strong values and personal interaction remain prevalent. "I like to be alongside my people. I know a lot of business owners especially in tattooing come in, and they collect their money, and they bounce. They've got 10 guys working for them, and they work on a 50% cut. I've never been that kind of person. I kind of like to be the captain that's on the ship, driving the ship, right next to the people rowing the oars."

Advice & Reflection

Brenton encourages young people looking to pursue tattooing to work to understand the challenges that come with tattooing rather than just the positives. "Your whole life becomes tattooing. It's hard especially in a small town to go to the grocery store or to go to Baker's and have a drink without someone basically stripping down taking their shirt off and saying 'Hey man, what can you do with this?' I've actually had friends tell me they don't like going out with me because I get stopped constantly."

"It is a very fun thing for me now, and I enjoy it very much. But it took a long time to get that comfortable. There's a lot of hard work involved in getting to that point."

If given the opportunity to go back and change something or give a younger version of himself some advice, he would focus more on learning how to save money. "I've become more or less a money hoarder in order to make sure that everything is taken care of."

The single thing that Brenton attributes most to his success to this point? "I think just being a good, morally driven, well-accommodating person in general. . . I think just like being a part of the community, staying grounded here even when there's temptation to go maybe to a bigger city or to maybe have a full, yer-round travel schedule. I think people can appreciate that you're born and raised here, you grew your business here, and you're staying local and giving back to people."

Keep Up With Brenton & The Tattoo Factory!

If you want to keep in touch with Brenton and follow his journey, you can find him on Instagram where he has over 7k followers! You can also keep up with The Tattoo Factory on Facebook where they have over 3k followers.

We would appreciate it so much if you could let us all know what you thought of this interview! Have more questions for Brenton? I'm sure he'd be more than happy to answer them. If you enjoyed Brenton's story, give him a shout out and share this story with a friend! 


Liberate Your Wallet With Chase's Freedom Cards


It’s Monday, Monday, gotta read my #MileageMonday…that’s how that song goes, right?

If my memory serves correctly, I promised to give you guys some great insight to the travel hacking community every Monday. With some people out of the office, I had to cover some extra work but the hustle NEVER STOPS! We are going to keep bringing you guys great content & save you some major COIN while we’re at it. You’ve got no excuse not to read.

Shake off the Sunday scaries, strap on your work boots & let’s get to business. Time to kick off another #MileageMonday! In this week’s installment, we are going to continue our Chase breakdown of the 6 major Chase-branded credit cards. I have a handful of these cards and they have become my go-to cards because they provide more value than most cards on the market. If you need a refresher, here’s my definition of the Chase credit card family:
  • Premium Cards
    • Chase Sapphire Preferred
    • Chase Sapphire Reserve
  • Everyday Cards
    • Chase Freedom
    • Chase Freedom Unlimited
  • Business Cards
    • Chase Ink Plus
    • Chase Ink Cash
We already covered the premium cards a few weeks ago. Chase’s Sapphire cards are some of the most coveted on the market for their robust benefit offerings & ability to transfer points to travel partners. The Chase Sapphire Preferred is one of the cards I keep in my arsenal for the 2x dining & travel points. However, what if I told you that you could get 5x points on certain categories? How about 1.5% cash back on EVERYTHING?

That’s where the Chase “Everyday” cards come in. Smart Money Squad, allow me to introduce you to the Chase Freedom & Chase Freedom Unlimited! As a quick note-we don't get paid to advertise these cards. If you'd like to help support the blog & you are interested in getting one of these cards, sign up under our referral links here:

Chase Freedom-Earn $150 after spending $500 in the first 3 months from account opening.

Chase Freedom Unlimited-Earn $150 after spending $500 in the first 3 months from account opening.

Thanks for supporting us-now on to the good stuff!

