Interview with Jamie from Mr. Jamie Griffin

Hey everyone!

Today I have this week’s installment of our segment: Interviews with Money Experts. I talk to Jamie from Mr. Jamie Griffin.

Without further ado, here’s the interview.

Could you give a little background about who you are and how you came to start your blog?

I’m a middle school history teacher and have been doing that for the last 6 years.

When I graduated high school, I had about $45,000 of student loan debt and was only making $19,000 a year as a paraprofessional at the current school I work at.

I was overwhelmed and out of panic, extended the loan repayment from 10 to 25 years because I couldn’t afford it.

A few years later, in 2014 when my wife and I got married, she brought in a boatload of student loan debt giving us a combined total of $90,000.

We made a plan to aggressively pay off our loans in five years by learning how to budget, stop going out to eat, tithing, and living below our means. I decided to start blogging to share our story of debt repayment and budgeting.

I wanted to share what we were doing and how big of an impact it had our lives.

I didn’t have big blogging dreams back then, but now that I’m a year and a half in, I love it and am excited to keep helping people get out of debt.

What kind of progress have you made on your debt? How did you stay motivated?

When we got married, we had $90,000 of student loans, and as of May 2017, we’ve paid it all off (minus $17,500 which qualifies for loan forgiveness in January 2019).

We made small goals along the way to help us stay motivated and used Dave Ramsey’s Debt Snowball method to pay them off faster.

Also, we knew we couldn’t afford student loans and daycare costs, so we knew we had to pay them off before we could start a family. That was crazy motivating for us.

There were a lot of times it really sucked working extra jobs and saying no to traveling, eating out, and spending more freely.

But it’s so worth it to be debt free and have a beautiful baby daughter. 🙂

What have you learned so far about being a parent? How have you personally developed since becoming a parent?

In the few short months of being a parent, I’ve learned how important it is to have a routine. Our daughter functions so much better on a routine, which allows us to function much better.

When she sleeps, everyone’s happier 🙂

I’ve also learned that it’s important to take care of myself. I function much better with good self-care, and that has a positive effect on my family, friends, and blog.

Any lessons you’ve learned from teaching over these past 6 years?

It’s important to always keep learning. There is so much we don’t know and admitting that you don’t know something is an opportunity to learn and ask questions.

My students ask questions all the time and it’s through these questions and my willingness to answer them that real learning can take place.

I taught a personal finance elective this year and we spend so many days just doing Q&A sessions.

They are genuinely curious and I want to help them build a solid foundation of how money works, our financial institutions, and how to live on a basic budget.

What has history taught you about finances? What do we still have to learn?

Hmm…good question. I’ve learned that finances and economics can explain a lot of our conflict in the world, today and in the past.

When I think about people and countries in history, a big theme is seeking money or resources to gain wealth.

Nobody ever seems content with what they have, but always want more and hats created conflict, war, and strained relations between groups of people.

It makes me wish there were more stories of contentment. There might be, we just don’t hear about them as much.

Do you think it’s as easy as practicing gratitude and being thankful for what you have? Or do you think there’s a more systemic issue at hand?

Practicing gratitude can be really challenging when most of American society is tellings us we need more stuff to be happy.

It creates a cycle of consumerism and keeping up with the Jones’s that makes it tough to feel content and have gratitude for the amazing things we already have in our lives.

Even if you’re not where you want to be, everyone can find something in their life to be thankful for, even if it’s a simple fact they woke up breathing and healthy.

Bobby Hoyt of Millennial Money Man says it a lot, that every day you wake up is another day in the bonus round of life, and I like that philosophy.

Gratitude and contentment are skills we need to learn so practicing them in small ways will build until you actually feel content and happy with what you do have instead of focusing on what you don’t.

What are some lessons you learned growing up that you appreciate now?

Growing up I didn’t learn a lot about money. In fact, my parents rarely talked about money in front of us kids. I really wish they had, though. I could’ve learned a lot.

However, I did learn that it’s important to work hard and do the right thing. My parents both still work incredibly hard and they instilled that work ethic in me.

What are some things you hope to pass onto the next generation?

I hope to pass on the importance of learning personal finance and to start at an early age.

Also, learning about personal finance is a family value that can be taught to kids at a young age so they can develop healthy money habits as they grow into adulthood.

Money doesn’t need to be a taboo topic. We can all learn from each other and grow.

How do you recommend parents teach their children about money?

Start with basics and talk to them about money. You could even talk with them while you’re out shopping, explaining how much money you have to spend and what you need to buy with it.

It’s a good way for them to start understanding that things cost money and money isn’t endless. One idea I really like is giving an allowance, even when your kids are really little.

My sister and another friend do this. When they give their kids an allowance, they split it up into three jars. One is for saving, one is for spending, and the other is for giving.

When the spending jar runs out, they have to wait to get more money. The biggest thing I’ve learned though is kids want to know about money, they just need someone to help them understand it.

If it’s not parents, they’re going to learn about money from someone else, and it might not be a good source. When they ask about money, be real and honest with them.

What’s an app, a book, blog or podcast you’d recommend to someone that wants to improve their finances?

I started budgeting using Mint, which was a great starting point for me to understand budgeting and track my expenses easily from my phone.

Mint also has a great website that lets you track your bank accounts, investments, debt, bills, your mortgage, and help you calculate your net worth.

I wasn’t aware of all those features back when I used it, but I definitely got a lot of value out of just the app.

A few years ago I read Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki, and it really got my head turning about money. I took notes like crazy while I read and after I finished the book, I moved onto reading personal finance blogs.

