Achieving a Positive Net Worth in 2 Years with 6 Figures of Debt: Yonas’s Story

We’ve written extensively about how travel therapy, among other strategic financial choices, has helped put us in an amazing financial position. But we’re not the only therapists who have taken advantage of this career path to achieve financial freedom! Today we’re bringing you a financial success story from a fellow traveling therapist who was able to achieve a positive net worth (assets minus debts) in only 2 years after graduating with his Doctor of Physical Therapy degree! We hope Yonas’s story will further inspire you about the possibilities in your career path as a traveling therapist! Check out his story to learn more:


Achieving a Positive Net Worth in Two Years with Six Figures of Debt: Yonas’s Story

Background

I am a 28-year-old Doctor of Physical Therapy, and I graduated in May of 2018 with six figures of debt. I recently achieved a positive net worth after strategically making simple moves within two years.

I still have student loan debt but have chosen to not rush to pay this debt off, while instead focusing on investing for my future. The amount of assets/money I have is now more than my debts, which equals a positive net worth. I would have never thought I would be this excited to be above water, but here we are today!

How Did I Get Here?

Below I’ll discuss the simple moves I completed to achieve a positive net worth in just two years out of school. These may or may not be easy depending on your goals and situation. Everyone comes from a different starting point, and each person has different goals, life situations, and opportunities.

Personally, I am a first-generation Eritrean. I do not come from a family of wealth. As the son of immigrants, I was instilled with the values of working hard and saving. I never thought about debt or finances until recently. I became interested in how to manage my debt, so I started listening to audiobooks and podcasts on my commutes to work, which is where I learned about most of the tools to help set me up for financial success.

With a bit of research, hustle, and determination, anyone can improve their financial situation.

Here are the 5 steps I used to reach a positive net worth:

  1. Live below your means
  2. Increase income
  3. Automate
  4. Be consistent
  5. Surround yourself with like-minded people

Let’s dive into each one of these steps to see how you can utilize these strategies too.

Live Below Your Means

Spend lavishly on things you love and save immensely on things you do not care about” — quote by author Ramit Sethi, from I Will Teach You To Be Rich

I am pretty low maintenance and do not value many expensive, material things. I do value experiences. I save a good chunk of my paycheck and splurge occasionally on experiences.

For example, during a recent weekend, I went to Yosemite National Park and rented out a cabin with friends. I am living my best life and saving money as well.

I also give credit to my Instant Pot. I am able to cook nearly anything in it. It is great because I can make affordable meals, it makes large portions, and it saves time. As a solo travel therapist, I have lived in places that do not have stovetops or full kitchens, often allowing me to save money on housing costs. Even with these accommodations, I have not had a problem eating well with the Instant Pot. A big “money saver” food is rice as a side. I have eaten over a hundred pounds of rice over the years. My staple dinner is cooked chicken, vegetables, and rice. Yummy for a good price.

This may sound extreme to some, but I am happy with how I am living my life. These are just a couple examples of how I am able to live frugally and put aside a lot in savings. You need to figure out what is your savings comfort level, and make moves accordingly.

Increase Income

Unfortunately, the job market for physical therapists doesn’t always allow for the highest paychecks depending on your setting and location. However, thus far in my career, I have focused on only taking higher-paying jobs in order to improve my financial situation.

I am flexible on setting, location, and am open to moving anywhere in the country. My first job was a permanent job in a large teaching hospital. It was a great learning experience for my first job, but I could not stay there if I wanted to reach my financial goals. I put in my one-month notice and applied for higher-paying travel PT jobs. I have also worked higher paying Per Diem jobs.

In my short two years as a PT so far, I have worked in the ICU, CCU, SNF, ALF, LTC, home health, outpatient, and acute care settings. I have been exposed to many settings from the many travel contracts and PRN jobs I have taken. There is always something new to learn, and if you’re strategic in choosing your positions, you can find high paying jobs while experiencing a variety of settings and learning new skills.

Automate Your Decisions

In order to stay on track financially, I automate my savings, my payments on expenses, and my investments. I automate everything to where I do not have to think about it, thus making it easier to reach my financial goals, be sure not to miss any payments, and having money automatically directed towards savings. This strategy psychologically trains me to not even expect the extra money from my paycheck that is automatically allocated to my bills and my savings accounts.

I am currently saving about 60-70 percent of my paycheck. As part of my savings, I maximize my Roth IRA retirement account. I invest in the same fund every month and plan to do so for as long as I can. This money will benefit me in retirement, and some of it can hopefully be passed down to my future kids or beneficiaries one day. Outside of my retirement contributions, I currently do not invest in any additional brokerage accounts, as I want to hold money to invest in real estate for now. This is a personal decision to diversify my savings.

