Jacob is the owner, author, and creator of the personal finance blog My Personal Finance Journey and the monthly Carnival of Passive Investing. He is currently in graduate school to obtain his PhD in Chemical Engineering and is performing research in Alzheimer’s disease drug development. On his website, he is currently running a promotion where he gives away 10% of his monthly blog income each month, with 5% going to readers and the other 5% going to a charity selected by the grand-prize winner. Make sure you get over there and enter the give away!
Why do you blog and how long have you been doing it?
Before getting started, I just wanted to express my gratitude to Shaun for this opportunity to discuss some of my thoughts today. It’s definitely an honor to be featured on Money Cactus!
I started my blog in January of 2010 (which seems like FOREVER ago since I’ve probably spent several thousand hours blogging since then!) for 3 primary reasons.
First, I wanted to have a place to share what I had learned about finance by reading books on my own and from my undergraduate studies in business and engineering. Second, I figured that having a place where I could discuss financial issues and my own personal finances would motivate me to learn more and be accountable for my own money management. Third, I had just started a new job in a new area of the country, didn’t have many friends around, and I found myself with a significant amount of time on my hands on the weekends and the weeknights that I decided I wanted to use to gain some business experience. After reading one of the “50 businesses you can start at home” books and seeing blogging listed among the favorites, I decided that it was a perfect fit for me!
Since then, things have just taken off from there, and I haven’t looked back (at least, I don’t try to! Haha).
Do you believe in budgets?
This is definitely a popular topic, and indeed, is something I get asked fairly frequently. To tell you the truth, I’m not even quite sure I know exactly what defines a budget any more, as it seems that these days, everyone’s take on financial planning is different. But, if you’re asking about the traditional definition of a budget where someone lays out their proposed spending for the month, and then saves whatever is left over, I most definitely do not believe in that technique.
What I do generally endorse is that immediately when your paycheck comes in, you allocate AND TRANSFER (if possible) the money to all of your monthly spending and savings requirements/vehicles. With this system (I once heard it called zero-based budgeting), once you receive your paycheck, you would list out all of your monthly expenses and then immediately transfer whatever is left over to your savings vehicles or to pay off any debt you have. By doing this and gaining the theoretical “zero-balance,” it avoids the temptation to spend the money and then not have anything left to save at the end of the month.
Who is your hero?
This is a tough question, as there are many types of heroes!
As far as my blogging hero goes, I would probably say Free Money Finance, since I have read so much about passive investing from his site. Also, he gives the majority of the income from his website to charity. I’m currently attempting to follow in a similar light as Free Money Finance by donating a portion (only 10%, so not quite as much, but it’s a start!) of my blogging income to my readers and charity. I think it’s a very cool idea to use my blog as a vehicle of doing more good in this world.
As far as hero in general goes, I would probably say Lance Armstrong, since I am a cyclist as well. I also very much admire his courage and determination in recovering from the late-stage cancer he had to go on to win the Tour de France.
What are some of your favorite wealth resources?
By far, my favorite resource genre for building and managing wealth is used cheap books from Amazon. This is probably due to the fact that I like a lot of detail in explanation of financial topics in order to really understand them.
My three favorite personal finance books of all time are 1) David Bach’s, “Smart Couples Finish Rich,” because it discusses how to create a Purpose Focused Financial Plan where you not only save money but also work towards realizing your life values and dreams, 2) Burton Malkiel’s, “A Random Walk Down Wall Street,” since it addresses how to be a good passive investor, and 3) Jeremy Siegel’s, “Stocks for the Long Run,” since his team analyzes basically every event or trend in history to determine if there is a strategy that can be used to consistently beat the markets.
A close 4th place to this top 3 book selection would be Jim Collins’, “Good to Great,” since the learnings not only apply to business, but also to anyone’s individual life!
What is the worst financial mistake you have ever made?
The worst financial mistake I ever made happened back in 2006 when I was running an eBay selling business. Things were going pretty well, but I guess I got too trusting of emails I received from vendors.
