From Broke and Homeless to $100k in 1 Year

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“Your book changed my life”

That was the subject line of an email we recently got, so of course we had to read it. Inside was one of the most inspiring stories that have ever crossed our inbox, and the fact that our book had even a minor role to play in that was beyond humbling. So we reached out to the reader asking if they’d mind if we shared their story with our audience, and to our surprise they graciously agreed to be interviewed. This is her story.

In 2019, you were in a pretty bad place. Can you tell us about that?

In 2019 I was living in Oregon, struggling to find work and stuck in a toxic relationship. I had a part time caregiver job taking care of older adults and was barely making enough to make ends meet. My boyfriend at the time supported me by charging me a low amount for rent and paying for the groceries. Because I was living there for a low cost, he expected me to do all his laundry, cook and clean for him. If there was a day he came home and laundry wasn’t done, he would scream at me and call me all these names. “Lazy, spoiled, don’t do sh*t with my life, not a hard worker, etc”. And then later that night he would manipulate me and try to make it up to me.

When I was at my caregiving job 3 days a week, I read every article and self help book I could get my hands on. I even reached out to a free hotline to talk about my situation. I came up to a conclusion that I need to get the strength and funds to get out of this situation. So I started to pick up overnight shifts for my caregiving job so I can make extra money to one day move out of his house. And then one day something happened that pissed him off. He put his hands on me and tried shoving me out of the house. I finally told myself I was done. I packed everything and slept in his extra bedroom that night. He tried apologizing later that night and I stood my ground and kept him locked out of the room. Next day when he was at work, I packed everything I could fit in my car, and took off to my sister’s house.

2 days after me and my boyfriend broke up, I got a phone call from my caregiving job. My client died. So there went my caregiving job down the drain.

So you were jobless and homeless. That sounds pretty horrible. What was that experience like?

I didn’t spend much time moping around. I immediately started looking for jobs and found a job as a fitness consultant. In the job ad, it looked like I could make good money. I would pull up to work everyday, with my car crammed with stuff and act like everything was okay while I was at work. It was a Monday-Friday 8-5 type job and that was so not me. I quickly realized after 3 weeks like I would never break minimum wage and make the money the job in the ad listed.

After work, I would check out places to live on Craigslist and get all these weird offers. Meanwhile my sister was telling me I can’t stay at her place much longer and needed to find somewhere else. Nothing was falling through and I needed to make a decision quick. Something in my heart told me to go to Southern California and start a new life. When my intuition tells me something, I go for it.

So I quit that job & took off with my dog to California with no plan. I had just enough money saved up to travel out there. The pay check from that job I just quit would come in by the time I found a place to rent in California. When I drove out there, I had 1 place lined up to check out when I got there. When that didn’t work out, I gave up and was getting ready to sleep in my car. Then my friend in San Bernardino reluctantly said I could stay in his extra bedroom until I found a place. 5 days later, someone offered me a pet friendly room in Harbor City and had just enough money to move in. Job wise, I found a donut shop job. I managed to get fired from that, 2 weeks later. And thankfully found a bartending job the same week I got fired.

How did you learn about investing?

I was only bartending 2-3 days a week and needed something to fill in my time. I had 5 roommates at the place I lived at and my dog had 2 dog roommates. So everyday I would take off, and try to be productive. I was reading every self help book and I was applying for every job. I needed something that was going to help me get ahead in life.

I was at Barnes & Noble one day when I came across the book, Quit Like a Millionaire. Off the bat, I was connected to this book. I was at the bottom & had hope I could create something better for myself. When I read the book, I learned everything about the stock market for beginners and it gave me the confidence to get started. I took action and opened up a Vanguard account. I had notes written in my notepad, which stocks the book used, and followed the general guideline to diversify it. I started with a bond and a couple of index funds. I tried a real estate index fund and an index fund that was not in the U.S. I didn’t know what I was doing, but I started somewhere and I did it. In December 2019 I put my first $4000 in the stock market thanks to the Quit Like a Millionaire Book. As months went along, I would look back at the book to go over everything and adjust my portfolio as I went along.

What got you out of this period of your life?

It didn’t happen overnight. It was a gradual thing and I had to remind myself all the time, who I am, what qualities I have, and keep pushing to be the best version of myself. I had to keep telling myself positive things and stay strong, or else I would believe all the negative names my ex would call me. I literally would write out all the qualities I have and want to have. I wrote down all of my goals and went after them.

Staying positive was a must, I would tell myself all the things I am grateful for. The scarcity mindset mentioned in the QLAM book is something that really helped to get out of my situation. My expenses were very low and I kept putting my extra money into the stock market. As I was bartending, I met lots of people, which opened up new bar jobs and opportunities. I started making a lot more money and I stuck with my minimal expenses. This scarcity mindset helped me form this great habit of saving money. 

How did it feel putting your hard earned money into the stock market just as it was plummeting?

When you have a goal to retire early and be financially free, it feels great to put your hard earned money into the stock market. Because of reading QLAM, I was ready when the market crashed in March. I didn’t know if it would keep crashing or if it was going back up. All I knew is that I was shopping at a discount and I love doing that! By building a portfolio that was similar to what is in the book, I was confident that my money would grow over time no matter what the market did.

