The Mindful Midlife Crisis

Episode 86--Empty Nest, Full Pockets with Matt Meline

February 22, 2023 Billy Lahr
The Mindful Midlife Crisis
Episode 86--Empty Nest, Full Pockets with Matt Meline
Show Notes Transcript

In this week’s episode, Billy talks with Matt Meline, a certified financial planner and founder and CEO of PrairieFire Wealth Planning.  He is here today to talk about his book Empty Nest, Full Pockets, which focuses on life-centered planning and helping families through transition, particularly from Full to Empty Nest.

Billy and Matt discuss:
–What Matt means by the “Tug of War” between parents and their children who are about to start their real-life journey outside of the home
–Empty nesters and their money mindset
–What parents need to do in order to better prepare their teens when it comes to how money works
–How parents can assist their kids with the different college or university options
–Matt’s life as an empty nester 

Want more from Matt Meline?
Check out his LinkedIn, website, and Facebook 

Download Matt’s book Empty Nest, Full Pockets for free here!

If you liked this episode, check out these episodes as well:

  • Episode 69--Live Better, Die Slower with Eric Romanak

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Billy: Coming up on The Mindful Midlife Crisis

Matt: One of the things that we always like to understand when we talk to people is kind of where they're coming from. We all bring money mindsets into our adult lives. Of course, many of those are derived from our parents the way that we were brought up. Some people have grown up with a real attitude of frugality and scarcity that there's never going to be enough to hold money, hold on to it tightly because it should go away.

And for many folks that are second half of life now are raised by parents that may have gone through the Depression with their families and stuff. So that mentality is still very, very prevalent. Others grow up with they get anything. They just kind of have whatever they want. Money was never an issue or they were really concerned about it.

So you bring that into a marriage or you bring it into you're making your financial decisions. It can have a deep impact if you're not really aware of it. So bringing all those into that financial philosophy scale helps us understand how to counsel the families that we work with. To say here's a disparity is are some next steps that we could talk about that would maybe help with that.

And so asking questions like what was money like growing up or what was your first money memory? Opens a lot of interesting stuff.

Billy:  Welcome to The Mindful Midlife Crisis, a podcast for people navigating the complexities and possibilities of life's second half. I'm your host, Billy Long and educator, personal trainer, meditation teacher and Overthinker who talks to experts who specialize in social and emotional learning, mindfulness, physical and emotional wellness, cultural awareness, finances, communication, relationships, dating and parenting all in an effort to help us better reflect, learn and grow.

So we can live a more purpose filled life. Take a deep breath, embrace the present and journey with me through The Mindful Midlife Crisis. Welcome to The Mindful Midlife Crisis. I'm your host, Billy Lahr. Thank you for tuning in wherever you are. The purpose of this show is to provide a platform that gives people the space and permission to share their expertise and life experiences in order to help others navigate the complexities and possibilities of life's second half.

And remember this free and useful information is helpful to people of all ages. Wisdom isn't about one's age. Wisdom comes from our ability to reflect, learn and grow from our own life experiences, while also learning from the experiences of others, regardless of what stage of life we are in. Because you just never know what life is going to throw at you.

So there just might be a conversation or two from past episodes that help you feel better prepared for the challenges you might face in life or that you're facing right now. Whether those challenges be your emotional, mental and or physical health, your relationships with others, including your partner and children, your career, your finances, whatever curveballs life is throwing your way right now, just know that you are not alone in your experience.

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This week's episode focuses on finances and empty nesters, which we really haven't discussed yet on the show. So sit back and enjoy this conversation with today's guest. Today's guest is Matt Meline. Matt, as a certified financial planner and founder and CEO of Prairie Fire, a wealth planning. He is here today to talk about his book Empty Nest Full Pockets, which focuses on life-centered planning and helping families through transition, particularly from full to empty nest.

I'm excited to have Matt here because this is a topic that I've wanted to explore. So welcome to the show, Matt Meline.

Matt: Well, thanks so much. Excited to be here. It's exciting. Iowa, Minnesota crossover here. So good stuff right in the Midwest.

Billy:  That's right. That's right. You know, Minnesotans have jokes about Iowans that I will not tell because you're a good guy. I don't want to hurt anybody's feelings here right off.

Matt: That can go both ways.

Billy:  So, you know, here's the thing, Matt. I got to tell you, I'm really looking forward to this episode because we haven't had a financial planner on it. And I think that that is something that we as a show have missed out on is having someone to talk about money sense, particularly for midlife lifers. But just reading through your book, you would think reading a book about finance isn't going to be very entertaining.

The book is hilarious. There are so many times when I laughed out loud, and then when I got to your ten roles, there were parts where I laughed out loud too. So I just really feel like this is going to be an entertaining conversation. So let's look at those ten roles, order ten roles that you play in your life.

Matt: Yep. So husband, father, brother, four kids. And I've been married for 15 years. Golf buddy, YouTube fan, Bourbon lover. And I was going to put bourbon slash cigar lover, but not many vices I should put in my tab. So keep that minimalistic author financial coffin up business owner and fitness champ.

Billy:  As a bourbon and cigar lover, do you have a bourbon and cigar room? And do you have the smoking jacket and everything?

Matt: Well, I'm only allowed to smoke outside, so I do need a jacket from time to time, especially here in Iowa. But I've just began collecting bourbons a little bit, trying to learn more about them. I found some YouTube folks on the cigar side that I really have enjoyed learning about those family farms and how that's created so much prosperity for so many families in Central America.

