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 Scott from Making Momentum

Hey everyone!

Today I have this week’s installment of our segment: Interviews with Money Experts. I talk with Scott from Making Momentum.

Before we get started with the interview, Scott graciously provided a brief snapshot of himself and his journey.

-Started waking up at 5am to side hustle through freelancing to expedite debt repayment and retirement saving (earned approx. $14,500 in the last 2 years from working those extra morning hours)

-Increased my salary as a marketing professional by 34% in the last 2 years by actively looking to do this (similar to what John at ESI Money talks about)

-Listen to 5-8 podcast episodes daily on finance, business, wellness, history, sports, comedy, fitness, etc. And have done so for 7 years, meaning I’ve probably listened to somewhere in the range of 7,000 – 11,000 podcast episodes total.

-Made a lot of mistakes with money in my early 20s and started to right the ship a bit later than I should have – consumerism mistakes, “I’ll start being better next year”, lack of knowledge and willingness to ask questions or for advice.

-Made $1,800 on eBay in about 45 minutes of total work after having my “personal finance aha moment” to kill off the last of my credit card debt. Helped me realize I’m the one in control of my finances and that I can right my wrongs and fix my mistakes.

-Purposely moved to a smaller apartment within walking distance to work to save on the potential car costs or public transportation fees. I’ve walked to work every single day for the last 4 years (estimate savings are $7,000-$11,000 and total distance just on that work walk in that time is 2,500 miles). I detail my experience walking to work, here.

-Lost 35 pounds in 18 months through a dedicated heavy weightlifting program and excessive diet management. Took it too far and became obsessed, helped me learn about moderation and balance.

-Backpacked around Europe for 3 months when I was 19-20 years old and visited 14 different countries. Greatest experience of my life and always recommend young people take advantage of the freedoms they have to travel, get outside their comfort zone, and immerse themselves in other cultures. It can set you back financially but there are major benefits to travel and you’ll never have that opportunity again as life progresses and responsibilities build.

With that great introduction of who Scott is, here’s our interview.

What podcasts do you listen to?

At times I might listen to 50+ podcast episodes a week so this list could look something like this post (http://makingmomentum.net/top-75-podcasts-to-help-improve-your-life/). However, below are the podcasts I listen to (almost) every new episode of and that cycle through my playlist queue most often:

Personal Finance

Side Hustles, Business & Blogging

Various Topics

…okay I’ll stop now!

What are the top 10 lessons you’ve learned from those podcasts?

  • The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that podcasts are a FREE source of endless knowledge, motivation, and entertainment. It’s like sitting in on a private conversation with industry leaders and experts on any topic you might desire. With a simple click or tap of the finger, you can listen in on some of the most engaging, successful and smart people this world has to offer.
  • You’re the master of your own destiny and in full control of whatever you want to do in life. (one of those classic Joe Rogan rants/manifestos)
  • The importance of diet and exercise for mindset, motivation, and general wellness. (The Joe Rogan Experience)
  • Starting small is better than not starting at all in your personal financial improvement journey. Even if you’re a little late to the game you have the opportunity to fix mistakes, right the ship and set yourself up for success. Whether that’s saving, investing, budgeting, side hustling, paying off debt, etc. (Financial Independence Podcast, Millennial Money Minutes & Masters Of Money)
  • The opportunities presented by waking up at 5AM. (Tim Ferriss)
  • The power of diversified income by monetizing your skills, passions, and interests outside your 9-5. (Side Hustle Show)
  • Lean in and take a chance on yourself. (Do You Even Blog)
  • Travel hacking and rewards churning. (Financial Independence Podcast)
  • Focusing on optimizing your career earning potential. (ESI Money on Do You Even Blog, Choose FI & Masters Of Money)  
  • The 10 pillars of financial independence. (Choose FI)

Any uncommon advice (outside of exercise and eat right) that you could give about weight loss and dieting?

Exercise and diet are definitely the pillars of success, especially the diet side of things. But another factor that I’ve found to be a major determinant of staying consistent and achieving whatever that healthy outcome you’re reaching for is creating accountability.

  • Goals & Continual Notifications: I put Post It Notes on my fridge, mirror, computer screen, front door, desk at work, daily planner, etc. These notes might be a reminder for that day, a quote or specific task to complete related to health and wellness. I also use my iPhone to do the same with Google Calendar and Todoist notifications. That constant reminder of the goals or mindset I am pursuing helps create personal accountability and ensures they’re always at the forefront of my mind.
  • Accountability Partner(s): An exercise partner can help cut through the dog days of working out when you’re feeling sluggish or perhaps looking to take shortcuts. It has to be someone who will be honest and blunt with you when needed but also provide that uplifting support when the time calls for it. Whether it’s your significant other, a friend, coworker, etc. you can form a mutually beneficial relationship to push for success together. Celebrate the wins along the way!

What are some things you learned by observing different cultures while backpacking?

One of the biggest takeaways I had from backpacking Europe for three months at the tender age of 19-20 (http://makingmomentum.net/3-month-backpacking-trip/) was that the world is full of happy, helpful and great people.

