Today I have this week’s installment of our segment: Interviews with Money Experts. I talk with Marc from Vital Dollar.
Without further ado, here’s the interview.
Could you give a little background about yourself and how you came to start the Vital Dollar?
I’ve been working online since 2007 and full-time since 2008. I live in Pennsylvania with my wife and two kids.
I’ve run several different types of websites over the years, but the majority of my experience is with blogging.
Some of my sites have sold digital products or had membership components, but I almost always use a blog as the way to generate traffic to the site, regardless of how I’ve monetized the sites.
The one exception to that was a business that sold products on Amazon.
I started Vital Dollar in 2018. I’ve wanted to start a personal finance blog for several years, but I just never had the time to do it with other projects always taking priority.
In 2017 my wife and I sold our business that we had started in 2015 selling private label products on Amazon, so I had some time available and decided to finally make it happen.
There were a few reasons that I wanted to start Vital Dollar.
First of all, I like having blogs and websites on topics that I want to learn more about, because it makes work a lot more enjoyable. Second, I wanted to share my own approach to money.
I’ve always had the opinion that reaching my financial goals requires me to manage my money wisely and also work to find ways to make more money. Budgeting, saving, and managing my money well is a good start, but it doesn’t get me to where I want to be.
Earlier in my adult life, I was extremely disciplined with my money. But it wasn’t until I started making more money than my financial situation really took a significant turn.
At Vital Dollar, I want to publish articles that will help people to save more of the money that they already have, and help to show realistic ways of making more money.
What tips do you have for someone who would like to start an online business?
This could easily be an article, or a series of articles, in itself, but I’ll try to keep it brief.
First, I would suggest that you have a long-term focus. I know a lot of people who started blogs or online businesses expecting quick results, and that rarely happens, especially if you’re new and starting from scratch.
Have the perspective that you’re going to need to work for several months or more before you really see any results. If you have realistic expectations it’s a lot easier to make it through the challenging early months.
Next, I would suggest starting a business on a topic that you enjoy. I don’t think it’s 100% necessary, but it does make it easier and more fun.
If you have a full-time job and working on your online business in your spare time you’ll probably get burnt out pretty quickly if you don’t really enjoy what you’re doing.
Also, I would say to decide on a type of business or approach that you want to take and stick with it long enough to see it through.
Don’t jump from one thing to the next before you’ve even given the first thing a chance to work.
This is easier said than done with all of the courses and blog posts out there being promoted all the time. But you need to focus on something and stick with it long enough to know if it will really work or not.
What are some lessons you learned growing up that you appreciate now?
All the way through my childhood my parents were missionaries, so money was always tight. There was always enough money for everything we needed, but my parents were very good at managing their money and they made every dollar count.
They taught me to respect money and to take good care of what I have. They also taught me that there’s a lot more to life than money. Both of my parents have doctorate degrees, but they dedicated their lives to things other than careers.
There were times growing up when I wished they made more money, but after I grew up I really appreciated the way I was raised.
Did you ever join your parents on mission trips? What’d you learn there?
When I was about 12 years old I went with my dad to Haiti. It wasn’t really a missions trip, it was more about him just visiting the missionaries and pastors that he worked with down there.
It was an amazing experience that I’ll never forget.
I had seen a lot of photos and videos because he went there a lot, but to see it first hand was totally different.
There were a few things that I took out of it.
First, it struck me how so much of wealth and fortune in life is based strictly on where you’re born and who your parents are.
The people down there worked hard, but they just had such a disadvantage compared to Americans. The average person there has almost no chance.
Second, it helped me to see that we have control over our own outlook on life. I met some incredibly kind people who you would think would have very little to be happy about.
Are there any tips you picked up on how to make your dollar go further?
My parents were big on budgeting and they used the cash envelope system. I guess I didn’t pick up too much from that because I almost never have cash and I use a credit card for everything.
But they taught me to respect money, to be careful how I spend it, to save for the future, and to give to others. I think one of the things I picked up without really realizing it is to have a plan with your money. They executed their plan with envelopes of cash for all the different things in the budget.
