About Financial Liberty:
Tell us about yourself?
I’m 28 and live in Austin, TX. I started my career as an Electrical Engineer, but then started working in operations managing the budget for our R&D organization. I’m just under a year from my “FIRE” (Financial Independence, Retire Early) crossover point, so I won’t be a corporate peon for much longer :)
When did you get interested in personal finance?
Hmmm… as soon as I could talk? I’ve always had an interest in finance. I had my first bank account when I was in grade school (even though it only had a few bucks). I also was already budgeting my money between spending, savings, and charity at around the same age.
Why do you believe learning about money and caring about personal finance is important?
Money isn’t everything, but at the same time, it is.
If an emergency comes up that you can’t cover, you have to trade part of your future (by acquiring debt) to manage the situation. Even in less extreme circumstances, not having your finances in order takes away from your overall quality of life. 85% of people are unhappy with their jobs, but what choice do they have if they’re just trying to keep up with their bills?
What inspired you to create personal finance content?
I’ve watched my parents struggle with money for most of my life. When I was a kid, my parents didn’t earn much money, sometimes only a little more than minimum wage while raising two kids.
About the time I was in college, my parents started to get more established in professional careers and earned more money. Yet they were still struggling in the same way they were when we were trying to get by with <$30k.
I started to realize it’s about behavior. It’s ultimately rooted in the relationship we have with money and how we think about it. In trying to help my parents, a lot of ideas started spinning around in my head that I wanted to share with others.
What is your ideal audience, who are you hoping to reach with your content?
The people I’d like to help the most are the lower-middle class people like my parents. Being in this “class” creates a belief for people that they will never be financially secure or wealthy and this becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Whether you make $30k a year or $300k, you can achieve Financial Liberty. I mostly want to help the people earning only $30k to understand that there’s more opportunity than they may realize. Though, there are some obstacles high-income earners can run into as well.
I really want to help everybody think differently about money.
What are your top 3 pieces of advice about personal finance?
- Your habits are more important than your income.
- No matter where you started, where you end is up to you.
- Debt is a trap.
What are your top 3 financial mistakes you can share – how did you grow and improve?
- Investing too aggressively, not diversifying, and forgetting about the long-term.
- I started investing as soon as I turned 18 and could open a brokerage account. I panicked when the market dipped (the debt-ceiling crisis in 2011), so I sold at a loss. If I would have held those investments they would have more than 10X’d by now. I continued investing (I learn by doing). Now I have more than 10 years of experience and a well-diversified portfolio.
- Paying expensive tuition.
- My first year of college was at a private school, and I took out student loans to cover it because I thought it would be worth it for the quality. Thankfully, I cut my losses after 1 year, finished up my Associate’s at a community college, then went to a state school for my Bachelor’s. The quality of education was just as good (if not better, honestly), and I kept my costs low.
- Not understanding my personal relationship with money.
- I always thought I was a financial guru because I was saving so much money and investing it. After a few years, I looked inward and realized that more money was not making me happy. In fact, all of my good saving habits were based purely on fear; fear that I would lose my job or struggle the way my parents did. Money was still controlling my life, and I had to grow as a person to overcome this fear and have a healthy relationship with my finances.
If you received $5,000,000 tomorrow, what would you do with the money?
- $3,000,000 would go into two portfolios of $1.5 million each: one for my sister and one for my parents. I would set these up with a 60/40 asset allocation of stocks and bonds. With a 4% withdrawal rate, they could have $60,000 per year for the rest of their lives.
- ~$500,000 for new motorcycles for everyone in the Austin Chapter of Bikers Against Child Abuse (BACA). BACA is a 501(c)(3) non-profit dedicated to empowering abused children.
- The last $1.5 million I would also invest to provide long-term income to continue regularly giving to various charities (BACA and Safe in Austin are my favorites), or pursuing projects that I think would make the world a better place.
Rank the following from most important to least important – Saving money, Increasing Income, Paying down debt – Please explain why you ranked them this way?
- Paying down debt.
- Saving money.
- Increasing income.
Debt first because if you owe debt to anyone, they essentially own your time. How can you create the life you want if you have to go to work to pay someone else?
Saving money is next because if you don’t start learning to save, it doesn’t matter how much you increase your income. I know people making six figures who are living paycheck-to-paycheck, and I know people making $15/hour that have more in their savings account than the average American.
What are your top three pieces of content that you created that are a good starting point for everyone to read?
What is Financial Liberty? – My first blog post that explains my idea and my mission
A Home is NOT an Investment – A contrarian point of view that I think is especially important right now as people are going crazy for real estate
How Poor People Can Get Rich – Before I started my professional career, I didn’t make much money, sometimes only minimum wage. I still found ways to save money, and this gave me a huge head start for when I finally started earning a good income. Anyone can save money and become wealthy. It just takes little things that you repeat every day.
Thank you for the interview! Let me know if you have any questions, and stay tuned for more content! I originally started on BlogSpot, but just recently moved to my own domain, FiLiberty.com. I still have over 2 dozen pieces of content to migrate, and I’m writing new content all the time!