Whether I was in Scotland, the Czech Republic, Greece or one of the other 14 total countries I visited, both locals and tourists alike were kind-hearted and there for support whenever you needed it.

The importance of family and community was also very apparent, especially as I navigated the countries along the Mediterranean (Italy, Croatia, Greece, Spain & Portugal).

I continually witnessed large groups of local families all enjoying each other’s company in a jovial mood. Big meals, wine, laughing and dancing. From newborns to 90-year-old great-grandparents, it was evident they took time to share meals, experiences, and life together.

An appreciation for history and respect for those that have come before us is also a consistent theme throughout Europe. With such a diverse, wide-ranging history across the entire continent, it would be a shame to forget that rich (and troubled) past. From the museums, libraries, statues, architecture, stories, artwork and so forth, a reverence for that history is clear.

I’m Canadian and there is quite the contrast in terms of the regard we place on our much shorter, limited history as a country in comparison to those of Europe. The locals in each country always told us about the heroics of their country, and share both the good and bad moments of their nation’s past.

Any lessons you were taught growing up that you appreciate now?

My parents raised their kids to be open-minded, welcoming and understanding of people from all walks of life. I’ve met so many amazing people and experienced so much this wild world has to offer from having that openness ingrained in me from a young age.

They also instilled a desire for knowledge and learning which in turn has led to my enjoyment of reading, documentaries, podcasts, and traveling.

I was also taught to take risks and believe in yourself. If you want something, just go for it and give it your best. This mindset was reinforced in school and sports from a young age, then continued as I reached the post-secondary and career planning phases of life.

When I was in Europe at Humboldt University in Berlin, I read this Albert Einstein quote: “Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is to never stop questioning.” That stuck with me and is a mindset I’ve tried to carry forward.

What do you hope to pass onto the next generation?

The world has changed so much over the years since I was a kid, so I can only imagine how different it will be for the next generation and generation the after that. My guess though is that these three foundational pillars of everyday life will still be prevalent: relationships, money and personal development.

  • Relationships – Life is too short. Mitigate negative relationships and interactions as best possible, and focus on those that deliver value and happiness to your life. Be a giver and getter, deliver value to others and you’ll find that it comes back tenfold.
  • Money – Understand the basics of money from a young age and the opportunities for you in life will be boundless.
  • Personal Development – Your mind and body are the most valuable assets you’ll ever own in life. Invest in yourself, and keep your mental and physical health at the forefront of your priorities.

If the next generation can master those areas, perhaps it can deliver benefits to the greater collective.

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

App

  • Mint: I believe one of the most essential first steps to improving your financial situation is understanding where your money is currently going. Mint allows you to sync and automate all of your accounts, track your spending, organize and categorize, and build budgets. It helps identify those areas of overspending and opportunities for improvement while ensuring you have visuals of your full financial landscape. (I am Canadian so we don’t have access to Personal Capital).

Book

  • The Simple Path To Wealth: Your Road Map To Financial Independence And A Rich Life by JL Collins: The man, the myth, the legend: JL Collins. This is the #1 book I recommend to those looking to better understand money and improve their financial situation. While it might not get as tactical as other books on managing a budget or lifestyle optimization, this book focuses more so on saving, investing and financial freedom. The “simple” description in the title holds true as the book is straightforward, easy to understand and rooted in building a foundation for success.

Blog

  • Get Rich Slowly (JD Roth): There are so many amazing personal finance blogs out there in the community so it’s hard to nail it down to just one. However, given the volume and quality of work that JD Roth has produced on Get Rich Slowly and the breadth of the topics discussed, I would have to lean there. From tips and strategies for beginners to high-level more complex content, JD has covered it all. He’s a great writer and focuses on providing actionable advice in a digestible manner for his readers to improve their own financial lives. Use the “Search” function on his website and deep dive into any particular topic you’re looking for.

What would you like to add that would benefit the reader?

With the amount of information overload we can consume on any given day (advice, success stories or moments of struggle), I think one thing we can all keep in mind is the “personal” aspect of personal finance.

This is about your life or your family’s life. You need to find what works for you, what fits your beliefs and delivers value to you. Everyone comes from a different situation and set of circumstances, so what works for someone else may not work for you. But we can all learn from each other to build our own system to reach our goals, financial or otherwise.

Use others as motivation and a tool for best practices or a community to learn from, not as a disheartening comparison metric. Never forget personal finance is indeed, personal.

If people want to learn more about you, where should they go?

The best place to reach me is at Making Momentum or on Twitter. I love to chat about finances, side hustling, travel, productivity, health, and wellness, or whatever comes to mind!

Wrap-up

That concludes my interview with Scott. 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 Marc from Vital Dollar.

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

Interview with Laura

Hey guys!

Today I have the this week’s installment of our segment: Interviews with money experts. I talked with Laura from Everyday by the Lake.

Without further ado, here’s the interview.

Could you give an introduction of who you are and how you came to start your blog?