The blog that I kept going back to is Millennial Money Man by Bobby Hoyt. I still get new blog posts sent to my email and soak in as much as I can.

He was also a former teacher turned blogger, which really inspires me to grow and improve my own blog. He has a straightforward style that I like and resonates well with me.

He also hustles like crazy to help people turn their finances around and is very active in communicating with his audience.

What are some lessons you picked up from Rich Dad, Poor Dad?

The biggest lesson I learned is that there are other options for making money besides the 9-5 workday.

It’s important to spend time and effort creating alternate income streams to supplement your income. It flipped a switch in my brain to find a way to start investing, save for retirement, and find ways to make passive income.

If I can create passive income, I have more options in terms of where I work, how much I work, and to invest more money into my family’s future.

Do you have plans for creating a passive income stream?

I have hypothetical plans for creating passive income but no concrete plan set in place.

I would like aspects of my blog to become a passive income source but I have a long way to go.

I would also like to figure out dividend investing too.

With regard to dividend investing, would you use a retirement or non-retirement account? Why?

I honestly have no clue how I would start dividend investing. I don’t know enough about it to make an informed choice. Right now most of our investments are in retirement accounts so maybe I’d stick to that?

I will definitely sit down with our financial adviser before making any real decisions on that front.

Is there anything you’d like to add that would benefit the reader?

No matter what your finances look like right now, it’s within your power and ability to make them better.

If things suck right now, it’s only temporary.

Keep learning and growing from people who know more than you do and can guide you. It takes hard work and discipline, and changes certainly don’t happen overnight.

But if you make a good plan, stick with it even when it’s hard, your future will be much better because of your hard work today.

Where can people go to find out more about you and your work?

You can find me at http://mrjamiegriffin.com. If you want to hear more of our story and tips for saving money, getting out of debt, and growing your family’s finances that’s the place to be.

I’m also active on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook. You can follow me there and join the 2,992 other families who follow me and subscribe to get my most recent updates and financial tips in their email.

Follow this link and get a FREE Budget Spreadsheet to get your family finances on track.

Wrap-up

That concludes my interview with Jamie. 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 PIG from Passive Income Guy.

So readers, what was your favorite point made here? Any questions for Jamie?

Interview with EJ from Dads, Dollars, Debts

Hey everyone!

Today I have this week’s installment of our segment: Interviews with Money Experts. I talk to EJ from Dads, Dollars, Debts.

Without further ado, here’s the interview.

Could you give a little background about who you are and how you came to start your blog?

I always knew I wanted to be a doctor. I knew that by becoming a doctor I would make a high salary. I assumed that this would equate to financial success. High salary = set for life.

That is not how it works. I started my actual job at the ripe age of 32. I quickly realized that maybe I will not want to do this for 30+ years. Maybe having options when I hit 50 or 60 years old would make more sense.

This was while I was already weighed down with over $300K in debt through various mistakes I had made. I was working and making very little progress despite the high salary. I realized something had to change. I started reading and making plans.

By 35 I had a positive net worth and now by 37 am debt free with personal assets over $1 million. A lot of this gain was due to an insurance payout after my home burned down, but I was already on the right road before the fire.

As for why I started a blog? I have been reading personal finance blogs for over 5 years now. It started with the White Coat Investor and from there I made it to Mr. Money Mustache’s site. As time went on I read more sites and felt like sharing my own thoughts on personal finance. So I started Dad’s Dollars Debts.

The site is less than 2 years old but is doing okay. Through it I discuss my thoughts on personal finance, being a physician and father, and moderatism in life.

How’s life as a dad? Any key lessons you’ve learned along the way?

Life as a dad is simultaneously exhilarating and exhausting. Nothing will take as much energy (emotion, physical, and financial) as raising a little one. I suspect that is why people will say their passion projects or business are their babies.

Oh man, lot’s of lessons.

The most important is probably to be present. Try and disconnect from your phone. Come home from work at a reasonable hour. When your kid is talking to you pay attention and just absorb it. Then respond in an intelligent, engaging way. Let them know you heard them.

Also, don’t forget to plan financially for your family. If you have a spouse who is working, that is one thing. I think you should still have disability and life insurance.

If you have a kid, that is an entirely next level game. You must have life insurance and disability. That kid is depending on you for 18 to 25 years.

So please, please, please get your financial ducks in a row.

Do you have any advice on applying for life and disability insurance?

Get them young. The younger the better. Only go for term life insurance as whole life insurance is rarely necessary and is more of an investment strategy than protecting yourself from catastrophic events.

As for disability insurance, again the younger you get it the better. I would recommend getting a personal policy outside from your employer as it is portable with you if you ever change jobs.

Also make sure you get an own occupation policy as you want to be sure you are insured for your job, and not just the ability to do any job.

What type of doctor are you? What are some lessons you’ve learned in your career?

I am a cardiologist. I spend most of my days seeing patients in the clinic and reading various studies like echocardiograms and nuclear stress test.

The biggest lessons I have learned is that we can live happy, active lives well into our 80s and even 90s if we take care of ourselves.

So plan accordingly when it comes to retirement and healthy living. Don’t abuse your body too much in your youth.

Beyond that, patience is important in all aspects of life. Just remember that when flustered. There are always worse things that can happen and hard times will always pass in time.

When/how did you figure out you wanted to be a doctor?

I have known I wanted to be a doctor from a young age. My dad, great-grandfather, and numerous cousins are doctors.

I suspect if your dad is a fireman, you will become a fireman. That’s what it was like for me. He always loved his job and told me how great a career it was.

It is not surprising that I became a doctor.

Any tips for someone currently in med school/interning?