It's just a really interesting culture behind both scenes. While I don't partake very frequently because those two things aren't really good for you, I do now, now and then do enjoy that.

Billy:  Bourbon has popped up on the show multiple times now. Our good friend Matt Hazzard talked about going down to Kentucky and going to like a bourbon fest or something like that. I don't know if this episode will come up before or after we talk to Eric Romanak. That episode is the Live Better Die Slower episode. He, too is a Bourbon fan, so a lot of bourbon lovers here are on the show.

I'm enjoying this. I'll be honest; I'm not a bourbon guy. I'm not a hard alcohol guy. I like beer. That's about as simple as I can get. Bourbon sounds to be more of a refined, acquired taste.

Matt: Perhaps. Perhaps they say most alcohol is actually acquired. So that could very well be the case. But as you kind of develop the different senses and notes and the big thing with all of those things is hearing this. I love the stories. I love the stories of how they came into being the families that have created them. You know, how you've got four generations, five generations of folks that have been part of that or even like Sammy Hagar that has his own tequila.

It's just fun to hear what's going on behind the scenes versus just grabbing something off the shelf and hope for the best.

Billy:  No, you're also a U2 fan. I am a diehard Pearl Jam fan. I've seen them 49 times in nine different countries. I'm going to go see them in Saint Louis in September. That'll make number 50. How big of a U2 fan are you?

Matt: So six Times live. One of them in Minneapolis up there near you, the original Joshua Tree tour in Iowa City when I was still in college, that was eight. In 1987 was just something I'll never forget, because that was kind of when they were just beginning to become something really special. And then now, with the advent of U2 X radio and hearing again lots of stories behind the songs, it just brings that whole family sense.

But I just respect their creativity, the bond they've created and stayed together, which I think is incredibly difficult for band mates, it sounds like, over the years. And so it's a great story. It's caused me to be somewhat fascinated with Irish culture, some looking forward to making a trip to Ireland here soon with my wife, hopefully, and all of it combined.

I've just been a huge fan and still I've had as many in-depth spiritual experiences at U2 concerts than I ever have in a church. So I stand by that.

Billy:  Oh, wow. And I know you have a very strong faith as well, too. So can you talk a little bit about that? Talk about these spiritual moments that you've had at U2 shows? Because I know that I have had them at Pearl Jam shows it.

Matt: Well, yeah. So in Chicago Vertigo tour first Encore was a song called Yahweh, and it's on the backside of this How to Dismantle Atomic Bombs. So that one of the last songs there and didn't play like the arrangement on the record that came out with just Edge and Bono and Edge had an acoustic guitar, which he rarely plays, and so he was just walking out and they sang this and it just talks about take these shoes, take this heart, take this man, take this life.

And it was just a incredibly spiritual moment. It really was. And we were close, which makes the concert so much better when you're near the band. And so it's just something that I've always remembered. And I got home and I worked with my kids and we created a Yahweh mural that I put up above my office area, and we did that together and something that we still talk about, but it had a deep impact on me.

And then we can talk about later the, you know, I went through Prairie Fire and all that spiritual deconstruction. U2 is definitely a part of that for me.

Billy:  Oh, that's exciting. I cannot wait to dive deeper into this. I do want to dive into this fitness chart because that's something that you looking forward to in the second half of life. How does being a bourbon and cigar lover get in the way of you being a fitness champ, or are you a chump because of those things?

Matt: I consider myself a fitness champ because I'm all over the place, man. I try these different workouts, these different ways to do this. I'll read something and make my whole family clean the cupboards out and start over with some other new thing that we're going to do. And I did triathlons for a while, and so it was really focused on body science and how that works.

And then when I kept getting hurt and stuff, I kind of moved on from that and I've done tennis and lots of different things throughout life, but have characterized it as a chump because I can't seem to stick with one thing long enough to actually have it make a great impact. But I think the fact that I've tried so many things actually keeps me active.

So as long as there's stuff out there to try and there's $14 courses on YouTube, I'll be one by himself.

Billy:  But it sounds like golf sticks because you are looking forward to being a golf buddy in the second half of life.

Matt:  Absolutely. Yeah. So part of our emptiness process was downsizing a little bit and we did move to a golf course and so I was able to make a ton of friends. We have a huge community now, folks that live out there that I golf with frequently. And so our text group name is Bush Wood from Caddyshack Bush Wood Group.

And so none of those text messages would be allowed on your podcast, man. It's just a crazy group of guys, but we've gotten really close and developed the whole network with our wives too, and stuff. And so being a golf buddy, doing golf trips, making golf just a real collegial thing has been a great emptiness activity.

Billy:  Excellent. And you're here to talk about empty nesters, and you have this book Empty Nest Full Pockets, and you're looking forward to being an author in the second half of life as well. So what was the writing process like for you for this recent book and what do you have in the works?

Matt: So it was for years I, like many folks, would write down, Boy, I'd really like to write a book, and I just don't think I had whatever the inspiration or a topic enough that would make sense. I spent early in my career working for big banks, big institutions, and so trying to do creative work was difficult to get through all the meanderings of those approvals.

When I started Prairie Fire three years ago, the kids were just beginning to really leave the nest where they were all gone. And I realized and taking them through that process, how much I had learned about myself, my wife, my kids, the college process, the financial lack of transparency that there is in the education world and just felt like that would make some sense to write about.