Remain Consistent

It is important to have an end goal and motivation to stay consistent. What’s the point of making money if you do not have any intrinsic motivation?

I hope to one day be financially free, allowing me the freedom to work because I want to, not because I have to. I also love volunteering and would love to have more free time for this.

Surround Yourself with Like-Minded People

It’s important to hang out with finance rock stars or like-minded people. You are the average of the 5 people you hang out with most (~Jim Rohn). Since the pandemic currently makes it tough to hang out with anyone in person, I try to listen to people who not only talk the talk, but also walk the walk in the finance world. I do so via audiobooks or podcasts, so I can internalize their mindset on money which helps me in my own life. Everyone has an opinion, and it is best to listen to people who have a track record of success. Growing up, I was the kid who never read a book unless if it was for school; however, I am currently on track to read/listen to at least 24 books this year because of the valuable content I have gained.

During the first few months of my first PT job, I had the mindset to pay off my loans ASAP and put the majority of my paycheck toward loans for peace of mind. There is nothing wrong with this, and it’s a great strategy for many people. However, after listening to many podcasts and books, I have changed my mindset and prefer to use the money toward investments and not rush to pay off my loans. I would rather pay myself first and set myself up for a positive financial future, than rush to pay back my student loans at this time.

Future Goals

I am unsure of what the future holds for me. I am currently saving a chunk of my paycheck in a high yield savings account and maximizing my Roth IRA retirement account. I know that in the future I do plan to invest in real estate. I would like to live in a unit, and rent out the others. Hopefully, I can buy property at least once a year and see where the investment goes from there.

Recommended Resources

Below are a couple of life-changing books that changed my mindset on finances. I would recommend checking these out if you’re looking to get into a better financial situation!

  • Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki
  • I Will Teach You to be Rich by Ramit Sethi

A resource I wish would’ve been available to me as a beginning travel therapist is “Rate My Therapy Company” Facebook group. I created this community to fill a need of therapists not knowing what kinds of companies they would be signing contracts with. This group allows therapists to rate companies and provide valuable information on factors like pay, setting type, and company culture.

I love talking about my story, so if you have further questions about it, you can email me or send me a Facebook message—I am an open book.

Best of luck to you as you pursue your own path to financial freedom!


Yonas Tekeste is a travel physical therapist originally from Chicago, Illinois. He graduated with his DPT degree in May of 2018. He is currently taking a month-long break from travel contracts to spend more time with family in Illinois. He enjoys listening to podcasts, playing sports, hiking, and attending social events in his free time. The best way to contact Yonas is through Facebook or email at Yonastekeste@gmail.com


We would like to thank Yonas for sharing his story with us! Please feel free to contact Yonas to learn more about his financial strategies. You can also contact us if you have more questions about starting a career in travel therapy to help set yourself up for a better financial future, as we and many other traveling therapists have done!

Finding Short Term Housing vs. Living in an RV as a Traveling Healthcare Provider

*This is a Guest Post that Whitney wrote for Furnished Finder where she discusses the differences in housing options for travel therapists, including some of the pros and cons of each! This post should be helpful to those of you trying to decide what’s the best housing choice for you as a travel healthcare provider!


Finding Short Term Housing vs. Living in an RV as a Traveling Healthcare Provider

One of the major concerns for many healthcare providers looking to pursue travel careers is how they will set up housing. There are many housing options out there for those of us who travel for work, from using sites like Furnished Finder to secure short-term furnished housing, to having the travel agency set you up at an extended stay hotel, to choosing some form of tiny living on wheels like an RV!

During my 5 years as a traveling physical therapist, I have utilized a few of these housing options and have had the opportunity to weigh the pros and cons of each. (And let me tell you, any option is going to have pros and cons!)

So let’s dive in to some of those pros and cons to considering these different options for housing, and maybe some of my insight will help you along your own travel healthcare journey!

Logistics and Considerations

When you’re considering what option to choose for housing, you will first need to take into account your own personal situation. Are you traveling solo, with a significant other, with children, or with a pet? Do you feel comfortable sharing accommodations or would you rather have your own place? If you’re thinking about tiny living/RVing, do you feel comfortable with the maintenance and upkeep involved with owning a home on wheels, plus towing it around the country?

