I’m so excited to join the Hat Toss community! I’ll be writing about all things money on here with career advice mixed in. Since money is so interwoven in our lives, I hope to tackle a lot of your questions to make it a source of joy rather than stress.
Don’t worry – I’m going to keep this interesting and fun without overwhelming you with complex stock trading jargon or exhaustive analysis of tax code. I’m here to help you master your money on a practical level, not to turn you into an Einstein of all things finance.
Who I Am
I’m a freelance writer and blogger with a passion for personal finance. With two degrees in engineering, I’ve always been a “numbers guy” with a knack for examining all the details and solving problems.
After working a nine-to-five job while blogging about personal finance for a year and a half, I’ve recently transitioned to freelancing. It’s challenging at times, but it’s also been incredibly rewarding to help others every day.
I spend a lot of my time reading and researching the latest in finance. While many of the fundamentals like saving for retirement or avoiding credit card debt stay the same, I love testing the latest web apps and technology to help me manage money on a smartphone and in less time.
What I Believe
I believe personal finance goes way beyond simply being frugal. In fact, my first piece of advice to others is to spend money on what you love while cutting back on everything else. Saving is important, too, but whole purpose is to make certain you’re spending it on the right things. Sure, some of your savings is for emergencies only or when you reach retirement, but some should also be spent on things you enjoy and care about right now.
I believe in managing your money in the easiest ways possible. If you hate how you keep track of your money, you’re not going to succeed. Make the steps as simple as possible, and you’ll have a lot better chance for success.
I don’t believe in complex, time-consuming budgets that take hours of work. Very few people are successful with this for a reason: it’s incredibly boring. I’m not saying to throw budgets out the window entirely, but there’s plenty of middle ground to find what’s simple and effective.
I take pride in challenging the status quo. With Americans holding billions in consumer debt, there’s clearly something wrong with how we’re spending money. Because of this:
- I’ve avoided owning a car and bike everywhere instead.
- I love being a renter instead of strapping myself with mortgage debt.
- I’ve always chosen jobs because they were interesting rather than to simply earn a paycheck.
I’m not against cars or houses or high-paying jobs for everyone, but I do believe that everyone needs to consider the implications for both their finances and their life before making big decisions with money. Don’t do it just because it’s what everyone else does!
How I Got Here
My post-college story was typical, as in “typically bad,” at least as far as debt goes. I finished my undergraduate degree with a bunch of student loans and about $2,500 in credit card debt. I spent money on things that that I shouldn’t have, and I quickly realized that getting rid of debt is much harder than getting into it. I begrudgingly paid off my credit card debt that first summer after college before enrolling in graduate school in the fall.
After living on a tight budget in graduate school, I committed to a year of service living at poverty levels in the AmeriCorps VISTA program. While I thought living on a $22,000 yearly grad student stipend was tough, the VISTA program only paid half as much so covering my expenses became at least twice as hard. But I vowed to live on my VISTA pay without going into credit card debt again. This meant living in a small apartment with roommates, brown-bagging lunch every day for work, and otherwise living a no-frills life.
I truly lived at poverty levels, just as the VISTA program is designed, and I experienced how it was nearly impossible to save any money, nevermind the constant worry of car trouble or medical bills. I’m happy to say I survived the year, and it was one the best experiences of my life, both personally and financially.
After my service year, I worked another year in the nonprofit sector. I worked hard to not scale up my life too much from my VISTA year (I still ate bagged lunches!), and I concentrated instead on paying off my student loans and saving as much as I could. In December 2011, I celebrated becoming 100% debt free. It’s a great feeling living free of monthly payments! Since then, I’ve been committed to helping others (and especially recent grads) become debt free, too.
What Makes Me an Expert?
I’ve been through what college grads experience with money and debt – and I’ve come out on the other side just fine! It’s been challenging, and I’ve made mistakes, but turning the mistakes into learning experiences has been key to making the financial foundations stronger.
Aside from experience, I’ve truly been a student of personal finance for years, learning all that I can by studying finance books and reading hours of blog posts and articles related to money each week.
I’ve not only read about financial planning, but I’ve worked hard to implement what I’ve learned. I maxed out my Roth IRA retirement account for 2011, and invested that in mutual funds that are easy to manage. I set up an emergency fund that will cover me when unexpected problems arise. I’ve tracked my spending closely so that I know when I’m spending too much on something that I don’t want to be spending on.
These steps and just a few others have been critical to staying financially healthy. I’m happy to share all I’ve learned since college. I hope you’ll stick around to read more about what to do with your money so that you can rid yourself of worry and feel financially free to enjoy life!