This is the latest in a series of interviews with fellow personal finance bloggers. Today’s guest is Matt from Finance Yo Self.
Who is Matt?
Matt: I’m a restaurant manager, photography lover, hamburger enthusiast, and blogger.
Why did you start your blog?
Matt: I discovered the concept of FIRE about three years ago reading the You Need A Budget forums, which lead me down the rabbit hole of hardcore personal finance. After two years of practice, trial and error, and lots of reading/experimenting, I felt like I had some ideas that I wanted to share along with a personal story that was a bit different from other blogs I was reading.
What are your favorite personal finance books?
Matt: #1 will always be Your Money Or Your Life. The concept of the Real Hourly Wage alone puts it at the top of my list. I also really love The One Page Financial Plan, by Carl Richards (the NY Times Sketch Guy) – it’s a great balance of concrete financial wisdom and lots of deep soul-searching.
After that, I highly recommend Charles Wheelan’s books, Naked Money, Naked Economics, and Naked Statistics. They’re subjects I wish I would have gotten into a lot sooner and I found that after about a year of obsessing about just personal finance, I wanted to learn more about what’s behind the curtain.
When did you first become financially literate?
Matt: I think I’ve always been at least average with money. I worked in high school and college and was good about saving a portion of my paychecks, I’ve never overdrawn my bank account, and never paid credit card interest. I contributed to my 401k the first chance I got and have been steadily paying off my student loans.
Like most people my age, I took on a decent amount of student loan debt – for a degree that wasn’t very lucrative. I also graduated in 2010, into a terrible economy, and certainly got off to a slow start career-wise.
After becoming obsessed with personal finance, I’ve looked back at those early years, and I feel two things: fortunate that I made pretty good choices (for the most part) but regretful that I didn’t make more of them.
Then again, I’m not sure if I would have felt so connected to the FIRE movement if I didn’t feel so trapped by student loans, was in a career that I felt forced into because of the Recession, and had a sense of urgency to make the most out of any future opportunities that came my way.
After three years of great progress, I’m a little less regretful and more empathetic with my past self – I’m well aware that I could have done a lot worse.
What’s your take on financial education? Parents or school’s responsibility?
Matt: I lean towards the school. I base this opinion on the belief that the “real” function of a school is to teach discipline, work habits, attendance and punctuality, and social interaction first and things like creativity and passion second.
Consider an employer looking over a resume: Person A’s resume talks about how passionate they are about the job and how much they love the company. Person B’s has a list of what they can do to benefit the company. Which one is the better pick, for both the bottom line and for the hiring manager to cover their ass?
I agree with pretty much everyone out there that our financial education needs a lot of work. Since the national savings rate is 6%, car loans are extending to 6+ years, and most people can’t cover a $400 emergency, I can’t really trust the parents. So they’re out.
On the other hand, the school is grooming young people to become productive, efficient members of society, and there’s nothing controversial about teaching kids to be on time and to memorize information for a test. But money is controversial. It’s personal.
I think at best a school could open the door – introducing concepts and sticking with definitions and numbers rather than delving into things like consumption and economic opportunity (which would probably be too controversial) – and the kids would be a little better off.
If you died today, would your family be okay from a financial standpoint?
Matt: Right now my only liability is student loan debt, which is less than I have in savings/investments. I also have one year worth of salary in life insurance through work, which would help. We are in the process of looking for a house, so I’ve upped my life insurance for next year and am finally getting around to setting up beneficiaries.
I still need to take the time to write out a plan for my fiance with things like how-tos, account numbers, passwords, etc. Can’t believe I haven’t done that yet (gonna do it right after I finish these questions!)
What are you teaching (or will you teach) your kids about money?
Matt: Ultimately when we do have kids, I’d like to instill two things:
1. Money isn’t everything, but it’s a big deal. Even if you set out to live a life that values more than money, the reality is that in our society, it’s nearly impossible to live the life you want without first building the financial foundation that enables that. The question isn’t whether or not money can buy happiness (It Can) – it’s what makes you happy?
2. There will always be someone better off than you and someone worse off than you. Think about how that makes you feel, why you feel that way, and what you’re going to do about it.
What’s one bucket list item you’d like to complete?
Matt: One of my future photography projects is to spend a summer chasing tornados and photographing them using an 8”x10” camera (like this one) – you get amazing detail (better than any digital camera), and I think prints that are several feet tall would be really powerful.
I’ve always been strangely fascinated with tornadoes but have never seen one in real life. And they’re visually interesting to look at, especially with a lot of detail. But I also think they can represent the idea that we’re all just renting our time here on this Earth and we are still very small in comparison to the world we exist in.
Are you perusing financial independence? (FIRE) If not, what’s your take on the FIRE concept?
Matt: For the last three years, FIRE has been my underlying goal, although I’ve never set a date (like retiring by 40 or having $xx saved). My motivation is simply to buy myself as many options as possible. I think realistically that means being able to downshift to a lower paying job with fewer hours and less stress and having a bit more time outside of work.
I think the number one rule of FIRE is that the ultimate goal is to get as much happiness as you can.
In this sense, I define happiness as being able to meet your needs based on Maslow’s hierarchy (the more needs met, the happier you’ll be). The sooner you can meet the basic needs, the more time and energy you’ll have to work on the Psychological and Self Fulfillment ones. Some people can meet all their needs from a career. Others can’t.
We only have so much time and energy. Meeting your basic needs efficiently living below your means) simply gives you more options when it comes to tackling the ones higher up. And more options give you a better shot at getting more happiness.
Fill in the blank:
If I had a dollar every time I ______, I’d be rich.
Matt: Opened the stocks app on my phone 😉
Matt has been blogging over at financeyoself.com for a little over a year now. He’s twenty-nine years old and lives in Tennessee with his fiance and dog/illegitimate dependant.