023: Achieving the Yield of Dreams with Charlie Epstein

Achieving the Yield of Dreams with Charlie Epstein

Today, I’m talking to Charlie Epstein. Charlie is the Desirement Coach and the author of Paychecks for Life and Save America, Save! He’s coached over 10,000 financial advisors around the country and helped thousands of working Americans create paychecks for life, ensuring they can do all the things they desire to do.

He’s on a mission to make the word retirement disappear. He aspires to change the mindset of working Americans so that they do all of the things they desire to do today – not sometime in the future. 

In our conversation, Charlie and I talk about how he caught the entrepreneurial bug as a child, how lifestyle investors can “bend time,” and the unique storytelling tools he’s created to help people achieve their financial goals in the present.

Key Takeaways

  • What Charlie learned from his entrepreneur father and opera singer mother.
  • What it means to have a sense of divine discontent.
  • Why Charlie found jumping into the life insurance business as a 21 year old was so much harder than being a struggling actor in New York City – and how these experiences informed his one-man show, Yield of Dreams.
  • The value of doing things to crack the code, rather than just for the paycheck.
  • How to understand the vig and the spread in borrowing money.
  • Why Charlie disagrees with Dave Ramsey and Suze Orman about paying off all debt in favor of paying off bad debt – and ways to use Other People’s Money and Uncle Sam’s Money to grow your own.
  • The coaches and mentors who have helped Charlie achieve his goals in life and in business.


Time flies when you’re having fun, and you get more done in less time when you’re doing what you love. - Charlie Epstein Click To Tweet


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Connect with Justin Donald


Justin Donald: Well, Charlie, it is so great to have you on The Lifestyle Investor podcast. Welcome, and thank you for joining us. 


Charlie Epstein: Thanks for having me on board. I appreciate it. 


Justin Donald: Well, it's really fun. You and I connected through a mutual friend, Mike Koenigs, and man, have we had so much fun working with him. And I heard all about you during my time working with Mike, and I hear that you had heard a bunch about me. And so, it was just a matter of time until we connected. And of course, we hit it off like Mike knew we would. So, it's very cool learning about you. 


Charlie Epstein: Now, we've got to do some deals together. 


Justin Donald: That's right. Well, you've got a fun story, Charlie. So, I'd love for you to share with our listeners and those that are watching how you got started in the investment world and in financial services because this has been your passion, your career for the vast majority of your life. And you've done really well. 


Charlie Epstein: Well, thanks. That's a vote of confidence, but it's funny because when you and I were chatting, and I asked you, who are the entrepreneurs in your world? So, growing up, my father was an entrepreneur. He had his own women's clothing store. So, I mean, I was born, and he was already working the store and retail six in the morning till nine at night, six days a week, because back then, Sunday, they had the blue laws, so things weren't open. So, my dad was off building the business. My mom was home being a home mother, but she was also an opera singer, and she sang both at our synagogue and the local church. So, my mother is what I call the voice. And I was the youngest. My brother and sister were both intellectuals. They're both PhDs. So, I knew I didn't want to do that. 


And when you say where did I get started with the whole financial world, it really happened for me when I started my own landscaping business at 12 or 13 in the neighborhood. I know we were talking about how you were selling newspapers, I think, as a kid, and there's nothing better than a cash business. So, I'm driving around the neighborhood, undercutting. People say, well, how do you get a job as a 12 or 13-year-old? It wasn't how do you get a job, you just talked to enough people and say, hey, I'll mow your lawn for 10 bucks, they're charging 20 bucks. The guys that were the big, next thing I knew, I had 10-15 lawns. I'm making $150 a week cash. I'm 12 years old, this is the 1960s, that's a lot of money. 


And then I got into collecting memorabilia, comic books. I'm a big Marx Brothers fan of his huge collection. And here's the crazy thing, when I was 16 years old, I went to my parents and I said, hey, my buddy and I are going to go to New York City for the Comic-Con convention for four days. What do you think my parents said? 


Justin Donald: Well, I mean, I would imagine that they were like, no way, that's crazy, but I'm wondering if maybe your parents are a little more chill than that. 


Charlie Epstein: You've got to remember the year that I grew up in, I'm a little bit older than you. We didn't lock our doors, we didn't lock our cars, the windows were rolled down. You got home from school at three o'clock and your parents said, be home for dinner at six. You see the lights behind me here in the Field of Dreams, the way you knew it was six o'clock as the lights came on, the street lights. Oh, shit, you've got to get home, right? So, I used to hang out at this comic book store in downtown Springfield with my buddy Andy. And this guy, Dick Sykes, ran it with his one-eyed girlfriend. So, I came home and I said, "Hey, I'm going to go to New York City with my buddy Andy." "Who are you going with?" "Oh, Dick Sykes and his one-eyed girlfriend." "Okay, have a good time." That was it. 


Justin Donald: That's unbelievable. 