Watch what you spend. Do not max out your loans just to have a good time. Be smart about money because once you are out, that debt becomes real and will weigh you down.

As for interns, figure out how you can contribute to your 401k (if there is a match) and/or a Roth IRA. This is a great time to start putting money away for retirement.

You may think you can do this job for 35 + years, but believe me when I say burn out is real.

Any advice for someone staring at six figures of student loan debt?

First, I am sorry society requires so much debt to then contribute back to society.

Second, start thinking about how you can pay it off once you get your first attending job. Ideally, you will live frugally and pay it off in 5 years. If that seems too crazy, then aim for 10 years.

Do not let it linger around for 30 years. It is not a good idea and is not fun. You make enough to where you can pay it off.

What are some lessons you were taught growing up that you appreciate now?

My mom was always good at telling me to save. I remember from a young age she would reinforce that thought. I, unfortunately, was not good at listening to her but finally at 32 got the point.

Now I am an avid saver and my wife and I try to save between 20-50% of our salary annually.

Work hard young. This was my dad’s advice.

He said I should try and do everything I want and can at a younger age. Specifically, he was talking about education and testing. He recommended getting through degrees as quickly as possible and then taking the certificate or board exams right away.

By not delaying you make more progress. Additionally, over time testing and certifications tend to get harder. Thus finishing it now may prevent more work in 1 or 2 years.

Those to pieces of advice stay with me. Save money now and work hard now….it will make everything easier down the road.

What are some lessons you hope to pass onto the next generation?

The main lesson would be to work hard young. When you are young and unbridled by a spouse, career, or child; that is the time to shoot for the stars. I am not saying it is impossible to do later in life, it is just more complicated.

So get out there, work hard in your chosen field, put in the hours, and succeed. Then as you get older and life gets more complicated, you can slow down or at least not put in the hours you had to in your 20s to get to where you are now.

Also, save…save…save. Skip buying rounds for all of your friends. It is expensive and unnecessary. Limit the amounts of drinks you have out.

One or 2 beers may be affordable. Five or 6, not so much. Plus it is not good for your health. So cut it out.

Start saving a small amount of money now, put it in an investable account (whether it is a 401k or IRA which I recommend really depends on your situation), and don’t touch it. Consider that money gone until the future.

Quit trying to impress everyone else. Buying stuff to impress people is not cool.

Buying stuff to boost your confidence is okay, but you would be better off working out, reading, or learning a skill to build your self-confidence. It may be more expensive than a new purse, but the benefits will last forever.

What situation would warrant a 401k? How about an IRA?

If your company has a match, you should invest in your 401k at least up to where you get the match. Free money. Plus if it is placed in a traditional 401K, you get to write off that portion of income from your taxes.

If there is no match, then you can invest in either the 401k or IRA. Just make sure to invest.

As for IRA, I think everyone should have one. Whether it is on top of your 401k depends on your income and saving ability.

Ideally, you will max out your 401k at $18,500 and max out a traditional, Roth, or backdoor Roth IRA  up to $5,500 based on your income bracket.

I have a few posts on both these topics I am happy to share.

How does one avoid lifestyle creep or keeping up with the Joneses?

By realizing what’s important in life. If the new car and bigger house will give you true happiness then go for it. For most of us though, the happiness is fleeting.

There for a few days, months, if lucky years but then no longer present. Saving and being sound financially is a lifelong happiness. Decreasing that money stressor in life is invaluable.

What’s an app, book, and blog/podcast you’d recommend to someone that wants to improve their financial situation?

Here is a list of blogs as that is my main medium.

As far as books, “The Bogleheads Guide to Investing” is a classic as is “The Millionaire Next Door.” Start with those and hit me up again when you are ready for more advanced lessons.

What are some important takeaways from those two books?

From the Bogleheads Guide, it is keeping investing simple. Passive index funds seem to work pretty well for people. Figuring out your risk tolerance and allocating your assets appropriately. If that is too complicated, then at minimum just start saving and investing. That is step 1.

From the Millionaire Next Door, it is that displaying wealth does not make you wealthy. Most millionaires are driving modest cars and living in modest homes. It allows them to save a larger portion of their modest income.

Where can people go to learn more about you and your work?

They can go to DadsDollarsDebts.com if interested in the blog and my writing.

Wrap-up

That concludes my interview with EJ. 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 Josh from Damn Millennial.

So readers, what was your favorite point made here? Any questions for him?

Interview with Karsten from Boost Your Finances

Hey everyone!

Today I have this week’s installment of our segment: Interviews with Money Experts. I talk with Karsten from Boost Your Finances.

Without further ado, here’s the interview.

Could you give a little background about who you are and how you came to start your blog?

Marianne and I have been together for more than 35 years. Our daughter lives at home while studying and taking care of her two jobs.

We live by the coast in a small harbor north of Copenhagen.

Some time ago I decided to quit work and write a book about personal finance.

Personal finance has to an extent been my life. I’ve created IT systems for banking, trading, investing, finance and life insurance for most of my career.

My basis for this work has been 3 degrees from Copenhagen Business School and expertise and education from more than 35 years IT development mostly in Scandinavia’s largest bank.

I have found no books that cover all aspects of personal finance. For that reason, my ambition has been to write a complete guide, which covers all areas, and has something to offer anyone. This has required extensive research and quite some work.

Blogging is creating awareness of the ideas covered in my new book.

What are some key lessons you’ve learned through your 35-year career?

You should manage Risk on both your assets as well as your liabilities.

Seek knowledge in everything you do: Imagine how fantastic it is that you by a small investment in time can tap into centuries of knowledge.

Don’t waste your time on things someone else can do better e.g. the amateur investor loses to the professional.

