Over the next few weeks I will be interviewing a series of personal finance bloggers. I hope you find each of their unique stories as insightful and revealing as I did. Most importantly, I hope we can all learn from their experiences with money.
This week I have had the pleasure of interviewing Matt @ Distilled Dollar. Matt is a Chicago based CPA helping people to extract the vital aspects of personal finance as they pursue financial independence. Distilled Dollar was created as a way to connect with others while sharing in the stumbles and triumphs of building wealth. Visit Matt’s blog site Distilled Dollar and follow him on Twitter.
- Tell us about your ‘money story’. Has this story changed how you manage your money today and how? My money story began in college as I racked up student loan debt. That was a large enough concern as it is, but then the 2008 financial crisis made everything worse. I’ve always come from a home with a middle to upper middle class income, but it was entirely dependent on my parent’s real estate business. Once the market tanked, I saw firsthand the incomes of my parents dry up to essentially zero.There was so much turmoil and stress as a result of the recession, that I vowed to myself I wouldn’t let this same situation happen in my future family. Money in those early days wasn’t about freedom or confidence, it was about avoiding the pain associated with not having it.
Growing up I used to believe that money was the root of evil, but I started to consider it the opposite in those days. I started to see the lack of money as being a trigger for terrible events.
Long story short, I ended up reading at least 100 books on the topics of investing, personal finance, and building wealth. I pursued a degree in accounting and am now a licensed CPA.
- If you could give 3 personal finance tips to anyone, what would those be? If I had to summarize it as 3, then I would say:First, realize personal finance is sexy because developing great money habits leads to instant confidence. It takes time to build wealth, but at least we can start developing those great habits today.
Second, is to commit to learning what to do and what not do. If we spend two thousand hours a year earning our money, then it is a natural choice to spend two or three hours a month learning about personal finance. That’s all it takes. A lot of financial advisors will make it seem more complicated, but they’re just looking for a cut of your hard earned money.
Plus, if you don’t spend the time learning about personal finance, chances are high you’re spending that time stressed out about money. That’s what I did for far too long and I’m glad I was able to transition into being more proactive with my finances.
Third, develop an understanding of your expenses. I’ve said this before, but once we gain an honest clarity of our expenses, we can start to tweak our budgets to save and invest more of our money. As the gap grows between income and expenses, we will have more fuel to add to the fire of investing.
- What is the smartest thing you did with money and why? Automate as much as possible. I mean, set up bills to be paid automatically online and have investments occur automatically from your paycheck.An old Buffett quote is, “Savings are not what is left after spending, rather, spending is what is left after savings.”
This sums up the idea that we need to pay ourselves first, even if it starts off as $50 a month. Once we develop the habit, we can expand and develop it further.
- What is the dumbest thing you did with money and why?
To prep this one, I’ll mention I haven’t spent more than $300 in the last 18 months on clothing. But, one day not too long ago, I ended up spending $300 on ONE shirt. It wasn’t intentional by any means, so I’ll consider this the dumbest mistake I’ve made with money.
- If money was not an object, how would you spend your time?
I definitely enjoy working with money, especially taxes, because it feels great to always be delivering people good news. Most of my current job is finding areas where over payments occurred and securing refunds, so I can see myself doing something like this in the future.That being said, if I reached financial independence, I would be sure to negotiate a better position in terms of days off. I could see myself transition into a 4 day workweek with a few extra weeks off a year.
That extra time would be spent reading, writing on my blog, and traveling with my lovely future wife.
- What is your blog theme and why did you choose to start blogging?The theme of my blog is pursuing financial independence. I wrote a post describing the transition I’m aiming to achieve, which is from employee to becoming an investor
I started the blog as a way to enhance the communication between my girlfriend and myself. She was one of the reasons I started the blog because we basically went from stressing about personal finance to developing a rock solid game plan moving forward. That process took ~12 months and at the end, she suggested that I should talk about many of the same ideas online.
- If you could recommend a book to someone, what would it be and why? I would recommend the twenty minute read of Ben Franklin’s, The Way to Wealth. Many people don’t know that Franklin was able to retire early at the age of 42 through his tremendous work ethic (he grew up essentially poor and in a system with limited social mobility) and his strong level of frugality (he suggested on multiple occasions it is better to go to sleep hungry than wake up in debt).
- If you were given the opportunity to have a one-hour lunch with anyone in the world, whom would it be and why?
Absolutely it would be Craig Alexander. He’s a professional triathlete that has won the Kona World Championships of Iron Man three times. I myself also compete in a few triathlons each year and love the sport that consists of swimming, biking & running.
I know this isn’t a personal finance related person, but I think many of the lessons from competing in triathlons carry over into the realm of personal finance. Both events require patience, consistent effort over a long timeline, and are extremely rewarding (at least for me).
- If you could have a ‘do-over’ in any area of your life, what would that be and why? I’m gonna go against the grain here and say I don’t have any do-over suggestions. I believe each event, even the bad ones, offer up a lesson to be learned.In many ways, much of the terrible events in my past have created a spark that has led to where I am today. This holds true with personal finance, my career, and even my present relationship with my future wife.
Given we’re on such a great path together right now, I wouldn’t want to change anything that has contributed to me being the person I am today.
- Is there anything else you would like to share with everyone? The joy of the internet is that we can all learn from our mistakes, and we quickly learn just that, that everyone makes mistakes. It is a natural part of the process, so instead of beating ourselves up, we often look for areas we can improve for the next time.
Categories: Guest Posts