I’m Laura Gariepy, a 33-year-old MA native living in Central FL.  I live with my fiance, his mom, and my cat.

I have my MBA and am currently pursuing my DBA.  I have been in human resources for the last 9 years or so in a variety of capacities and industries. 

I recently decided to quit my full-time job as an HR Generalist so that I could spend more time with loved ones, finish my doctorate degree, cultivate other income sources, and just live a less hurried and harried lifestyle.

As it stands now, I can maintain my part-time work schedule (15 hours per week from home with flex scheduling) conservatively for the next 12 months.  I likely can maintain it for 18 months — if there are no major unanticipated cash outlays.

I decided that my current semi-retirement arrangement would be interesting to chronicle and could add something to the FIRE community. My blog also has a lifestyle component to it– showing my travel adventures and the joys of living on a lake.

The blog is part passion project, part avenue to make new connections and friends and (hopefully) part income stream down the line.

Do you and your fiance have similar money philosophies?

Initially, we did not.

He has been very frugal the entire time I’ve known him. My previous laissez-faire attitude towards money drove him nuts. I can’t blame him for being upset.

At my worst, I had to rely on him financially because my spending got in the way of meeting my real obligations (aka paying the rent). I’m fortunate he stuck around long enough for me to smarten up.

We are now in sync money-wise and it’s much less stressful. We’re both focused on using dollars to attain maximum utility and joy.

Any tips on money and relationships?

My biggest money/relationship tips would be:

  1. Be transparent. Don’t lie to your significant other about money. It can make a bad situation worse. A long time ago, I would hide purchases from my fiance. Now I tell him how much I have in the bank when certain bills are going to be paid, how my investments are doing etc. I don’t tell him because I messed up before and I’m now obligated. I tell him because sharing this information keeps him informed and makes our relationship closer. He tells me how he is doing with his finances as well. It enables us to plan together. 
  2. Have separate and shared financial goals/accounts. We pool resources to fund everyday life and the adventures we go on together, but we also have funds that are ours alone. For example, he uses his funds to upgrade his car into its ideal state. I use my funds to build my website as a creative outlet and future income stream.We are careful to ensure that our individual pursuits do not compromise our main goal of having a nice life together, but the separate goals/activities help us retain our identities and independence.

How have you learned about finance and what’ve you learned?

I learned finance by royally messing up my finances! I abused credit cards, overspent constantly and failed to pursue scholarships. I have a post that details my fiscal shame.

I’m now much more frugal, know what I have going out in relation to what I have coming in, and hardly use credit cards (and pay them in full each month).

After you learned your lesson, what were some things you did to get yourself back on track?

Once I realized how my poor money habits were ruining my future, I got honest about my financial position.  I started tracking my income and expenses.  I made sure I paid my bills on time and rebuilt my credit.  I started saving a ton of money– at times over 25% of my post-tax income. I also started spending in alignment with my values.  I splurged on things that made me happy and I cut spending on literal stuff that didn’t matter. I have a blog post that discusses the best money changes that I’ve made:

https://www.everydaybythelake.com/my-top-5-money-moves/

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

Two very big takeaways:

  1. Unless it’s basic food, clothing, and shelter, you really don’t need it now. Giving in to impulse purchases can really put you in money trouble. Sleep on the purchase. Consider– will it even add value to my life? Do I want it– or is it just trendy to have? Is it worth it? If you’re working– how many hours of labor will it take to pay for it?
    When you consider that you are literally trading your life energy for some item, your perspective changes. Having consideration for your future self is hard when you’re really young– it’s why most kids have to fail to really get it. I know — it happened to me. But if I can get just one kid to buy into what I’m saying, I’ll be happy.

  2. Get scholarships and grants. Work to put yourself through school. Please, I beg of you. I owe more in student loans than I do on my house and my plans to actually retire are severely hindered by this debt burden. I will still get to the finish line and likely still ahead of some of my peers, but when I think of how much faster I could get there if I had managed to finance my education better, it’s painful. Trust me. Finance your education with dollars that you don’t have to repay.

What are some things you’ve learned in completing your MBA? What about things you’ve learned from your doctorate program?

What I remember most from my MBA program was really learning about the connections between business functions. I started looking at businesses more holistically.

This sounds really simple, really obvious but my educational background before starting this degree was in Psychology and my work experience in childcare and retail. I had major gaps in my business knowledge prior to these studies. It was an a-ha moment for me that has enabled better critical thinking about anything business related.

From my doctorate program, I’m really learning a lot about research. Types of research. How to design a research study. How to carry it out.

I am currently working on my dissertation so I’m attempting to put together all of those pieces into a meaningful contribution to the business body of literature.

Did you attain scholarships for your MBA and DBA? If so, any tips on getting scholarships?

Unfortunately, my degrees were financed via student loans. I was fortunate to have tuition reimbursement available to me via my employers for part of the time I was pursuing these degrees. That helped me quite a bit.