Know how to make a decent bargain.

I could go on for hours, but that would be a book spoiler.

Any details you could give of the book?

Boost Your Finances is no happy go lucky fast lane to wealth book, nor does it preach wealth in a wheelchair and it doesn’t preach baby steps.

It is nothing like the standard personal finance bestsellers, but it will probably be the most complete personal finance book you will ever find.

It involves mindful planning to help you reach your goals, whether it is maximizing your retirement investments, building wealth like crazy, or reaching your dreams.

All major financial decisions in life are covered from choosing the smartest study, nesting, marrying, maintaining financial autonomy, raising economically responsible children, to planning and choosing the smartest pension options.

In addition, it identifies how to surf the waves of the economy when making life-changing decisions or investments.

Assets and liabilities are used as an offset for discussing investments and risks. In addition, budgeting act as an offset for improving income and “Don’t work harder – spend your money smarter” ideas that might reduce your expenses by 30% or more.

I’m very excited to read your book, do you have a release date yet?

The eBook is released on Amazon.

A paper edition awaits some rearranging improving the start of the book.

I’ve heard writing a book is more a labor of love than anything. Is this true?

Definitely, and it has to be. You will most surely not get your times worth unless you make a bestseller.

My reason for writing “Boost Your Finances” was that I felt that a complete guide didn’t exist and needed to be made. We find it natural to give our children or anyone who needs inspiration in a kitchen a cookbook in present.

The intention was to create a personal finance “cookbook” fulfilling a similar need.

Fortunately one of my friend’s father, a university professor, author of several finance books decided that he would help me.

What are some lessons you were taught growing up that you appreciate now?

I wasn’t taught that much except by example. One important lesson being that when your income is unstable as is the case with farming investing for borrowed money is a no go.

However, raised under poor conditions on a farm in rural Denmark, I learned how to live on limited means. The lesson learned from my childhood was that there are numerous ways to adapt, save money, and survive anyway.

In addition, and more important, I learned that happiness has nothing to do with money or earthly possessions. It is a state of mind.

What are some ways your family learned to make their dollar go farther?

In my childhood we as a family took care of everything; grew everything, tailored clothes, learned how important it was to take care of your things i.e. if something broke or needed fixing you would probably have to fix it yourselves.

As a consequence I can do, build or fix most everything – not because I can, but because I will check out any possibility for fixing whatever needs fixing; dishwasher, mobile, new bathroom, new flooring, change doors, windows etc.

Sometimes I decide to let an expert take care of it, but then I will be well prepared and I will know exactly if an offer is worth accepting.

We practice financial autonomy. That has made an immense difference for the family’s financial situation and it has eliminated financial quarrels.

Otherwise, almost all preached in my book is practiced in our everyday life.

Could you elaborate on happiness is a state of mind?

In my childhood, it may have been a consequence of not being wealthy on worldly thing: It kind of forces you to focusing on the things that truly make you happy.

Maybe it is a consequence of not tasting the sweet taste of having something that no one else had.

But somewhere down the road we should all consider what truly makes us happy, is it possessions or is it something completely different; parental love, finding your path in life, friendship, sharing, experiencing flow in what you do or work with (what the Buddhist call nirvana) or something different.

For me, these speculations led to the realization that happiness is actually a state of mind, a state you might be capable of recalling and feeling whenever you need it.

A state that gives you strength to do whatever you need to do no matter which back up there might be.

What are some lessons you hope to pass onto the next generation?

You should focus on happiness, on your dreams. See money as means not an end and don’t fall for the temptation to spend your money on unnecessary status symbols. Don’t work harder, spend your money smarter.

How do you do that?

  • Know how to identify the best career options and what that means for your lifetime income.
  • Budget and keep track of your net value with a focus on your main priorities: what you fail to follow up on will be out of your control!
  • It is the nature of the wise to resist temptations, but the foolish to be a slave to them. Be aware of your spending and make sure you always go for the smartest options.
  • Manage your financial risk. Watch over your hard earned money. Know how to make solid and sound investments and know the pitfalls. Remember: if an investment seems to be too good to be true, it generally is.
  • Be aware of the general financial conditions and exploit the waves in the economy.

All these aspects and much more are covered in my book.

What general financial conditions or waves should people be aware of?

The economy moves in waves. It makes an immense difference if you invest at bottoms and sell at tops. If you master this discipline anyone can make killer investments.

Most people will probably think stocks, but it will apply to any kind of investment; housing, new job, starting a new business, a summer cottage, antiques, the vintage car etc.

Any tips on picking a trusted advisor?

Do like you always should do, whenever you buy any form of service.

Seek references, ask around, but do your own research too.

Be sure to ask for proper documentation of their performance and compare alternatives.

Get a precise and complete overview of cost for their services and make sure they offer all their services on competitive terms.

And when you have found the best alternative, try to get an even better deal.

What’s an app, book, and blog/podcast you’d recommend to someone that wants to improve their financial situation?

Of course, I would recommend anyone to read my book, in fact, consider reading enough books and blogs on personal finance and money for you to feel confident, that you actually get the most out of your money.

It will hardly cost you anything except time and it will save you a tremendous amount of time and money in the end – and if you work hard, it will most certainly guarantee that you end up financially independent.

If you are uncertain about any financial decision seek advice and always seek advice from more than one source! Be grateful for any advice others give you with the best intentions, but stay careful, critical, and do your own research.

The more you know, the better decisions you will make.

How do you manage your financial life? (budgeting, saving, investing, etc.)

I feel I’ve learned a lot while doing my research so my answer must be: I manage my financial life pretty much as described in my book.

