Interview with Jamie from Mr. Jamie Griffin

Hey everyone!

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

Without further ado, here’s the interview.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When she sleeps, everyone’s happier 🙂

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How do you recommend parents teach their children about money?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do you have plans for creating a passive income stream?

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

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

I would also like to figure out dividend investing too.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wrap-up

That concludes my interview with Jamie. I hope you gained some new insights into how to improve your Financial Health and grow your Wealth.

Come back next week for my interview with PIG from Passive Income Guy.

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

Interview with 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 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 Erik

Hey guys!

Today I have this week’s installment of our segment: Interviews with money experts. I talked with Erik from The Mastermind Within.

Without further ado, here’s the interview.

Could you give a summary of your career and how you came to start The Mastermind Within?

I graduated from undergrad in 2013 with a degree in Math and knew I didn’t have the skills necessary for a big boy job. At 20 years old, I still had a lot more learning to do and started a Master’s degree.

In January 2015, I started my first real job as a financial risk analyst where I was looking at market risk at a regional bank. A year later, I switched jobs to a statistician and programmer and have been in this role ever since.

At the end of 2016 though, I was getting a little antsy – I have an entrepreneurial mind, and I love creating things. I also have a goal of financial independence at a young age and was looking to start a business of some sort.

That’s when I started The Mastermind Within – a blog is a low-cost entrepreneurial endeavor and will allow me to work on my writing, web marketing skills, and maybe someday bring in some money through ads.

I’m 16 months into that experiment, and I’m loving it. I write about personal finance and my pursuit of financial freedom, self-improvement, and entrepreneurship. I also just started a podcast (which Jake was on at the end of April -> Jake’s Episode)

How’s podcasting going so far?

Podcasting has been interesting. I’m enjoying it, but at the same time, it’s quite a bit of work. For 1 episode, it’s about 3 hours of work. That being said, I’m able to reach many more people in a different way than through my writing!

I saw your girlfriend recently moved in. What’s it like having two personal finance enthusiasts in the same house?

It’s been fun, and while we both are motivated by wealth, we have different opinions about how to get there. She is trying her hand at entrepreneurship, and it will be interesting to see how that goes.

I’m pretty happy, and she respects my time with blogging and podcasting as well so it’s a good fit.

Where are you currently in your financial journey?

I’m a little over 3 years in my financial journey. When I got my first real job at the beginning of 2015, I hit the ground running.

Since then, I’ve paid off my $8,000 student loan, another $8,000 auto loan, about $30,000 in mortgage debt. In addition to this, I’ve bought a house and had 3 of my friends paying me the rent for 2 of the years, and also started to max out my retirement accounts.

I’m just getting started but I have a great base of assets: about $50,000 in home equity, $50,000 in retirement accounts, and $50,000 in taxable accounts.

What are your plans for the next 5 years to get closer to FI?

Over the past 3 years, I’ve been focused on creating multiple income streams, and this is still my focus for the next few years. When I was 23, I purchased a house and had 3 of my friends paying me rent. This extra income allowed me to pay off my student loans, an auto loan, and build up some decent equity in the house I still live in now.

I still have 1 roommate, so this is decent passive income, but I’m looking to still create other income streams. I have my blog and podcast, which I’m focused on growing to attract advertisers, and I have a subscription box business I’ve been working on the past year, that I’m trying to grow and make that into something worth my time and efforts.

In addition to these side hustles, I’m going to continue to sock away money in my retirement accounts. This year is going to be the first year I max out my 401(k), and I’ve maxed my Roth IRA the past 3 years. At the end of 2018, I’ll have roughly $45,000 in my 401(k) and $17,000 in my Roth, which at 26 is pretty good :

Outside of this, just keep consistent with saving money. Real estate is in the back of my head always, as well as alternative investments such as precious metals or cryptocurrencies (which I have a little of both as a hedge to the general stock market)

What is your end goal?

My end goal is financial freedom. What’s interesting is I don’t have “a number” right now. Some people say, oh, when I hit $1,000,000 in net worth, I’m done, or when I hit $50,000 in passive income, I’m done with work.

For me, wealth is my goal, and I’m more focused on the near term since I’m just starting out. If I focus on building wealth and establishing a solid base in my twenties, I will be in a great spot my thirties, forties, and fifties.

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

Save early and often. Never stop saving.

Understand that debt is not your friend, and look to stay away from spending more than you earn.

Both sets of grandparents of mine have hammered this concept home. My mom’s parents travel to multiple countries a year and were able to retire in their early 60’s. My dad’s parents probably never made more than $40,000 in a year, but live comfortably in the Midwest and are still saving some of their Social Security checks to this day

Any lessons you hope to pass onto the next generation?