Charlie Epstein: They didn't call up Mr. Sykes and interview him and the one-eyed girlfriend, they were just like, well, you go that we drop you off at that store every Saturday and you're there for five hours. Off we went. The first big deal I did was Fantastic Four #1, I think I bought it for 30 bucks and sold it for 200 bucks at that conference. 


Justin Donald: Wow. 


Charlie Epstein: Of course, today, that comic book is probably worth $250,000. 


Justin Donald: Oh, my goodness. 


Charlie Epstein: 30 to 200 in four days. That's an ROI you can live with. 


Justin Donald: I love that you figured that out at such a young age. That's incredible. 


Charlie Epstein: Yeah. So, I mean, I was naturally wheeling and dealing in my basement, and there was no online, there was no Internet. You're doing this all by mail or going to these conventions. So, yeah, I was just very, very lucky that I kind of had that entrepreneurial spirit. 


Justin Donald: No kidding. That's incredible. It's so interesting because I was on your show and we got into some really cool questions with you, and I just feel like our paths are so similar. My mom also worked at our church growing up, and my dad really worked long hours because for most of my memory, he was either in retail, selling appliances or fixing appliances, or he was selling cars, and he was working six days a week, super long hours and the same thing, Sundays, you couldn't sell any of these appliances. 


Charlie Epstein: Yeah, they call them the blue laws. It was the blue laws. 


Justin Donald: That's right. 


Charlie Epstein: I also have great memories of my parents' friends coming to the house and partying. They were always dressed up. They were always dressed up at the house of the party. My mom always had a cigarette in one hand, a cocktail in the other. My dad didn't smoke or drink. My mom smoked and drank, and they were all entrepreneurs, they all owned businesses. I mean, one guy, they owned a dairy farm, but it was still, they were entrepreneurial. My dad's best friends started a company called Casual Corner stores, which became one of the biggest retail chains, and he ended up working for them. So, I was just around this energy. They looked good, they felt good, they were always happy. There was this energy, there's just spirit, and I was like, that, I want to be around that energy. 


Justin Donald: Well, that makes a lot of sense, because you're young, you're impressionable, and the thing that you're walking away with is these are people that I rather surround myself with, these are experiences I want to have, this is the life I want to create. You're seeing at an early age what fun and excitement and intentionality all kind of weaves together for you. And it's cool whether you realize it or not, I mean, I'm sure that, like, this had a lot to do with who you became and the entrepreneurial spirit that you had and just like the way that you would strive for more. 


Charlie Epstein: Well, I like to say and I talk about this in my one-man show, Yield of Dreams, I was born with divine discontent. 


Justin Donald: I like that. 


Charlie Epstein: Like I was never, ever satisfied. It was just this discontent. So, I had my dad struggling but successful, upper-middle class. I had my mother who... My mother was on her way to a successful career at the Met when she stumbled on my dad, he was a lieutenant in the army, and that was it, but I've always been torn between these worlds, entrepreneur-entertainer, entertainer-entrepreneur, which is what the show if we get into, is really all about. So, it was how do I meld the theatrical with the business? So, I went through school doing every show possible, I just love the theater and performing, but I had the entrepreneurial side of the brain. 


So, when I got out of school, I went to college, I was an economics major who lived in the theater. I just said, where's the theater? And actually, I was going to be an English major who minored in the theater, and my dad said, yeah, that cup of coffee will get you 50 cents. I went, okay, I'll be an economics major, and I'll live in the theater. He's like, okay, I'll pay your tuition now. You had to pay your tuition. I was lucky. My dad said, no, we're going to pay your tuition so you can focus on just doing the work and the school work. That was a real blessing. I'm always grateful for that. 


Justin Donald: That's awesome. Well, I'll tell you what, I could see it going great either way. I love that I had to pay for my own. My wife loves that her family paid for hers. And I can see how both really make sense as long as you see the silver lining in either situation, and you don't take it for granted. You're talking about your show, and I want to get into this for sure, but I've got to let you know that there's so much of your humor, even your look, the appeal that you have that reminds me of one of my favorite comedians of all time, which is Larry David. And Larry David, he just crushed it with Seinfeld, it was my all-time favorite show growing up. And then, of course, Curb Your Enthusiasm. Yeah, I mean, I've got to imagine you could do some great mimicking and impersonations of Larry. 


Charlie Epstein: You're only the 80th person today to say I remind you of him. 


Justin Donald: I love it. Well, he brings a smile to my face every time. 


Charlie Epstein: The hair is not quite long enough, but I kind of brought it in, but yeah, quirky is what you're saying. It's okay. 


Justin Donald: I love it. 


Charlie Epstein: Charlie, you're just quirky, that's what Mike likes to say. You're just this quirky character, Nick says the same thing. So be it. 


Justin Donald: So, tell us about Yield of Dreams, because you've got your baseball field behind you. And I'd love for my listeners to know the story. I know you're a huge fan of the movie Field of Dreams, and Kevin Costner, his starring role in that. And I know that a lot of what you've done in this next chapter of your life right now is kind of inspired by that, and the financial experience that you've had. So, tell us about what Yield of Dreams is. 