I definitely encourage the pursuit of scholarships. I truly wish I had put more effort into that. I also encourage folks to pursue employment with companies who offer a tuition reimbursement benefit.

Do you have any tips on student loans?

In terms of applying for student loans, if you’re going to be eligible for grants, file your FAFSA as early as you can. The grant funds are limited and late filers may not receive the benefits.

In terms of paying them off, check with your loan service to see if you can control how your payments are allocated. Often, the debt is broken into sub-loans with different amounts due and interest rates for each.

If you can determine how your payment is applied, you can attack either the smallest sub-loans first or make your initial focus paying off the sub-loans with higher interest rates. This will help you feel in control and give you a sense of accomplishment as your sub-loans are paid off.

What is an app, a book, and a blog?

  • I’m pretty boring when it comes to apps. My favorite finance app(s) are those that link me to my accounts. I like being able to see my balances and transactions any time. I like having that instant and constant knowledge of my financial position.
  • As far as a book goes, I have to go with a classic. Your Money or Your Life really struck a chord with me. Admittedly, I am not following all of the steps that were outlined. I more take the philosophical nuggets and try to live by them. I really try to consider the utility of each purchase.  I consciously ensure that my spending in alignment with my values and I am acutely aware that what I buy is actually trading my life energy for what I’m acquiring. Powerful stuff.
  • I started reading FIRE blogs about a year before I quit my job. They really made me take the time to consider different possibilities. I saw that people were blazing different paths for themselves and were really living life. It was very inspiring.While I read many, many blogs, and still do, one that stands out is Our Next Life. I find Tanja’s writing very relatable and I admire how prolific she is.

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

Be conscious of what your dollars are actually getting you. You are trading over 2000 hours of your life per year to get those dollars. You owe it to yourself to make sure you’re not wasting your hard earned cash– because if you are, you’re wasting your life, too.

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

My website is https://www.everydaybythelake.com

I’m on the major social platforms:

Wrap-up

That concludes my interview with Laura. 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 Scott from Making Momentum.

So readers, what was your favorite point made here? Anything you want me to follow up with Laura about?

Interview with Katie

Hey guys!

Today I have the this week’s installment of our segment: Interviews with money experts. I talked with Katie from Chain of Wealth.

Without further ado, here’s the interview.

Could you give a summary of your career from graduation to where you are now?

Since I graduated college from Florida Atlantic University with an elementary education degree in 2010, my career has changed quite a bit.

When I first graduated, I decided that I didn’t want to be a teacher anymore and decided to go back to school to become a nurse. After one anatomy class and having to skin a piglet, I decided that teaching wasn’t so bad after all.

I did a majority of my teaching in one school in a small town outside of Tampa, Florida. It was a small school in a rural neighborhood. As with any school, the day to day duties were intense and the work was hard, but I loved seeing how much my students progressed over the school year.

As the saying goes, nothing stays the same forever and at the end of my fifth year teaching, I was asked to move to Northern Virginia by my boyfriend who had been transferred for work. After some thought, I decided to go. After all, it seemed like the perfect time for something new. I only had myself to take care of and in the worst case scenario, I could always come home.

As it turns out, Virginia was a great decision and I love it. I decided not to get a teaching position when I moved for two reasons:

  • I was feeling a bit burned out and needed a break and
  • All my teaching stuff wouldn’t fit in my car.

took it as a sign that it was time to try something else even though the thought of not teaching was strange and a bit stressful for me. Once I arrived in Virginia, my boyfriend had the idea that I should document my debt payoff journey with a podcast. It would be fun and something we could do together.

With the podcast, the blog naturally followed along and that is where the blog and podcast Chain of Wealth was created. Now, I am working full time on the blog and podcast. I love it and I get to learn new skills that I never thought I would need to know. I don’t know if my teaching career is finished or if it’s on hold for a bit.

How’s the podcast going?

The podcast is going great! We are really enjoying the opportunity to talk to so many people.

Are there things you’ve learned from people you’ve interviewed?

I have learned two huge things from the people we’ve spoken to:

  1. Just get out there and try. It will never be the right time and starting is the hardest part. Just start and do whatever your dream is.
  2. Stay positive and set mini goals for yourself. How you speak to yourself is so important to your future and your dreams.

What are some life lessons you learned from teaching?

I guess the best life lesson I learned from being a teacher is learning that everyone learns differently. I always knew this, but in school, I always tried hard and got decent grades but it took a lot more effort on my part than some of my classmates.

This often left me feeling slightly ashamed and I would hide the fact that I made extra efforts (not telling teachers about struggling, hiring tutors, homework taking all night) because I didn’t want to inconvenience the teacher or the class.

As a teacher, I saw it from the other side. I knew who struggled and didn’t ask for help and honestly, the kids that worked hard and were polite even if they struggled were my favorites.

It would be no inconvenience at all to give them some extra attention, even if it meant lunch tutoring sessions or an extra one-on-one when I had a free couple of minutes. These students gave me a reason to teach and it was so rewarding to see them finally learn whatever strategy we were studying.

