Here are some quick facts about me:
- I got into $10K of credit card debt while in college and in the years after graduating. I dug myself out by getting real with myself about my depression and low self-esteem.
- I blew $30K foolishly modifying a car.
- I bought too much of a house at the peak of the housing bubble and ended up selling for a loss of$25,000.
- I worked in financial services industry for 10 years in various roles from back office to financial planner for high net worth investors.
- I grew my net worth to over $700K by saving and investing consistently (even in down markets).
- I helped the 1% reach their financial goals.
- My wife and I are planning to retire by age 50.
I have my Bachelor’s Degree and a Certificate in Financial Planning from Mercyhurst University, a small liberal arts school in Erie, Pa. I also have my Masters Degree in Finance from Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, Pa. I have worked in the financial services industry my entire career since graduating college. Currently, I blog full time.
I became interested in personal finance in high school through an economics class I took. The teacher presented finance to me in a way that made sense and intrigued me. Since then I have immersed myself in the financial services and personal finance world.
My Debt Story
When it comes to my personal finances, I was never perfect. I received my first credit card freshman year of college. At first, I was good with it. I made a few small purchases here and there and paid the bill in full each month.
But sophomore year I met a girl and we started dating. I had low self-esteem at the time and thought things = love. So, I bought her things and took her out to dinner. I slowly stopped paying the balance in full each month.
By the time summer rolled around, I was a few thousand dollars in debt. I worked hard that summer and paid off the debt. But this was a problem: my summer earnings in the past were used to buy books and survive financially for the upcoming year. Since I used all of my earnings to pay off my debt, I had no money for books, or more importantly, pizza!
That year, my junior year, I quickly ended up back in debt. First because I didn’t have any savings and second, because I didn’t learn my lesson and was still trying to buy love.
My senior year of college I was a little better with my money, but I graduated with about $3,000 of credit card debt. Newly single and living back in my hometown, I had the world in the palm of my hands.
Or so I thought.
I had the misconception that after graduation, I would land a six-figure salary job and be Vice President of the firm by the time I was 26.
When no job prospects materialized, depression set in. Buying things made me feel better so, I bought things.
Lots of things.
I was close to $10,000 in credit card debt before I had my awakening.
I was looking at a jacket in a clothing store and thinking of buying it. The light bulb went off in my mind.
Why was I buying this?
I already had a jacket. I realized in that moment what I was doing. I was buying things to make me feel better. But that “high” I got was wearing off quicker and quicker.
I made the decision at that moment I didn’t want to live live in debt.
I found a part time job and slowly, very slowly, started to pay off my debt. A few months later I found full time employment. I kept both jobs until I was debt free.
My Investing Story
I started invested in the stock market when I turned 18. This was back in the late ’90s and my only option at the time was a discount broker. There were no online brokers at the time. And investing was a lot more expensive. I was paying $30 to trade stocks!
My first investment was Intimate Brands. They were the parent company of Victoria’s Secret and since every woman had one of their pink shopping bags whenever I was at the mall, I took a chance. It paid off nicely. I doubled my money with that stock.
But you could probably chalk that up to beginners luck. My next 3 investments were in Ford, General Electric, and Worldcom and I lost money on all of them. With Worldcom, I lost everything. I got caught up in the hype and kept buying more and more shares. In all, I lost about $6,000. Since I was in college at the time, it hurt.
After those losses, I changed my plan. No longer was I going to try to pick stocks. I was going to just invest in mutual funds. And that is what I have done since. I invest in index mutual funds and exchange traded funds for both retirement and general investing. And it has paid off.
Consistently investing every month, even when the market drops is the key to success. I’ve grown my portfolio to over $700,000.
I still invest in some stocks here and there. But this is with money I can afford to lose. The good news is that of the 4 stocks I’ve bought since my change to mutual funds and ETFs, only 1 has lost money.
Since this strategy is working great, I have no plans of changing any time soon.
15 More Fun Facts About Me
#1. I love hockey and the Tampa Bay Lightning are my favorite team. This is interesting because I’m a Philly guy. But, I got into hockey around 7th grade.
At this time, the NHL was expanding and two new teams came to be: Tampa Bay and the Ottawa Senators. I became a fan of Tampa Bay because my grandparents had recently moved to South Pasadena, FL, which is close to Tampa Bay.
#2. I am an introvert. I love being by myself. I don’t do well in social settings and the bigger the group, the worse I am. Many times in large group settings, I will “disappear” for 15 minutes just to recharge and enjoy the quiet.
#3. I am a picky eater. Though I have really expanded my tastes in the past few years. I love Asian food now as well as anything spicy. Of course, pizza is still my all-time favorite food and I am lucky that I get to live in the pizza belt. A close second is a tie between a Five Guys burger and a Smashburger.
My wife is trying to get me to try seafood, which I don’t really enjoy. I do like a tuna sandwich and I joke to her all the time about fish sticks. We had sushi on our second date, which was eventful because I spit out a piece just as the waiter stopped by to ask how everything was. I don’t like sushi.
#4. I love watching movies. I will watch just about any genre of movie and I am the type of person that once I start a movie, I have to see how it will end. Some of my favorites are Major League (I’ve seen this one easily over 100 times), Dumb and Dumber, National Lampoon’s Vacation, The Dark Knight Rises, Field of Dreams, The Way Way Back, The Shawshank Redemption, Pulp Fiction, and anything starring The Rock.