Charlie Epstein: I appreciate that question. And I think there's such a great similarity between how you and I approach life. You approach life as a lifestyle investor, saying, I'm going to set myself up so I can be in control and do what I love to do. And in your case, it's deal-making, finding deals, and cutting deals. That's kind of your baseball field. 


Justin Donald: That's right. 


Charlie Epstein: For me, I had two choices. When I graduated high school, I was going to go to New York and be a starving actor with all my acting friends, and you talked about having a mentor, and I stumbled on a mentor. My dad gave me a great piece of advice that I give every parent to give to their kids. He said to me, while I was in college, "Why don't you call up other successful business people in our community, take them out to lunch, and find out how they were so successful?" What a great idea. 


So, he helped me make a list of 10 people, one of them happened to be in the financial and insurance world, his name, Hillard Aronson. And at the time, I just studied in London at the School of Economics. I'm home, I got to take a semester off. I'm waiting tables because I'm a starving actor, and I take these people out to lunch. And Hillard says to me, "So, what are you doing?" I said, "I'm waiting tables. I'm going to go back, finish my last semester, and then I'm going to go to New York to be a starving actor." And he was like, "Oh, how charming." And he says to me, "Why don't you come work for me during the day?" And I said, "Doing what?" He said, "I'll teach you the life insurance business." 


And I'm thinking, oh, every kid's dream come true. I'm going to learn about the life insurance business. I mean, what kid says, growing up, I want to learn how to sell whole life and universal life insurance when I'm bigger, right? No, I want to be an astronaut. I want to be a cowboy. I want to be an entrepreneur. But he was so smart. So, Justin, I ended up working five days a week for him for four months, waiting tables, six nights a week because I want to make money. And when I went back to school, he said, "Kid, give me a call when you graduate, I'm going to start a district office, and I want you to come work for me." And I'm like, Yeah, right. Yeah, I'm going to New York. 


Well, as it turned out, I was a chicken poop. When it was time to go to New York and be a starving actor, I was like ha, and instead, I came back to the booming Metropolis Springfield, Mass., put on a suit and tie, and started cold calling, and those first three years were brutal. I like to tell people, going to New York, waiting tables, auditioning, and waiting for my big break would have been so much easier than going into the life insurance business as a 21-year-old who didn't know anybody and failed the MassMutual aptitude test, but I did it, because I think, like you, I was just tenacious. Somebody said you're going to fail. And I just said, "I'm not," but I always had in my gut, this notion like you did. Your notion was I'm going to figure out a way to have income come in so I can do whatever I want. For me, it wasn't the income, it was I'm going to find a way that I can go be an actor, a performer, an entertainer, and still grow my business at the same time. There it is. And that's what the show is all about. 


The show is all about, what did you want to be when you grew up? What are you now? What happened? Why aren't you living your passion? Here's my story of how I built a successful financial consulting business and then started taking three, four, or five months off a year from my business to pursue my acting passion. And in the process, the more time I took off, the more money I made in my business. 


Justin Donald: Well, isn't that exciting? You figured some things out. 


Charlie Epstein: Well, yeah, in my show, I call it, I Discovered How to Bend Time. 


Justin Donald: That has a catchy ring to it. 


Charlie Epstein: And I tapped into what I call personal economics. What happened was, most people would say, wait a minute, you're going to take three months away from your business, you're going to pursue your acting, you're going to keep growing your business. What? How does that work? And in 1987, I did, I took three months off to do summer theater, they paid me. I'm 31 years old. They paid me $25 a week plus room and board. And I like to say, if you give an actor a place to eat and sleep, we don't even want the money. 


Justin Donald: That's great. 


Charlie Epstein: I also remind people that Travolta, when he did Pulp Fiction, nobody knew who he was. And Tarantino who did Pulp Fiction, you know what, Travolta got paid, he got a can of beans, and Tarantino took them to a Scientology meeting. That's what he paid them. But at the end of that year, 1988, after taking three months off from working in my financial business, I made $50,000 more working nine months than I did the year before working 12. 


Justin Donald: That's incredible. [00:16:52]So, how did you bend time? What's your key to doing this for our listeners that want to figure out how they might be able to do that in their business? [7.8s]


Charlie Epstein: Yeah. Really great question. So, people see time as a linear phenomenon. Sixty seconds in a minute, 60 minutes in an hour, 24 hours in a day, seven... Right? That's time, it's fixed, it's finite, you can't change it, but what people don't do is prioritize time. And what happened for me was, and here is the law of personal economics, time is a commodity, it has value. You understand this. You're the lifestyle investor. You want more of that value. You actually created more time for yourself. How can that be? There's only twenty-four hours in a day. You actually created more hours in your day, didn't you, by creating revenue to free yourself up? [54.2s]


Justin Donald: That's right. 


Charlie Epstein: What happened to me is I started to value my time more. So, most people waste time, they're just wasting their time because they're waiting for someday, one day, life is going to turn out. And they're not... I don't know, I was going to use the word maniacal, but they're not really... They're in this linear world. What I discovered is something Einstein discovered, which is time is relative, E equals MC squared. What is that? It's relative to your experience. You know that expression time flies when you're having fun, and you get more done in less time when you're doing what you love. That was my discovery. 