In life, this has taught me to be more flexible and to allow myself a little extra slack when learning something new. That everyone has different strengths and not to worry about my question asking if I need to.

What are your top tips for students/graduates currently paying off their debts?

Get started right away. I wish I would have started paying off my loans years ago. Instead, I ignored them and so much interest has accrued. If I could go back, I would have paid much more attention to what I was doing with my loans.

Are there any more student loan tips you have for the readers?

Make sure that you refinance your loans to a lower rate is my best advice. Being able to get a lower interest rate will end up saving you thousands of dollars in interest, and pay back as much as you can each month.

How do you keep track of your student debt progression?

I know a lot of people keep track of things with Excel spreadsheets or charts and graphs, but that’s honestly too much for me. I keep track by logging into my loan provider account very regularly (like 4 times a week) to check my account.

I also have a network of people who I tell my payment amounts to. This helps to keep me motivated and that the extra random $100 or $200 payments are worth it.

What kinds of lessons were you taught growing up that you appreciate now?

I guess growing up I never thought of them as lessons but I grew up in a single parent household and my mom worked a lot. There were tough times but my mom would always tell me that nothing (good or bad) lasts forever.

Even with occasional money shortages, my house seemed to be the place that everyone would come to for gatherings and holidays. From this, I learned that everything works out and to share as much as you can. Being greedy doesn’t do anything except isolate yourself and what’s the point of having everything you want if you don’t have anyone to share it with.

She also taught me how to be very resourceful. My mom could cook and fix just about anything and as her right-hand man, it was either learn or die. As a kid, I would help cook Thanksgiving dinner while cleaning out the pipes to the air conditioner so it didn’t back up in the house before everybody came over. Growing up this way taught me that there isn’t very much that I can’t figure out on my own.

Any go-to budget-friendly meals you picked up from your mom?

So many! Basically anything potato driven. Growing up, I think we had potatoes in almost every meal. Later, I learned this was because they were filling and cheap. Also, meals like lasagna, Shepard’s Pie (again, potato based) or anything else that is a compilation of random foods are usually pretty tasty and cheap to make.

Read more about saving on groceries, here and here.

What are some lessons you’d like to pass onto the next generation?

I think I would like to pass along humility and kindness, and the ability to work hard and problem solve to the next generation.

I think these are important lessons because as an adult, there is no manual to tell you what to do. Everything has to be thought out and solved.

I think living would be a little easier if people were more humble and kind. and a little less greedy and self- centered.

What’s an app, a book, and a blog/podcast (either one or both, it’s up to you) that you’d recommend to someone who wants to improve their finances?

Well, the goal for Chain of Wealth is to help inspire people to pay back their debt. I regularly try to update listeners on my debt payoff journey as a way to keep myself accountable and so they can feel like they aren’t in it alone.

As for books, I know it’s cliché but I am in the middle of Think and Grow Rich, and it has been life-changing for me.

What are some lessons you’ve picked up from Think and Grow Rich thus far?

My favorite chapters were at the beginning of the book. I learned the most by hearing that most of the great people we always hear about (Henry Ford and Andrew Carnegie to name a few) also encountered huge setbacks and struggles and that didn’t stop them. That the difference between good and great is as simple as “just not giving up.”

Finishing up, is there anything else you can provide that would benefit the reader?

Make a list. Check in with it, tell your friends and family what you plan to do and keep your eye on the prize.

Writing it down and telling people your plans, makes you much more likely to reach your goal; whether it’s a financial goal or a life goal. Remember that it’s a bunch of little steps to get there- not one big one. So make a plan and celebrate and enjoy the small wins.

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

Wrap-up

That concludes my interview with Katie. 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 Laura from Everyday by the Lake.

So readers, what was your favorite point made here? Anything you want me to follow up with Katie about?

Interview with J Money

Hey everyone!

Today I have this week’s installment of our segment: Interviews with Money Experts. I talk with J Money from Budgets are Sexy.

Without further ado, here’s the interview.

By now, most people know who you are and your story, but for those that don’t. Who is J Money and how did you come to blogging?

Oh man, haha… the short story is I bought a house when I shouldn’t have 10 years ago, and it led me down this internet portal to blogs and I ended up becoming obsessed with them.

Mainly, because people were sharing their REAL LIFE STORIES online with real-life numbers and all! I had never seen such a thing before, and before I knew it I was starting my own blog and getting my financial life better squared away as well.

And now here we are 10 years later and we’re still blogging 🙂

(For the longer bullet-point story, click here)

Each month you give an update on your net worth. Why did you start doing that? Any forecast of what it’ll look like in 5 years?

Yup – on Month #123 in a row now! One of the best things I’ve ever done for my money as it gives me an overall view of how everything’s going and you can usually tell what areas you’re rocking and what you aren’t which keeps you super accountable.

Seeing someone else’s net worth for the first time was just a game changer for me, so the second I started my own blog I knew I’d be sharing the same and I haven’t stopped since.

And in fact, we now have over 500 bloggers in the space being just as transparent as well! Pretty incredible!