Right now, I’m trying to influence my teenage sisters and it’s not going so well… but it’s a work in progress.

I want to pass on to the next generation the mindset of critical thinking will get you incredibly far in this world. So many people just go through their lives never questioning the status quo. Months, years, decades pass and all of a sudden, you wake up and you realize you missed out on an opportunity or a few opportunities because these opportunities were outside of your worldview.

I’m trying to influence others to open up their thoughts and minds to think outside the box and live with an abundance mindset. There’s so much potential in the world to do what you want, live out your dreams, and be wealthy in all areas of your life.

What are some things you’re trying to teach your sisters?

I’m trying to influence my sisters to think outside the box and to also think critically about their future. My parents became adults in the 80s and the world has changed significantly since then. While yes, many of the same principles are in place in terms of career progression and work, there are SO many more ways to make a living and to get ahead.

My 16-year-old sister is looking at working at Target. She took a class about graphic design, so I asked her if she would want to try to be a graphic design freelancer and try her hand at that? My 24-year-old sister thought this was dumb though, because “graphic design” is crowded.

I live with an abundance mindset, and if you are good enough, a space will never be too crowded for you.

Could you explain what an abundance mindset is and how that translates to finances and other areas of life?

Here’s an example which I wrote on my site about having an abundance mindset: Give and you shall receive live abundance mindset

Imagine you and I are walking down the street, side by side.

You breathe in. You breathe out. I breathe in. I breathe out. We both need oxygen to survive. Would it cross your mind that there would not be enough oxygen for both of us? Of course not—air is abundant.

Now, imagine we are scuba diving and my scuba tank starts to malfunction. I signal that I need to share the oxygen in your tank. All of a sudden, the air becomes a precious commodity. Its scarcity makes us worry. What if there isn’t enough for both of us?

Many people live with a scarcity mindset – a mindset which is zero-sum.

You win, I lose.

I win, you lose.

People with this type of mindset have a hard time sharing success with other people and are jealous of others’ success.

How I take this mindset and apply it to my finances or other areas of life is I say, there’s always something out there for me in the world.

There are millions of billions of dollars in the world. I can become wealthy if I just get 0.0001% of that. There are millions of people needing to be helped. I just need to find the right product or service to help them. There are millions of women out there – I just need to meet the right one to start a family.

With a scarcity mindset, I might say, I could never come up with a product that will help people, or every woman I meet doesn’t like me, so I’m not going to try.

What’s an app, a book, and a blog that you’d recommend to somebody who wants to improve their finances?

I use Mint and my spreadsheet for tracking my income and expenses, and I have this spreadsheet for download on my site.

For books, I love The Automatic Millionaire and The Richest Man in Babylon.

Finally, for blogs, I got started with Financial Samurai, but I also like Gen Y Finance Guy, Fiery Millennials, Guy on FIRE, Wealth Well Done, and Mustard Seed Money.

What are some good tips you picked up from The Richest Man in Babylon?

Save at least 10% of your income, make sure you have proper insurance, and invest only in things which you understand are a few keys from that book.

Is there anything else you could add that would add value to the readers?

Consistent efforts over time result in big successes:

What you do today matters. What you do every day matters. Successful people are those who understand that the little choices they make matter and because of that they choose to do things that seem to make no difference at all in the act of doing them, and they do them over and over and over until the compound effect kicks in.

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

Our readers can go to The Mastermind Within.

On The Mastermind Within, I talk mainly about personal finance. financial freedom, and self-improvement, but I also talk about tips for business, career, and entrepreneurship.

I post Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, with a podcast episode that goes live Tuesdays.

Jake and I recorded an episode about personal finance that went live April 24th! You won’t want to miss it!

Wrap up

That concludes my interview with Erik. 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 Katie from Chain of Wealth.

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

Interview with Shawn

Hey guys!

Today I have the this week’s installment of our segment: Interviews with money experts. I talked with Shawn from The Smart FI.

Without further ado, here’s the interview.

