Our experts answer readers’ investing questions and write unbiased product reviews (here’s how we assess investing products). Paid non-client promotion: In some cases, we receive a commission from our partners. Our opinions are always our own.
- A high salary doesn’t always equate to wealth. Brian Luebben made six-figures but spent it all.
- When he realized he was “worth $0,” he changed his spending habits.
- He used Ramit Sethi’s budgeting philosophy “money dials” to save $25,000 in one year.
Brian Luebben decided to pursue sales after graduating from college with a marketing degree in 2017.
He liked that it included a hybrid salary-commission compensation model, telling Insider, “If I perform better, I get more money.”
He worked his way up to making six figures, he said, but that didn’t make him wealthy.
“I was equally adept at spending money as I was at earning it.” “I spent everything,” Luebben admitted, adding that it wasn’t until someone explained the concept of net worth to him that he realized, “I’m worth $0.” I don’t have any assets.”
That happened in 2019. He was living in Smyrna, Georgia at the time and decided to change his spending habits in order to save up for a down payment on a house.
Using the ‘money dials’ spending philosophy to save $25,000 in one year
When Luebben became serious about saving, he began tracking his expenses to see where his money was going. That’s when he realized he was wasting money on things he didn’t particularly enjoy.
He learned about money dials, a budgeting philosophy coined by personal finance expert Ramit Sethi, and decided to put it into practice.
Money dials are essentially spending categories that you can turn up or down, such as travel, health, food, and experiences. Sethi encourages everyone to spend time determining which money dials are most important to them. Allow yourself to turn the dial all the way up in those categories. Turn down all of the other money dials.
In other words, don’t waste money on things that don’t matter to you.
“I enjoy spending money on travel and food.” “Those are my two main money dials,” Luebben explained. “Everything else in my life, I ruthlessly cut out.”
If it didn’t “fire me up,” Luebben said, he didn’t buy it. “I didn’t care if I had a nice watch, nice clothes, or a cool car. I didn’t require any of that. “I drove a used Toyota Camry.”
Luebben said that becoming a more conscious spender helped him save about $25,000 in 2019, which was enough to put 3% down on a multi-family property in Georgia.
The purchase improved his financial situation even more: he “house-hacked,” which means he rented one unit and lived in the other, and went from paying about $1,000 in rent to living for free in his own home because the rental income covered his mortgage.
A year later, he purchased a second multi-family property and house-hacked it as well. He continued to live for free (in the new house) and began profiting from his first property, which he fully rented and turned into a true investment property.
Luebben sold both homes in 2023, according to settlement statements, and plans to transition into commercial real estate.
Saving enough money to quit his job in 2022 and live off of ‘passionate income’
Luebben continued to excel in his sales position and was promoted.
He believed he was on track to eventually become his boss’s boss. He didn’t like what he saw when he looked at the person in that role: “He was booked back-to-back in 15-minute increments.” He was unhealthy, he couldn’t see his daughters grow up because he worked so much, and I realized I didn’t want to be like him.”
He’d already started generating income from his rental units, but it wasn’t enough to replace his full-time income.
Luebben discovered another revenue stream in early 2022: his daily podcast, “The Action Academy.”
He began it in October 2021, inspired by someone he met at a mastermind event who told him he had a natural talent for talking to and connecting with people.
Luebben never intended to monetize the podcast, and for months, Action Academy made no money. That is, until January 2022. A mindset coach Luebben had hired offered him affiliate revenue, which was a percentage of every successful referral via a link in the podcast’s description.
“What ended up happening was, I inked an affiliate deal with the mastermind group that I was a member of and I was organically talking about the coaches that I used,” he said. “And then people started signing up for these services left and right.” That amounted to anywhere between $12,000 and $19,000 per month.”
He was making six figures from his sales job and bringing in rental income at the same time. He began to see a scenario in which he could easily quit his 9-to-5 job.
Luebben suspected that the podcast earnings were a fluke.
However, three months and $60,000 in savings later, he felt confident quitting and living off of his side-hustle income, which he refers to as his “passionate income.” It’s not like passive income, where you make money while you sleep; Luebben puts in time and effort every day to produce his podcast.
Luebben, now 28, still posts daily episodes but no longer runs podcast affiliates. According to documents reviewed by Insider, his main source of income is his financial freedom coaching business, the Action Academy Community, which generates six figures. He also wrote “From Passive to Passionate.”
His spending habits haven’t shifted: he still prefers to spend money on food and travel. And he now has the freedom to work wherever he wants.
“I’ve done the podcast every single day, across 33 countries,” he went on to say. “I never miss it.”