And that then got me thinking too, about the dual path of becoming an empty nester because we all get ready for our kids. We spend our whole life parenting them, doing the hard work of getting them ready for life. And it's good work. It's important work, but we forget we're going to have a whole life to live. Now, the second half of life that isn't going to be involved with driving them to soccer practice.

So we're going to do man, where we get to spend our time. What matters to us now, defining those values. And so I decided to talk a lot about that. And it just kind of came together. I had a book coach and a team, the company called Book Launchers that help me self-publish it, and so took about a year, honestly to get it all written and put together.

And it's a big project, but something I'm really proud of.

Billy:  Well, it's an entertaining read, and that's what we're going to dive into here. So let's take a quick break. And when we come back, we're going to talk to Matt about his book Empty Nest Full Pockets and how you can navigate that empty nest lifestyle. Thank you for listening to The Mindful Midlife Crisis. Thank you for listening to The Mindful Midlife Crisis.

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My hope is that these conversations resonate with others and inspire people to live their best lives. Thanks again. And now back to the show. Welcome back to The Mindful Midlife Crisis. We are here with Matt Meline. Matt is a certified financial planner and founder and CEO of Prairie Fire, a wealth planning. You can go to

Matt is also the author of Empty Nest Full Pockets. It's a really entertaining read. And I'll tell you what I'm not a parent. We all know that if we listen to this show and even still I am thoroughly enjoying this book Empty Nest Full Pockets because it's full of hilarious and entertaining anecdotes about your own empty nest journey and all the roller coaster emotions that come with being a parent of teenagers who are about to embark on their first real dose of freedom.

And so I want to start with this idea of the tug of war that you talk about, because I imagine the financial piece is tangible in a sense, but the emotional piece is kind of the silent predator for a lot of parents. So talk about what you mean by that tug of war here and what that looked like for you.

Matt: Sure. So as you parents, you hang on tight. You're doing a lot of work, especially when they're young kids and they need you. So as they grow and mature, get into high school, junior high, start to drive their need and want for independence can come in direct conflict with your wanting to hang on to them and either control their life or just be part of it in many ways.

And frankly, you can feel betrayed. Has here this little shit that you've raised and worked so hard for. Now there's one thing to do with you. The last thing they want to do is spend time with you. I mean, it's just it's cruel. And so at first I was just mad. I'm just like, What is going on? You know, my son Matt Jr was embarking on his life.

He had his car, and I just never saw him. You're trying to create these moments of spending time with him. You're trying to interact with their friends and be cool. Well, you're not cool. They don't want to spend time with you, but they still need you. The big challenge I had and I went to see a counselor friend of mine said, I'm really having trouble with this.

I'm really upset. I don't feel like they appreciate what we've done. I don't feel like they care about us anymore and just being a selfish little baby, frankly. And he said, Well, you know, Matt, the only reason that they can do that and they can be independent like that is because you've done a good job as a father.

You've been doing what you had to do to get them ready. The man that really helped me. And so I just look at it from a different lens. Then, of course, this is the next stage of the work that we have to do with them. So there's that tug of war, of independence, of them wanting to be their own person, and there's a tug of war, of you wanting to hang on as best you can.

But once again, you got to be thinking about what's your life going to look like now.

Billy:  So what does your life look like now that you're empty?

Matt: Nester At first, and I talk in the book about the first Friday, you had this first Friday where the kid's gone and you're like, What the hell am I going to do? You know, I'm used to staying up till midnight, making sure they make curfew, you know, arranging travel and transportation. And so anyway, that first Friday, you kind of look at your wife and you're like, what?

Now? We decided just to get busy and to start living the best life that we could. And so we developed a great friend group. Like I mentioned, we've met doing trips. We've, you know, tried things out like cooking classes and wine tastings and try to diversify our experiences a little bit. But I'll be honest, Billy, it's been one of the funnest periods in my life.

I mean, I look back to college and that was really fun. And so and I think it's really fun because you're not really worried about much. You're just kind of doing life. Well now, besides focusing on the business and all that, we have just a lot of time that we can just have fun, try new things, make new friends.

Adventure is a huge part of the second half of life, so always looking for ways that we can gather new experiences. And then, of course, starting the business once the kids start to leave was a big step for us too. Is empty nesters to my wife, who works here with me as my operations manager. So we launched this together after many years at a large institution.

So that was a big empty nest leap as well.

Billy:  So is that how you combat manufacturing worry because your kids are off in college? Is it hard not to worry about, Oh my gosh, what are they doing? Because I don't have them under my roof right now? Or how did you let that go?

Matt: It's just different. When they're coming home on a Friday night, you feel responsible for making sure that happens. When they're off on their own. You hope that they're getting home safely, but there's nothing you can really do depending on where they're going to school and all those dynamics. But my kids were 2 hours away there. It's just developing a communication plan that makes you feel comfortable that you're part of their life, ways that you can.

I mean, with the cell phones now, there's so many ways to interact with your kids that weren't available when we were younger. So, yeah, I think having that communication plan. But you do develop over those weeks a bit of a letting go process that, All right, this is gone and maybe that's okay. Maybe it's okay that that's gone.

They've moved on to this and are doing that that I don't have to stay up on Friday night and worry for every microcosm. But it's a process doesn't happen overnight.

It feels like you've really been able to make that transition smoothly into being an empty nester. You talk about in the book the emotional decisions around money mindset. So where does one's money mindset begin and how do you help future empty nesters avoid pitfalls based on their money mindset? I know you've got this financial philosophy scale that you use, and it's in the book.