In addition, you need to consider the location of your potential travel contract(s). Are you interested in traveling to big cities or more rural places? Some quick internet searches can reveal a lot for you as to how easy or difficult it’s going to be to secure short term housing on your own vs. having the travel company assist you with the process. It will also give you an idea of whether finding campgrounds/RV parks in the vicinity of where you might travel will be feasible.

For me, I am a traveling physical therapist and travel with my significant other who is also a traveling physical therapist, so after weighing lots of options, we decided to buy a camper and lived in it for about 3 years! This worked well for us overall as a pair, rather than finding short term housing for the both of us; however, we did end up renting a short term furnished place on a couple of assignments. More on our journey below and how we chose between short term housing and the RV life!

Company Provided Housing

This is actually the only housing option I have not utilized. Generally speaking, it seems that most travel healthcare providers choose to accept the housing stipend from the travel agency and then set up their own housing, rather than letting the company handle housing. There are some travelers who choose to let the company set up housing for them though.

I think generally the best time to let the travel company set up housing for you is if in the area where you’re traveling, you are having a lot of difficulty finding housing on your own, or you are short on time to be able to set this up yourself. Also, some travelers may just find it easier to have this weight lifted off their shoulders and let the company handle it.

The pros of letting the company set up housing for you would be that you have less worry and headache in getting the housing set up. You also probably won’t be on the hook for any rent/lease issues, in case your contract gets cancelled early. However, the cons are that, you may have less control over your accommodations, and you may end up losing money on your weekly pay because they take out a lot for housing instead of giving you the housing stipend!

Finding Short Term Housing On Your Own

I would say this is the option that the majority of travel healthcare providers choose! In your pay package, you will have the company allocate part of your pay as a housing stipend (hopefully tax free if you qualify by maintaining your tax home– hooray!). Then you will utilize different websites, like Furnished Finder; ask around in online forums and groups; call realtors and apartment complexes; and so forth until you can identify some good short term housing options!

The pros here are that you can usually find housing that’s cheaper than what the travel therapy company would take out of your paycheck, so after you pay your rent, you should come out ahead by keeping the extra money! (Who doesn’t like extra money?!) You also have more control over choosing your accommodations, such as proximity to work/attractions, as well as how many bedrooms/bathrooms, and other amenities at the accommodation!

Cons are that it is sometimes difficult to find places that offer short term rentals near where you’re going to be working. I’ve definitely run into this in the times that I had to search for short term housing. A lot of apartment complexes and personal ads for housing do not allow any shorter than 12 month leases. Also, lots of the places you find won’t be furnished or have utilities included, which leaves you with another problem to solve.

I will say that Furnished Finder has solved a lot of these problems for us. They only list places that offer short term leases (or even better, month to month!) for us as healthcare travelers. And all of their listings are already furnished. I can’t stress how much hassle this removes in terms of setting up leases, getting stuck in leases if your contract is cancelled, setting up utilities, and furnishing a place for only a couple months!

But, unfortunately there is never a guarantee that a property on Furnished Finder will be available for the location and dates that you need, so alas we must sometimes use the other options like Craigslist, Airbnb, VRBO, apartment complexes, extended stay motels, realtors, etc!

In my experience, I’ve rented two different places I found off Craigslist for two different assignments. Both were semi-private, meaning that they were part of someone’s home, but we had our own “suite” if you will. One was an over-the-garage studio apartment, but we had to share the kitchen and laundry in the main house. The other was a fully furnished basement with our own kitchen, but we had to enter through the main door and share the laundry upstairs. Overall these were good experiences, and we were very lucky to find furnished, short term rentals, with utilities included in the price, on Craigslist! Because Craigslist can definitely be hit or miss, and sometimes sketchy!

But unfortunately during our searches, we did find that there were extremely limited options for short term housing in the areas that we needed, with the criteria we wanted in an accommodation. When searching for short term housing as a traveler, you are definitely at the mercy of what’s available. So sometimes you’re either going to have to skimp on your ideal setup, or raise your budget, or possibly both.

Another consideration when choosing to set up short term housing as a traveler (whether on your own or with the company’s help), versus choosing an RV, is packing and moving often. This was a big thing we were trying to avoid by buying an RV. In an RV, you always have all your stuff with you, so you don’t have to constantly pack and move in and out of places. But, those travelers who do choose short term housing (again- the majority of travelers) do end up becoming pretty good at packing their cars and being minimalistic! And although it can be a headache sometimes, it’s just part of the traveler lifestyle and you get used to it!