So, there I was performing, doing what I loved as an actor, getting paid. Shit, right? I mean, eventually, I got my union card, so now they had to pay me more than a can of beans, but for the most part, every dollar that the theaters paid me, I donated back to the theater. I was so happy that they were paying me to perform at a very high level. What happened was when I came back into my business, most people do the urgent, they don't do the important. They're reacting rather than commanding how their time is going to be used. So, I got very, very focused. [48.9s]


You know how you look at deals, and you have a filter. We didn't talk about this, but I'm so sorry we didn't talk about mindset's structure and filter because it was in your last email to me, but it's so brilliant. You've got a mindset and a structure and then a filter, and that's what happened for me. I became a filter for not that, not that, not that, that. So, whereas most people in my business would meet with anybody and everybody, I was like, not you, not you, not, that's the best opportunity. And here's why. During that year, that summer, the only day I had to work was Monday, theater's dark on Monday. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, I'm doing Shakespeare in repertory theater for three months. I have one day Monday to accomplish my mission. Mindset, filter, structure. You've said it perfectly. [60.9s]


Justin Donald: Well, thank you. And I love your application of it. It's so great. When I think about you and the lifestyle that you've built, Charlie, it's incredible. You don't have to work. You've built a successful business. This business runs with or without you, which is really a testament to the way that you've built it and to the vision that you had, but what I think is the most important is that you didn't stop working, you're still doing the aspects of it that you really love to do, working with the people that you're closest with, that you enjoy the most, but at the same time, you're freeing up your time so that you can spend it inside your passions like comedy and keeping the arts and theater still relevant in your world. I mean, you don't have to do that. You have the pleasure of getting to do that. And I just think it's cool that your life, by design, has yielded to steal from your yield of dreams, has yielded the results that you have. 


Charlie Epstein: Yeah. And I think that's what both you and I are trying to teach people. What's your passion? And how can you... The expression I use, live a life with an infectious spirit bound freedom for wonderment, joy, laughter, and play, and discovery for discovery's sake. So, I think, like you, I wake up every day, and I say, what am I going to discover today? Could be good, could be bad. And then having that filter where you're able to say not that, not that, that's interesting, not that, not that, that's interesting. And staying in your lane, right? Staying in your lane, like I don't do deals for my clients like you do, I do deals for myself. And I stay in my lane when it comes to how I articulate people's goals and objectives, and then help them financially create that paycheck for life, which is the title of my first book, Paychecks for Life, so they can have a paycheck for life. In my lane, what I love so much is being able to introduce you to the people I'm doing business with because you provide something that would be of value as well. And I think that's the whole richness of when you're living your values and you're living your dreams at the same time, pinch me. 


Justin Donald: That's right. 


Charlie Epstein: Wait a minute. And you and I know it takes a lot to get there, it's a lot of "thank you, next!" I tell people the reason I went back into acting is I wasn't getting enough rejections selling life insurance. "Thank you, next!" The hardest thing, people don't understand, when you audition for a show, you have two minutes. You walk out onto a stage, these people have never met you, they may not even be watching you during your two minutes. And you got two minutes to grab somebody and get them to go, "Oh, that was interesting. We might want to see that." It's a bitch.


Justin Donald: Yeah, no kidding, I mean, you have to have some sort of sizzle or some sort of appeal. You've got one moment to do it, and it's kind of the whole thing of like as an applicant where you're interviewing against a thousand other people, what can you do inside of 30 seconds to stand out? And maybe it's more like inside of ten seconds. 


Charlie Epstein: Well, no is a constant in every world, but in the theatrical world, 95% of all actors are unemployed. I mean, now it's even worse because of COVID. 


Justin Donald: Right. 


Charlie Epstein: But it's like I had a commercial agent and for years, I'd auditioned for TV commercials. It took me 60 no's to book my first commercial, 60 no's. 


Justin Donald: Wow. 


Charlie Epstein: And people are like, why don't you stop? I said, "I really wasn't doing it for the money, I was trying to crack the code." You know, crack the code. 


Justin Donald: You did it. Persistence, right? 


Charlie Epstein: Yeah. Stupidity, I guess. 


Justin Donald: Well, you and I started our podcasts around the same time, which is so fun, and it's been great watching your evolution as a podcaster, as an interviewer. And it's been really fun watching your passion and enjoyment for your show really kind of seep out and come out. And I see it. I see you light up as you're doing your show, I see you light up when you do your stand-up comedy bits. I just think it's fantastic to see you living in alignment with this life by design, not a life by default, not just walking through life, reacting to what happens, but intentionally saying this is what I want my life to look like. And in order to get there, I need to do these things, and I recognize how I'm wired. So, I'm going to do it in this way. And now you're living a true lifestyle that is in harmony with what it was that you desired all these years. I just think it's incredible, and I applaud you for being able to crack the code of that too. 


