A SavvyInterview – Jason

As I prepare to publish my review of You Only Live Once: The Roadmap to Financial Wellness and a Purposeful Life, I thought it was a great time to reach back into the RetirementSavvy archives for the interview I conducted with the book’s author, Jason Vitug, more than two years ago.

This week’s SavvyInterview is with Jason, a founder at Phroogal, and a fellow personal finance blogger I have known awhile, through Google+ and Twitter. Jason offers great insight on how to establish a healthy relationship with money. I’m pleased he has taken the time to sit for this SavvyInterview.

A SavvyInterview

[RetirementSavvy] What was the catalyst that started you on the road to fiscal fitness? How old were you at the time?

[Jason Vitug] I’ve had my struggle with spending and debt. For the first part of my adult life, I spent a good portion working while going to college. Any left over money I had was spent to reward myself for the hard work.

Jason Vitug HeadshotI was able to manage my school and work responsibilities and so I had more money than a typical college student. Eventually my spending went out of control and I made one poor decision after another. I was trying to compensate for the time I spent working and at school with things to “reward myself.” I bought a BMW, brand name clothes, spent money on dinners and vacations. I racked up enormous amount of student loan debt, credit card debt and a car payment that was equivalent to housing rent.

I was 26 when I realized I needed to make a change but it wasn’t until three years later those changes became habit.

When I realized happiness wasn’t going to be bought with things that’s when I knew I had to make a drastic change in my lifestyle. That is when I decided to resign from my executive job and travel the world. In 2011, I began selling my belongings and realized how hard it was for me to get rid of an area rug. Yes, a rug.

Experiencing the world in a shoestring budget and meeting people from various backgrounds solidified my thoughts on money. Money is a liberator. Debts are ball and chains. Spending depletes money and increases reliance on debt.

[RS] What was the best financial advice you ever received?

[JV] The best financial advice I’ve received was, “Spend to live.” Spend to cover the basics of housing, food and clothing. It’s helped me differentiate between the needs and wants. I need shelter but I don’t need a $3000/month loft in downtown.

[RS] The worst? 

World Travel[JV] The worst piece of advice was and I paraphrase, “It’s your money. You don’t know when you’re going to die so might as well use it now.” It’s a flawed philosophy because the chances are you’ll live a bunch more years. It taught me to spend what I earned. Then work more to spend more. It didn’t introduce me to the idea that money invested can make money. I didn’t have to work more to simply spend more. I can save and invest more to work less and have more time to do things I wanted.

[RS] Tell us about your blog. What was your motivation for starting it and is there a specific audience you are hoping to reach?

[JV] I actually started blogging when I was backpacking around the world in 2012. It was a way for me to remain connected to my family and friends back home. It spurred my love for writing. When I was in my 6th country atop a temple I recall saying to myself, “I’m living my dream. Why weren’t others there with me?” It wasn’t about having more money it was learning how to use money.

When I got back in January 2013, I began working on my idea for Phroogal which is access and answers to financial knowledge. My goal is build the largest crowd-source knowledge base. But, I didn’t really know how to go about building the platform. Instead, I started blogging about my personal finance experiences as I figure out how to program.

In April 2013, I began working on Phroogal full-time. I changed my writing style and got involved with other bloggers. It’s how we’ve grown to 3000+ readers.

Phroogal for the most part will help people discover answers and resources to help them live life rich. It will be an easier way for people to find great stories from personal finance bloggers and experts. The Phroogal Blog will remain as a vehicle to share my personal stories and thoughts.

Hiking - Aneta Ivanova

[RS] What has been the most difficult aspect of running the blog?

[JV] Blogging is a full-time job. It takes a lot of work and time to write great stories and to share them on proper channels. There’s a thought that if you write it people will show up. However, I’ve learned the work needed to make people aware your blog exists.

[RS] With regards to planning and managing your retirement portfolio, is that something you do on your own, through a financial adviser, or a combination of the two?

[JV] I currently manage my retirement portfolio and investments. But, at this point I’ve invested much of my assets and savings into Phroogal. That’s how passionate and determined I am in helping others discover the knowledge I’ve attained.