If they didn’t have money for something, they didn’t buy it. So I learned to have a plan for my money and not to spend on things I don’t need, even though I go about it in a different way than they did.
How do you manage your money and your financial plan?
My wife and I use a simple spreadsheet for budgeting. I recently started using Personal Capital and so far I really like it, but I haven’t gotten too involved with it yet. It’s great to be able to see all of my accounts in one place and get a quick high-level view.
We use online savings accounts for our emergency fund and for accounts for specific purposes (like medical, vacation, etc.).
We keep more in savings accounts than most people do because being self-employed and a single-income family there is a good bit of unpredictability. And then a lot of our investments are with Vanguard.
I try to max out my 401k every year to reduce taxes and save for retirement.
What are some lessons you hope to pass onto the next generation?
This is a very relevant question for me.
My kids are 5 and 2 years old so I often think about what I want to teach them, and especially with our 5-year-old, we’ve started to teach her about money. I want to teach them to appreciate what they have and to manage money and possessions wisely.
One of the challenges I’ve already had is that I want to be able to provide well for my kids and give them a good life, but I don’t want them to have a sense of entitlement.
I also want to teach my kids that there are a lot of different ways to make money and earn a living. When I was a kid I was always told (not just by my parents, but also by teachers) that you need to go to school, work hard, and get a good job.
When I got out of college things weren’t quite the way I expected them to be. I found a lot of the advice I got was bad, or that it was at least outdated.
I don’t plan to force my kids in the direction of going to college. I want them to have skills that will help them to be able to make money, but that could be any number of different things.
My wife and I already try to talk to our kids about giving back and helping people that aren’t as fortunate, and we’ve already seen our daughter respond to that.
She gets money for different things and a lot of times she wants to give her money to someone else instead of buying something for herself.
What are some ways you are teaching your daughter about money?
The biggest thing is to give her some money of her own. When she helps out with things around the house I give her some money for it.
That gives us the chance to talk about saving for something that she wants, the impact of making quick decisions to spend on something in the moment, and just the basics of managing money.
She’s already saved up for things that she wanted to buy.
Another thing that my wife and I are working on is showing our kids how privileged we are, and that not everyone has the same kind of life that we have.
We sponsor a boy in South Africa through World Vision and a girl in Guatemala through Compassion International, so we like to read their letters to our kids and talk about why they need a little extra help.
Those organizations have gift catalogs that include all kinds of different things you can give towards, like buying chickens for a family in Africa, or buying formula for under-nourished babies.
Every now and then we’ll go through the catalog and let our kids pick out something that they want to give towards as a family.
My daughter definitely has really enjoyed being able to help other people, so I think that’s been a good experience.
Any advice you could share with parents just starting this new journey of parenthood?
My biggest piece of parenting advice is simply to be involved and spend time with your kids.
That’s one of the things I love about working from home. I get to have lunch with my kids and see them a little throughout the day (sometimes that’s more of a distraction than a blessing).
Most people aren’t able to do that, so I try to enjoy it because someday maybe I’ll have to go to a normal job outside the home.
But regardless of your schedule, make it a priority to have time with your kids. Kids are more interested in having time with you than anything else.
What’s a book that you’d recommend to someone that wants to improve their financial situation?
A few years ago I read The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey, and I would recommend that book to anyone who is looking to pay off debt and stay out of debt in the future.
I don’t agree with everything he says in the book (for example, I use credit cards all the time and he is an all cash or debit card guy), but I appreciate his approach to money and the way he presents the information.
His approach is pretty basic, there’s nothing complicated or confusing about it, which makes it really practical.
Where can people go to learn more about you and your work?
My blog is VitalDollar.com.
There are different sections on the site for saving money and making money.
And for those who are interested in building a successful blog, I also have a free 7-day email course called Blogging Fundamentals.
And if anyone wants to get in touch with me the best way is to email firstname.lastname@example.org.
That concludes my interview with Marc. I hope you gained some new insights into how to improve your Financial Health and grow your Wealth.
Come back next week for my interview with DGal and DGuy from Dragons on FIRE.
So readers, what was your favorite point made here? Any questions for Marc?