Mistakes, Money Talk, & My Check to the IRS

Jan 1, 2018

I recently wrote this email to my list and I decided it needed to also be on the blog.

It’s New Year’s Eve and I’m awake at 4am.

This pretty much guarantees I will NOT make it to the ball dropping at midnight.

Thing is, I couldn’t sleep.

I’ve been tossing and turning for the last hour…overwhelmed.

There are SO MANY decisions I have to make on a daily basis that I did not anticipate when I started on this journey of commandeering my own financial destiny.

For those of you who are new to my list (or signed up for the upcoming new webinar this week), I’m Julie. I went from solopreneur to millionaire in about two years and it’s been a wild and stressful ride. I also write REALLLY long emails, so…yeah. Sorry…not sorry.

I asked you all on Facebook yesterday if you’d rather me write a New Year’s Eve email on money revelations or my biggest mistakes, and most of you answered both. So there you go. I suppose they do go hand in hand. I’ll try to write both and hopefully you’ll feel inspired by the end!


Let me start by saying that 2017 taught me this weird paradoxical truth:

You must spend money to make it, and you also must take profits first.

These two rules seem obnoxiously in conflict with one another, even though they are both true. 2017 was a ping pong match between both of these in my head, and I still can’t tell which one I should follow at any given time. It’s truly madness making.

The profit first model is something I read about after I’d already implemented it. You see, I couldn’t NOT take profits first because my business WAS the thing my family depended on. So in early 2017, my biggest goal was BUY A HOUSE. And so every extra penny of profit was going into my nest egg for a new home. I accomplished this in May 2017, and it was definitely the highlight of the year. I saved $91,000 and I used $80,000 of it for a down payment, and $11k of it for furniture and moving expenses.

All that said, I realized there was a direct correlation between re-investment and business growth. For example, FB ad spend equaled more revenue. Every time I sunk money in ads and programs and software and training, the numbers on my profit + loss went up, up, up. So I’d sit and stare at my numbers and try to figure out how to spend more and still take profits.

Each month, if there was too much profit (more than 35%) I’d wonder what I could have done more to really invest back in to reap larger returns. If there was too little, I’d panic that I was too “spendy”.

At the Christmas dinner table, I was talking with my brother (who works at Google) and we were having fun talking about the big five companies that rule the western world – Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and Apple. And how funny it is that Amazon has NEVER taken a profit. And this is on purpose?!

Guys…I had to send $240,000 of my hard earned cash to the IRS yesterday. It made me SICK to my stomach. I couldn’t even do it so I made Emily do it. Even though I know I’ve done what I can do reduce taxes, there’s definitely a niggling thought in my head that I could have re-invested more into my business throughout the year to create more growth and momentum, and had a Profit + Loss that didn’t look so lopsided.

Here’s the advice I have:

Pay yourself a good salary. Yes, put yourself on payroll. Become an LLC that files as an S-Corp and use Gusto to give yourself a regular paycheck. I paid myself too little this year in an attempt to reduce the amount of money I was getting taxed on as an employer/employee. I paid myself $100,000, which turned out to be $6,000 a month net. It wasn’t enough for our family of six (health insurance and the mortgage is $4k a month right out the door) so we used the extra distributions to cover the difference. If I were to do it again, I think I might pay myself more. I would also re-invest more heavily into the business (something I started to do more in quarter four of 2017). I enrolled in Russell’s Inner Circle Mastermind (best idea ever), I traveled to a bunch of places/conferences, and I spent $30,000 on a new video show that is launching 2018.

Don’t keep your business account too fluffy

Something funny happens to your brain when your business bank account starts to inflate.

You get lazy.

At one point in my business, I had nearly $550,000 in liquid cash in one checking account.

Dumbest move ever.

You spend differently when there’s a ridiculous cushion, vs. when there isn’t. I’ve been SO AFRAID to touch money because I didn’t want to spend tax money or draw down an account and then not have funds to pay my team, so I did the opposite. I let the account grow and grow. In an attempt to be more conservative and safe, you actually see money leak more. Not to mention the fact that it’s not actually WORKING for you when you do that.

The first half of 2017 I took two distributions and I also had to pay out a partner who left, so I kept the account lean and mean, which kept me more careful.

Then I didn’t take one for Q3 and the business account started to grow. And I noticed that all the poor money decisions I made happened at the same time the account got fatter.

When my Facebook Ad account got shut down, I redirected a bunch of my ad spend into other endeavors, but I wasn’t ready to really support them. So all that happened was I spent a ton of money that didn’t really add any revenue to my bottom line.

Both distributions I took were actively being used, whereas the “cushion” wasn’t.

I already talked about how I used one distribution for the house, and a second one was dispersed in lots of areas and there’s still a bunch left we’re going to use for investments.