Chase Freedom

The Chase Freedom will always have a soft spot in my heart. As a senior in college, I finally bit the bullet & pulled the trigger on my first-ever credit card. I was looking for something straightforward that would give me some solid cash back-and that’s EXACTLY what the Chase Freedom is. It stands to reason that the Chase Freedom is one of the best introductory cards on the market for anybody looking to build their credit or ease in to the credit card world. Here’s a quick breakdown of some of the perks the Chase Freedom offers:
  • Earn $150 after you spend $500 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
  • No annual fee!
  • Earn 5% cash back on up to $1500 in bonus categories each quarter.
  • Earn 1% cash back on all other purchases.
  • No minimum to redeem for cash back!

At a glance, this card certainly doesn’t have all the bells & whistles of the Chase Sapphire cards. However, I’d argue that you can gain some major value from the Chase Freedom through the 5% cash back on select categories. These categories rotate quarterly, providing you with flexibility on your categories while offering solid cash back options. Here’s what the categories looked like last year:
  • Q1: Gas Stations & Local Commuter Transportation
  • Q2: Grocery & Drug Stores
  • Q3: Restaurants & Movie Theaters
  • Q4: Walmart & Department Stores

As you can see, tons of value to be had. I maxed out three of these categories last year for a net total of 22,500 Chase UR points ($225 in cash back at minimum). There are ways to be creative to maximize your category spend, too-you can buy gift cards for manufactured spending, buy & sell product, offer to take everybody’s check at dinner & get paid in cash, etc. With this mindset, it’s easy to quickly accumulate points & get yourself some cash back at your disposal. Let’s take another look at those categories from last year-here’s how I strategized my category spend:
  • Q1: Gas Stations & Local Commuter Transportation
    • Paid for family gas, bought variable gift cards at gas stations & purchased money orders
  • Q2: Grocery & Drug Stores
    • Bought groceries, manufactured spend by purchasing variable gift cards at Kroger/CVS
  • Q3: Restaurants & Movie Theaters
    • Offered to get paid in Venmo/cash for any meal with friends, bought Kayleigh food
  • Q4: Walmart & Department Stores
    • Bought some Christmas gifts at department stores

This year’s Q1 for Chase was gas stations once again, which you can be sure I will be maxing out though both normal gas expenses + variable gift cards to bridge the gap. Get creative with your spend & you’ll find yourself knocking out these categories in no time. For some people, this card makes all the sense in the world. However, if all of these categories are too confusing or you simply don’t want to keep track of it, I’ve got the card for you-the Chase Freedom Unlimited.

Chase Freedom Unlimited

For those of you that just want a cash-back card without the hassle of thinking about when to use it, the Chase Freedom Unlimited is your answer. This card provides a flat 1.5% cash back on every purchase you make, no matter what the category is. Whether you’re swiping for that late-night slice or making a rent payment, you’ll get the same cash back rate. In addition to that, the Chase Freedom Unlimited offers:
  • Earn $150 after you spend $500 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
  • Earn 1.5% cash back on all purchases.
  • No annual fee!
  • No minimum to redeem for cash back!

Look familiar? That’s because these cards offer the same benefits, even down to the sign-up bonus. It’s all about whether you prefer category spending vs. a flat fee. For me, I know I can max the categories out & therefore I go for the Chase Freedom.

It’s important to keep in mind that everybody’s spending situation is different! Take note of where you spend the most money & evaluate if category spending is right for you. If not, the Chase Freedom Unlimited is a fantastic option that will have you earning points quickly.