Charlie Epstein: The most fun that I'm so grateful for and blessed is that, first of all, we have clients that have been clients for 40 years. So, that's lifetime client relationships and seeing those evolutions, but now, by design, I was going to tell you, we have this deck of cards that we give people. It's called Deal Yourself into the Life You Desire. I call them our desirement cards, but we tried to game a fire the whole financial planning process. So, instead of you getting a questionnaire and have an answer to all these questions, you're never going to answer, we send you a deck of playing cards for you and your spouse. There's three sets in the deck. The first set is 20 cards that are your priority goals now. Get out of debt, pay off the mortgage, buy a second home, whatever. 


So, we got 20 cards with 20 priority goals, 20 cards that are your desirement dreams. What do you really... What are your big dreams? And then 14 cards that are your myths about money. And we've identified these myths that people have about their money that I think you've run into when you're doing deals with people that prevent people from being free to access and leverage the assets that they have. For example, this notion that my home needs to be paid off when I retire for me to be happy. My mother's 93, Justin, and she still has a mortgage. 


Justin Donald: That's fantastic. We're in such agreement on that. 


Charlie Epstein: It's all about the vig and the spread. We didn't get into it on your podcast, but I try and teach people the vig and the spread. I've been the founder of two community banks. It's all about the spread, you know that. And people are hard-wired. And there's my mother, 93, she lives now in an assisted living, she has her own apartment. We took a mortgage out on that. She sits with her friends pre-COVID, and they're all like, "Our homes are paid off." And my mother says, "Oh, I still have a mortgage." And they say, "You have a mortgage. Who the hell is your financial advisor?" And my mother goes, "My son. Would you like to meet him?" And they're like, "Hell no!". 


Justin Donald: That's awesome. 


Charlie Epstein: Meanwhile, that dead asset, that debt-equity, we've put to work for these 40, 50 years. 


Justin Donald: That's incredible. Yeah, and so, I want our listeners to hear this, you've been in the financial services industry for, I think, 41 years, right? And so, you've got 40-plus-year-old clients. 


Charlie Epstein: I'm sorry. Would you say how many years? I can't hear you. 


Justin Donald: Well, I tell you, you've done some great work. Here's what I want to know for our audience. I know what the spread is. I want to know how you would define the vig and the spread in a way that might make sense to listeners that maybe this isn't their specialty. 


Charlie Epstein: So keep it simple. I like to tell people, first of all, ask people, do you know how the banking industry works? Because, they go, "No." Isn't it amazing? So, you go to the bank, what happens? Well, I deposit money in my checking and savings account. And what do they give you in return? Nothing. Oh, so you're going to a parking lot? So, first thing is a bank is nothing more than like you pull up with your car to a parking lot, they give you a ticket. What do you hope for when you come back? That my car will be there. And then they make you pay for having stored your car. That's what you do when you put money in a bank, but how does the banking industry work? So, I try and teach people about being the banker in their life, and understanding the flow of money like you do. So, I just tell them a story. I said, look. In 2008, August of 2008, a bunch of entrepreneurs and myself got together, and we decided we were going to start the first community bank in Massachusetts in 16 years. I'll make this quick. It's August of 2008. What happened in September of 2008? 


Justin Donald: We had some trouble! 


Charlie Epstein: Whoo! A financial meltdown. There we are. We just started our bank a month ago. Now, what was the good news? I could go to the Federal Reserve and borrow money at zero interest rate, which, oh, by the way, is exactly what I could do today as a bank. And people are like, what do you mean? I said, well, the Fed Reserve prints money, they loan it to banks to loan it to you. That's how money gets in the system. That's the Federal Reserve System. And a bank makes money on the spread. What's that? They borrow money at zero, they turn around and loan it to you at 4%, 15% and 23%. They pay their overhead. And whatever's left over is the spread or what the mob calls the vig. 


Now, where could you be a banker and be in the spread business? Dave Ramsey says I need to pay all my debt off. Suze Orman says I need to pay all my debt off. Well, stop listening to them! I'm the anti-Christ of the two of them. Now, you want to pay off your bad debt. Bad debt is interest at 18%, 23%, that nobody else will pay for you. So, the other thing we try and teach people is OPM, which you know, "Other People's Money." We haven't watched the movie. There you go. [31.3s]


Justin Donald: Nice. 


Charlie Epstein: So, we want to use OPM, USM, and the vig or the spread. Wait a minute, Charlie, what's USM? That's Uncle Sam's money. Now, I wrote a book called Paychecks for Life: How to Turn Your 401(k) into a Paycheck Manufacturing Company. We run hundreds of retirement plans around the country, we educate participants on why they should maximize that. It's all about Uncle Sam and OPM. You put a dollar in the plan, your employer matches you dollar for dollar, you just got other people's money, and if they match you dollar for dollar, that's 100% return. If you put the money in pre-tax, Uncle Sam just underwrote 20% or 30% or 40%, depending upon your tax bracket. Now you're up 130%. There it is. 