Is there anything else you would like to add that would benefit the reader?

Most of all; Read, seek inspiration, tap into centuries of financial knowledge, and build wealth. It will pay off: luck is when preparation meets opportunity.

Where can people go to learn more about you and your work?

The best starting point is buying my book at Amazon.

Otherwise, I’m active on Twitter and anyone can reach me. I might start blogging on Twitter at a later point.

Wrap-up

That concludes my interview with Karsten. 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 Eiman from Dads, Dollars, Debts.

So readers, what was your favorite point made here? Any questions for him?

 

Interview with Mr. Heartland from Heartland on FIRE

Hey everyone!

Today I have this week’s installment of our segment: Interviews with Money Experts. I talk to Mr. Heartland from Heartland on FIRE.

Without further ado, here’s the interview.

Could you give a little background about who you are and how you came to start your blog?

My wife and I are a couple in our 30s raising two kids in the St. Louis area. I am a Geotechnical Engineer (think soils and foundations) and she is an IT analyst.

We were frustrated that, despite having two solid careers, we weren’t accruing any savings and it seemed like we would be paying off auto and student loans forever.

We resolved to eliminate the loans as fast as possible utilizing concepts from Dave Ramsey’s “Total Money Makeover.”

Once that debt destruction was in progress, we could see the light at the end of the tunnel (paid off loans) and were wondering “where to go from here?”

Enter the Financial Independence/Retire Early (FIRE) movement. We stumbled into the FIRE movement after reading Robert Kiyosaki’s “Rich Dad Poor Dad” and “The Millionaire Next Door.”

This opened our eyes to the fact that financial independence was not just a pipe dream, but that it was possible and within our control.

As a result, in 2017, we paid down over $56,000 in debt and are now debt free (excluding mortgages on our house and a rental home). This year we are working on diverting the money we spent on paying off debt to investing.

The idea of starting a blog came out wanting to share just how far we came, both financially and mentally, as well as to provide accountability to keep us focused on our goal of achieving financial independence.  

How were you able to pay down so much debt? What’d you cut out of your budget?

Probably the key factor is that we bought less house than we could afford when we moved a few years ago. Granted, we live in a nice house in a great neighborhood, but from a financing perspective, we could have purchased a much more expensive house.

Additionally, our new home is located close to where we work, which reduced fuel and other commuting costs.  

We determined that we were eating our savings, by going out to eat all too often. We realized this was primarily due to failing to plan meals in advance.

We had a habit of shopping at higher priced grocery stores and now we primarily shop at Aldi, Walmart and Sam’s Club. We also ditched conventional cable and now use streaming services with a digital antenna.

For the most part, though, we didn’t cut out things so much as we found less expensive ways to do what we’ve always done. Such as shop at lower cost grocery stores.

The one crazier cost savings measure was I decided to cut my own hair.

I’m assuming paying the debt got easier later because of the progress you witnessed, but how do you stay motivated in the early stages?

Before we started paying off the debt we were interested in acquiring a rental property, so we had been saving up for the opportunity.

When we decided to go hard after the debt we diverted that money from a possible rental to paying down debt. So we had some initial success there.

Outside of that, one of the benefits of the “Debt Snowball” approach is that you can reach some milestones relatively quickly by paying off loans with small balances first.

I strongly believe in setting smaller milestones along the way to the big goal so that you can taste success along the way.

Any interest in adding more to your rental portfolio?

We have a love/hate relationship with our current rental.  I absolutely love getting a check in the mail each month and the concept of generating “relatively passive” income from real estate is very intriguing.

However, we experience a lot of stress over how the tenants treat the home and our former neighbors. Additionally, there is quite a bit of work when during tenant turnovers.  

So, I am not sure if additional rental properties are in the cards.  But real estate will likely play a role in our future savings plans, perhaps in the form of flipping.

I am a hardcore DIYer and the appeal of harnessing that drive and turning it into profit may be too hard to ignore.

In your experience, what home renovations give you the most ROI?

If you are selling your home, then I agree with the general consensus that kitchens and bathrooms give you the most bang for the buck from a financial perspective.

If you are not selling and are simply looking for the best ROI in terms of comfort I would say replacing your shower head! It’s inexpensive, easy to install, and you can enjoy the fruits of your labor every day!

Another, high ROI renovation item is updating weather stripping in your doors and windows. Department of Energy studies claims you can save as much as 20% on your utility bills by replacing worn weather stripping.

For around $100 you can update most of the exterior doors in most houses. With a 20% energy savings, this project can pay itself off in less than a year… and you can reap the benefits for years to come.

What are some lessons you were taught growing up that you appreciate now?

Of the many great lessons I picked up from my parents, two stand out as they pertain to our quest for financial independence.

They taught me the value of investing. They did this by opening an investment account for me when I was born and showing me the growth over time. They taught me the power of taking action.

My Dad was often a coach on my athletic teams and he would always say “Keep Hustling! If you are going to make a mistake, it’s best to do it at full speed!”.

Of course, the deeper meaning didn’t hit me until much later on, but I’ve seen time after time, the value of consistent effort and taking action.

Specifically, I’ve seen that even in failing to achieve my original goal, the effort and learning as part of the pursuit of that goal have opened up other opportunities.

What are your best tips for someone staring at a pile of debt with the goal of paying it off?

Start with smaller goals. For instance, if you have debt from credit cards, student loans, etc., start by focusing on paying down just one of them. Perhaps the one with the smallest balance or the highest interest rate.

If you don’t have excess cash to pay down debt you could instead focus on reducing your spending first in one category… say going out to eat. You can get new quotes on your insurance to see if you can save on premiums. Find something within your control… anything… and get started.