Billy:  As someone who likes charts and graphs, I fell in love with this immediately. So can you talk about how you use that in order to help people avoid those pitfalls?

Matt:  Sure. So one of the things that we always like to understand when we talk to people is kind of where they're coming from. We all bring money mindsets into our adult lives. And of course, many of those are derived from our parents the way that we were brought up. Some people have grown up with a real attitude of frugality and scarcity that there's never going to be enough to hold money, hold on to it tightly because it could go away.

And for many folks that are second half of life now, we're raised by parents that may have gone through the Depression with their families and stuff. So that mentality is still very, very prevalent. Others grow up with they get anything. They just kind of have whatever they want. Money was never an issue or they were really concerned about it.

So you bring that into a marriage or you bring it into you're making your financial decisions. It can have a deep impact if you're not really aware of it. And what I find with some families is that one's got a very strong opinion about the stock market. It scares me. I want no part of it. Others are. We should be doing everything for our kids, paying for all of their college, where they won't go to Harvard or local community college.

Others are. We should save more money or we should save less, other we should give more money or we should give less. So bringing all those into that financial philosophy scale helps us understand how to counsel the families that we work with to say, Here's a disparity. These are some next steps that we could talk about that would maybe help with that.

And so asking questions like what was money like growing up or what was your first money? Memory opens a lot of interesting stuff. I'll just share the story. I had a client and she shared how they never had any milk at their home. They just couldn't afford it. And so she now distributes milk into her community on Sunday nights because she wants no one to have to go through that.

So that's taking a money mindset and paying it forward in a very mindful, proactive way. And those are the kind of conversations we love to have. We don't like just to focus on the surface. Your investment return was 9%. We really want to understand what's making the family tick so they can live their best life now no matter where they're at.

Billy:  A good companion episode for people who are interested in learning more about this is the Jordan Harbinger podcast, one of my favorite shows Episodes 712 What? Brad Klotz He talks about harnessing the power of financial psychology and it talks a lot about that money mindset. And he also talks about how a lot of what our mindset around money derives from our parents and how we saw them manage money too.

So I'm going to challenge you here a bit. Is there a money mindset that you try and help parents gravitate towards or are you able to say, Hey, all right, you're definitely a spender here, so let's make this work the way that your budget here, you're an over saver. So let's find out, you know, Hey, what are you willing to do here with your money?

How are we able to maximize it? Because you're not investing or something like that. Do you have a money mindset that you're trying to help them get to?

Matt: I do, and I think it comes a lot from my money mindset, and I would love and try to point many ways as I can the folks that the universe is a good place full of abundance. And so how can we get a hold of that for those that are incredibly frugal? I try to do all that I can to show that their safety behind their plan, that we've got cushions and things that can happen and everything's going to be still okay for over spenders, this and that.

We just say, sure, you can do this, but you're going to have to give up this in exchange. So helping them understand some of the trade offs, in many cases, it's time. Is your trade off. If you hadn't saved any money, Billy, you probably couldn't go to Korea. But you want to go to Korea, and so you saved money and now you can do that.

But if you hadn't, that would be one thing that you'd have to give up. So it's about that freedom to do exactly what you're doing. So if you want the freedom to say, I want to be done full time working at 65, in the next five years, we'll have to give up these things to make that happen. But we can in some sort of format.

It's bringing those dreams forward a little bit. All right, You can do it. It's going to require this. I really do try to bring more of a sense of abundance because in my mindset, that's kind of the prairie fire philosophy were burning away. The old making room for new growth. And so helping them find ways to get into that.

It could take years, but it's good work.

Billy:  Well, you just mentioned the prairie fire philosophy and you have a story about where that title comes from. So can you talk about that.

Matt:  Summer, about the time the kids were beginning to leave? Somebody brought he was a spiritual director of mine and he brought to me the opportunity to join this class called Prairie Fire. And it was a two year class with about 25, 30 folks, all pretty much close to the second half of life or in that range. And it was really about exploration and discovery, certainly on the spiritual side.

But what we really took from it was ways to become a deeper listener and to understand some of the messages that we might still be living from. These aren't financial messages, but life messages maybe that weren't doing us any good. For me, it was the whole God is going to smite and smote me for being a bourbon and cigar lover, just making me live with a bunch of fear, you know?

And that's something that you bring into adulthood. If it's something that you had when you were a kid, breaking all that apart, deconstructing all that understanding and finding belief that the universe is a good place and that God is around that always changing. And so the prairie fire metaphor for the Midwesterners here is that prairie fire burns away old stuff, so it makes room for new growth.

I was so impacted by that class and we finished it with what was called a Rule of Life project. And so how do you want to live your life now? How do you want your life to be? What do you want to be focused on? And it was doing that project that got me the courage to open my own business and to take that launch.

And so with their permission, they let me use the moniker Prairie Fire for.

Billy:  This financial planning feels almost more altruistic than it does moneymaking. Do you see it that way? Like the way you describe it feels philanthropic. I mean, obviously you're providing a service, but for you, it sounds like it goes deeper.

Matt: Yeah, I wouldn't compare myself to other folks that, but it does feel like a calling to me in some ways that I'm able to interact with these families. And I do have to get down to the nuts and bolts and the charts and the grass and the the importance of a good balanced portfolio, a good plan, doing the math and all the work that goes into that is really, really important and table stakes.