Now, you've got an asset, it's called your home. You're working to pay it off because you don't want to pay interest, because you think interest and debt is bad. Good debt, bad debt. I can get the bank to give me money, I can get Uncle Sam to let me write off the interest. Why would I leave... And then, of course, you and I know, yeah, somebody, what is the equity in your home earn every second of every day? And when you watch people do the math, they'll go 7%, 5%. How about nothing, it's a dead asset. 


Justin Donald: That's right, that's right.


Charlie Epstein: So, what if we pulled that money out? Oh! Got it to be deductible by Uncle Sam, and you put it someplace else and you made even more money. That's the vig and the spread and leverage. 


Justin Donald: I love your explanation of it, you make it so much fun and that's it. I mean, this is the deal. Let's just talk about appreciation, alright? You're going to get appreciation whether you owe your home in full or you partially own your home. You have just a little bit of equity in your home. It's all the same. So, your point makes tons of sense. And I'm with you in total alignment because I think people should put as little down for their home as they can, because, well, there's a few reasons for it. Number one, you've got more cash to be able to earn a better return, and we're at all time lows for mortgages, mortgage interest rates, but at the same time, the less equity you own in your home, the less of a threat you are to foreclosure. Banks are going to take the homes that have most of the equity paid first because that's the better return. So, if someone has 80% equity in their home, and they have defaulted on their mortgage, the banks coming after them before the person that only has 5% equity in their home. And I think that's an important point. 


Charlie Epstein: It is, but, you know what, people say this, well, I don't want to have a payment because if I don't have a payment, then I have less expenses. I said, well, you're looking at as a payment, not an investment. Yeah, we just refinanced a piece of real estate we have out in Park City, a townhouse that we own, took advantage of lower rates, took advantage of the appreciation, you know this, pulled the equity out. Now its interest only for 15 years. It's frickin... I'm deducting all the interest in a 40% tax bracket. And now I have $500,000 in my hand to figure out where can I get a better vig, a better return. The condos, townhouses still going to appreciate whether there's equity in it or not, and that's what people don't understand, right? 


Justin Donald: That's right. 


Charlie Epstein: So, those are some of the myths. My home is an investment. Not. I need to have my mortgage paid off when I retire. Not. I'll be in a lower tax bracket when I retire. Yeah. How's that going to work out over the next 10, 20, 30 years? Not. 


Justin Donald: That's right, that's right. 


Charlie Epstein: So, we've identified these myths, and it's important, Justin, because I say to people, look, my job isn't to change your myth. All I want to do is hold it up in the light and see if it still makes sense for the lifestyle that you want to design. 


Justin Donald: Yeah. And who came up with the myth? Is this your myth or is it someone else's that you bought into their belief? There's a very good likelihood that somehow you adopted this as your own, subconsciously, unconsciously, but it was someone else who was uneducated in that space that you learned it from. 


Charlie Epstein: Your parents, parents, parents, parents, parents, parents, neighbors, dog. 


Justin Donald: That's right. Well... 


Charlie Epstein: Go ahead. 


Justin Donald: Go ahead. 


Charlie Epstein: Guys, I'm going to say the other part of this is reprogramming people's fear of retirement. First of all, Webster's definition of retirement is to put something out of use. So, my industry, the financial services industry spends billions and billions of dollars a year advertising to put people out of use, the retirement red zone, the retirement green zone, I mean, it's crazy. So, we've trademarked and registered something we called The Desirement Planning Process and Desirement Years. So, what I like to say is, I don't know anybody who's working their tail off to one day someday be put out of use. I think we're all working so that we can create a paycheck for life to pay for all the things we desire to do, which is what you've done is The Lifestyle Investor. 


So, I tell people when they first meet me that they shouldn't work with me. Bad idea, and they go, wait a minute, you've been highly recommended. I said, "Well, what do you think my biggest job is as a financial adviser?" And what do people say? 


Justin Donald: To help them retire. 


Charlie Epstein: Help me save and invest my money so I have enough money for retirement, I go, nope, that's the guy you're working with right now. See, my biggest job after 41 years of doing this is to get you to spend your money right now because you don't know how to enjoy your money. I don't care if you're 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, or 93 like my mother, this is also the healthiest you're ever going to be. And if you don't build a habit of learning how to enjoy it along the way, you will never suddenly have this habit in your desirement years. Total mind shift. 


So, I start working with people about what do you desire to do right now that you're not doing? And it could be as small as we haven't had a vacation in five years. I'm like, what? True, by the way, this was two doctor clients of mine, making over a million dollars, they hadn't taken a vacation in five years. 


Justin Donald: Wow. 


Charlie Epstein: I said, well, I ain't working with you unless you take a vacation in the next two months. 


Justin Donald: That's awesome. 


Charlie Epstein: And they're like, we want to work with you. 


