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?

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!

Changes to Financial Health and Wealth

I first would like to apologize for not posting on schedule last Thursday. Things have been a little hectic and I, unfortunately, haven’t had time to write as usual.

With that said, there is going to be a change in posts and post frequency starting next week.

My money expert interview posts will continue to post every Tuesday at 11 am. My Thursday posts, where I write original, informative content for you readers will cease.

There have been a few changes in my professional life where it makes more sense for me to be a contributor rather than post here every Thursday. I will be referring readers of those contributor posts to a different site as well.

The new sites I will contribute to, on a pretty regular basis, are as follows:

The Free Financial Advisor

Live your Life on Purpose

Data Driven Investor

As I said, interview posts will continue because I love providing that value to you readers and I love talking with people who have different perspectives and differing knowledge.

I apologize the Thursday posts won’t continue, but this is the best move for myself and my family going forward.

Please, let me know if you have any question, comments, or concerns!

As always, thanks for reading.

– Jake S.

How to save money on entertainment

The average American spends over $200 per month on entertainment. (Source)

How does your entertainment spending compare?

What could you do with an extra $200 per month? Could you pay off your debt?

What if I told you, you could save money while also doing most of your normal entertainment activities?

Here’s how to do it.

Dial back services

Do you really need 1000 channels, and how often do you watch HBO and those other premium channels?

Lower your services as much as you can. Do your best to cut out as many unused channels as possible. And if you do watch HBO regularly, get HBO Now, and stream your shows.

Ask for a lower rate

If you think you are paying too much for cable TV, and you probably are, call them and ask if you can have a lower rate. They might have a new promotion you could take advantage of.

Be advised, however, because these promotions have a limit on how long they’ll be offered for, and once the term is over, your monthly bill will go through the roof!

If they don’t have any promotions, you could threaten to leave and go to a competing service provider. Odds are, they’ll lower your rate or provide additional services at your current price.

We tried both with our previous provider and they swiftly helped us lower our rate. We ended up leaving anyway due to the quality of service, but those techniques worked none-the-less.

Cut the cable

Let’s be real, you probably don’t need that cable or satellite TV service anymore.

Here’s a solid list of streaming services:

  • Netflix
  • Hulu
  • HBO Now
  • Amazon Prime
  • SlingTV
  • CBS All Access

The best part is, the combination of the three streaming services above is still far less than your average monthly cable TV bill ($100). (Source)

Share memberships

There are numerous streaming/subscription services, like the three that I mentioned above. Consider sharing these services with members of your household.

There are instances of this getting abused, however. For example, I know a few people that share services like this, but they don’t live in the same house.

Not exactly the most moral thing to do, but they haven’t been caught yet.

Set a limit

In your monthly budget, create a line item labeled entertainment or fun money. Write down the amount you wish to spend in this category and don’t go over.

For more on budgeting, click here.

Go to the library

The library has thousands of entertainment options for you to check-out for FREE. Books, movies, music, and audiobooks.

This is a lifetime worth of entertainment. All of it is at your local library and all of it is free.

Sometimes they have guest speakers put on educational seminars and classes for kids. This is a great place for the whole family.

Also, there is so much valuable and useful material at the library that could be used to improve your understanding of a subject that interests you. This might even help your career!

Listen to podcasts

These are free! You can find educational ones and entertaining ones. It’ll bring you back to a time before TV. You just sit, relax, and listen.

I have a few money podcasts listed on the blog, here and here.

Go to rummage sales

More often than not, these rummage sales will have movies, books, and CDs for sale. This is an inexpensive way to pick up new movies and books.

Play board games

Board games are great. They are fun, they provide a wonderful family bonding experience, and they are super cheap. You can also find these at rummage sales.

Additionally, some board games can provide beneficial learning experiences for you and your children. Monopoly, for example, is a great game that teaches how saving and the accumulation of assets can benefit your finances.

Movies

Instead of going to your normal theater and paying $10 for a ticket. Go to a discount theater in the area, a drive-in theater, or go to a matinee showing.

  • Matinee showing is much less expensive than the prime-time show
  • The discount theater is much cheaper than a regular one. Our local discount theater costs just $2 per movie.
  • The drive-in theater is also less expensive than a regular theater, and you can bring your own refreshments. That’s where those normal theaters really get you.

Amateur sporting events

They may not be your favorite team, but watching the local amateur team is much less expensive than the professional team, and sometimes it can be even more fun!

Go to the museum

The museum is awesome! I love going with my wife and I’m super excited to bring our boy there. It can be a very entertaining and educational experience. By the way, the average price for a family of four is only $30 (depending on location).

Entertaining, educational, and great family time, can’t beat that.

Find local events

Odds are, your local municipality or another organization will have a show or a speaking engagement for little to no cost to the public.

Eventbrite always has a good list of local events. They break it down by date, category, and price.

Avoid ticket surcharge

We all know that when you buy tickets for an event online, the ticket itself isn’t terribly expensive, but then they tack on all their fees, which can make that ticket very expensive.

Call the venue or go to the venue and buy your ticket that way, you avoid those pesky surcharges. Also, if you buy the ticket at the venue and you’ve never been there before, you can get a good idea of travel time, traffic, and parking.

Spend time with nature

Go to a park, take a walk, or ride your bike. If it’s nice outside, this should be a natural thing to do anyhow.

It comes at no cost to you, besides the cost of gear if you are backpacking or bicycling, and it’s a great way to step away from the stresses of everyday life and is a great way to spend time as a family.

Credit card perks

If you are responsible with your credit cards (use it for purchases and pay in full every month) this could be a good opportunity to reward yourself.

Some credit cards come with perks:

  • Discounted hotels
  • Free flights
  • Discounted tickets to certain shows and venues.

Look at your credit card rewards and see if any of those apply to you.

Ask for discounts

If you are a member of the military (thank you!), a senior citizen, a student, or a child, you will probably get a discount for an event you are attending.

If you don’t fit one of the above demographics, or you do but they don’t provide discounts, ask for one. The worst thing they could say is no.

Go to happy hour

Happy hour is a time of day (usually 2-6pm or so) where food and drink specials are offered.

Google “Happy hour specials,” one comes up should be a solid list of restaurants to go to during happy hour.

Here’s what I pulled up in my area:

happy hour snip

Go to lunch

The lunch menu is usually much less expensive than the dinner menu. Sometimes, the lunch menu is offered until 4 pm.

Use coupons

There are various websites on the web dedicated to providing awesome coupons. One that we use regularly is Coupons.com, but another one designed for restaurants is Restaurant.com. You can find local specials, coupons, and gift cards.

Entertaining at home

Inviting guests to your home for a little get together is a great way to spend time. There’s far less noise for better conversation, and there are fewer distractions.

It’s also much cheaper. You can rent movies from Redbox, stream from Netflix, and you can prepare the food at home. You could also make it a potluck.

Have each person bring a different dish. The host will be very grateful because they don’t have to buy and prepare everything.

Volunteer

Last, but certainly, not least is volunteering. This isn’t entertainment in the traditional sense, but you are doing a lot of good by volunteering.

It occupies your time and you get to make a difference in your local community. Help at the food shelter, a local fundraiser, or some other place designed to aid those in need.

For noble causes to donate your time to, click here.

Conclusion

Entertainment can be pretty expensive if you go to dinner at a nice restaurant and then a show, but it doesn’t have to be.

By using some or all of these methods, you can reduce how much a fun day costs.

So readers, how do you save money on entertainment?