But getting into our family's lives in a way that makes them appreciate my advice coming from the heart versus just the head is where I think we're different. That's just my take on it. There's a million ways to skin the cat as a financial planner. That altruistic side is just something that's really I'm passionate about, and so it ends up kind of bubbling up in the work that we do now.

Billy not everybody likes that. Everybody wants the touchy-feely and stuff. So, you know, I have to modify my approach as needed.

Billy:  You talked about, you know, getting into the nuts and bolts and using some of the tools. You have this fiscal loss offy tool. Can you talk about more? What does that look like? How do you use that with people?

Matt: Yeah, so we've got ten categories of different things from debt to savings to taking care of children to philanthropy, all those areas. And we ask each spouse and or individual to rate on a scale of 5 to 10 how they feel like they're doing and how do they feel about each of those categories. So like the stock market, I'm scared to death of it or I can't put enough money into it.

Well, then where do you feel like you're at? I've got too much in the market or I don't debt. I feel like you need a little bit of debt to make life go round or I'm a completely debt adverse. Or do you feel like you're at right now I've got too much debt. So contrasting those things in all of those areas allows us to then diagnose and say, all right, well, if you feel like you have too much debt, here's a next three things that we need to do to remedy that.

Matt: Again, what are we going to give up? What can we accelerate? Where can we get some little victories along the way, all those kind of things. So that tool is really helpful. And then I also see something called the Return on Life scale, and that basically says, How do you feel like you're living your life in these different areas around health, career travel home?

Because for a lot of empty nesters, how they're going to deal with their house is a big, big question What are we going to relocate or downsize? Going to sell all of that stuff. So it all comes together to help them live the best life they can, no matter where they're at financially.

Billy:  Do you see a difference in general rational mindsets around money from baby boomers to Gen X to millennials to Gen Z? Maybe you're not working with that young of a group just yet, but we're looking at things like cryptocurrency and bitcoin and what have you. So people's, I guess moneymaking opportunities are different and I'm not getting into cryptocurrency because I don't know anything about it and it seems in flux all the time.

But younger generations might be more willing to take that risk. Are you seeing a difference in the mindset from generation to generation? Are younger generations bucking their boomer parent advice or are they following along with it?

Matt: I actually see and I'll go to below Gen X, so let's say people in their thirties that they are very good savers, very interested in financial advice and I think they've seen their boomer parents struggle a little bit. Maybe not retire on their own terms or maybe they weren't good savers when they're young and they get real busy saving when they turn 50.

So I am seeing that group be pretty good Savers, asking good questions, making pretty good decisions. Now, in the midst of all that, there's all these new vehicles to invest and COVID brought to everybody got bored and so tried all these robinhood's and these technology stocks and means and crypto and all that. And so it's still Wild West a little bit.

You know, it's, you know, people that made a lot of money out of it. People all lost a lot as well. The exponential technologies and things that are coming are going to change the investment landscape dramatically. I have no doubt you know which ones those will be. Maybe you and I can both remember when Amazon was around in the year 2000, who knew they were just selling books, You know what they were going to do.

That's how crypto feels to this generation, is that crypto is the future. All we need to figure out is which part of it's going to win. Is it going to be the blockchain? Is it going to be Bitcoin? Is it going to be Etherium? So that's what I feel like is happening in the marketplaces, that people know that there's going to be a sea change in the way money is handled.

And so how can they benefit from that long term? The Bitcoin believers, man, they are as hardcore as any religious fundamentalists you'll ever meet. They will go to their grave with the beauty of Bitcoin. So follow me on Twitter because I find it fascinating to see their conviction in their belief that the Boomers were a little bit more free to spend free living.

That's not worry about it. It's all going to be take care of itself. And the millennials, Gen Y, some of those folks are being a little bit more proactive because many of them, they want a different life than their parents had. And there's these movements of retiring very, very early. And so they know they have to save to make that happen.

Billy:  You know, when we talk about money mindset generationally, one of the best pieces of advice that my dad gave me when I first started working as a teacher was pay yourself first. So he told me, whatever your college loan is, double it so you can get that off of the books and then put a big chunk into your four or three big an education year before a three be similar to 401k, And then he said, put some money into savings and then you can spend the rest.

And that really helped me out because I was in a situation where I needed to buy a new car a couple of years down the road and I've just kind of carried that mentality. This whole time, which is, you know, really why I've been able to save to travel for a year. But then I also have a good chunk of money in three different retirement funds, too.

So I'm very fortunate that he taught me about that. You have a stat in here in the book based on an iron G report that 87% of teens have no idea how money works. So what is it that parents need to do in order to better prepare their teens? When it comes to understanding how money works.

Matt: We'll never understand money if they don't have any. And so helping them source their own funds is really important through either allowance chores at the house or a part time job. All of our kids worked at the local grocery store and it was a great experience for them of understanding how money flows in, how taxes work, dealing with the bank account, getting your paycheck and screaming at FICO, whoever that might be, taking all of your money.

So those are always fun conversations explaining how all that works, that going through those paychecks and bank statements with them early on so that they can see this is how it comes in, this is how it goes out. If I'm willing to defer like your your father mentioned, my grandpa taught me $0.10 of every dollar, making that in a spot where I can't necessarily get to it as easily so that I have more for things that I want to do later are just basic lessons.

But it just seems like the high school system there, they teach in economics and things like that about personal finance. And I do think this is getting better. How do you think that the schools are starting to do a better job of this? But they get to college and they have some money, maybe 600 bucks saved and they burn it because they don't really understand what they're expected pay for what mom and dad are going to pay for.