Any chance the market dropped, was a time to put money in. No matter what the market did, I put money in it every month. I had a set goal to put a minimum $4000 in every month and I had to stick with it. I felt like I was putting all my money in and getting no reward, but because of QLAM, I saw that it paid off in the future by sticking to it. The sooner I build my portfolio, the sooner my money will compound. 

You ended up getting multiple jobs even as millions of people in the US were unemployed. How did you pull that off?

I was lucky enough to not lose my jobs. Our bar was still open because we served food. Everyone tipped extra because they felt bad for us. I have been selling gym equipment for about 4 years now, and when COVID hit, my sales went crazy. Since all the gyms were closed, everyone started buying equipment from us and my commissions were great during that time.

I have been a caregiver for an older adult, so that also kept me occupied. Since everything was closed and I couldn’t travel, I had no choice but to just work all the time. From the moment I woke up to the moment I went to bed, I was either making sales or doing my bartending or caregiving job. When the gym equipment job was very busy, I would fly out to Oregon to work in the warehouse for a week and make some extra money. Adapting during a time like this was important. I picked up so many random jobs, I can’t even list them all. 

What did it feel like when you hit $100k in your investment account?

It was the last few days of December 2020 when I put in enough money to make my account at $100,000. When I saw those numbers, that’s when it hit me that I went from $0 to $100,000 in one year. I didn’t think much other than reflect where I was a year ago and how it all got started. It stemmed from reading QLAM and following the tips in the book. It feels great to reach a stepping stone, but it is going to feel better when I reach my goal and become financially free. 

What advice do you have for all the people out there who feel as down as you did?

No matter where you come from and who you are, you can change your life around one day at a time. If you take action and work hard, you can build something great. Spend everyday telling yourself positive things and you will become it. Set goals and get after it. Do something everyday for your health, wealth, and education. Every day I get a workout in, eat healthy food, do something that makes me money and read a book or something educational.

Also I do something every day that makes me happy, whether it’s going to the beach, helping an older adult pull weeds, or going golfing. I have a college degree and barely put it to use. Don’t limit yourself to one line of work. Try everything and learn a new skill. Always be nice to everyone, you never know who you will meet and what opportunities will arise.

Whatever your situation is, focus on what is the next step you can take. Focus on what you CAN do and try to be as positive as you can. My bar that I work at just got shut down recently because of the health department and COVID rules. I don’t know when we will open up. All I know is that moping around and stressing about it wont help. I can’t control the government or the rules. What I can control is my actions and what steps I can take in the meantime.

In the end, have faith everything is going to work out. Not everything will come to you in one day, but if you build good habits and take action everyday, you will be heading in a whole new direction. A year ago I read QLAM, and from there I saved up $100,000 in a year. You never know what book or event will change your course in life and this is definitely one of them. Thank you Kristy and Bryce! 

Wow, I am in awe. If you’d like to hear mode from Casie, drop by her Instagram @casiejohnsonn and say hi!

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28 thoughts on “From Broke and Homeless to $100k in 1 Year”

  1. WOW!!! I’m blown away by Casie’s relentless action towards a better future for her. And what a priceless attitude to have. This lady will go far in life..

    Casie, my best wishes!!

  2. Something seems off here to me. If she was putting $4k minimum into the market every month, that means she had an extra $1k after expenses EACH WEEK. It looks like an average room for rent near Harbor City is $1000/month. If you found something good. Gas is expensive in LA environs. Maybe got some food for free from bartending jobs, IDK. Still gotta feed dog. So let’s say a minimal but comfortable COL is probably $2k/mo? So she would have needed to make at least $6k/month, after taxes potentially depending on how her job is (any waitressing/bartend jobs I’ve ever had paid with a W2 and you have to report tips). So $1500/week AFTER taxes she was making? In a pandemic? It’s hard for me to understand this with many restaurants near me still not open yet (also hearing from friends in LA how so much is still closed or closed again with the virus raging there). And even making these numbers as a bartender. That’s a salary of $72k after tax we’re talking about.

    Even with this- $48k in a year somehow more than doubled?

    Definitely can tell there was a hustle here but I’m a little skeptical of the numbers.

    1. It looks like she was also selling sporting equipment (she said sales spiked during COVID) as well being a paid caregiver.

    2. I’ve worked in hotels/bars/restaurants for since 1999. In Ireland, Southern California, Norway, NZ, Portugal and Canada. Tips vary per country. I have a degree in computer science and used to teach in a University but make way better money serving. Especially during the pandemic. Living in Canada the last 9 yrs and the tips during 2020 were the best I’ve ever made. Not every restaurant is going to be the same of course and restrictions for the pandemic are different places. But I easily see people making the equivalent of $100k per year in some serving jobs.

  3. I am so happy for both Casie and QLAM. Thank you for sharing this success story. The stories continue to get passed forward resulting in a cascade. We may never know how many people you have helped.