  • Cryptocurrency – We’re invested in Bitcoin, Litecoin, Ether, and Ripple
  • Retirement fund – We put in a big chunk and saw a 20% return this year
  • College fund – Not a huge return yet, but it’s tax-sheltered money
  • New car down payment – We put down $15k on a new Honda Odyssey
  • Paid off our 2nd car – $6k loan on our Mazda
  • Stocks – We’re using Betterment right now
  • New air conditioner – This was a fun $5k purchase *insert sarcasm*
  • Alex built a new patio out back
  • Monthly expenses – Since $6k isn’t enough to live on, we drew down on it each month, and also hired our first nanny to help with life and used money for this
  • Travel – Alex went to Romania and we brought his parents back and forth a few times
  • Christmas – I went all Santa Claus on everyone this year and bought gifts I normally wouldn’t

Anyway, I feel like the takeaway here is this:

Get a business tax savings account so you can safely save for taxes and then draw down your account and ALLOCATE the money. ALL of it. That’s something I didn’t do well, even with my second distribution. We started off well, but then whenever you let a chunk of money sit somewhere, it NEVER goes well. Never. And it doesn’t have to be half a million dollars. It could be $10k. Or even $1k.

We’ve finally taken a final distribution for this year and we’ve already figured out where every penny is going to go. We are working with Atlas Wealth Solutions and shoving most of it where we can’t reach it easily. We have the house. We have the car. We don’t need ANYTHING except a vacation or two a year, and to save for college. We also need to be far more aggressive with retirement since my work history and contributions are LAME.

The line between nice and weak is REALLY thin

It’s AMAZING how people start to treat you differently when you have success. It’s also amazing how obnoxious it is.

I like to think I’m a nice person. I also like to think I don’t get pushed around easily.

But there have been a few times this year where I feel like my power was stripped. That I was saying yes to things I didn’t want to say yes to, or I gave into people whose sole goal was to be an asshole. And I’m not sure why I did that.

Maybe because the bigger your business gets, the more “territory” there is to protect…I’m not sure. But even my team behind the scenes would sometimes say, “Julie why are you being a pushover about this?” and I honestly still don’t know.

I lost energy to fight some battles because I was too busy to really take the time to solve the issue the way it needed to be solved.

Here’s the takeaway:

There are these things called gatekeepers. They are people that you put in front of yourself, to help shield you from YOURSELF and your inability to say no or stand up for yourself. I wished I’d implemented this gatekeeper idea faster. It hasn’t been until the last month that I’ve really let my team fully take that role. I realized that it isn’t just about having the money to hire, it’s about the reality that a CEO or owner of a company can’t really be in some of those positions because they will always just bend in situations where people are trying to take advantage of you.

I didn’t believe the best about someone for ONE minute, and it’s mistake I’m still embarrassed about…even though it was the catalyst for my whole business life changing

Some of you might have remembered this thing called…The Expert Secrets Affiliate Contest? If you weren’t around here back in April, you won’t know what I’m talking about…but it’s still a good story.

Russell Brunson – aka the King of Internet Marketing – released a book and had an affiliate contest to see who could sell the most books. I entered the contest not realizing it was like the Internet Marketing Hunger Games. There was blood in the water and it was the cause of a LOT of tears.

I landed in the top ten early in the contest and in my excitement, asked Russell for a book interview. All the other top ten people were getting interviews, I should too right? Well, no. I didn’t. Dave (his chief of staff) kept giving me excuses why he was too busy.

I was hurt. I felt like a nobody. I was working my ass off and getting ignored.

So I took to Facebook and wrote a lengthy and searing post about Russell, and to this day – and knowing what I now know about him – I HATE that I did that. He didn’t deserve one minute of it. And the more I get to know him, the more embarrassed I get because it was totally unfair and I was wrong.

The deep down truth of the whole post was simply hurt. I was hurt because I wanted to be acknowledged in the contest and hadn’t gotten the attention I thought I deserved. Which is silly, because no one deserves anything in this life. And I was really a nobody who showed up out of nowhere…and without context about, I now understand why I was hit with the gatekeeper in that crazy month. I would have done the same thing.

This story has a REALLY happy ending though. Because Russell graciously forgave me, did an interview, and then I ended up as the #4 affiliate. Not only that, we became friends. I joined the Inner Circle. Then he hired me. LOL – Now I’m working with him full-time and he only pokes fun at me once in a while about it.

My advice:

This is something I learned from experience and from binge-listening to Russell’s podcast. Always believe the best about people. Yeah, sometimes you’ll be wrong. But most of the time, life will go well with you if you trust that deep down, people are trying to do the right thing. Russell believed the best about me, even when I wasn’t acting my best. He knew I was hurt and not really meaning the things I said, and because he did that, things have changed in an incredible way.

I thought it was just me that things grow in messy and unpredictable ways and so I jumped the gun too fast because I didn’t have mentors slapping me silly

In early 2017, I was running a membership funnel and thought it wasn’t working because out of 100 people who’d signed up for a $97/m program, only 70% of them were continuing after the first month. What in the hell was the matter with me?

I’ll tell you EXACTLY what. I didn’t have a mentor. I wasn’t getting coached by someone or someones who could say, “You’re flippin’ nuts, that’s awesome!”

Every time something messy or unpredictable happened, I thought it was me. Me doing something wrong. Being dumb. Now looking back with the perspective I have now, it was the NOT even close to the truth. I was so hard on myself for changing up programs and prices and names and felt like such a dumbass for absolutely NO REASON AT ALL.