As for 5 years from now, I honestly couldn’t tell you, haha… I’m great at living and thinking in the *present* but horrible about forecasting the future. Just because so much changes in life and dreams, especially when you keep popping out kids like we are (#3 is due any week!).

I can tell you though that we’ll be continuing to save and invest as much as we can as we always have, and God willing our net worth will continue to climb just as much… if that happens, we’ll be over the million dollar mark and maybe even pushing $1.5?

Who knows… As long as I wake up happy each day that’s what matters the most 🙂

That’s awesome! Congratulations on number 3! Any tips for new parents on how to manage the expenses that come along with a new baby?

My only advice for new parents is to make sure they clear their schedules as much as they can when that baby comes because there will be no time to do anything else despite your best intentions 🙂 Because even when you DO technically have the free time, all you’ll want to do is sleep because your brain is a mess!

So the more work-work you can avoid doing during that first month or so the better… (also – as a nurse once told me when my first baby was born – “you can never love your child too much!” which is good now, and probably 18 years from now too when they’re stealing your car and sneaking beers ;))

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

There were two main ones constantly brought up in our family, one from my mother and one from my father (although growing up, of course, we didn’t always follow them ;)):

#1) You don’t need to buy everything *new*! My mom was/is the queen of frugality, and I swear half of our stuff – if not more – came from yard sales and thrift stores. She was raising a family of 5 on a shoestring military budget, so she def. had to stretch those dollars far.

#2) Whatever you do, make sure you’re getting your FREE 401(k) matches from your employer! This one was brought up multiple times by my father once we were all old enough to work, and despite it being ingrained in our heads we still failed hard early on 🙂

Once it finally clicked, though and I saw the money continue to RISE and never go down, it was mind-boggling as usually at that age you just deplete stuff, haha… And when $100 turns into $1,000 and then $5,000 and then $10,000, it’s just amazing to see and I’ve been contributing to my retirement accounts ever since. Even maxing them out most years.

What are some lessons you hope to pass onto your kids?

That you can live a life on your OWN terms and not have to do what everyone else around you is doing (or buying). We’re so caught up in this “American Dream” of the 9-5 work life and buying a home and having 2.5 kids etc that it’s hard, sometimes, to step back and really ask yourself if it’s all worth it in the end? Why do we work so hard for stuff that might not even make us that happy?

So the #1 thing I want to teach my kids is to be more *conscious* about their actions and dreams/goals/etc, and that they can set up a lifestyle that they enjoy themselves vs just chasing what everyone else is.

And I hope to instill a little entrepreneurship in them too, although I wouldn’t be sad if they did go corporate in the end 🙂 Whatever gets them excited to wake up!!

I also want to teach them that no matter what is going on in their lives to always be kind, loving to people and never apologize for it. This world needs as much love as it can get, and even if it tries chewing you up and spitting you out, you always have the *choice* of being nice! So I pray they do so!

What are your best budgeting tips? Any hacks for people who suck at budgeting?

Well, the first thing I’d say is that if you suck at budgeting try tracking your net worth! It only takes 15 minutes and you only have to do it once a month! If you can’t manage that, then you’re in trouble, haha…

Outside of that though, it really comes down to HOW BAD you want it. Most people already know how to do this stuff (spend less, save more!), but it’s the *motivation* you need to actually start taking action.

So I’d focus on the parts that excite you with this stuff and then work your way from there. For some, it may be killing your debt once and for all, and others it may be starting to invest or seeing how low you can get your cable bill or whatever.

But if you can really focus on the areas that motivate you *right now* vs the stuff that you “have to do,” I guarantee you’ll succeed much faster and not burn out.

You don’t necessarily have to save and invest and pay off debt and get better at budgeting all at the exact same time. But you DO need to be taking action on *something*, so why not work on the stuff that’s more fun for you?

How do you keep track of your net worth? Mint? Excel spreadsheet?

I use an old school spreadsheet I found off another blogger 10 years ago which has since been modified approximately 38 times, haha…

You can find the main version of it here if anyone wants to check it out: http://www.budgetsaresexy.com/free-budget-templates-sites/

I find I pay more attention when I manually track my $$ than I do when it’s automated.

Do you have any advice for someone who can’t decide between buying a home or renting?

I would think REALLY hard about what you truly want in life, particularly the next 5-7 years, and see where housing plays a part there.

If you’re one who likes getting up and moving/traveling every other year and/or not having to deal with maintenance, then renting is probably more your speed.

However, if you’re trying to lay down roots and will be staying put for a handful of years, then owning might be better for you long term. It really comes down to a mixture of two things: your personality, and your finances.

Some people have the money but can’t stand the thought of up keeping a house so prefer to rent instead (me), while others like the stability and long-term financial benefits of home ownership and thus prefer to own.

Whatever the case, just remember to a) pick the route that makes the most sense for YOU, despite whatever anyone says! (particularly if you rent – when all the haters come out), and b) keep in mind that home ownership is *not* an investment.