Stacking Your Freedom With A Sapphire

One of the best reasons to have one of the Chase Freedom cards is that you can transfer your cash-back balance to one of your Sapphire cards if you are a cardholder. Since the Chase Freedom/Freedom Unlimited only gives you the option to redeem these points for cash-back, this opens Pandora’s box in terms of redemption options. As I laid out in our Sapphire post, you can utilize these points to:
  • Transfer to travel partners like Southwest, United, Hilton, Marriott, Hyatt, etc.
  • Book travel directly through the Chase portal for a 25-50% discount on travel by using points
  • Redeem for gift cards
  • Cash Back
This is why having a Chase Freedom/Freedom Unlimited can be SO VALUABLE in the travel hacking community-you can stack these points with your other cards! I try to max my categories out on my Freedom because I never know when I’ll have a surprise travel expense that requires some additional UR points. Both of these cards have saved Kayleigh & I multiple times when we are in a pinch & we haven’t paid a dime in annual fees. Seems like a win-win situation to me!


Chase’s “everyday” cards (as I define them) can provide tons of value for no additional cost & serve as a great starter card for those of us just getting started. While I typically recommend the Chase Sapphire cards or the Southwest Chase cards to anybody looking for a new credit card, you cannot go wrong with one of these options. These cards also fall under Chase’s 5/24 rule, so if you want to get them, make sure you haven’t received 5 new credit cards in the last 24 months.

With that said, I hope you enjoyed today’s #MileageMonday. I’m going to get prepared for a big night of Bachelor watching (this Arie guy…SHEESH) with the lady & map out what valuable content we can bring you guys next. Have a fantastic week, Smart Money Squad!




Five Finance Friday - 3/2/18


Happy Friday Smart Money Squad, and welcome to the month of March! Spring is just around the corner (we hope), and if this month is anything like the last, we'll probably have a combination of snow, fog, rain, sleet, freezing rain, sun, and grey skies all within a week's time. This is Ohio after all. Let's just hope for more of the sunshine and temperatures over 60!

In any case, we’re back with another great line-up of awesome articles from some of our fellow bloggers. Without further adieu, here are our Top 5 articles for this week:

1. Boost Credit Score: A Guide to an Important 3-Digit Number

A debt-free life is certainly one to strive for, but the reality is that many of us will need to rely on debt for some of life's biggest purchases such as a house or an education. All debt is not created equal, however, and some debt can be much more expensive than others if you're not careful. In this article, Full-Time Dollars shows us the importance of a credit score and gives some great tips for boosting your score!

2. How to Pay Off Debt on a Low Income

A 6 or 7 figure salary would be nice, but that's not always realistic in every career field. So does that mean if you don't rake in the big bucks that you can forget paying back your debt? Absolutely not! Whether you make $30k or $300k, paying off your debt is very important (see article above), and can make a real impact on your life. Check out Brian's tips for paying off your debt even if you're not a millionaire.

3. Back Off, I'll Mind My Own Savings Rate

If you've recently just started you first "adult" job, then you're probably familiar with question, "how much of my paycheck should I be saving?". Do a quick Google search and I bet you can find suggestions of anywhere between 6% and 16%. I don't know about you, but that's a big difference and I don't want to be saving too little or too much (is too much even possible??). Check out Winning Personal Finance's article to help you find the right savings rate for YOU!

4. Slow and Steady to Financial Freedom

This article is right up Smart Money Seed's alley! We preach it all the time; getting rich doesn't happen overnight. It takes consistent discipline and commitment to achieve the financial life we dream of. Take a look at Simple Money Man's thoughts on why you should be saving like the tourtise and not the hare.

5. How I Went from Live-in Nanny to Corporate VP

Need a little motivation to get your weekend started? Look no further! Success can take many different shapes and forms, but behind almost any success is one common ingredient: hard work! This article from Money Scrap talks about the importance of hard work among many other ingredients needed to succeed in your career!

That wraps up this edition of the Smart Money Seed #fivefinancefriday, now it's time for the weekend! Thanks for reading, and we'll see you here next week for another lineup of three great articles!


Secrets of the Millionaire Mind Book Review/Reflection


I recently read Secrets of the Millionaire Mind by T. Harv Eker. I need to start this post by sincerely thanking Harv for writing this book and providing so much valuable content for my life and my brother, Max, for purchasing this book as a birthday gift this year. My only regret is that I waited 5 months before I started reading it!