As you free up cash make sure to immediately put it to use according your plan. Resist the urge to spend it on items contrary to your financial goals.

What are some lessons you hope to pass onto the next generation?

Don’t give up hope! It’s amazing how quickly you can turn your financial situation around with simple (not necessarily easy), consistent effort. Take time to think about what really makes you happy.

Then start making changes to focus your time, money and effort on those things and cut out the distractions. Action is powerful. Whatever your goal is, start pursuing it now. Think about what can you do today that will get you closer to your goals.

What are some family friendly, low budget activities/events you do for fun?

St. Louis has one of the best zoos in the country and it happens to be free!

We also have plenty of good parks and playgrounds nearby. I particularly enjoy long bike rides and we have a great trail system very close to our house. I enjoy cooking and love making my own pizza.

We try to make an activity out of it by letting the kiddos make their own pizza. In general, we try to get out kids outside to play in the yard or go for walks, but we also have special “movie nights” at the house where we pop popcorn and build “tent fortresses” to watch the movie from.

When the weather is nice we have BBQs and rotate hosting between our friends’ houses. I also love homebrewing beer, which CAN be low budget… though I often get a bit carried away.

What’s an app, a book, and a blog you’d recommend to someone that wants to improve their financial situation?

App: I love Personal Capital for tracking our net worth.  One of the best features is the ability to see exactly how much you are paying in investment fees.

Book: I would recommend different books based on where are you financially as follows:

Just starting out: Dave Ramsey’s “Total Money Makeover” and Thomas Stanley’s “The Millionaire Next Door” – These books show you that financial independence is possible.

Once most of your debt is gone: JL Collins “The Simple Path to Wealth” and John Bogle’s “The Little Book of Common Sense Investing” – These books simply investing and present great arguments in favor for index investing.

Blogs:  There are a number of good ones…Financial Health and Wealth, of course!  I also really enjoy reading Mr. Money Mustache, 1500 Days, and Jlcollinsnh.

Any other lessons you picked up from those three books?

From Total Money Makeover, we picked up on his “Debt Snowball” approach.  Which is paying off smaller loan debt balances then adding the former payment to the next larger loan and so on.

The Millionaire Next Door really cemented the benefits of a frugal lifestyle and dispelled my earlier notions of who millionaires really are.  What I previously perceived as “the rich” were all too often folks that “looked rich” but were not.

Key takeaways from the Simple Path to Wealth and The Little Book of Common Sense Investing include an understanding of the historical behavior of the stock market, the low odds of beating the market by picking stocks, and the real impact of investing fees.

Is there anything else you can provide that would benefit the reader?

I think it’s critically important to appreciate the power of compounding. Either compounding interest and fees or compounding investment returns.

When you are making decisions to purchase an item or considering an investment, I believe you should consider the future value of your choice 5, 10, 20 years or more down the road.

$1,000 today with 7% interest is nearly $2,000 in 10 years. The fact that your money can make money on its own is powerful. You can lose that extra money or reap it.

Where can people go to find out more about you and your work?

They can check our blog at heartlandonfire.com or follow us on Twitter – @HeartlandOnFIRE.

Wrap-up

That concludes my interview with Mr. Heartland. 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 Karsten from Boost Your Finances.

So readers, what was your favorite point made here? Any questions for him?

Interview with DGuy and DGal from Dragons on FIRE

Hey everyone!

Today I have this week’s installment of our segment: Interviews with Money Experts. I talk to DGuy and DGal from Dragons on FIRE.

Without further ado, here’s the interview.

Would you mind giving a little background about yourselves and how you came to start your blog?

DGal: I quit full-time teaching the summer of 2017 and have zero regrets! In my retirement, I’ve been focusing on biking, meditating, reading, traveling, volunteering, and writing.

Initially, I saw our blog as a creative outlet for me. I’ve always believed in the power of story and its ability to heal. But as I blogged, I’ve also come to realize the writing process helped me deal with DGuy getting cancer and the struggles of caregiving.

Even though we had a great support system, I still felt so lonely after DGuy’s diagnosis because I hated being a caregiver and experienced so many intense emotions

I want to be completely honest in our blog about the challenges we’ve faced with his leukemia, even if it shows an ugly side of me. I hope our story might help others feel less lonely and also show there is hope for every cancer survivor and caregiver.

DGuy: I work in finance where I enjoy building models and crunching numbers. I love to travel and follow the airline industry with a passion

Together we have reached FI, but due to my chronic leukemia, I have not yet retired, because I need to have good health insurance.

I learned about the FIRE movement in early 2017 and immediately began binge reading blogs: Mr. Money Mustache, Root of Good, Go Curry Cracker, Millennial Revolution, JL Collins, and Physician on Fire.

What I was really impressed with was the camaraderie that the bloggers and commenters had with each other.

The back and forth interaction and community was appealing to me and made me want to start a blog.

With my chronic leukemia, I knew it would be harder to just quit my job and retire early. I felt that was the one thing lacking from the FIRE community: the perspective of someone dealing with a chronic illness.

So this blog is a chronicle of my leukemia story and the challenges of my pursuit of early retirement.

From the beginning of your careers, how did you get to FI?

We were very fortunate that we didn’t have any student loan debt, thanks to our parents, nor any other debt besides our mortgage (paid off last year) and 0% car loan (will be paid off in June).

We’ve always been a dual income couple. For the past ten years, we’ve had a combined income in the low six figures. DGal has been on a teacher salary for most of her career (other times she earned less), and DGuy has always worked corporate jobs.