It’s a good place to lay your head down and might be cheaper than renting overtime, but investments grow and pay you money over time – not suck it up 😉 If you’re strictly looking for an investment, I’d pick a different route.

(Editors Note: I threw this question in because my wife and I are currently having this discussion)

What’s a book that you’d recommend to someone who wants to improve their financial literacy?

I really like the book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less. Not necessarily a financial book per se, but one that really gets you to stop and focus on WHAT YOU TRULY WANT in life and to start moving away from all the nonsense that detracts from it.

Whether that’s a healthier personal life, career life, financial life, love life? Anything really. We do so many unnecessary things in our days, and often times we don’t even realize it because they’ve become a habit.

So this book – at least for me – was instrumental in opening up my eyes and clearing the path for a more efficient, and happy, lifestyle.

Is there an app or program that you use to help with your finances?

Two apps I like a lot are Digit for automatically saving more, and then Acorns for automatically investing more.

There’s also a newer one about to drop on the scene called Pickpocket that applies the same principles but towards debt payoff. If you suck at any of those three areas in life I’d give those apps a peek…

Wrap-up

That concludes my interview with J Money. 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 Erik from The Mastermind Within.

So readers, what was your favorite point made here? Anything you want me to follow up with J Money about?

Best financial advice you will ever receive

It seems, nowadays, that financial advice is a dime a dozen. Everyone seems to have an opinion and everyone says something different.

What advice can you trust? Should you seek out an expert with 5-10 professional designations after his/her name? Should you read blogs? Listen to podcasts?

Let me tell you something, you will get bombarded with advice from now until the end of time. Some of it you’ll agree with and some of it will just plain drive you crazy.

So what advice should you listen to? Here is a long list of the best financial advice out there.

Create a budget

I’ve written about budgets, at length, on the blog before, so what you need to know is this:

  • Write down all of the expenses you have in a given month. Housing, transportation, food, utilities, cable/internet, debt, savings and other bills. This is necessary spending.
  • Next, write down a number you don’t have a problem spending on “fun stuff.” Nights out, take-out, entertainment, etc.
  • Add up those expenses, and compare that total to how much you make per month. The difference between your income and your expenses will give you a good picture as to what you need to cut back on, or where you have wiggle room. (P.S. If you have wiggle room, pay down debt or save for retirement)

To learn more about creating a budget, click here.

Track Expenses

This practice will show you where your money is going and how much is being spent. Start this month and also track your spending from the last few months, as well.

Break your spending down into categories. (Housing, transportation, utilities, food (from the grocery store), entertainment, eating out, health, insurance, etc, etc.)

It will be obvious where you should cut down your spending (i.e. take-out) and where you have room to spend more (i.e. paying down debt/saving for retirement).

Take advantage of workplace retirement plan

If you work for a company, or yourself for that matter, contribute to their retirement plan. This is a very easy way to get started.

Do what you can to contribute at least 10% of your paycheck to this retirement account.

If you can contribute more, contribute more. If you need to contribute less, contribute less. Just make sure you are contributing enough to receive the company match. Missing that match is flushing money down the toilet.

Along those same lines, if you receive a raise from this company, bump up your contributions for the amount of your raise. You got by without that extra money, so put it to good use.

Pay yourself first

Whether you are saving money for retirement, emergencies, or short-term goals, do it on the 1st of the month. If you do this right away, you don’t have the chance to spend it.

Save first, and then spend what’s left over.

Start off small

If money is tight, begin saving a small amount. If you save to your retirement plan at work, start with 1% of your paycheck.

If you’re saving for emergencies, start with $5 per month.

Once you have gone through a few months at this level and are used to that extra 1% or $5 not being there, bump up your savings. For retirement, go to 2%. For emergencies, go to $10.

Every little bit helps, and those small increases over a lifetime will do amazing things for your financial health.

Start early

One of the most common themes in financial advice is the power of compounding.

Look at the chart below as a reference to how much compound interest helps your nest egg.

compound-interest-example

Start as early as you can to take advantage of compound interest.

Save for emergencies

Set money aside each month, or each week, for emergencies. Expert advice is to save 3-6 months worth of expenses. If someone loses their job, it takes them, on average, 3-6 months to get another job.

An emergency fund is also a great place to go to for unexpected expenses. If your car breaks down or your furnace needs to be replaced, you pay for it with your emergency fund so your normal monthly budget doesn’t get wrecked.

Invest for long-term

When you’re saving and investing for retirement, think long-term. The stock market will fluctuate over the years.

Don’t worry about short-term volatility because over the long-term the market will grow and so will your retirement account.

Save regularly and you will be just fine.

Minimize fees

With regard to investments and your retirement account, keep the fees to a minimum. When you choose your investments and who manages it, seek out low-cost options.

Invest in low-cost index funds and pick managers that charge low fees. An added bonus is to choose an advisor that is fee-only. If they are fee-only, odds are they are a fiduciary, which means they have to act in your best interest, LEGALLY.

Another option is to take advantage of the various fintech companies that do it for you (i.e. Betterment, Stash, etc.)