To make a long story short, this one FAKE/fraudulent vendor convinced me to buy a $1,500 CCD camera that I would resell on eBay. Not a bad idea, right?! Well, I didn’t think it was too bad at all at the time. The trick was that he required that I pay through Western Union, instead of through PayPal or a credit card. I foolishly transferred the money to him via Western Union, never heard from him again, and didn’t have any way to get my money back. You can read the entire story by clicking here if you’re interested!
What is the best lifestyle decision you have ever made?
The three best lifestyle decisions that I have ever made are 1) to not have accumulated any student loans or consumer debt on depreciating assets (credit card debt, furniture loans, car debt, etc) so far during my 20’s, 2) to cook or prepare my own food vs. buying food from a restaurant the majority of the time, and 3) to have made saving money a way of life and hobby (almost to the point that it is second nature).
What is the best piece of advice ever given to you?
This is a tough question, as the majority of my financial knowledge has been self-taught through reading in books. However, I would say that three pieces of advice stick out in my mind as being things that I have found most beneficial to my life.
- “Always take time for people” – When we all get busy in our daily lives and with work-related responsibilities, it’s easy to scale back or skip the personal interactions that are so valuable to many facets of life. As such, I always try to specifically make time for saying, “hi,” to people and for seeing how they are feeling.
- “No one is looking after your money except you” – This is something my Dad said quite frequently when I was growing up. And indeed, it applies to many situations in life – from calling the cable bill to dispute an erroneous charge (vs. just doing nothing and hoping it disappears), to calling your credit card and merely asking for a lower interest rate, to checking in on the actions of your financial advisor to make sure he or she is serving your best interests. The key point here is that we all need to make sure that our money is being used how we need it to be, because no one cares more about our money than we do.
- “Find your passion and do your best at it” – This is something my Mom often said when I was growing up. I suppose it’s fairly self-explanatory, but the idea here is to find something that you truly enjoy doing and/or feel strongly about and strive to give your best effort in that endeavor.
Something that people that currently read your blog may not know about you?
This is a cool question! Overall, I tend to be pretty transparent about what I’m up to in my life through my weekly roundups and articles. However, the things below are some interesting “behind the scenes” highlights that people probably didn’t know.
- I use the Blogger platform (and have since I started in 2010). I really wish I could switch over to WordPress to take advantage of some of the added functionality of plugins that is offered. However, with almost 500 posts now, I’m satisfied to just stay with Blogger and consider the possibility of switching at a later date when I get more free time.
- The personal finance journey has just begun – Sometimes, I really wish I had more hours in the day to devote to writing articles for my site. Right now, I have 500 backlogged ideas for articles for my site that I want to explore and discuss. As such, I really am looking forward to the long-term future of my site and sharing it with everyone!
- When I started my site, I was pretty “in-the-dark” about the personal finance blogging world and the various sites that already existed. As such, I had the GENIUS idea of naming my site, “My Money Blog.” Needless to say, I felt pretty stupid when I found out there was already an awesome blogger (Jonathan at MyMoneyBlog.com) running a site by this name and quickly changed my site to “My Personal Finance Journey.” However, by the time I figured this out, I had already designated my Twitter name as, “BlogMyMoney,” because that was the closest match available. And, I was afraid to change it because it might confuse my followers. So, if you’re ever wondering why I have a slightly weird Twitter name that doesn’t match my URL, this is why!
An article written by someone else that you think everyone should read?
Suba, who I’m convinced is one of the best resource post writers in the PF blogosphere right now, wrote a great article a few months ago about deciding how much of an emergency fund you need. It’s great because it goes beyond the normal general advice of placing 6-9 months of expenses in your e-fund. Instead, it addresses all of your needs at a very logical and fundamental level to determine the TRUE amount that YOU specifically need.
An article written by you that you would like everyone to read?
The article that I consider one of the THE MOST important posts on my site is one that I call the account hierarchy priority order. What this post discusses is how new funds should be allocated to your various savings, emergency, debt payoff, and insurance needs once they are received. I’ve created two account hierarchies in this post – one to be used for people in severe debt struggling to make payments each month and a second for people with sufficient liquidity to pay off debt fairly quickly.
Image by lost_mitten