Harv's message is powerful. We have been subconsciously conditioned to think certain ways about money and the people who have it. Much of our subconscious conditioning about money has caused us to view money in a negative light; therefore, we do not fully commit ourselves to building and sustaining wealth no matter how much we want to or even think we are.

What I Learned

I learned a lot about myself by reading the book and performing the exercises Harv walks you through. Regardless of how hard I've worked to build my wealth and my money making ability, the exercises helped me increase my self-awareness to identify the roots and conditioning that has caused my subconscious mind to hold me back from hitting an entirely new level.
  • Money was cyclical for me until 2 years ago.

I started mowing in 5th grade and continued to some extent through last summer. I then worked at Home City Ice during my college summers and never really worked much during the winter. Sure, I would pick up odd jobs such as shoveling snow, raking leaves, or picking up an occasional weekend at Home City, but my only consistent income came in the summer. 

Because of this, the extent of my financial management strategy was to hoard money in the summer and hope it didn't run out in the winter. Now that I have regular paychecks coming in all year, I need to be more strategic about my financial management and budgeting so I can be sure to do things like hit my long term goals and invest in myself through education and seminars.
  • I was always exposed to wealth building as a long-term strategy. 
Although my dad dabbled with internet side hustles from time to time, my parents' main income always came from their day jobs. When my dad and I would talk about wealth building, it was always a conversation about long-term building to prepare for retirement around the time my dad turns 60. I appreciate everything my parents have taught me about money through lessons and by example. We always had more than enough, and they're setup for a long and happy retirement. 

But I knew at a young age that I wanted to do things a little bit differently and work on things like starting businesses that would hopefully help me build wealth at a younger age to be used for further investment. I need to recognize that my conditioning has taught me to focus on long-term wealth building and work to shift my mindset, focus, and learning towards efforts that will bring wealth more quickly than strictly stock market returns over 40 years.
  • I operate far too often out of fear.
I'm afraid to spend my money on things I don't deem critical because I'm constantly finding something to worry about. What if I somehow lost my job and main source of income? What if the blogging or marketing seminar I want to attend isn't actually that good even though thousands of people have reviewed it positively? What if I do everything I possibly can to make Smart Money Seed a success, and it still never takes off?

All of those fears hold me back and cause me to be more of a money hoarder than a strategic money grower. The fears are baseless because I give Marathon my all and am regularly recognized by my superiors as a good employee, Marathon rarely lays people off, I have a substantial safety net of cash to fall back on if I did somehow lose my job or waste some money on a bad seminar, and the top secret to success I've learned about time and time again is that people achieve great success only after they decide to pour absolutely everything they've got into their business or side hustle.
  • I had some preconceived negative opinions of the ultra rich.
I'm not exactly sure why, but for some reason when I think about people who are crazy rich, I start to wonder about what kind of skeletons that person must have in his or her closet. Maybe part of that is because I was really starting to be old enough to understand money and become interested in it and the strategy behind it right around the recession in 2008. During that time, it seemed like every big money headline was about how some greedy bastard was thrown in jail for doing some type of shady shit and screwing people out of their hard earned money. Also, Hollywood tends to portray these people as greedy and in a predicament to choose their money and career over their family. The Founder is a great recent example of Hollywood's negative portrayal of the ultra rich and successful. 

Many of the stories I had heard people tell about building their successful companies included some night when they hit rock bottom and had $1 in their bank account or had to beg for change for gas. Even if those people are billionaires today, that time sounded so horrible to me that although my conscious mind searched for ways to build businesses and minimize risk, my subconscious mind wanted to scrap the idea altogether and opt for comfort.

