TMBA 453: What’s The First Step To Becoming an Entrepreneur?

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This week, Dan and Ian are talking about the very first step to creating a lifestyle business.

Contrary to popular belief, that is not quitting your job or coming up with a business idea.

It begins with your personal finances. We’re talking about treating your bank account, your spending and your earning like a business.

A few weeks ago, we spoke about the cult of early retirement, or what has commonly been referred to on the internet as the FIRE (Financial Independence, Retire Early) community.

In that episode, we explored the differences between early retirement seekers and entrepreneurs.

Today’s guests are proof positive that these communities actually have quite a bit in common, and that they might even exist as two sides of the same coin.

Kristy Shen and Bryce Leung are bloggers at, and they both retired in their thirties. As their blog name suggests, they are millennials and quite a lot younger than other prominent figures the FIRE space.

In this episode, we speak to Kristy and Bryce about their investment strategy, how they survived the crash of 2008, the common mistakes that people make with financial planning, and a whole lot more.


Listen to this week’s show and learn:

  • How Bryce and Kristy were able to retire in their thirties with a million dollar portfolio. (6:38)
  • Why they felt compelled to write about financial independence. (14:19)
  • How they respond to critics in the community that don’t agree with their entrepreneurial endeavors. (27:34)
  • The biggest barriers to entry in the FIRE space. (35:32)
  • Why people who have experienced poverty tend to be successful in early retirement. (43:45)

Mentioned in the episode:

This week’s sponsor:

This week’s episode is sponsored by Noviland.  If you’ve ever run a product-based business, you know that sourcing from overseas is frustrating from beginning to end.  Noviland is a US-based, free-to-use eProcurement platform with a network of over 2,000 custom manufacturers overseas.  They can help you to get factory pricing on a wide array of products quickly and easily. Once you create a free account at, they will walk you through the entire sourcing process. To get started, visit now and use promo code TMBA20 to get a $20 credit added to your account. Big thanks to Noviland for sponsoring this week’s show.

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Thanks for listening to our show! We’ll be back next Thursday morning 8AM EST. Cheers, Dan & Ian

Published on 08.09.18
  • Zak Columber

    Really appreciated this one guys, especially the content near the end on earning more vs saving more.

    I like how honest both you and the Millennial Revolution people were about how saving more DOES require frugality, but it ALSO requires earning a fair amount.

    You did it without guilt tripping, like, “Hey, you want nice things? That’s cool – but you gotta look at your personal finances like you would those of a business and make sure you can justify that.”

    I have a long way to go in the financial game, but episodes like this one and the money one you did a few weeks ago really help to channel my focus and energy.

    Thanks again!

  • Lloyd Robinson

    Overall great episode, but the idea that people should weight their allocation to high-yielding instruments in retirement is questionable at best. This strikes me as a good way to DECREASE one’s Sharpe ratio while at the same time getting WORSE tax treatment. And did he really say that dividends are safe in a drawdown or a recession?? Ha not really.

  • Really thought-provoking episode. A few things that struck me after listening:
    1. If you can’t be happy with less income (like Dan and Ian were saying at the end of the episode – they’re not happy to live on $40k a year) – then everything is so much harder with F.I.R.E.. You’d need to save many millions of dollars to have a passive annual income of something like $120k a year, meaning the scrimping and saving isn’t enough by itself.
    2. The guests seemed actually skeptical of entrepreneurship – saying it’s a much more certain path to save the money you need to have a passive income, by using a reliable job. Really interesting point of view that you don’t hear much in the entrepreneur echo chamber we can be part of sometimes.
    3. I was a bit confused by their skepticism around college. They said “you need to have a high-paying job”, and that they were engineers. If you’re going to be an engineer, you gotta go to college. Didn’t seem to compute – how can you bypass student debt and still pursue their vision of a high-paying job to save up the initial $$$.

  • Another great episode, couple points:

    1) Did I hear correctly that they saved most of their million dollar portfolio within a few years?

    2) Isn’t the 4% drawdown approach meant to last for like 30-50 years? Are early retirement folks thinking they will also die early?

  • Dave

    Earn $120k a year from passive investments? How much do you make now that you think $120k is a requirement? Lots of people live on much less and are satisfied.

    As for bypassing student debt and still pursue a high paying job, there’s this thing in your head called a brain but it requires to be used to think outside the box. In many cases, you don’t even have to think outside the box. There are many ways to earn a high income without having higher education. There are many ways to get a higher education without incurring student debt. All you need to do is think about all the options available.

  • Mark Brenwall

    Great episode. Really loved these guys and agree that their blog is an epic masterpiece of in-depth analysis and writing!