For almost twenty years, we’ve saved DGal’s salary and lived off of DGuy’s. By living below our means and never really wanting a bunch of stuff, we’ve been able to build a comfortable nest egg for ourselves.

We’ve each only had three employers in 19 years of working. The loyalty to our organizations has paid off with promotions and higher pay—this has also helped our ability to save.

Do you have any tips for someone trying to figure out the right environment, the right culture for long-term employment with one or two organization?

I consider myself lucky because I have been at my last two jobs for over 8 years each. I tried to be patient and give myself a chance to learn the organization and get comfortable with the people and environment.

I always believe that the grass is a different shade of green, meaning that it might not be better to leave and find a new job.

Additionally, both organizations were growing. This meant that I got to come in and build new excel models from scratch, and design processes from start to finish. I wasn’t stuck in an organization that had been around forever and was set in their ways.

I essentially became the resident expert in how a process or set of models worked. This made me feel valued and made me want to stay with my employer.

Are there any lessons you’ve learned from your travels?

DGal: I fall in love each and every time I travel: with the world, a new culture, and my own life.

It’s so amazing to see all the wonderful things this world has to offer—it is truly beautiful to meet new people and have new experiences. On our trip to Peru, I got to see Machu Picchu and marvel at the work of the Incans.

After a good trip, I always come home feeling a sense of appreciation for my own life—that I was given the gift of travel.

DGuy: Live like a local. Visit their markets and parks, and just explore by walking through neighborhoods. Look for activities and events that are unique to the location you are visiting.

Last year in Hong Kong, we went to a badminton tournament. We had never seen badminton live before, but it was a ton of fun chanting and cheering like the locals.

Are there any sort of travel techniques you use to make it easier/more affordable?

For airfare, the more flexibility you have in your schedule, the cheaper the flights you can find.

When DGal was teaching, her schedule was strict in that during the school year we could only do weekend travel from Friday evening to Sunday evening (excluding school holidays). So tickets to visit family were usually $300.

Once she quit, we were able to stretch our weekend trips by adding an extra day or by returning home early Monday morning.

Most of our recent trips to visit family have been $200 or less, resulting in several hundred dollars of annual savings (assuming 3-4 family trips).

Especially in international destinations, taking public transportation in a city can save you a ton of money and you get to experience living like a local.

We also like to walk around just exploring neighborhoods and parks. There is a tendency when traveling to see things that cost money (such as museums), but you can have just as rewarding an experience by simply walking from neighborhood to neighborhood.

Finally, look for a local hotel versus relying on the chain hotels. We went to Chile last summer and instead of paying approximately $250 per night staying at the Sheraton, we paid half the price by staying at a local hotel (which also gave us free breakfast).

I like to use Trip Advisor to find these local places. If I see hundreds of positive reviews, then I feel comfortable booking the place.

Are there any lessons you were taught growing up that you appreciate now?

DGal: I was taught how to be frugal by watching my parents. They came to America with very little money but they worked hard, spent carefully, and invested wisely.

As a result, they were able to retire in their 40s and 50s, pay off their mortgage early, and pay for both my sister’s and my college education.

They were FIRE before the movement even began. My parents showed me it’s important to save and that I could build wealth no matter what my starting point was.

DGuy: My parents never lived above their means. I grew up in a city that had a ton of gated communities, but our house was not in one. My parents could have easily afforded to live in a fancier neighborhood, but they didn’t.

We traveled every summer as a family but it wasn’t extravagant (domestic US).

My parents drove Hondas and Toyotas, not BMWs. Additionally, my parents always paid their bills on time and never got into debt.

Although DGal and I travel a lot, we don’t really spend money on anything else. Just like my parents, we could live in a much more expensive house and drive fancier cars. Living below our means has enabled us to save our money and build up a comfortable nest egg.

What are some lessons you hope to pass onto the next generation?

DGal: Choose happiness. I spent a lot of my life unhappy and dissatisfied. There were thousands of things to be unhappy and stressed about: crazy coworkers, traffic, and pointless staff meetings.

But DGuy being diagnosed with leukemia and my turning 40 were huge wake-up calls for me. I realized I was beginning the last 40-60 years of my life, and ain’t nobody got time for anxiety or depression!

Now, this is easier said than done, and of course, I still have my down moments. But the sad or frustrating parts of my life don’t take center stage like they used to, and I’m learning how to face my life with more happiness and gratitude because it doesn’t matter how much money we have if I’m not happy.

DGuy: The earlier you can start to save, the better off you will be. Try not to buy a lot of stuff. Eat as healthy as you can. Find a passion and devote your free time to it (mine is travel and aviation).

Any tips you could provide regarding health insurance? Any tips you could provide regarding medical bills?

DGuy: Health insurance in the US can be frustrating and confusing. With all the different plan choices, price levels, and fancy words, it can easily overwhelm someone.

If you have insurance, take advantage of the free services such as your annual physical and basic immunizations (like Tetanus shot).

Each year during open enrollment, try to do the math to determine the best plan, based on your projected needs.

If you don’t expect to use the insurance much, a high deductible plan might work best because it will have the lowest monthly premiums.

If possible, try to understand what you have to pay before undergoing a procedure or visiting the doctor. You can call the doctor’s office and they should be able to tell you the charge.

Afterward, it is important to review the explanation of benefit (EOB) that your insurance company sends to you. This document shows the amount you are expected to pay and the amount the insurance paid.

You’ll want to check that the numbers are what you already paid the provider (or what the provider said you would owe).

If you get a bill that you don’t understand, always question the provider and the insurance company to make sure you are being billed correctly.