Tiny Living or RV Life

Tiny living, van living, and RVing are definitely becoming more popular options for traveling healthcare providers. There is certainly some appeal to having your own home on wheels with you all the time, and traveling from place to place. To be honest, a lot of RVs now are just like little apartments, and you are by no means “camping outdoors” when living in an RV! However, tiny living is very much a lifestyle choice and not to be pursued by just anyone! It’s difficult to even compare it side by side with the alternative short term housing options, because it’s so different! I recommend not looking at this like option number 3, but like taking a left turn and pursuing a completely different path!

We chose to buy a camper pretty early in our travel PT careers, and there were several reasons why we thought this would work out better for us.

  • First, we thought it would make life easier to leave all of our stuff in the camper and just move it from place to place, without having to always pack, move in, and move out of places every 3 months or so!
  • Second, we thought finding campgrounds/RV parks would make the housing location search a lot easier than finding short term housing accommodations.
  • Third, we thought we would save a lot of money by buying the camper, staying cheaply at campgrounds, and then selling the camper when we were done.
  • Fourth, we thought it would be a cool adventure!

All of those were true, to some extent. However I don’t think it was exactly the all-around-perfect life choice that we envisioned when all was said and done.

Not having to pack and move all the time, and having all of our stuff in the camper with us all the time, was for sure a huge perk! We only had to do minimal “packing up” each time to make sure things didn’t fall down inside the camper. We could usually easily load up and move to a new place (if it was within driving distance) on a weekend, then get set up within an hour or so at the new place, and be back to work on Monday if we wanted!

The campground/RV Park finding process was easier than short term housing to an extent. However, it does sometimes limit the locations you can travel to. For example, it’s not as common to see RV Parks that allow long term (month to month) stays near bigger cities. We had pretty good luck finding them in suburban and rural areas, but it did limit us from going some places. The way we maneuvered this was, when presented with a potential contract to apply for, we instantly did a quick Google search to see if there were even any RV parks nearby before we submitted our applications for the job. That part made it a little more feasible. Because as compared with short term housing, you can’t always do a quick search to know whether there are places to rent readily available for the dates you need, before submitting for the job.

Financially, having the camper usually saved us on our monthly rent costs, with most campgrounds we stayed at costing between $300-900 per month. Whereas depending on the area, short term rentals could run you anywhere from $500-2500 per month! But, with an RV, you still have to account for the upfront cost of buying an RV, the costs for maintenance and repairs, and the depreciation on the vehicle if you plan to sell it afterwards. When all was said and done after factoring in these costs once we sold it, we probably about broke even over the course of 3 years. If you planned to keep it for shorter than 3 years, you’d most likely come out behind financially based on our calculations.

As far as adventure goes, it was certainly a fun experience and something we will be able to talk about for the rest of our lives! But it’s not for everyone. The part we didn’t really take into account were the maintenance and repairs. It’s like owning a house, but one that’s on wheels, with little parts that can break, and you can’t always easily find the part to replace or a repair person who knows how to fix it like at a normal house!

All in all, we are glad we chose to do the RV life for 3 years. But it did not come without its hassles and headaches. In the end, we were glad to sell it and not have the responsibility anymore! So this is a huge thing you need to take into consideration for yourself. Are you going to be the type of person who wants to maintain and upkeep your home on wheels? Or would you rather just rent short term housing and not have a place to worry about all the time?

What Type of Housing Is Best for You?

So what’s the best choice for housing as a traveling healthcare provider? I don’t think there’s one answer to this question. You really have to consider what type of person you are, and what you’re comfortable with. As I mentioned, most travelers will choose to go with short term housing and set up their own accommodations. But there’s always the option of letting the company set up housing for you for an assignment and seeing how that goes. Or if you’re feeling really adventurous, or already know you like the camper lifestyle, maybe you decide to jump into RVing/Tiny Living, but just make sure to do your research before making any big purchases!

I hope this information has been helpful to you in terms of deciding what types of housing will be best for you as a traveling healthcare provider! Happy Travels, and enjoy the journey!

 


Written by, Whitney Eakin, PT, DPT, ATC

Whitney has been a traveling physical therapist since 2015 and travels with her significant other and fellow Travel PT, Jared Casazza. Together they have a personal blog titled “Fifth Wheel PT,” which got its name from their 3 years traveling and living full time in a fifth wheel camper! Whitney and Jared have traveled for PT work up and down the east coast, and in their time off between contracts have traveled all over the world! Together with Jared, Whitney also mentors current and future travel therapists at their website TravelTherapyMentor.com. You can follow their travel journey on Instagram or Facebook @TravelTherapyMentor.