#5. Speaking of The Rock, I still watch wrestling! I know, you don’t have to tell me, it’s 100% real. Seriously though, it is just entertaining to watch. I like watching the character development and seeing how they learn to interact with fans and sell their characters over time. I even went to the Royal Rumble when it came to Philly. It was awesome (and my wife had a great time too!)
#6. I played with Barbie’s when I was little. I am the youngest of three (two older sisters) and we grew up in rural PA. There wasn’t much to do and there was only one other kid on my street that was around my age. When he wasn’t around, I played with my sisters. That meant I got to play with Barbie’s. Maybe that is why I am such an attentive and loving husband?
#7. I have a wild imagination. Since there wasn’t much to do growing up, I needed to use my imagination to invent games to play. A lot of times I would be shooting baskets by myself but really be playing against an imaginary Michael Jordan. For the record, I was a much better player and won more championships.
My imagination is just as creative today. You can ask my wife about how I come up with things in my head and run with them. Most times, like 99% of the time, I just do and say stuff to get her to laugh. I must say, I’m pretty successful at that too!
#8. I’ve always been an entrepreneur at heart. When I was little, I was always thinking of businesses to start. I never followed through on any of them at the time, but I have a journal full of random ideas.
The first business I started was in college, but it never got off the ground because I am a terrible salesman (see point #2 above). It felt good though that 2 years later I found out a company actually started doing what I was trying to do. They only lasted a few years though.
The first business that did get off the ground was a t-shirt company. I sold a handful of shirts, many to my Mom (thanks Mom!) and some to random people throughout the US. I ended up shutting it down though because it’s a tough business to crack.
With everything I have learned blogging, I toyed with starting it up again. For those of you curious enough, I made funny t-shirts. Most were sarcastic in nature but a few were dark humor. You can see some of my entry-level photoshop skills here.
#9. I was originally going to create guides on being smart with your money and sell them in newspaper classifieds. Instead, I created a website, Money Smart Guides, to sell them. I started to “blog” maybe once or twice a month, then weekly, and then three times a week. Hence, this is the reason why my site is titled as it is.
#10. I’m always looking for ways to make more money. I mostly check out arbitrage deals – where I buy something at a low price and resell it at a higher price. I like to find items at yard sales, but also in stores as well. The clearance sections are a great place to start. Also, Black Friday is good too, if you can find the deals.
The other year, I bought a bunch of stuff at Toys R Us on Thanksgiving night and sold them on Amazon that weekend. I ended up tripling my money. This past year though, Black Friday was a bust. But, I’m always keeping my eyes open and working the numbers to try to make deals work.
#11. Growing up, I loved playing video games. I first had an Atari 5200, then an NES, then Super NES, a Sega Genesis, followed by a Playstation, a Playstation 2, then an Xbox, and finally a Wii.
My favorite types of games were sports and role playing games. I loved Final Fantasy, Dragon Warrior and Zelda. I don’t play anymore because of how involved the games have become. As a kid, there was a set story line and you could get through a game in a reasonable amount of time.
Now, there is no set story line and you can play for hundreds of hours. I just don’t have that kind of time. It’s awesome how video games have progressed, but I miss the old days. (I am toying with getting an old NES though. Don’t tell my wife!)
#12. I am super competitive. I make a game out of most things I do and challenge myself to improve all of the time. When I ride my bike, I try to beat my best time every time I go for a ride. When I lift weights, I increase the weight every week.
Even with blogging I am highly competitive. Every month I update certain metrics that I compare to other blogs that I am trying to beat. There are 4 other sites on my list right now. I’ve been making good progress in the last few months.
I will admit that the competitiveness concerns me for when it comes to our daughter. Seeing that I am an introvert, I don’t think I’ll be “that Dad” at her sporting events, yelling at the refs, but we never know until we are in that situation, right?
#13. I love all sports. Everything, except for racing. I think it’s just boring to watch cars circle a track. I guess it’s because I can’t “see” the skills. I can see a guy hit an amazing tennis shot or watch a girl do a bicycle kick in soccer and be wowed by it. But passing another car just doesn’t do it for me.
#14. I am highly organized. I got into trouble with this in a past job because my boss would always see a clean desk and think I didn’t have a lot of work to do. In reality, I only have what I need on my desk.
I think this stems from growing up when I had to make my bed every morning and do my other chores. I am just a neat, organized person. Of course once again, there is a little worry when it comes to kids and clutter everywhere. I have babysat my niece though and survived the mess. But that was only a few days.
#15. I am a naturally positive person. I always see the positive side of things. Of course there are times I get frustrated and mad – I am human and not a cyborg – but it usually only lasts a few minutes before a clearer, more positive mindset sets in.
It’s Your Time
I didn’t tell you those stories to brag. I told you them so that you can see I’ve been in debt, much like you. I am proof you can overcome it. I started off investing small, much like you are contemplating doing, and I have a healthy sized portfolio. You can too.
I helped some of my friends get out of credit card debt and begin investing for their retirement too. Believe me, getting a 24 year old with no real understanding of personal finance to begin saving for retirement that is 40+ years in the future is no easy task. When any of my friends have a personal finance question or have received advice on a financial issue they have, they always come to me to get my thoughts and ideas.
About The Site
I started this site because of my interest in the subject and wanting to help people better their financial lives. Unfortunately, personal finance is not taught in school and unless your parents taught it to you, you have no idea about the subject.
That needs to change.
The biggest stress in most people’s lives in money. If you take 15 minutes a day, every day to learn a little about personal finance, you can change your life not only financially, but also in every other way as well.
So, I created this site to hopefully help you learn a little about personal finance, spark your interest, learn more, and remove any stress you have about money.
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