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!

How to Avoid Booking Fees for Short Term Housing as a Travel Therapist

The Logistics of Finding Short Term Housing as a Traveler

When you begin to look into becoming a traveling therapist, it can be a little tricky to figure out how to find quality short term housing and still be able to pocket some of your left over housing stipend. While travel therapy pays better than a lot of permanent jobs, keeping a good portion of the tax free income is what makes it more lucrative. 

When searching for housing, not only do you want to find housing that’s affordable, but you also have to find housing that has a shorter lease term than most rentals, and most travelers prefer to find something fully furnished because most of us don’t have the ability to bring larger belongings on the road. If you travel in a small car, it can even be challenging to bring basic items like towels or bedding along with all of your other basics, much less worry about furniture and bigger items.

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Using Vacation Rental Sites for Short Term Housing

Because of the need for travel therapy housing to be essentially ready to live in when you walk in the door, the original gold standard was for travelers to reach out to landlords of vacation rentals and explain their situation to see if these landlords would be interested in negotiating a “mid length” rental term. Most of the time, vacation rental owners are open to this idea, because it gives them the security of knowing that their space will be filled and bringing in income, without having to worry about people coming and going often or dealing with cleaning the unit between vacationers. 

However, vacation rental platforms are not designed for short term leases. They are designed to bring in revenue based on the number of bookings, and are priced to include cleaning fees, pet fees (sometimes daily depending on the space) and a vendor fee paid to the platform. Because they depend on these vendor fees, vacation rental sites absolutely need their travelers to book directly with them.

As a result, it can be hard to bypass the set fees, which can limit how much of a “deal” the landlord can truly give you as a traveling healthcare provider. Some of the fees the platform imposes cannot be adjusted. In addition, because these websites are designed to make money off of each booking, they don’t want you to easily bypass their system. 

So of course, travel therapists figured out how to work the system.

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Trying to Work the System to Your Advantage

Let’s be honest. The concept of a travel therapist living in a vacation rental for several months is mutually beneficial for the landlord and the traveler. The landlord receives guaranteed income, and the traveler feels safe knowing they are renting a property that has been visited by other travelers and has visible reviews online. 

The [likely] obvious solution to this problem of booking fees is to arrange a way to pay the landlord directly without having to pay the platform. This would be super easy if travel therapists lived near where they were planning to move for work. You could arrange a meetup in a public place, see the property in person, the landlord could feel secure knowing you were a real person as well, and then you would negotiate.

But, because we have to arrange our housing from a distance for travel assignments, this simply isn’t an option for most travel therapists. Most of the time we want to feel secure that our housing is arranged far in advance, especially if we are going somewhere where housing is hard to find and/or is pricey. The last thing you want to happen is get somewhere and have no place to live and end up dropping a ton of money on a hotel or other accommodation for your whole assignment.

Some traveling therapists will book these vacation rentals for a week or two at the beginning of an assignment to sort of “try before you buy.” This allows them to check the place out, meet the landlord, and perhaps negotiate a short term lease from there. The only problem with this tactic is, the more time you wait to finalize a spot, the more time other people have to book the property. Occasionally vacation landlords will be willing to cancel these bookings to accommodate a longer stay, but many will not and you will end up back at the beginning of your housing search.

To try to get around this, many travel therapists will message owners directly and explain their situation. They send a chat within the booking platform explaining what they are going to be in town for and essentially ask for a monthly versus nightly rate. If the landlord is willing to accommodate they can send a “special offer” through the platform.

There are two problems with this. First, you (the traveler) are still slapped with the booking fees. And secondly, you are at the mercy of the platform design for how you pay your rent. Rather than a monthly rate, many booking platforms will collect a lump sum. And while you definitely should have a decent amount in savings if you work as a travel therapist, most people cannot afford to pay for three months of a short term rental up front. Plus, if you have a contract cancellation, you are once again at the mercy of the rental platform, and a lot of the time you will get little to no refund for the amount you paid up front.