Unless it is a standard office visit (which is usually a set amount like $25), try not to pay the provider until after they have filed with insurance.

I once had an ultrasound on my leg and the doctor charged me $400, which I paid. When the insurance claim was filed, the insurance company ended up paying the full amount.

It took me over a month to get that $400 back from the doctor, not because they disagreed with the refund, but because that is just how long their refund process took.

Do you use an HSA or FSA? If so, what can you do to use those products to their full potential?

We use an FSA.

Since an FSA is “use it or lose it,” I make sure to slightly under-fund the amount we need for a year.

I would rather use all the funds but not cover all expenses, than cover all expenses but end up with leftover funds in the account.

We also try to time larger, known expenses so that we can ensure we have enough funds in the FSA. We both see the eye doctor every other year, so in those years, we add more to the FSA account.

Currently, I need some extra dental work done. It is not critical to have it done now so I will plan to put additional funds into the FSA in 2019 and have the work done next year.

If you have a qualifying life event happen mid-year, such as the birth of a child, getting married, or changing jobs, you can benefit by making sure you spend all of the money in the account before the change.

In 2017, we put away $600 into our FSA account. When we knew DGal was going to quit her teaching job mid-way through the year, we made sure to spend all the money before she quit.

When she lost her insurance and I put her on my plan (a qualifying life event), I changed the FSA contribution to $0 for the remainder of the year. Because of this, I came out ahead for the year.

We spent $600 of the eligible FSA funds, but only had eight months worth of contributions deducted from my paycheck ($400).

So we ended up getting a benefit of $200. I don’t think many people realize that they can utilize the FSA in this way; I didn’t until someone from HR actually told me to do that!

I would love to use an HSA for the long-term benefits, but I haven’t been able to make the math work for me due to the cost of all my lab work that I need every six months.

Any tips you could provide to someone currently battling an illness and/or someone currently in the role as caregiver?

DGal: For me, what helped the most, in the beginning, was taking it one day at a time, one moment at a time, or one minute at a time, when things got really bad.

The first few years I was in survival mode, and I focused on one task at a time and tried not to worry about anything else until I had to move on to the next task.

Joining a support group helped a lot as well—listening to others talk about their challenges really helped me put my own into perspective; everyone could relate to what I was feeling and I could share the hardest moments without holding anything back.

I hated being a caregiver at the beginning; it’s very hard and it changed my relationship with DGuy.

Seven years later, I’ve made my peace with the role for the most part, though I still struggle occasionally.

What I’ve learned is that it helps to try to live as normal a life as possible and continue to do the things I’ve always enjoyed—don’t let cancer control your life!

DGuy: Learn as much as possible about your illness. A lot of fear, in the beginning, comes from not knowing what to expect.

By doing research on the potential causes of the illness, the treatment options, and the side-effects and expectations of any drugs, you can feel a bit more at ease.

Look for internet message boards where you can share experiences with and ask questions of other people going through the same symptoms and feelings.

What’s a book and blog would recommend to someone that wants to improve their finances?

DGal: The Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder are good books for children (and adults). Laura was a pioneer woman, and I read all her books as a child. What she taught me is I don’t need to have a lot of money to live a full and happy life.

She taught me how to live a frugal life, which has helped me save for my true passion in life: travel.

DGuy: JL Collins blog and more specifically his Stock Series is a great resource to learn about investing and finances.

There are many fascinating FIRE bloggers out there, with different backgrounds and money situations—with children, with debt, fat FIRE, extreme frugal living, nomadic, with all different occupations and income ranges.

No matter what your current money situation is, you can find bloggers that you can relate to, who are sharing their stories online.

Is there anything else you would like to add that would benefit the reader?

Focus on your own journey and try not to compare yourselves to others.

Everyone moves at a different pace and will be at a different point in the process, whether it be pursuing financial independence or managing through a health issue.

Where can people go to learn more about you and your work?

People can find us on our website at thedragonsonfire.com.

We are also on Twitter – @DragonGuyAndGal.

Wrap-up

That concludes my interview with DGuy and DGal. 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 Mr. Heartland on FIRE.

So readers, what was your favorite point made here? Any questions for them?

 

Versatile Blogger Award

Hey everyone!

I’m excited to announce that I’ve been nominated for the Versatile Blogger Award by DGuy and DGal of Dragons on FIRE.

Sound familiar? They were just here! Check out their interview post that goes live tomorrow.

Also, go visit their website and Twitter page!

I’m honored to be nominated for this award and to be apart of such a great group of nominees. Thank you Dragons on FIRE!

What is it?

The Versatile Blogger Award recognizes bloggers for the uniqueness in their writing and the dedication that’s shown in each post.

If you are nominated for the award, you’ve won the award.

Here are the rules

  • Thank the person that nominated you and include a link to their site.
  • Select up to 15 blogs/bloggers that you follow and enjoy reading.
  • Nominate those blogs for the award.
  • And finally, tell the person that nominated you 7 things about yourself.

My list of nominations

Things about me

  • My wife and I have been married for over 2 years, almost 3.
  • We have one human baby and three fur babies. (Our son, one dog, and two cats).
  • We love hiking in our local nature trail.
  • I love golfing. I have been doing it for the majority of my life.
  • I love gaining knowledge and asking questions.
  • I love old cars. Classic cars, muscle cars, trucks, you name it.
  • I’m a BIG Green Bay Packer fan.

Wrap-up

Thanks again to the Dragons on FIRE. Make sure to check out their interview here tomorrow. I’m excited to hear from my fellow nominees!

Interview with Marc from Vital Dollar

Hey everyone!

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  info@vitaldollar.com.

Wrap-up

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?