    While I agree that there are differences between the FIRE mindset and the entrepreneur I think the fact that many (most?) of us are expat entrepreneurs I also think we are soldiers in the same war, the war of THINK DIFFERENT! I really respect anyone that eschews the normal thinking of college > mortgage > car payments > lifetime of debt in exchange for freedom.

  • gimmi81

    It’s always nice when people share their thoughts openly, but honestly this episode has been full of bad advices, IMHO
    These guys have caught the best possible time to start ramping up savings, sitting at the high of one of the biggest bull markets ever, and the perfect moment to have their professions. Real market crashes are different. A few thoughts:

    1) they use past data to validate their future, which is scary as hell to me. Who said that a crash is always followed by a recovery? Central banks have already pumped enough money into the economy, a future crash might be much harder than the last one (see stock markets in countries as italy and spain as an example, they are still waaay above 2008 levels).
    2) Geo arbitrage is smart, but leaving the decision of it to the stock market doesn’t sound like a lot of freedom to me. With a crash and no recovery, the risk is they will be “stuck in Thailand” for many years, and see their savings drop or not recover.
    3) is 4% nominal or real? Is it discounting taxes and commisions? This seems quite high to me to be low risk
    4) the concept of high yield is always related to risk. There is no free lunch, and dividend stock are giving dividends now, they might not do that in the future. Earnings collapse during crisis time.
    5) I don’t understand what is their take on real estate. First, they are against it, but they also invest in it indirectly. Real estate as an owner has the advantage that you can live in it, and you don’t have to worry about market collapses too much, if you don’t have a mortgage. If you own your place, you can use it as a base in case everything collapses and only need food, utilities and entertainment money. In my opinion it is not a bad defensive move.
    6) the whole model of 4% is based on geo arbitrage, basically. Renting in a high-cost city would eat most of their yield. They could also buy a 200k$ house in thailand and live with 32k$ instead of 40k$
    7) what about kids/family? That would require a bit more stability

    Anyway, good luck and thanks for sharing!

  • Shaun McCarthy

    Interesting episode, certainly a bit of a side step from the norm. Kudos to Bryce and Kristy for the hard work and drive, clearly they have struck a chord within the FIRE crowd and really, who doesn’t love the early retirement approach?

    I’d be very interested to see how these guys are going in 5-10 years time. The numbers are clearly all there, but looking back only helps you look forward a little. There are also a few things that don’t really stack up as far as ‘retirement’ goes i.e. geo arbitrage isn’t really freedom to do what you want and if kids are on the cards at some stage, then no amount of number crunching is going to combat blind emotion (believe me, I’ve tried).

    In any case Bryce and Kristy seem to be well placed to at least have the ability to make some choices in the future.

    Best of luck guys

  • Aloris ToolingGeek

    Great podcast. Key question, health insurance. How do you manage health insurance on 40K of interest from 1 million?

  • Agreed Shaun that geo-arbitrage isn’t always a long-term solution. Where I’ve always thought FIRE /could/ work really well is in supplemental income for bootstrapped entrepreneurs.

    Say you have enough to pay the rent and feed your family in Malaysia as a result of a portfolio like Bryce and Kristy – that may give you the 1000 days (or more) of lee-way from your spouse, and the focus to stick to your project (rather than chasing the cash).

    It’s not “I’m retired at 35 and never have to work again” material, it’s “if my active income goes to shit, we’re still safe”.

    By the sounds of it, Bryce and Kristy are already heading in this direction. Their 4% (or thereabouts as they get dividends) covers their frugal lifestyle as they’re happy living in low-cost locations, while they grow their side business into a serious income stream.

  • Something that helped me immensely this year is something Ian touched on (from memory, I need to start commenting immediately after listening!)… Running your personal finances like a business.

    Earlier this year with some other DCers we did exactly this. Creating a personal balance sheet.

    Looking back on this – if you haven’t ran a company, it’s a steep learning curve. Sometimes even getting the data isn’t particularly easy too, especially if you’re living in an obscure country like me where the banks have zero integration with anything.

    There seems to be all of these personal finance tracking apps out there now, but few of them do more than track your spending and checking accounts only – how about your student debt, mortgage, car loan, 401k/superannuation/private pension, brokerage account, PayPal, bitcoin wallet, etc, etc.

    I’ve travelled around a bit, and despite being fairly organised about things, I’ve collected bank accounts here and there. I’ve met some people who collect bank accounts in random countries like a badge of honour.

    Now, all I want is simplicity and visibility. Working on it!

  • Jane Beresford

    Great point. But if you’re European or Canadian (or have a full time base there) healthcare isn’t the massive investment it is in the U.S.

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