Could you give the readers a little backstory as to who you are and why you started The Smart FI?
I am a husband, father of two boys, and a Registered Nurse by trade. I have always been a saver from a very young age, by necessity almost. I remember my mother telling me when I was young, that she had made $18,000 a year. At the time that seemed like so much money but as an adult, I realize we were poor.
My first job was at the age of 13, at a small hamburger stand. It was from that point on, that I was responsible for most of my own expenses. I started saving for a car, auto insurance, and school clothes. I finished out my K-12 education with a clear plan to go to college.
I graduated from Nursing School with no student loans by utilizing scholarships and low-income federal Pell Grants. I moved to the city and was quickly hired to work in an inner-city emergency department. This was quite a culture shock for a country boy.
Gangs, drugs, and alcohol kept our ER humming along, patching up gunshots and stab wounds. It was so busy some days but, man, was it exciting. Something like the scenes from a movie. Early on I knew I couldn’t do that job forever though. So I started maxing out my 403(b).
In 2006 my wife and I had our first child and in 2008 we had our second child. My wife, who is also a Registered Nurse, quit her job to stay at home and raise our children. Losing 50% of our income put the brakes on the retirement savings.
As our children grew older my wife slowly returned to work and just last year started a part-time job. It was really having children that forced our family to live on one income. As my wife has begun to work more we saved/invested the extra money.
Currently, we are saving 40% of our income.
The reason I started The Smart FI blog was out of a desire to do a greater good. I am informally the go-to guy at work for financial questions. I have taken the time to thoroughly understand my employers 403b, HSA, and health insurance.
I wanted to create a resource for my peers to learn about IRA’s, saving and investing. Now, when I get a finance question at work I say, “have you checked the blog?”
(Editor’s Note: A 403(b) is an employer-sponsored retirement account usually offered to public/government employees. It’s very similar to a 401(k)).

How did you come up with the name for your website?

I have been interested in financial independence my whole life, so when I stumbled upon the FI movement I knew I had met my people and I wanted to join the party. Several of the first FI blogs I read early on seemed to be written by young males, with high paying tech salaries and no kids.

I, on the other hand, was a 40-year-old married father with two children. My wife doesn’t necessarily subscribe to the idea of frugality and my kids sure as hell don’t. So I thought there would be an audience of people in my demographic that would be interested in getting rich slowly.

The Smart FI is my attempt to help those in my situation reach FI, through a smarter more measured approach. Thus, TheSmartFi was born.

How do you get to save 40% of your income? Strict budgeting? Envelope system?
Let me tell you a little secret, our family is horrible at budgeting. The truth is my wife and I seldom agree on our personal finance goals. We have tried using fin-tech software like Mint. We have tried cash. What I finally settled on is paying ourselves first.
If savings comes from our pay before ever hitting our checking account then we don’t really miss it. So over the last two years, I have ratcheted up our 403b accounts and Roth IRA accounts to the point where we both max-out those accounts.
What allows us to max-out all of these accounts is that we have two paid off cars. In a typical family, two financed vehicles account for up to 20% of take-home pay. That really erodes your ability to save.
My formula for calculating our savings percentage is:
Taxable and nontaxable savings + yearly mortgage principal paydown ÷ Gross income

Are there any lessons that you’ve learned from working in an inner-city ER?
My three lessons learned from working 15 years in an inner-city ER. First life is fickle and through no fault of your own, tragedy can strike at any moment. Second, take care of yourself. Daily, I see regret on the faces of patients who have abused their bodies for years. Third and most importantly, above all else be kind. Often a kind word or gentle touch to a worried parent of an ill child can make all the difference.

What are some financial tips for a family that has moved or is thinking about moving to one income?
To really be able to go to one income, I really believe you have to attack the top three budget busters in America, housing, car, and food.
Almost everyone in America falls for the same script. Graduate college and buy a new car, then find a partner and buy a “more expensive than you can afford” house that you will grow into. My wife and I actually made both of these mistakes.
Fortunately, through planning, we were able to eliminate the car loans and cut down on groceries and eating out to be able to live off of one income when our children were young.
Although our two boys still don’t recognize the value, it was a real blessing for my wife and me to have those early years to spend with the children at home instead of daycare. I wouldn’t have traded it for anything.
And let’s be honest you need a career or trade that makes a good wage. None of this works at the poverty level.

Were there any money lessons you were taught growing up that you appreciate now?
I attribute my savings genes to my father who was eternally frugal. He has since retired, but he worked in a warehouse managing inventory. He never made more than $10 per hour his whole life.
My mother, on the other hand, taught me how to stretch money by cooking at home, driving used cars and avoiding eating out. I learned from both my mother and father that you have to improve both ends of the net worth equation.
It’s not enough to just be frugal, you need to grow your income also. You have to always grow the gap between what you make and you spend.

Where did you turn to gain your knowledge of finance and what did you learn?
I have always had a passion for saving money and making it grow. I did not have any mentors in my childhood who took time to show me what it meant to make your money work for you. I read books and had a subscription to money magazine at age 18. Nerdy, I know. I have made my mistakes along the way.
I learned the hard way. I was 20-years-old during the dot-com bubble. All over the media and in the papers there were rags to riches stories of people day trading there way to fortunes. I wanted in.
So I took all the money I had to my name, $2,000. I went down to the local bank where I met with a “broker” who told me he was going to sell me a hot stock.
I left the bank with a piece of paper saying I owned Dell Stock. I never saw that money again. A year or two later I rode Dell down to almost nothing.
I could be mad at the broker, but I figure I paid $2,000 to learn a very important lesson.

