I first met Jack through social media and liked what he had written in the “About” section on his blog. He notes that he is a crazy thirty-something who thinks that working for a living is for suckers, and that there must be something more to life than shopping malls, TV, professional sports and a job you may not love with people you may barely be able to tolerate, sucking the majority of your energy such that you have nothing left at the end of the day for your personal pursuits. I’m pleased that he has agreed to sit for A SavvyInterview.
What was the catalyst that started you on the road to fiscal fitness? How old were you at the time?
To be honest, I’ve always been interested in money and savings. Even as a small child I was a saver, saving my $2 a week allowance for months on end to make purchases. I used the first $100 I earned from my paper route to buy a savings bond. I started investing (tentatively) when I was 18 in mutual funds. But to be honest I really didn’t get serious about financial fitness until I was 28 after hitting a personal financial “rock-bottom” which I’ve painfully shared on my blog. Since then I’ve been making steady progress. It’s only in the past two years that I’ve become a devoted to the idea of financial independence – a financial freedom fighter as I like to say.
What do you believe are some of the essential behaviors individuals should adopt in order to become, or remain, fiscally fit?
In my opinion financial fitness is 95% mental, 5% tactical. There are a number of money management behaviours that I’d consider essential but I think it’s the “mental game” that most people fail at. First – drop any sort of guilt you carry over your past behaviour. Guilt begets self-pity and self-pity is grease on the proverbial slippery slope. It’s done. You can’t change the past, but you can use it as experience from which to draw strength and build a better future.
Second – stop comparing yourself to others. Jealousy and envy are the worst pick-pockets around. You can’t afford to keep up with the Joneses – and that’s okay because truthfully, the Joneses likely can’t keep up with the Joneses either. As the work of Dr. Thomas Stanley points out – most people who act rich aren’t.
Third – is to set SMART goals and write them down. Written goals are a contract with yourself, you tend to keep them. Making goals Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time bound, also helps to ensure you get them done. It’s good to have some short-term and longer-term goals you’re working towards at all times. Each motivate you in different ways which can help you stay on track.
Fourth, identify small changes and adopt them, live them and make them into habits. Don’t start with massive changes to your life (if you can avoid it) because chances are, you’ll slip back into the old behaviour. Once the changes are second nature, change some more. Continue to do this until you’ve revolutionized the way you deal with money.
Next – READ blogs. Find blogs that reflect your life situation or about people with whom you find some connection and follow them. Seriously – you can draw so much inspiration from the personal stories of people just like you. Watching other real people struggling through the same troubles you face will make you feel less alone and will likely keep you on the road to financial wellness.
Finally – start. Start today – no excuses, just start. No matter how scared you are, lazy or unprepared you feel, just start. And keep starting until it takes. That’s a lot of “essential behaviours” but to me these are truly the fundamentals. While we don’t like to admit it, we are emotion driven. Any financial fitness plan that doesn’t first deal with the emotional side of things is doomed to failure.
What was the best financial advice you ever received?
Best financial advice I ever received was indirectly received via two books, “Your Money or Your Life” by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin and “Early Retirement Extreme” by Jacob Lund Fisker. The advice is not advice really, but more of a new perspective. They have helped me realize you only have so much time on this planet – how much do you want to trade of it for “things”? We essentially trade our time and energy for money so every time you spend a dollar on anything – you are giving away time and energy you sold. You can’t get any more time – so don’t trade it away frivolously. This one realization has changed everything for me. The worst? The worst financial advice I ever received was – sadly from my parents who didn’t trust investing in the market. I ignored them thankfully. They are great human beings – but they didn’t always make the best choices with their money.
For the past couple of years I’ve been an avid personal finance blog reader and have often daydreamed about starting my own. One weekend this past January I took my own advice and on impulse I just started. Bought the domain and hosting fees. After having spent the money, now I had to being otherwise it would have been a waste of money. While I’ve learned a lot about money management and investments – I’m not always the world’s best example. My blog is equal parts creative outlet, therapy, and accountability mechanism. I’m hoping the blog will help keep me on track.
What has been the most difficult aspect of running it?
The biggest challenge is finding the time to write and to market the content I produce. I have so much on my plate between my two jobs and school that I have to carve out 20 minutes here and 10 minutes there to make any progress. It’s hard, but I’m loving it, especially when people respond to something I’ve written. Comments make my day.
I encourage readers to check out Jack’s blog and see how he goes about saving.
With regards to planning and managing your portfolio, is that something you do on your own, through a financial adviser, or a combination of the two?
I do it all on my own. I’ve recently moved all of my adviser managed money into my online trading account and I’m 100% solo now. It’s not for everyone – but I’ve got a financial background and I follow a very simple investment strategy. I’m an index, ETF investor primarily with a few individual stock for fun. I don’t use advisers because after spending time in the industry, I know that the system is working against me. Don’t get me wrong – most advisers want to do a good job and have an honest desire to help you out, however their paycheck comes from a system structured to maximize profit for the financial institution. Most “advice” is prescribed by the company they work for. It’s not a healthy system at this point. There are obviously some examples of great advisers that break this stereotype, but they are far too few.