Justin Donald: Well, that's cool. Your approach is unique and it's different, and I love it. I just love the desirement instead of retirement. And I talk to people all the time about why wait until this one day where you might be able to retire and you might have your health and you might have good relationships, but what likely is going to happen is you've worked so hard and haven't spent time with the people that matter most in the quantity that you should. You've probably not worked out in a way that is beneficial to you from a physical, mental, emotional, or intellectual standpoint. And so, you're not even in a place to enjoy it. Why not just enjoy it now? And that's exactly what you're talking about. 


And to double up on what we were talking about prior to this, when we were talking about debt and using that to your advantage, a lot of people, like let's say that you had sold your property, Charlie, you would owe 40%, as you said, in taxes on that, but because you took out debt, you owe zero dollars in taxes, and then you can still make the spread. And that's pure profit. And you can get this money at such a low rate right now. There are so many vehicles where you can make a great return. You don't have to kill it. All you have to do is make some of the spread. 


Charlie Epstein: That's right.


Justin Donald: And if you have a three-point spread. So, one of the things I talk to people about in the real estate world is if you're buying at a... Think about the cap rate and the interest rate, and this is a spread as well, just a different example. You're talking about the spread in different interest rates, which is very real. In real estate, you've got to spread between the cap rate and the interest rate for the note or mortgage that you're going to hold. And as long as you have a three-point spread, that's a 20% cash on cash return. I mean, that is really significant. 


And if you can just keep finding a way to achieve that spread, that is unbelievable, but let's even take it a few steps back. Let's say that it's just a 3% return on two different interest rates. You've got a mortgage at 2.5%. Let's even just call it 3%. Maybe someone can't get the newest lows. So, you got 3%, but you've got this return over here at 6%. That's a 3% profit or a 3% arbitrage or a 3% spread on that investment. 


Charlie Epstein: It's even higher because I got USM working for me, that 3% interest rate, I get to write 90% of it off. 


Justin Donald: That's right. 


Charlie Epstein: My mortgage debt is under $750,000 total. I get to write off... It's all interests. So, now I got Uncle Sam coming in and saying, hey, hey, hey, we'll cover 40% of that 3%. So, now, my cost of money isn't 3, it's now 2.8. 


Justin Donald: That's right. 


Charlie Epstein: When my dad retired at 68, he moved to Florida to build a house of his dreams on the golf course of his dreams, and he was going to pay cash. I tell this story in a video and in my Miss the Money series, but I went to him, I said, "Pop, you're going to put 100,000 down. I want you to go to the bank, and take out a mortgage." My dad said, "How long?" I said, "30 years," he said, "What are you crazy? I'll be dead before it's paid off." I said, "Pop, what do you care? You'll be dead." He said, "What's your mother going to do?" I said, "Well, she doesn't play golf and she doesn't play mahjong. So, the day you die, I'm going to sell this place and move her back north." So I said... He came back. I said, "I can get a 30-year mortgage at 5%. You're in a 40% tax bracket, your net cost to borrow is 3. Pop, if I can't make it more than 3 on that 400,000, fire me as your financial advisor." 


We average 7% to 8% modestly, nothing high risk. The day he died, I call my mother up. She said, "I'm packed. You need to sell this place." Now, here's the moral, we were only able to sell that $500,000 home for 400,000 because the real estate market was oversaturated where he was and nobody wanted to be on a golf course. So, if they had paid cash, we would have been out $100,000. 


Justin Donald: Wow. 


Charlie Epstein: I moved my mom back north. She's 79 years old. We build her a house in over 55 community, and my mother looks at me, and she says, "Do I get to take out a mortgage at 79?" I went, "Attagirl, Mom.". 


Justin Donald: That's great. And yeah, it's so smart using other people's money here. I love using bank money. I think it's brilliant. And I'm so glad that you agree with that because a lot of people... We talked about this earlier, but there's two different camps. You've got the camp of how do I get out of debt? That's Dave Ramsey, that's Suze Orman. And I think Dave Ramsey is fantastic in what he does. I put this in my book. I think he's really good at getting people out of debt, but he's not teaching people how to build wealth, he's teaching people how to get out of debt. His strategies are great for getting out of debt, but you can't use his strategies to build wealth. You really need to use model people that have built wealth from the thing that they're preaching to model after. 


Charlie Epstein: Brilliant, and it goes back to that structure that you have, mindset, structure, and fulfillment. (A) You got to have a... You have to be... I go back to what I say, you have to be willing to discover for discovery's sake in life. So many people are closed, and this is just the way it is. Okay, next. They're not going to change their attitude, but for somebody that's willing to open up and say, "Oh. Oh, I can see this possibility. How we're going to get there?" 


And then you put on baby bumpers. So, in my industry, whether it's collars or protection or guarantees, we're dealing, I'm dealing with a different clientele 90% of the time because they're not going to go out and do deals like you do, or I do on my own, they just want to know incrementally they're going to get to where they need to be on time and safely. This is what our role is for the most part. 


Justin Donald: Yeah, that makes sense. So, something we talked about before is some of the mentors in your life. I've shared some of my mentors. I'd love for you to share some of your mentors because you've had several people that have been very influential to you, and I just believe that your success is in a large part tied to your peer group and those you choose to surround yourself with, whether you recognize it or not, but especially when you are proactive enough to bring mentors into your life. 