What are some investing lessons you’ve learned since your dot-com days?
Everyone repeat after me. I am not smarter than the market. I am not trying to beat the market. I just want to match the market.
Seriously, I used to watch CNBC’s Jim Cramer years ago and try to buy all of the hot-tip stocks. I only lost money. At work, I get asked frequently what is my favorite stock to buy. They always seem bummed out when I tell them it’s the Total Stock Market Index ETF.
I love Warren Buffet’s quote, “Why try to find the needle in the haystack when you can just buy the whole haystack.”
The last thing I learned is the trading fees and high expense ratios will eat your gains up.
I was just explaining to a nurse the other day that if you buy a $100 stock and pay a $7 trading commission it just cost you 7% and that one share has to appreciate to $107 before you break even.
She had not ever thought about the fees associated with purchasing stock.

What is your plan when you reach FI?
As previously mentioned my wife and I struggle with finding a balance between saving and spending. If left to my own devices I would save almost all of my pay because I just don’t spend money on things I don’t value. My wife does bring balance to the table and she helps me to meet in the middle.
Our current FI plan is to continue maxing out our 403b and Roth IRA. Next is paying off our mortgage. You can read about that plan here. After our mortgage is paid off it will be about time to start paying for college. I plan to finance college with the old mortgage payment.
I really do like my job in a pediatric emergency department. I would like it a lot more if I worked less. At some point, after the mortgage is paid off I will decrease the hours I work. Truthfully, I will probably never retire in the traditional sense. I will just transition to fewer hours of work per week. I’ll work because I want to, not because I have to.

What’s some advice you hope to pass onto your kids and the next generation?
I really haven’t tried to teach my children about personal finance yet. I have explained stocks and investing but I try to allow them to be kids. At ages 9 and 12, I know they are capable of understanding but they are more concerned about what they are going to spend their birthday money on and I’m okay with that.
As they grow older I hope to mentor them on starting a Roth IRA or signing up for their first 401(k). I figure they won’t really listen until they want the knowledge.
Robert Kiyosaki says in his book Rich Dad Poor Dad, “buy assets, not liabilities.” This is something I will really try to impress upon my children as they near their earning years.

Any other important financial lessons you picked up from Rich Dad Poor Dad.
It took me a long time to finally pick up Rich Dad Poor Dad and read it. I was initially turned off by the book’s premise that formal education teaches you to fail. Once I started reading the book I realized there was much to learn from the other messages the book teaches.
A couple quick financial lessons I learned were:

  • Buy “luxuries” last and use cash flow from your assets to buy those luxuries. Everyone wants that shiny new car or the big house to impress people they don’t know or don’t care about. These two luxuries are usually purchased early in a career when peoples’ earning power had not yet grown.
  • Next, make your money work for you by reinvesting income from your assets back into more assets. This triggers the power of compound interest. Once your assets reach critical mass and your assets provide enough income to live off of, you are now financially free. Congratulations!

What’s an app, a book, and a podcast you’d recommend to someone who wants to improve their financial situation?
App- I love Mint. I love how it aggregates all of my accounts. I know in almost real time what I have in my checking accounts and what my upcoming credit card balances will be.
Book- My favorite nonfiction book has been, Rich Dad Poor Dad: What the Rich Teach Their Kids About Money That the Poor and Middle Class Do Not!

. My favorite takeaway from that book is, “buy assets, not liabilities.” It is a simple yet powerful lesson.
Podcast- I love, love, love podcasts. I listen to podcasts while I’m running and also on my way to work. I feel like I learn more from podcasts than any other place. It is like free college. My current favorite podcasts are:

Is there anything else you could add that would benefit the readers?
This is something I will tell my kids when they are about to enter the workforce. Spend less than you make and you will be just fine. It really is that simple! The more that you are able to grow the gap between earnings and spendings, determines how long it will take you to be financially free.

Where can people go to learn more about you and your work?
I write for my own blog, TheSmartFi.com. I am active on Twitter and on Instagram under the handle thesmartfi for both platforms.
I just want to add a plug for Twitter. I honestly thought Twitter was a dying platform before I started to blog, but now this is where I spend most of my time with FI personalities that are incredibly intelligent. I have learned so much just from networking with these other great FI bloggers.

Wrap-up

That concludes my interview with Shawn. 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 J Money from Budgets are Sexy.

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