The absolutely icing on the cake of this whole scenario is, even if you and the landlord are willing to connect off platform and make a long distance arrangement, you will have a heck of a time trying to do so. The chat platforms on these websites are designed to detect and block any personal information being exchanged such as email addresses and phone numbers. Like I said before, they rely on you using their platform to host the whole transaction to make money on your booking. 

Luckily, there is a way to dodge the booking fees without sending encrypted messages via vacation rental websites.

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A Better Way to Book Short Term Housing

Furnished Finder and Travel Nurse Housing were designed to actually connect landlords and traveling healthcare providers directly without any weird hoops to jump through. Because these sites were created specifically for travel nurses and therapists, you don’t have to figure out how to work around limits set for other types of short term rentals. 

The main way these websites are different is they list the property contact directly on the listing. You are able to actually call or email the person listing the property and have a real conversation. Or, if you feel more comfortable, you can start by chatting on the Furnished Finder app.

These websites operate more as an advertising platform rather than a booking website. Meaning, they charge a fee to the landlord once per year to list, and they have no stakes in what you pay or how you arrange your lease with your landlord. This also means that you can discuss with your landlord directly any concerns such as potential cancellations, extensions, or even details like their pet policy. 

The other good part of this is that you can search for the property with filters that actually make sense for short term travelers. While most travelers don’t necessarily care if their rental comes with shampoo and conditioner, they definitely want to know proximity to local hospitals and if they have a washer and dryer available in the unit.

Furnished Finder also has similar safety features to those you would see on vacation rental websites. Guests can leave ratings and reviews, and there are different levels property owners can go through to reassure renters that they are legitimate. Every landlord is also screened by a staff member prior to listing, and property details are checked via public record to make sure they match up with what the listing says. Plus, if a property owner really wants to bump up their credibility, they are able to undergo a more thorough vetting process to alert travelers that they are verified, which includes adding a logo next to the title of their listing.

Another perk of using a website designed specifically for travel healthcare workers is that the landlords understand our profession and what our typical contracts look like. The landlords who choose to use websites like Furnished Finder and Travel Nurse Housing do so because they know what great tenants travel healthcare providers make, and they want to rent their property to more of those types of people. As a result, their homes are usually set up, stocked, and priced appropriately based on what they know is desirable for people in our field. 

And as one more added bonus, Furnished Finder provides several other tools that just make your life as a healthcare traveler easier. If you are short on time and don’t want to sift through properties, they actually have a Housing Request Tool that allows landlords to approach you. There is also a Free Owner Verification Report that can be used for any property, even if you don’t book on the Furnished Finder platform. And of course, there is a blog dedicated to all things related to travel healthcare housing, so you can empower and educate yourself on the housing process from top to bottom.

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The Bottom Line for Improving Your Travel Housing Search

While the vacation rental style of housing is exactly what a travel therapist is looking for in short term housing, the rental model is not. It is possible to make these types of websites work for our needs, but it can also be very time consuming to do so. By connecting directly with landlords via a site designed specifically for traveling healthcare professionals, travelers are able to save money, time, and frustration by skipping over booking fees and landlords who might not truly understand the needs of a traveling healthcare professional. 

Any savvy healthcare traveler will tell you that being in control of your situation is the best way to make and save the most money, and housing is no different. You do not need to rely on a third party platform to manage your rental agreement (and often that will just cost you more time as well as money). Find the right landlords who value working professionals, utilize tools that are actually beneficial to travelers, and avoid crazy markups on websites that are designed to make the most money out of their guests’ pockets by using sites designed specifically for us as traveling healthcare professionals during your next housing search!


Guest Post written by Alex McCoy, BSN, RN  

Alex is a pediatric travel nurse and the content manager of Furnished Finder After traveling for four years with her husband, a physical therapist, they recently welcomed a daughter, Jade, into their crazy travel family. Read more articles from Alex on Furnished Finder or Travel Nurse Housing, or read about her previous travels at her blog Fit Travel Life. Have an idea you would love to share with fellow travel nurses or landlords, or want to ask Alex a question? Be sure to email her at Alex.McCoy@FurnishedFinder.com.