So developing those expectations before they leave or understand what a budget was. So my dad taught me when I was college my freshman year, I went to school in Oklahoma and play tennis. I got 40 bucks a week from what I'd saved. Halfway through the semester, it was gone. We had to renegotiate our contracts.

So anyway.

I give you that lesson to say, you know, get them on a plan and monitor the plan. Because just like a planner would monitor your financial plan, we need to help them. They need our input. Your role changes from being an on hand parents to really a mentor and a partner. If you can walk along with them without judgment.

This is how these things are going to work. Give them some opportunities to make some money and then spend it the way that they want to. Even if you don't think it's the best thing, you know, again, being that partner versus this isn't going to fly with some balance.

Billy:  In that interview that Brad Clancy would. Jordan Harmer Jr he talked about some of the qualities that rich people have is that they're not spending. They're actually really, really good savers, but then they also invest in financial planners because poor people can't invest in financial planners that they then in a sense don't know how to manage their money so that when they do come into money, they don't know how to spend that responsibly.

So if you're working with someone from a low income family, how do you have that conversation to teach them how to manage their money responsibly?

Matt: Role Similar to how you teach your children, we take them through a process called the three buckets of money, and so you develop a safety bucket that gives you your savings and your cash that you can access for whatever happens in life, which we all know are immediate. And then that middle term bucket, which you call the lifestyle bucket, which is designed to support whatever you want to do, like moving to Korea for a year or something fun or buying a car or your next house, whatever.

But that's money that you can invest, not just save. So you can get some growth inside of that account. And then your aspirational stuff is ways that you want to improve your lifestyle. So that is your long term, your 401 KS and retirements, but can also be other styles of investments or accounts as well that you've set aside for something big that you want to do down the road.

So retirement could take 30 years now at least. So that's a big savings. College can cost 300 grand. That is a big chunk, you know, getting those buckets balanced. I used to teach personal finance classes at the Polk County Jail. A lot of those folks, they just didn't really know where they were. They don't know who they owe.

They don't know what their credit score is. So giving them the fundamentals to get that basic framework built and then to say first thing they going to do is build you a safety bucket and we're going to put it in. CDC can't get to it, so it's going to be there, help it grow, get used to saving money a little bit here and there.

Then we move on to the next bucket. What I see in like 41k plans that I work with and things like that as people will, they'll throw some money into a four on K plan but not have ten bucks in a savings account. Something happens then with their child, they got to take all that money out of the 41k and take all the taxes and penalties.

So finding that balance is a great place to start for people that aren't used to handling financial matters.

Billy:  Well, let's do this. Let's take a quick break. And then when we come back, we're going to do a deeper dive with Matt into how to pay for college and what that will look like as an empty nester. Thank you for listening to The Mindful Midlife Crisis. Thank you for listening to The Mindful Midlife Crisis. New episodes come out every Wednesday to help you get over the midweek hump.

If you'd like to contact me or if you have suggestions about what you'd like to hear on the show, visit and click contact us, while you're there don't forget to sign up for the newsletter to get free weekly meditations as well as free resources from a reflective learn grow program. You can also click on the show notes for links to the articles and resources we referenced throughout the show.

If you want to check out my worldly adventures, follow me on Instagram. Get mindful, underscore midlife, underscore crisis. My hope is that my trials, tribulations and successes will inspire you to take intentional action to live a more purpose-filled life. And while you're at it, remember to show yourself some love every now and then, too. Thanks again. And now back to the show.

Welcome back to The Mindful Midlife Crisis. We are here with Matt Meline. Matt, again, as a certified financial planner, He's the founder, CEO of Prairie Fire, a wealth planning go to If you want to get in contact with matt, maybe get some financial planning of your own. Maybe you have a child going to college here before too long and you want to make a plan.

Let me tell you what we need to make a plan in order to help your children afford college. Matt is the guy to talk to because Matt had not just one, two, three, but four children in college at the same time. At the same time. Four children in college. Matt I can only imagine the financial planning that this required.

So talk about how this experience gave you insight in the guiding parents who are paying for their child's college.

Matt:  I don't know if your camera picks up these gray hairs that.

Billy:  Well, I like go into temples. When you said when the last child graduated from college, you said, I'm not going to go into the celebration, but there was wine involved.

Matt:  There's the first Friday and there's the last Friday.

Billy:  So and then there was Freaky Friday.

Matt: Oh, yeah.

Yeah. Well, so we have a blended family and the kids are all in the same kind of age demographic. And there's twins in there. My son was a senior when the twins became freshmen, and then my daughter was a junior, so they're all four jointly. Iowa and Iowa State at the same time. And so I knew just putting it to paper and being a financial advisor, I worked on that stuff a little bit beforehand and realized what the outflow is going to look like.

We're all in there together, so we learned a lot. I learned a ton from that experience that I didn't know and I'm in the business, and so that's one of the impetus for writing the book too, is just to open up some of the things that a lot of parents don't know about.

Billy:  You said here that you're looking at college is a buyer's market, so you wanted to help your kids pay less for the same school and you said it's quite a racket. What do you mean by that?

Matt:  So I'm not knocking the educational system. I just the way that it's paid for is very wonky and is every student pays a different price for the same education, depending on a myriad of things, based on the way they fill out their financial aid forms where. They maybe went to high school, what scholarships they have access to. But financial aid can be appealed.