Again, this is an area where I need to acknowledge that I have been negatively conditioned by my external environment and work to change that mindset into putting rich people in a positive light. Harv talks about how most of the rich people he knows are amazingly kind and generous. When I see a rich person in person or on TV, I try to think of all the positive they have done for society such as the jobs they're creating or the inspiration they provide me and other aspiring entrepreneurs. I've also started listening to NPR's podcast How I Built This and really focus on the successes rather than the struggles.

Read the book!

I could go on and on about these lessons I learned and many, many others, but I think I'll just let you read the book for yourself and learn your own lessons. One of the great things about this book is that Harv allows each individual to have a different experience through the exercises that provide Aha moments for each individual at different times.

Although the book is a little sales pitch-y at times, I would love to attend one of the Millionaire Mind seminars at some point. I actually started looking those up before Harv even mentioned them in the book. 

I highly suggest this book for anyone looking to change their financial situation and learn how to blow the roof off the limit you're subconsciously creating for yourself. I am confident that the lessons Harv teaches along with my efforts and the efforts of my talented and eager collaborators, business partners, and friends, Christian and Ty, and most importantly with the help of God, I will one day achieve greatness, financial and otherwise, that I never previously thought possible.

I have a millionaire mind!


#MileageMonday: Airport Lounges


Who’s ready for another edition of #MileageMonday? I hope you all had a fantastic Monday (I know mine was productive) & are ready to kick some ass this week. As we continue this Monday series, we start to get into some of the more fun topics of travel hacking, including USING all the benefits you get from these cards! I know paying annual fees is not fun…but I can promise you that these perks far outweigh the fees.

We’ve laid the groundwork by explaining some of the must-have credit cards you need in your wallet + shown you the path to meet minimum spends on these cards. You’ve got your cards in hand & now it’s time for the good stuff, guys. Ever been curious as to how I’m always sipping on a free cocktail at the airport while I wait for my next flight? If you’ve been in a semi-major airport, you may have walked by one of these before (courtesy of my latest airport stay in Atlanta):

These are just a sampling of the airport lounges available in the Atlanta airport; in fact, there are 14 airport lounges scattered throughout various terminals in ATL, all with different requirements for entry & offerings inside the lounge. Let’s get into what an airport lounge typically offers.

Airport Lounges: A Brief Overview

When I go to any airport, one of the first things I’ll check on my phone is airport lounge availability. Airport lounges instantly make any airport better by providing their customers a selection of free food (ranging from light snacks to full-course meals) & beverages…yes, including booze! In addition to the food & beverages, lounges typically offer these amenities:
  •     Free Newspapers/Reading Materials for your flight
  •        Private Shower Facilities
  •        Private Work Space, Faster Wifi & Printing Availability
  •        Dedicated Customer Service Representatives
  •        Entertainment Center-Nice TVs, Flight Updates, etc.

These are just a few of the perks I typically expect of an airport lounge. I’ve been in some crazy lounges-in Minnesota, I went to the PGA lounge with a full putting green and golf simulators, ALL FREE. Los Angeles has an outdoor lounge complete with cornhole sets, giant Jenga & a fire pit. There’s a ton to explore out there and we’re just scratching the surface!

Who Has Airport Lounges?

 Most of the airports I’ve visited have some form of an airport lounge. While my home airport in Columbus currently lacks airport lounge access, here are a few of the big names in the lounge space:
  •          Delta Sky Club
  •         United Club
  •          American Airlines Admirals Club
  •          AMEX Centurion Lounge
  •          Priority Pass Lounges-Over 1000+ lounges worldwide

      A quick way to check if an airport in your itinerary has airport lounge access is to download the app Loungebuddy. This easy-to-use platform allows you to enter in the various perks/access you may accrue from travel & credit cards while cross-referencing any airport, pulling up the lounges you have access to. The app even breaks down where each airport lounge resides in the airport, making sure you have ample time to relax in the lounge during your layover or before a flight.