  4. I bet the missing component is the gym equipment sales – stuff still isn’t back in stock post-COVID. That + caregiving in LA, a HCOL area, is seriously $$$.

    Also, less than <$2k isn't extremely difficult (I'm at $2k in SF bay area without trying much), but I agree that's not everything – I'm sure her income was very high and she probably also built up an emergency fund v. just invested.

  5. She’s only known a market that goes up, so whatever she does don’t panic sell. You may be down 20%. Also don’t buy Bitcoin, Ethereum, gold but stick with the boring dividend stocks

  6. Great story, but oh dear Lord, I would have asked her to rewrite this part with a teeny, tiny hint of sorrow/empathy.

    “2 days after me and my boyfriend broke up, I got a phone call from my caregiving job. My client died. So there went my caregiving job down the drain.”

  7. Quite a story! Professor Dan in Taipei, Taiwan says “job well done!” at putting what the textbook says into practice.

    Hey, I had to think a moment at “…reading QLAM…” and I was wondering what a QLAM was! Hooray for scrolling up and rereading. 🙂

  8. Although an inspiring story the numbers don’t sit right with me either. Making, let alone saving $100K in a year on side jobs in expensive California? Can the Wanderer do his magic breakdown of her numbers so the rest of us trying to stash more money away see how exactly she did it?

  9. Incredible story for a variety of reasons

    Had the courage and will to get out of an abusive relationship- not everyone does as the unknown can be scarier than the known. Good for her!

    You’d never know it from her Instagram feed if you look at the dates and times of the posts and this chronology.

    Found the right self help book! Financial freedom means better wellness as more options available.

    fortunately was working and hustling hard and the stock market was going up (not unlike your story and success in the Great Recession)

    Thanks for sharing!

  10. Good for you Casie. Truly impressed. Sorry to hear about the douche boyfriend but happy you’re in a better place now.

    Let’s see. In a couple years, she writes her own QLAM and sends signed personalized copy to Kristy and Bryce.

  11. This story seems bogus, the math doesn’t work out:

    if you’re saving 4,000 per month and putting it into VOO in 2020, which is the vanguard SPY index fund

    4,000 * 12 = 48,000
    even if you bought VOO at the lows in March 2020, at $211.0 with all that saved income (48,000 in a year)

    48,000 / 211 = 227.5 shares of VOO

    If you had 227.5 share of VOO by the beginning of 2021($342), your portfolio would be worth
    227.5 * $342 = $77,805, not equal to $100,000

    and that’s assuming you bought it all at the low, and no dollar cost averaging.
    dollar cost averaging would make the portfolio way lower than $77,805

    The math in this story is way off here, and the numbers require more investigation.

  12. Congratulations on getting out of a sh** relationship. That’s worth More than 100K! And you’ve still got the 100K (and counting) – lol.

    I don’t get the angst in the early run of comments, except that maybe the folks reading most often are used to seeing tabulated lists and charts of income vs expenses – that’s Wanderer and FireCracker’s usual style.

    It sounds like:
    A) You worked your a** off. Some of us barely left our sofas the past year, and look at you.
    B) You had a whole bunch of jobs, side gigs, ties from before the move (warehouse job) and somehow managed to keep your crazy schedule straight and leverage all of them to completely change your life.

    Folks, we’ve routinely left huge tips vs the bill on the off change we actually get to be out, socially. So don’t discount that, especially in LA.

    Also, did y’all miss that she ***got out*** of a relationship that was about to go very south quick, crossing the line to pyschology of that is immense.

    Good for you Cassie!!

  13. That’s pretty amazing. Keep at it. I hope you paid the estimated tax. It might be a big bill in 2021 if you didn’t. Anyway, great job.

  14. Wow, that is absolutely amazing!

    I am so inspired and proud of how far Casie came in a year. It just goes to show how much someone can transform their life within such a short period of time.

    Gives me pause to think of how I can improve my situation each day.

    Truly impressive results!

  15. I don’t think the story here is the amount, its about the the stamina to actually save money, and invest religiously in a balance portfolio. This lady has a great set of portable skills she has developed over the years, sales, bartending, and caregiving. She is very diversified, that is a lesson to learn, develop multiple skill sets, this can save your but in a crisis…

  16. I love this lady’s tenacity and bulldog attitude to not giving up but to keep on fighting. Her story is an inspiration.

  17. Now THAT is a very inspirational story. Perfect for several women in my family who are in toxic relationships and low on funds. Too broke and afraid to get out and claim their lives. It’s never too late.

  18. This is a truly amazing and inspirational story!

    I loved the part ‘I had to remind myself all the time, who I am, what qualities I have, and keep pushing to be the best version of myself. I had to keep telling myself positive things and stay strong, or else I would believe all the negative names my ex would call me’

    I needed to read something like this today. Some days in the pandemic are extra hard irrespective of our financial situation. This story was very uplifting.

  19. $4k a month is a salary which means just doing bar work and extra jobs you must’ve been pulling in $5k a month to survive which seems very unrealistic.

    I think this is a nice story, but would be very surprised if it was true.

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