You can use contrasting schools offers to better your offer at another school. You can make your child very marketable based on their academic histories and things like that. There was just a lot I didn't know and aid and things that were out there and available that I wasn't aware of. And there's so many great values in private schools that will match, in many cases, the same cost as an in-state public school.

Now, that's by no means a blanket statement, always the truth. But there are generous schools out there that want your kid and they'll pay to have them go there. And so better understanding that process would have helped me a lot. Being a divorced parent, there's a lot of nuances to the financial aid system as well that are worth learning about.

That's what we try to do now. We take parents through a college pre-approval process that works just like a mortgage pre-approval, not just like it, but similar in concept. And so it basically shows what you can afford based on what saved your income, what the child may or may not contribute, and then how much in student loans they may or may not leave school with.

Then based on their major, can they afford that student loan payment? So it's a family conversation, family discussion, and then we can plug schools in that may or may not work and see how they look and how generous they may be on their financial aid packages.

Billy:  Now that your children have all graduated from college, have you sat down with them and said, okay, let's talk about the loan payment plan? Because now, especially now the loan payments are a huge chunk of the paycheck. How do you have that conversation or are you like, hey, you're adults now, You're taking care of this once again?

Matt: I think there's a balance to be struck there because, you know, things that they don't you've experienced things that they haven't. And that will always be the case. Finding ways to share that in a way that is going to make them resentful of that advice or feel like that you're intruding on their ability to make a decision. Some kids are super independent and they'll just figure it out on their own and they don't need your help.

Other kids. So I have four and they are 100% different, every one of them. I mean, I gave the girls anything they wanted, but I would take blunt force trauma on the boys. So, you know, it was we had to co-parent to figure that out. But back to your question on the twins went to graduate school, one still in and will have some debt.

Then to deal with there. So what we looked at before they started is what we could expect for payments and what their profession average salary looked like. And then that then backs them into a rent number. So they're not paying too much for a place to live and or getting roommates. All the things that we all did when we got out of school to make that work.

There's also loan consolidation, lots of student loan, and right now student loans are completely in flux with the federal programs that are looking to be renegotiated or perhaps forgiven. So it's a good conversation to have say, hey, did you know you could do this or offer suggestions along the way? So how this will work, but realize if you have a $2,000 rent payment downtown Chicago and a $1,000 student loan payment and you're making 30 $100 a month, nobody's going to Starbucks, man.

Billy:  Load up on that ramen right? So you talked about doing an analysis of one's major and how that helps pay off. Do you ever find yourself crushing people's dreams when you're having that conversation?

Matt: Well, I do get dirty looks from the students, you know, along with Ayers spirals. And I'm sure they're flipping me off under the table. That definitely goes on a little bit. So what we talk about is you should think about adding this is a minor or you should get a certificate in business administration, or if you're in that profession, this is how you can monetize that.

So be thinking about otherwise it's just a hobby. Finding ways to where they can build a house, what they're going to college for, let's be honest, is develop a career. In many cases, how you're going to do that. And when they see what the average salary is for a person that comes out with that type of education, I have seen many students shift gears to add some sort of education level double their major change things.

All four of my kids, except for the one who's in accounting, changed their major a couple of times while they they're in school, you know, once now going into marriage and family counseling and graduate school out in Rhode Island. She tells a hilarious story of she went to this engineering class and started crying, got upset. I don't know where I am or what I'm doing.

Well, she got in the wrong class. It wasn't because she said she was on her phone trying to drop it in the first 2 seconds of class.

Billy:  I mean, you have those moments in college. College is a big place and in sometimes it's not for everybody. And I like how in the book you talk about, hey, there's a two year option, there is a four year option, there is a trade school option. I am very pro community college, particularly if you don't come from an affluent family.

In fact, had I decided to play college baseball after high school, my only options would have been community college because I wasn't good enough to play at a four year. And I had a couple community colleges say, Hey, you know, would you be interested in playing here? But my high school girlfriend was going to the university of Minnesota Duluth, and that sounded good enough to me because I was going through paralysis analysis because of all the college options out there.

And if I'm being honest, had I not been dating somebody at that time, I think I would have been so overwhelmed by my college options and trying to figure out whether or not I was going to play baseball. I don't know that I want to went to college. So, Aaron, I owe you my college education. Thank you very much for that.

But how do you educate parents and their children on all of the options without overwhelming them?

Matt:  So when we do the pre-approval, if it shows that there's a big deficit, that's when we start talking about other options from gap years to a community school. The community schools are here in Iowa. Colleges in Iowa will let you do your first two years there and then finish at Iowa, Iowa State or you and I. And so have a lot of options that can save a ton of money during those period of years.

And just taking your general, your classes, these trade schools, we have a client whose son did a one year thing in Montana, and he got a great career coming out as a diesel mechanic type of thing. And so depends on the kid and how that's going to work. But if the pre-approval process shows a big deficit, that's when we have to start getting more creative about how that's going to be covered.

I have the exact opposite story, Billy. When I was in college, I was in Oklahoma. I transferred for a girlfriend up to the University of Northern Iowa, broke up, I think, 48 hours after I got there. So I completely sold to stay in Oklahoma and play tennis like I wanted to.

Billy:  So I'll get you out of here on this. Not only does the book deal with the emotions of financing a college bound team, but it also addresses the emotions of being an empty nester. And yeah, I mean, this podcast is all about helping people navigate emotional intelligence and that sort of thing. So I do really appreciate and love that your book does this and it does it in a very hilarious way.

