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Brennan Schlagbaum Leads Family to Debt-Free, Millionaire Status Despite Personal and Financial Struggles

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In August 2021, the Schlagbaum family achieved a significant accomplishment when they made the final payment on their mortgage, five years after purchasing their first home. This marks an important milestone for Brennan and Erin, who have worked hard to manage their finances and make their homeownership dreams a reality.

But that’s only part of what the Schlagbaums accomplished in the past five years. They also paid off Brennan’s student loans, two cars, an engagement ring, and a bed, totaling more than $300,000 of debt. This achievement is all the more impressive, considering the couple’s journey to financial stability was not particularly easy.

In addition to financial challenges, the Schlagbaums have also faced numerous personal struggles, particularly related to the health of their one-year-old daughter Logan. Logan has been diagnosed with Dravet syndrome, a rare and severe form of epilepsy characterized by frequent and prolonged seizures that can be difficult to control with medication. These seizures have required regular hospital visits and have placed a significant emotional and financial burden on the family. Still, they have remained positive and used these struggles as motivation to take control of their finances and build a secure future for their family.

Brennan’s dedication to his studies paid off when he graduated with a double major in finance and accounting from the University of Louisville in 2014. However, the road ahead wasn’t easy, as he faced significant expenses and no immediate income.

Despite these challenges, Brennan secured a highly sought-after CPA position at Deloitte. To save money and reduce his daily costs, Brennan decided to live at home while he waited for his new position to begin. When Brennan started working in 2015, he made progress on his debts, but things became even more complicated when he and Erin, who worked in interior design sales, bought their first home in 2016. 

After a year of trying to get ahead, they decided it was time to take control of their finances. Brennan began self-educating on personal finance, turning to Google, YouTube, and books to learn about budgeting, saving, and investing.

Today, at 30, Brennan and Erin are not only debt-free but have achieved millionaire status, including their home, retirement accounts, and other investments. Copies of their mortgage statements and investment accounts confirm these details. In this article, we will explore the strategies the Schlagbaums used to achieve financial success and their plans for the future, despite facing personal challenges along the way.

Debt and Financial Insecurity
Brennan and Erin Schlagbaum began their journey to financial freedom with a mountain of debt to tackle. Brennan had significant student loan debt and a costly engagement ring to pay off, in addition to other purchases made when they moved into their new home.

Despite having a CPA job lined up after university, Brennan could only start eight months after graduation, leaving him living at home and trying to keep his day-to-day expenses low. In 2016, the couple took on even more debt when they purchased a $233,700 home. “We were only 23 years old, and it really took a toll on us.” Despite the challenges they faced, Brennan and Erin refused to give up. 

The Schlagbaums’ Road to Financial Freedom: Paying Off Over $300,000 in Debt and Building a Successful Business
For Brennan and Erin Schlagbaum, their breakthrough moment came when they decided to take control of their finances and develop a plan to pay off their debts and build wealth.

Brennan and Erin Schlagbaum’s journey to financial success has been impressive and inspiring. They paid off more than $300,000 in debt, including student loans, cars, and an engagement ring, by negotiating raises at work, earning extra income on the side, and starting a successful company called Budgetdog.

This business, which began as an Instagram account providing finance advice from a dog’s perspective, has now grown into a company that brings in up to $100,000+ a month through client consultations, courses, book sales, and promotional and affiliate revenue.

In addition to helping others improve their financial well-being, Budgetdog has been a significant source of income for the Schlagbaums and played a crucial role in their ability to pay off their debts and achieve financial freedom. 

They could use their extra income to make large payments towards their monthly mortgage and eventually pay it off in August 2021. After this accomplishment, Brennan quit his CPA job to run Budgetdog full-time and became a millionaire. 

One way that financial freedom has allowed the Schlagbaums to prioritize their family’s needs is by enabling them to afford and access specialized medical treatment for their daughter Logan. This required them to fly across the country to Fort Worth, which was only possible with their strong financial foundation.

Critical Lessons from the Schlagbaums’ Journey to Financial Freedom
In the following section, we will explore the lessons that Brennan and Erin learned on their journey to financial freedom and success and how they used these lessons to reach their goals.

