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.

[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.

I 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? 

[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.

 

[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.

James
 

James retired in 2005 after serving 21 years in the United States Army. During the latter part of his career, James' interest in personal finance was piqued based on his own experiences and observations of the way most Americans plan – or more accurately, fail to plan – for retirement and the difficulty many face in starting the process. His most valued education has been lessons learned from personal experience and through conversations with smart, savvy friends.

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