Member Spotlight: Joshua Sheats of 'Radical Personal Finance' doesn't follow the 'standard model'

Kathryn Nielson  ·  Jun 27, 2018

Samaritan member Joshua Sheats quit his job as a financial advisor and sold his house to start a podcast in 2014. Radical? Indeed, but that’s what makes Radical Personal Finance different from many of the voices in the financial services world.

He’s different as well in that personal finance didn’t become his default interest after wading the murky waters of debt and/or bankruptcy as is the case for many. Rather, his interest started early. At 15 years old, he was reading books on the subject. On his 18th birthday, he opened his first Roth IRA and started regularly contributing 15 percent of his income to it.

One of the main goals of his show is to help other people also think differently about how to achieve financial freedom.

“Everything we do is according to the standard model, and my hope is to help them get results more quickly,” says Joshua.

In the world of money, the “standard model” is working a job you don’t necessarily love while saving a small percentage over 40 years in the hope of accumulating some elusive figure of money thrown out by a financial advisor.

“The world of mainstream financial services is very good at serving the financial services industry, but it’s not very good at serving the normal person,” Joshua says.

Joshua is convinced there is more than one way to do everything, but nobody ever presented alternatives.

Cases in point:

  • No one told him that he could save money living in a recreational vehicle during college.
  • No one told him that instead of contributing the traditional 15 percent of his income over 40 years to a Roth, he could be financially independent in less than 20 years if he contributed 50 percent.
  • No one told him that Christians should view retirement differently.

“We should start by building a life we don’t want to retire from rather than trying to figure out how to save millions of dollars in the bank,” Joshua says.

Building that life is what his podcast is all about, showing his audience that there are options by thinking differently about where you live, how you live, what you spend, and recognizing that there is more than one way to do all of it. 

“What I think most people want are choices, freedom,” says Joshua. “I try to show how underneath good financial advice there are some very simple principles that are consistent, and they apply across borders, across time, and there are different ways that those are accomplished.”

Everyone makes money mistakes

Despite his interest in the topic, like everyone else he has been vulnerable to mistakes, and he veered off the path a bit in college while pursuing his degree in business marketing. After working his way through his freshman year and paying cash for it, he decided he was working too hard and needed a bit of a break. So he borrowed money for his sophomore and junior years, including the expenses needed to study abroad in Central America.

He came back from that trip and realized he had lost clarity on why he wanted to study business to begin with and took a semester off with no direction. Then he read Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover. His initial impression was that Ramsey didn’t know what he was talking about.

He read the book three times before connecting with Dave’s question: “If you had no payments, how much money would you have?”

That was the turning point.

He went back to school, at Palm Beach Atlantic University in Florida, to get his bachelor’s degree in business marketing, taking a full load of senior business classes, and started working 40 hours a week as a graphics assistant. Oh, and he paid off his school loan two weeks before graduation.

“That was the year that I learned more than ever, got better grades than ever before,” Joshua says. “It taught me the power of focus.”

From there he worked as an entry-level analyst until he lost his job in 2008, a job he’s not sure he would have had the courage to leave given the economic situation resulting from that year’s bank crisis. He spent the next six years working in finance for a major company, obtaining various licenses and a master’s degree in financial planning from The American College of Financial Planning in Pennsylvania.

But after six years at that company, he became frustrated with the disconnect between personal and professional finance.

“I felt like somebody should bridge the gap,” says Joshua. “Somebody who knew both should talk about both because there are tremendous opportunities available for individual people—just normal everyday people—to use good competent financial planning knowledge to improve their situation. They really should go hand in hand.”

He was also frustrated with the personal finance podcasts available at the time.

“Many personal finance pundits were well-intended but technically incompetent, didn’t know what they didn’t know,” Joshua says. “Or the content was too technical and wouldn’t appeal to the lay person.”

So he quit his job and sold his house to start Radical Personal Finance in July 2014.

“This is going to be a powerful medium for the future, and I had a hunch that I could build a business,” he says.

Joshua’s hunch paid off. Today his show boasts well over 500 episodes with 20,000 people listening each day. His topics run the gamut from traditional money saving tips to more think-outside-the-box suggestions: Want to save money fast? Drive a truck and live in it. Want to pay off your mortgage fast? Rent out your backyard as a lot for a tiny home. Want to create a life you love? Learn how to jump out of the rat race.

Helping people understand personal finance

The road has been challenging but rewarding.

“I feel like I have made progress in the goal that I had, which was to bridge the gap and to really help people to understand personal finance and technical financial planning in a way that brings them together so they’re not at odds with one another,” he says.

While based on Christian principles, both Christians and non-Christians listen in. In fact, Joshua has found that many of his conversations about the show are with his atheist friends.

“It’s not Christian Personal Finance,” he says. “It’s Radical Personal Finance. So the commitment that I personally have to the integration of Christianity in the marketplace is this: That anywhere there is no need to discuss Christianity, I don’t intentionally discuss Christianity, and anywhere that you can’t have concepts without Christianity, I never run from a hard conversation.”

The youngest of seven children, Joshua grew up in a Christian home, but it wasn’t until his time in Central America during college that he realized that he hadn’t made his faith his own. Professors teaching from a heavily liberal worldview overwhelmed his own views. He got to work on that, and by age 20 he had made his faith his own. From that has flowed everything he has done so far, including a podcast with his dad called Encouraging Christian Fathers.

In addition to podcasting, Joshua offers one-on-one financial consulting as well as a course on career and income planning on his website. 

For the near future, Joshua, his wife, and their three children will be living in an RV, traveling across the country, running the podcast, and meeting his listeners.

Radical? Yes. But that’s Joshua.

More about Joshua Sheats:

Why SMI? Joshua Sheats wanted to put his money where his his priorities were

7 stages of financial independence