I do spend a great deal of time reading, speaking with other personal finance bloggers and financial advisors but ultimately the decisions and management has been mine. I keep myself informed as much as possible and know the importance of being involved in making decisions.

I did recently speak to an expert on insurance options. It’s a subject I don’t know much about and I know is an important part of my retirement plans. However, after an hour session going over policies I realized why I’m not a big fan of the “salesman” advisor. It reminded me of an experience I had with a financial advisor who wanted me to trust their word but wouldn’t take the time to educate me.

Will I seek a financial advisor’s assistance in the future? I definitely will. I know the importance of gaining knowledge from experts. I also know that as an educated investor those conversations and expert advice will be better received and executed.

Blogger-in-Chief here at RetirementSavvy and author of Sin City Greed, Cream City Hustle and RENDEZVOUS WITH RETIREMENT: A Guide to Getting Fiscally Fit.

14 Comments

  1. Great interview and perspective, Jason. As we’re heading into retirement and dropping our Cadillac employer health insurance, I’m especially interested in hearing about conversations with experts/salesmen. And I love your adventurous spirit on the travel front.

    • I definitely like Jason’s money (and life) perspective … it lines up nicely with my own 😁 Check back on the 11th when the book review will be published. I believe it’s a book you – and message – you will enjoy.

  2. Great interview, many young professionals don’t have much sense when it comes to buying expensive cars. If their parents do not get to them early, they will continue the bad financial trend. Another thing about young individuals is that they have a mentality of I know it all. I did it as well, and I thought I was good with money.

    • Thanks for the feedback. I was really glad Jason took the time to sit for the interview and offer some great insight with respect to not only personal finance – I loved his observation that “Debts are ball and chains. Spending depletes money and increases reliance on debt” – but on life perspectives.

  3. Thanks for the additional info. I know about some cheap places. I paid $7 per night for a room directly on the water in Honduras. Beautiful place and the best time of my life! Anyway thanks again and good luck to you!

  4. Hello all – great interview. I am curious about how or if the debt was paid off. When faced with an enormous debt load, most people don’t quit their job and travel around the world. I mean just getting across the pond can cost a lot of money and then getting around, food, shelter, internet, medical care etc. can cost a pretty penny.
    Anyway, no need to answer me – I’m just thinking out loud. Was just always curious how people were able to travel the world.

    • Thanks for chiming in, Val. A great question. My understanding is that Jason literally sold everything he had to satisfy the debt. Maybe Jason will stop by and provide a little more detail.

    • Valerie,

      I wasn’t debt free just made enough to cover my spending, bills and savings. Although in debt I was also saving money to buy a house and had a down payment. As you can see I was already thinking of getting myself into more debt by purchasing a home. When the light bulb switched in my head I chose to use the downpayment to pay off my debt. I sold everything I own to pay down everything I owed. I also exercised some stock options. It really was about prioritization.

      Even though I was in debt I always managed to save something and took advantage of perks.

      Traveling the world isn’t as expensive as you think. I slept in hostels, couches and a few 5 star resorts. In 12 months excluding 2 major airfare tickets I spent under 10K and explored 21 countries. To give you some perspectives in Laos, I spent $233 in 3 weeks which included housing, food and exploring the entire country.

      When you see the world in that way and meet so many people who tell you how “America is land of opportunity” or America has so much money. You really begin to think hard about how each dollar is spent.

      • Thanks for stopping in and providing a little more insight, Jason. Certainly appreciated.

  5. Great interview Jason. Wow, to live the life you have at such a young age! Good for you. I agree with SavvyJames on your “money is a liberators” quote, love this. It sounds like you became very knowledgeable in a short time. Good luck with your blog. I will definitely be checking it out.

    • Thank you very much Karen. I appreciate the time you took to learn a bit about me. As you can see it hasn’t always been roses and rainbows. Made a lot of mistakes and made even more and eventually found the right path. It’s made me appreciate the value of the dollar and the work needed to make that dollar.

      • Agreed that a little hardship goes a long way toward making someone appreciate the value of hard work and an earned dollar.

  6. Enjoyed the interview. Thanks for sharing my story.

    • Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts with SavvyReaders. Your observation that “Money is a liberator. Debts are ball and chains. Spending depletes money and increases reliance on debt” is spot on and something I will continue to share with others.

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