Charlie Epstein: I think you talking about mentorship when I interview is so critical. I mean, I was lucky that my father made me go out and find a mentor and... I mean, Hillard was... You know those first 15 years in business were tough, and he was there for me, and the way he was there for me is he kept reminding me how good I was. Every time I forgot how good and capable I was, he kept reminding me. A really good mentor just keeps returning yourself to yourself and showing you the light in the success. So, I owe an immense amount of my success to Hillard. 


I go back to my grandparents, my grandfather was a successful accountant, I used to watch him with his cup of black coffee and his cigar and a big smile like he knew the secret of life. And then my father wasn't a risk-taker, yet he was an entrepreneur. So, there was that interesting dichotomy, and I watched him struggle with that. And my mother being the performer in the house, everything was vibrant, everything. And even now at 93, everything's a show. My mom and I put on shows all the time. 


Once I got into a business like you, I had a huge appetite for reading. I remember I used to go across to the MassMutual agency, and there'd be a file cabinet in the back, and I would just go through this file cabinet. And there's all this information they had, direct marketing. I tried everything. I mean, if there was a marketing idea, mail out an atlas, come to your doorstep. One of my oldest friends and clients, I mailed out this reply thing for an atlas. She'd been my longest, dearest friends and clients for life, all that kind of silly stuff, just trying an experiment. 


So, I watched the top advisors in my industry and then getting involved in the industry. So, a member of Top of the Table and Million Dollar Round Table and my still affiliate with MassMutual and their groups, I got involved in the 401(k) world. Any time you can go and listen to other people speak, it's priceless, they're going to give you a shortcut. Today, podcasts, reading, books, and audiobooks, whatever it is, like you, I'm constantly, and then lately, one of the biggest mentors for me was my coach, Dan Sullivan. I've been working with Dan for 25 years. I'm one of his favorite clients because I'm what he calls a slow learner with deep pockets. I just keep writing checks. Okay, maybe next year I'll figure it out. People like 25 years, haven't you figured it out? Yeah. Watch how exponentially my life has expanded. Last year, I took 180-day free days, while I'm writing the show, while I'm running this business, couldn't be better. 


Justin Donald: That's incredible. 


Charlie Epstein: So, Dan Sullivan is my entrepreneurial coach. Kim White is my energy coach, and an energy coach is somebody who gets you unblocked from bad energy in the world. Kim has been a genius. Swami Kaleshwar, who I talk about in the Yield of Dreams, is, for lack of a better word, a guru, who I met many, many years ago, who had an amazing impact on my life. He is not of human form anymore. So it's a spiritual connection. This is a podcast for another time, but I tell people there's so much that we are not aware of in life as humans. And whatever you call God, whatever God is for you, and everybody, it's different. 


I've always been... I believe in one God, but I also believe in spirituality, and I believe that the angels and God will talk to you if you have ears to listen. And that's why I do yoga every morning, I meditate every morning, it's that thing you talked about taking time for yourselves. And that's when I have conversations that are spiritually and enlightening, those are those moments when I have ears. And you got to be open, and you got to have ears for the angels to talk to you because they are talking every day. 


Justin Donald: Well, I couldn't agree more, and I just love that as kind of an endnote to our interview because it's so eloquent and poetic and so true. I do believe God is listening, and I believe that we should be talking to him. And I just think that there's so much value, not only the conversation, but in the space to listen, and I just think that is so profound. So, thank you for sharing. 


Charlie Epstein: Yeah, I appreciate that. And the one thing, you know this, too, because the work you're doing, coaching others, is your purpose bigger than who you are, beyond your money and your success and your ego and anything like that, I mean, for me, my mission, I tell people my ministry in life is to ease their pain and suffering about their money. That's what Yield of Dreams is all about, that's what the show is all about, that's what the work we do here at Epstein Financial. If I can ease people's pain and suffering about their money, so they can access wonderment, joy, laughter, and play, and fascination and their desirements, bam, we got our job done. 


Justin Donald: That's fantastic. Charlie. Where can our listeners and those watching this show find you to learn more? 


Charlie Epstein: Thanks. I appreciate that. So, you can go to Yield of Dreams at the Apple Store or iTunes. Please download our app, and listen to our podcast. You can go to Epstein Financial, EpsteinFinancial.com, that's our financial planning website. And you can actually download, and get a free set of the desirement cards. And then, CharlieEpstein.com is our media site. So, anything you want to see from a media point of view, TV, radio, podcasts, it's on that site as well. Appreciate it. 


Justin Donald: Oh, it's fantastic. Well, I'm so excited about this episode and everything that we've discussed and just thrilled about all that you have going on. So, thank you for sharing. 


Charlie Epstein: Remember what they say, if you build it, he will come. Keep building a baby, keep building it. 


Justin Donald: That's awesome. We'll end on that. Thanks so much, Charlie. 

Charlie Epstein: Thank you. Appreciate it.

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