For those of us that fly a specific airline consistently, let’s break down your options for the “brand-name” lounges.
  • Delta Sky Clubs
    •    AMEX Platinum/Delta Reserve cardholders when flying Delta-operated routes
    •    Discounted access for Delta Gold/Platinum cardholders ($29)
    •    Delta Gold or higher status when flying Delta/Sky Team international routes
    •    Flying first class on any Delta/Sky Team-operated flight
    •    Yearly Membership-$450
  • American Airlines Admirals Clubs
    •    Admirals Club Membership-$450 for the year
    •    Flying First/Business Class on transcontinental/international AA-operated flights
    •    Being a Citi AAdvantage Executive cardholder/authorized user ($450 annual fee)
    •    Having platinum or higher status with AA & flying an international route
    •    Pay for one-day access ($50)

  •         United Club
    •    United Polaris first/business class on domestic/international routes
    •    International first/business class on Star Alliance flights
    •    United Club membership ($450)
    •    Day Pass ($50 or one-day voucher given by Chase United MileagePlus Explorer CC)

Lounge access is typically provided by each airline as a perk of having some form of elite status with the airline. Fear not, though-you can still gain access to these lounges without being “elite” on an airline. I currently do not have status with any major airline & yet I find myself having access to nearly any lounge in the airport, all thanks to some of my credit card perks. Here’s how you can join me for a brew in the airport lounge…

Gaining Access to the Airport Lounge

Airport lounge access can be gained in a variety of different ways. I’d argue the easiest way to get access is by signing up for one of the many credit cards that provides access to these lounges. As I’ve mentioned in our previous Chase premium cards post, the Chase Sapphire Reserve is one of these cards that offers lounge access through a Priority Pass membership.

While a Priority Pass membership won’t give you access to any of those name-brand lounges I mentioned above (United, Delta, American Airlines), it WILL give you access to lounges like Air France, Alaska Airlines, The Club, Hawaiian Airlines, etc. There is a MASSIVE network of Priority Pass lounges, lots of which tend to be nicer than the aforementioned brand name lounges. Kayleigh & I visited two of those lounges on our recent Hawaii trip and found ourselves pleasantly surprised with the offerings. Here are a few pics I snapped of the lounges:


While these all may seem out-of-reach for the average person, that’s not us. By strategically signing up for credit cards, we can gain access to the bulk of these clubs & ensure we are not sitting at some random airport bar waiting for our next flight. Here’s my current list of credit cards I am gaining airport lounge access from:
  • Chase Ritz Carlton CC 
    • $450 annual fee, can be waived first year if you lower credit limit to <$1800
    • Unlimited Priority Pass Access for me and travelling companions
    • $300 annual travel credit
  • AMEX Ameriprise Platinum CC 
    • $550 annual fee, waived for first-year cardholder
    • AMEX Centurion Lounge & Delta Sky Club  (when flying Delta) access 
    • 10 Priority Pass lounge visits/year 
    • $200 annual travel credit
So if I play my cards right, I’m covered on Delta flights, AMEX Centurion Lounges, all Priority Pass lounges + $500 annually to spend on travel, including airport lounges. While I probably wouldn’t use the credit on a lounge, it doesn’t hurt to know that if I’m in a pinch I can use the credit on a whim to ensure my pre-flight relaxation is covered. The best part? This is just ONE of the many perks these credit cards have to offer.


In the past, I would tend to dread my upcoming airport experiences because I knew I’d have to sit in a cramped chair with a bunch of smelly travelers. Airport lounges have changed that experience for me-now I’m an airport snob! Whle I anxiously await the day they announce an airport lounge for my local CMH, I know that *almost* anywhere else I fly will have respite.

I’ve shown you just how easy it is to get access to these lounges & start turning your airport experience around. Go try it out-you won’t be able to travel the same ever again!

With that, I think we’ve reached the close of this week’s #MileageMonday. Feel free to ask questions about this post or anything else related to the travel sector-I’m here to help you reach your travel goals!


Ty Henze