Why did you decide to start a personal finance blog like Your Money Geek? What do you think sets it apart from other financial blogs?
The blog started out as an accident. I hired a company to do some online marketing for my business, and they talked me into a letting them create a blog. Before that experience, I wasn’t familiar with blogs or the blogging industry, I wasn’t even sure what a blog was.
They set about drafting some posts and sent them to me for review. I wasn't in love with what they were writing, so I decided to write my own post. I was such a novice to blogging I went to Barnes and Noble's and bought books on "how to blog.' (A quick Google search would have sufficed)
My inaugural post was a flop. To date I think only my wife and our more literate cat have read that first post. Despite the lack of traffic and fame, the damage was done — I was hooked and knew blogging was something I wanted to do.
I think what sets the blog apart from other blogs, is that the blog was not created to make money. The blog was not created as part of some scheme to get rich quick and leave my day job so I could sell eCourses and affiliate products by the beach.
My goal is to make personal finance fun! I jokingly tell people the site is for people who are not personal finance groupies. On the site we talk about unique and weird ways to make money, how to plan for retirement, etc. We also profile inspirational success stories and discuss geeky topics, such as Star Wars and Zombies.
You talk about being a “serious side hustler.” What’s your favorite side-hustle you’ve come across?
The side hustle I recommend to readers the most is Symposium. Symposium is an online platform and marketplace that allows anyone to monetize their experience through one-on-one or one-to-many presentations. You could think of the app like a live pay-per-view YouTube video, podcast or conference call.
Most people are an expert in something, even hobbyists likely have a skill they could monetize on the Symposium marketplace. Fashion junkies could launch presentations on how to dress for success, beauty bloggers could do tutorials on make-up, gamers could offer live play thoughts or game hacks, business professions could share how to ace an interview, pitch a product, or secure funding — the possibilities are endless.
Most of the more popular side hustles such as blogging, podcasting, and YouTubing, require large audiences to make even modest money. With the Symposium app, you could launch a presentation for $5 or $10, easily have between 100 and 500 people sign up and make more money with less work than bloggers and podcasters with much larger audiences.
In your line of work, you’ve probably come across some “money-management myths” that can actually end up being very harmful. What’s one that you wish people would stop paying attention to?
I wish people would stop trying to pay down debt so aggressively and I wish producers of financial content would back off the tough-love "debt is stupid" approach.
When it comes to fitness and diets, it's widely accepted that the people who get in shape and maintain their new physique are those that lost weight gradually. However, personal finance gurus often espouse the financial equivalent of a deprivation-based, quick-fix diet. Some experts routinely suggest people maintain a minimal emergency fund and forego saving for retirement to prioritize accelerated debt repayment.
The challenge with this approach is at the first sign of a financial emergency, people paying debt too aggressively are forced back into debt. This the yo-yo diet version of debt repayment. Many financial gurus recommend emergency funds as low as $1500. For most families, $1500 would barely cover a month of being out of work.
Avoiding paying interest is a great goal but in the grand scheme of things, if it takes 14 extra months to be debt free, how much interest will it really cost? If paying down a debt slower helps ensure your ability to stick with the plan and enjoy more out of life, then a few extra months interest is an acceptable cost.
What was it like meeting/interviewing Diane Franklin?
Interviewing Diane Franklin was one of the highlights of my blogging career. I am a huge fan of Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure and Better Off Dead and was thrilled when she agreed to do an interview. Since I am a fan of her work, I was little nervous that I would say the wrong thing or something silly.
We talked for over an hour, and I love how the interview turned out. Our discussions are transcribed recorded conversations, and I like to publish them with minimal editing. I think part of the charm of the series is reading how celebrities talk in real life. I think some of the errors, fillers, etc., that otherwise would get edited out make the interviews more relatable.
Diane understood exactly what I was shooting for. She offered excellent advice and was a pleasure to work with in editing. Since I have published the interview, readers have been emailing and messaging me that they loved the interview and found it helpful. I love that most of the messages contained the quote “I want my two dollars." Anytime you can inspire people and relive some great 80s cinema, it’s a win.
How has your life changed since starting Your Money Geek? Do you live your life differently because of it?
The blog has made me more compassionate and empathetic to people’s situations. Some of our blog posts critique the prevailing wisdom and readers often email or send me messages on social media about their experience with the status quo.
It’s frustrating and heartbreaking to hear stories about people who are in debt because of the medical needs of a child or some unforeseen emergency. What is worse yet is when they tell me they were turned off by other financial blogs because the consensus is that if you are in debt, it's because your Latte habit isn't in check. I feel financial bloggers are supposed to help people improve their lives and I fail to see how comments dripping with condescension is helpful.
I started to reflect on how we approach financial literacy and even more so on how we approach each. You never know what someone else is experiencing or feeling; the best bet is to be as helpful and supportive as possible.
What do you see coming for yourself and the blog in the upcoming years?
To make personal finance fun and accessible, I would like to see the blog continue to grow. I would love to increase our social media following and email newsletter, subscribers. I write posts that I am passionate about, and Google has a hard time understanding our mash-up of finance, pop-culture, celebrity interviews, and retirement advice. Social media is our way around the Google gatekeep that seems to favor the cliché.
So, if any of your readers are interested in some unique posts, please follow us on social media and sign up for our daily newsletter.
What is the most interesting thing you’ve learned about financial management since starting Your Money Geek?
The blog taught me that most people step over dollars to save pennies. I read blog posts or comments on social media where people negotiated hard with the cable company to save $15 on a cable package. I will often ask them if they have a tax plan, or if they have the most cost-effective health insurance policy, and their response is usually no.
For most households, taxes, interest, and insurance are the three most significant expenses. Yet they spend the lion's share of their effort worrying about reducing frivolous monthly expenditures. Every year Americans miss out on valuable tax credits because they failed to create a tax budget.
If you want to increase your savings rate, spend some time creating a tax budget, and comparison shop all your insurance policies at least yearly and any time you have a significant life change.
Got a quote about making money? I’d love to hear it!
"It's ok to have nice things. You just have to be willing to do the work to pay for them."
A lot of the conventional financial wisdom deals with delayed satisfaction or even no satisfaction. Life is about balance; you should save some and spend some.