If you are not in some membership or mastermind, seriously – get thy butt to one. I have two. Create Your Laptop Life or Digital Insiders. One is affordable. One is not.

I have a HUGE regret that I didn’t join Russell’s Inner Circle earlier (I applied at the end of 2016 and bailed because I was scared I wouldn’t have enough money for a down payment) and that was another ridiculously untrue lie that held me back.


Seriously, the only thing that near guarantees business suicide….is if you try to do it alone. Your perspective will be so outta whack if you sit inside your own head. I know people think I just say that so I can sell my group programs, but I’m telling you the God’s honest 1000000% truth.

I’ve made a lot of other mistakes. Small ones. Insignificant ones.

Ones that at the time felt big but really weren’t.

Things like holding on to old ideas and methods because of fear of the unknown.

In fact, I think if I round up most of my mistakes, they all fit under that ONE problem. For me and my personality, this is the where my achilles heel is. I hold on too long to something, or fear letting go, or struggle to jump into the unknown. Why? Because I’m not a daredevil.

Not even a little.

I’m an entrepreneur who hates rollercoaster rides and abhors risk and I guess the only saving attribute here is that you can be sure if I tell you to do something…I’ve fully vetted it (and probably waited too long to figure it out for myself).

My advice:

I think it’s good to know your achilles heel. It really is, even if you don’t like it about yourself. Are you impulsive? Do you spend too much? Are you too cautious? Too suspicious? What is your go-to default? It’s not so you can feel shame. It’s just so you can exercise the underused muscles and push yourself out of your comfort zone.

What does it actually mean when you become a millionaire?

I think this is just one of the trendy phrases from society that we all think about differently, and no one really knows what it means.

  • Does it mean you have a million in cash?
  • Does it mean you made a million dollars?
  • Does it mean you have a million in assets?

Or…is it some symbolic representation of financial freedom and independence?

Since January 2016, I’ve grossed $1.6 million dollars. Of that money, around $800k of it is profit (combining salary and distributions). If I add up my assets (business and personal), I definitely think I’ve reached the “technical” definition.

But here’s where the nirvana-like state becomes a true mirage.

  • I own a $350,000 2500 sq ft. home, which is PLENTY. It’s also a home I feel like I can afford. Much bigger than that and I would be overwhelmed. I’m not living in a mansion.
  • I own two cars – a Honda Odyssey and a Mazda 6. Both cars are amazing, but I’m not driving anything exotic.
  • The amount of money I need to be able to fund my retirement fund (to play catch up from 10 years as a stay at home mom), put four kids through college, and pay for two weddings..is OBSCENE.
  • The amount of money it takes to run a business when you’re taxed between 41-50% is OBSCENE.

The things you think happen when you become a millionaire, don’t actually. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t AMAZING benefits. There are. Here are some:

  • Buying your 6-year old niece an American Girl doll for Christmas…just because you want to
  • Flying in-laws back and forth from Romania and covering all their expenses…because family is important
  • Going out to dinner once or twice a week and not spending an ounce of guilt worrying if you can afford it
  • Hiring a nanny to help cook dinner and clean so when you stop working, you can focus on your kids instead of a million household chores
  • The luxury of doing something like investing in Cryptocurrency because you’re not “betting” the farm and can afford to part with some of your money
  • Not stressing out when a child wants horseback riding lessons or needs $100 for a field trip
  • Going to Disney World!

Here’s the HUGE takeaway here:

It’s the small things that make us feel wealthy. And I think there’s a way to make money and really enjoy what it does for you, without feeling like you have to “look” or attain some status. If you find you’re starting to make money, but still have comparisonitis….just STOP. Look for the small ways in which to celebrate your wins.

There’s often a less expensive way to get the same joy or feeling you’re truly looking for. Talking with my friend Brie the other day, she said she feels rich when she has a big bowl of fresh fruit on her kitchen counter.

What makes you feel rich?

What’s Your One Thing?

I’m going to go to jail for emails that go on too long, so even though I want to keep writing, I’ll spare your inbox. But I do want to part with this:

What’s your one thing for 2018?

I’m thinking about the upcoming year and trying to figure out – what is my ONE thing? I had two really big goals for 2017 that kept me moving forward…to buy a home and to make a million dollars in one fiscal year, and now that I’ve met them…I need a new ONE thing. A new big goal.

I think the tangible nature of these goals made them more tangible and reachable, so I want goals like this again.

I don’t have it crystallized in my head yet. I’ll let you know when I do.

But in the meantime, head on over to my Facebook group and put down your ONE big goal…writing it out publicly makes it real! https://www.facebook.com/groups/LivingTheLaptopLif…

I hope you enjoy your New Year’s holiday. I will most likely be sound asleep by the time the ball drops!

xx Julie

P.S. Don’t forget – my FIRST live webinar of 2018 is on January 4th at 8pm EST. Don’t miss it!

Julie Chenell initials

Get in touch! I teach strategic business growth tacticss for everyday people.


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