  1. Budget Balance Sheet & Amortization Schedules: Without a plan and a process to enact it, there’s no progress. “We were really general with everything,” Brennan said. “We had no goals.” However, they quickly realized that without a plan, they were spinning their wheels and not making any progress. “We created financial statements with a budget and balance sheet,” Brennan said. “We got organized to the point the process only took about 30 minutes per month.”

  2. Stay In Your Lane: The couple learned the importance of avoiding lifestyle creep and keeping their spending in check, even as their income rose substantially. “Often, spending increases proportionately to income,” Brennan said. “That is crippling. Lifestyle creep can crush people. That’s the biggest reason we’ve succeeded so quickly. Our incomes rose substantially — maybe four times — but we have not increased our lifestyle.

  3. Track Your Money: Tracking their finances helped the Schlagbaums stay on track and be more effective with their money. “Tracking your finances, whether that be a budget balance sheet or amortization schedule, is akin to planning and tracking your workouts at the gym,” Brennan said.

  4. Grow Your Wealth: The couple learned the value of investing in various accounts, including 401(k) plans, IRAs, taxable brokerage accounts, child investing accounts like 529 plans, and HSAs. “401(k) plans work for most people,” Brennan said. “Individual retirement accounts (IRAs), taxable brokerage accounts, child investing accounts like 529 plans, and health savings accounts (HSAs) work, too,” he added, emphasizing the benefits of HSAs. “The money put into the account is pre-tax. Its growth is not taxed, either. The third savings come if you pay out-of-pocket for any medical expense. Then, you can pull up to that amount tax-free at a future time.

  5. Consequences of Degrees: The Schlagbaums learned the value of a good education and the importance of understanding its costs and potential debt. “Going to college without any idea of what I was going to owe was an expensive lesson,” Brennan said.

  6. Forget FHA Loans: The couple learned the pitfalls of FHA loans and the importance of ensuring home expenses are at most 25% of their take-home pay. “If you want to refinance out of that PMI at higher rates, that may negate the PMI,” Brennan said. “You’re kind of locked in that for life.” He also encouraged others to consider the long-term financial implications of their home expenses. “As your income increases, that will offer you more flexibility, and a head start” for investing.

  7. Roth is Right: For young investors, the Schlagbaums learned the benefits of investing in a Roth account, which allows them to plant a seed that is taxed now but will not be taxed when the tree is grown 45 years from now. “If you’re in a lower tax bracket, then it makes sense to be … in the Roth bucket,” Brennan said.

  8. Take Action: The couple learned the importance of addressing their finances now, so they can focus on the right things in life and enjoy their family later. “Being able to focus on the right things in life, meaning that our finances are on autopilot, makes enjoying life and focusing on family easier later,” Brennan said. He encouraged others to start tackling their debts and building wealth as early as possible rather than waiting until later.

Plans for the Future: Logan, Growing Budgetdog and Helping Others Achieve Financial Success
Brennan Schlagbaum focuses on expanding his company, Budgetdog, to reach and help as many people as possible improve their financial well-being. He is also committed to providing ongoing support for his daughter. Thanks to their financial freedom, Brennan and his wife Erin can prioritize Logan’s needs and ensure that she has access to the best possible treatment.

In addition to running Budgetdog full-time, Brennan also maintains an active presence on social media, sharing financial advice and resources with his followers. His social media accounts have a combined following of over 235,000 people, and he is constantly working to reach even more people and positively impact their lives. He states, “My sole passion is to help as many people as humanly possible.”

Brennan emphasizes that there is no secret to their achievements and that it is simply a matter of consistency, intentionality, and a focus on long-term wealth. He advises others to follow the fundamental process to achieve financial success and stresses that he is not selling a get-rich-quick scheme or offering a magic solution.

Take the chance to learn more. Get in touch here with Brennan to find out how you can achieve true financial freedom.

Carson Spitzke is a Canadian entrepreneur and the founder of Spitz Solutions, a PR and authority firms for companies that need to scale their brands and online presence. His primary expertise is in helping six to nine-figure businesses scale through disruptive strategies that encompasses digital media, branding and sales. If you know someone who deserves to highlighted reach out to carson@spitzsolutions.com

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