Get out of debt

Debt is a pain in the butt. It forces you to dedicate money towards paying it off instead of saving for retirement. Do what you can to get out of debt.

If you have credit card debt:

  • Snowball method – Pay as much as you can towards your lowest balance. Pay the minimum towards all of your other debts. Once your lowest balance is paid off, transfer the money you were paying towards that debt to the next lowest balance.
  • Avalanche method – Pay as much as you can towards your debt with the highest interest rate. Pay the minimum to all of your other debts. Once the debt with the highest rate is paid, redirect that money towards the card with the next highest interest rate
  • Balance transfer – If you have a credit card with a crazy high-interest rate and a high balance, consider a balance transfer. Some credit cards have an introductory 0% interest on balance transfers, as long as 21 months.
  • Personal loan – If you have a large amount of credit card debt, and they all have fairly high-interest rates, consider a personal loan. If your credit is bad, however, this may not be a good option. The personal loan is only beneficial if the rate you get is lower than your average interest rate for your credit cards.

For more techniques for getting rid of debt, click here.

Track your net worth

Sometimes, with all of our bank accounts, retirement accounts, and debts, we get a little lost. The biggest benefit to tracking your net worth is keeping you focused on the big picture.

When you’re able to see your total number continue to improve month after month or year after year, it will give you the motivation to keep your current path.

Alternatively, if you see your number trend downward, you know that you have to make a change.

Use credit wisely

The ability to use credit responsibly is an enormous benefit to your financial success. If you purchase things here and there with a credit card and immediately pay the balance in full, you are doing two things.

One, you are building your credit and improving your score. The credit bureau sees that you are using your credit and are paying it off. This shows that you are responsible.

Two, you are earning rewards. Nearly all credit cards have a reward system. If you purchase things with a credit card, you’ll get miles for travel or cash back.

Using your credit card responsibly on things you normally buy, is an easy way to make your dollar go further.

Automate everything

Put your bills and savings on autopilot. If you set your bills on auto-pay, you never have to remind yourself to pay them. This frees up some mental energy. It also prevents you from forgetting to make a payment and thus, incurring a late penalty.

You should also set your savings to automatically take place at the beginning of the month. This forces you to save before you spend.

You can also have your investments set up to automatically reallocate to their original percentages. If you originally set up for 70% stocks and 30% bonds, and the percentages changed throughout the year to 74% and 26%, you could be taking on too much risk. Going back to 70/30 could protect your account and maybe earn you better returns.

Don’t house poor

Live within, or below, your means. If you are pre-approved for a loan of $250,000, buy a house for $200,000, or less.

Buying a house with that max number will force you to dedicate more of your monthly earnings toward your mortgage and less towards your other financial goals.

Buy a house that costs less than what you’re approved for and put that extra money towards your other financial goals.

Don’t waste money on a depreciating asset

The first and most important example of a depreciating asset is your car. Everyone wants to drive that new, fancy Mercedez or Cadillac, but it’s hardly worth it.

If you go out and spend $80,000 on a car, you will most definitely receive a short-term benefit, but soon after, you will go back to your original level of happiness.’

Not to mention that the payment and subsequent interest on that payment will cost you a lot of money. The car will lose the majority of it’s value over the life of the car, as well.

Get a car that is reliable and will get you from A to B. It will cost you less and your finances will thank you for it.

If you’ve been thinking whether to buy or a lease a car, I have the answer for you.

Obtain appropriate insurance coverage

Whether it’s car, home, renters, or life insurance, you need to have adequate coverage. Don’t skimp out on coverage just because it’s cheap. You need to have enough coverage to protect yourself and your family from disasters.

Value is not the same as price. Price only focuses on cost. Value focuses on getting the most bang for your buck.

Don’t take early withdrawals

If you’ve been able to save for retirement, don’t spend it until you have to. If an emergency comes up, do whatever you can to leave your retirement savings alone.

Unless you qualify for an exemption, an early distribution means a penalty, and you will be robbing yourself of the interest that would’ve compounded on that savings.

Be grateful for what you have

This is a big one. Being happy and grateful for the people and things that are currently in your life is the most important part of true happiness.

My thought is if you wake up healthy, with people in your life that you love, a place to live and food in your belly, that’s all you need.

Those things are your blessings and shouldn’t be taken for granted.

You’re never too poor to give

No matter how much you make, or much money you have that’s “extra,” you can always give.

Similar to the last point, it’s important to realize that things in your life could always be worse. If you have a job, you could easily be without one. If you have a place to sleep and clothes to wear, you could easily have those things taken away from you.

It’s important to help those that need it. People who don’t have a place to sleep or food to eat, need our time and resources more than we do. Do your part and help out.

Conclusion

Navigating your finances and all the challenges that come with it is difficult enough. It gets tougher when every single person wants to add their two cents on what you should do.

Do me a favor, use these tips to help make your decision, but ultimately, you have to do what’s best for you, your family, and your future self.

So readers, what’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?