Through the anecdotes that you tell. Walk us through the conversations you have with your clients about being an empty nester, about what they should anticipate. What were some of the emotions that you and your wife had as you became empty nesters? You talked a little bit about how it was very satisfying time in your life.

Matt: Yeah, I think a lot of people come into the empty nest and they suffer from what right? Clients who I'm a huge fan of would talk about, you know, recency bias and or comparative analysis of while so-and-so is way ahead of me, their impression of others really drives their frustration in starting a new part of life because they feel like they're behind.

We do meet a lot of people and they feel like they're behind whatever curve is out there. So helping them understand that they're not the only curve they have to worry about is theirs and how to make the most of that. But once the kids began to grow up and leave and we had some free weekends and we were starting to make these new friends and we had some travel opportunities and just some things that we've always wanted to do, we spent extra time with our parents.

I firmly believe it's been one of the most fulfilling periods of my life because you see the kids doing their life and you feel like you're part of that. We're real close and see how that all goes. You get to throw your elbows a little bit and try new things. Like starting the business was a big thing for me.

Writing the book with everything that I had out there that, you know, when you're full time parenting, it's really hard to find time to do that. But when you're an empty nester, you have some blocks of time where you can do some of the things that you've always thought about doing. People take up all kinds of artistic things.

Guys start fishing, they buy a kayak. We have plenty of boat fights in here about who we're going to buy a boat or not, the empty nesters, because that seems to be a common family concern. And so it's just fun stuff like that. It's so it's living your best life that you can with the resources that you have and not coming in to midlife and post midlife feel like I'm way behind or I've made all these mistakes and let's just take a look at where you're at today and get to work.

There's no looking back.

Billy:  What almost feels like the midlife crisis is then shortly followed by the empty nester crisis. But you're crushing it. Do you ever find that you run into parents who have an unhealthy enmeshment with their children and how do you have that conversation? Because I don't imagine it would go over well for you to say, I think you need to do some therapy so you can get through this loss of your child because you're clearly enmeshed with this relationship.

So how do you help them with that or is that not your cup of tea? Is that not that's your profession?

Matt:  It's not. And I think a lot of people they'll recognize that on their own, that there's those kind of things going on. We always offer to help wherever we can and then make sure to be careful to say we're not experts like in the state of Iowa. If you have a401k plan and you don't want your wife to be the beneficiary or your husband to be the beneficiary, they have to agree.

So I always follow that up with and we don't do marriage counseling. So, yeah, we're here as a resource, but we're also have a huge network of professional relationships that we can refer people out to for for things that they may need. In addition.

Billy:  Well, it sounds like you're living your best life here and you made a big purchase here as well. You got yourself a golf cart.

Matt:  So the funny story Billy, we bought this house we hadn't closed. So before we actually moved in, I had the golf cart delivered. I had to keep it in the shed because we got it two days before we actually owned the house. So my wife always jokes that he bought the golf cart before we even bought a sofa for the place. So, yeah.

Billy:  Listen, you can't be a golf buddy if you don't have your own golf cart, right? I mean, that's just going to draw friends to you immediately, right?

Matt: Well, they always have somebody to ride with. Yeah. So it's it does make it easier. And we live right on there. So it's easy to traverse and get out for just a few holes here and there. And again, our whole social crew is out there, so we spend a lot of time with our friends and family out there.

And not everybody in the family likes to golf, but I force them all to try it anyway.

Billy:  Well, Matt, it's really been a pleasure talking to you here today. If you are interested in getting that book, we're going to link it in the show notes. Matt's going to give it away for free. Look at that. He's already offering you some help. I can't recommend the book enough. It really is a funny anecdotal book with a lot of practical tips.

There are charts in it for people like me who like stuff like that. If you want to get in contact with Matt, go to Send him a message through there. Matt thank you so much for sharing that financial advice with us.

Matt:  Well I thank you so much for having me. I've enjoyed learning about your project here and all the things that you've got going on and where I can't wish you the best for your adventure to Korea and all the things that are going on in your life. It's really exciting and brave.

Billy:  I appreciate that. Thank you very much. Hey, if you enjoyed this week's episode, be sure to look in the show notes for all of Matt's contact information. Don't forget to subscribe to the show wherever you get your podcasts. If you're an Apple listener, you can do that by clicking the plus sign in the upper right hand corner. Also, please do me a favor and leave a five-star review with a few kind words.

Or if you're a Spotify listener, click those five stars under the show Heart after you click the follow button. If you'd like to share your thoughts on this week's episode, you can find all of my contact information in the show notes as well. Feel free to email me your takeaways from this conversation at

You can also follow me and DM me on Instagram. @mindful_midlife_crisis. You can find me on LinkedIn at Billy Lahr, that's L-A-H-R or you can send me a message through the contact page at While you're there, feel free to sign up for the newsletter so you can get access to the free meditations I send out every Sunday.

Finally, I know Matt and I would greatly appreciate it if you would share this episode with the people in your life who may benefit from Matt's expertise and life experiences. Remember, the purpose of this show is to help you navigate the complexities and possibilities of life's second half. And I hope this conversation provides some insight that will help you reflect, learn and grow so you can live a more purpose-filled life.

So for Matt, this is Billy. Thank you for listening to The Mindful Midlife Crisis. May you feel happy, healthy, and loved. 

Take care. Friends.