Behind the Screen Interview with J Money from Budgets Are Sexy
(If you are a blogger and are interested in doing a Behind the Screen Interview send me an email: andrew at familymoneyplan dot com)
I have one of the all-time blogging greats today. I wish I could remember when I first stumbled across J Money site Budgets Are Sexy, but I do remember the first time one of my articles was picked up by his other project RockstarFinance.com. It was December 4th and it was the first time my traffic skyrocketed.
I’ve had many interactions with J this past year via email, and I can honestly say, he is exactly like how he writes. Pure and straight-up, he’s a genuine as it comes. He has always been willing to offer advice when I’ve asked. His writing is so conversational, like he’s in the room with you. I love how his money journey started with a mistake. Like a lot of us, making a big money mistake leads to a money awakening.
Take it away J!
Tell me about your money journey? What got you started in learning about personal finance?
Well, it’s pretty simple really – 9 fateful years ago I bought a $350,000 house on a whim – with no money down and no budget – basically because everyone said it was the “responsible thing to do” (buy a house – not doing it haphazardly, haha…) and then realized I should probably be better with my money so I turned to the internet. From there I found all kinds of blogs talking about their stories and hacks, and most importantly – their net worth! Seeing real raw numbers like that was absolutely mind boggling to me, and three months later I thought I’d get in on the fun and start a blog too. And now here we are all those years later doing it for a living! Crazy…
What would you say the biggest money obstacle has been for you to overcome?
Probably getting out from under that house. We lived in it for a solid 5-6 years and then wanted to dump it, but it was too underwater so we were forced to become landlords while we rented elsewhere. It worked out semi-decently for a few years, but then the renter had to skip town on military orders and we had to make the call of selling it in the middle of winter or renting it back out… We decided to go for it, and 45 days later with $20,000 more sunk into it, it was sold and make me the happiest guy around 🙂 Never again will I do something just because people say “it’s smart.”
How has overcoming that obstacle changed you?
As annoying as it was, picking up that house completely changed my life. Without buying it I wouldn’t have stumbled across finance blogs, learned about a career I had never heard of before, met a TON of new and awesome like-minded people, or become self-employed and learned all about entrepreneurship. So it was pretty much the worst, and the best, decision I could have made 🙂
Are there any obstacles you are still working on ?
Oh yeah – always! I struggle with balancing work and life all the time, especially now with two little kids in tow (though they do help to put things in perspective!), and I also go in phases of wondering what I’m “supposed to do in life.” I feel like I’m on the right track and am generally happy, but a part of me thinks I’m not using my full potential or doing as much *good* as I can in the world.
I love helping people grow their money and shoot for the ultimate dream of early retirement, but then when I hear about people not even being able to afford food or any “needs” for that matter, I feel incredibly selfish and that I should redirect everything to just helping those less fortunate. Some years I’m better than others (one year we ran a charity and raised $90,000 to help out!) but others I get sucked in and forget all about it. So yeah – I def need to improve in areas 🙂
There’s a moment in the Godfather 3 when Michael Corleone is trying to get out of the “Family Business”, and he says: “Every time I try to get out, they pull me back in.” What is one bad money habit you just can’t seem to shake?
Haha… if you’d have asked me 8 years ago I could have told you (fast food, beer, lottery tickets!!), but happy to say I have no more vices left other than the occasional coin to add to my old man coin collecting hobby
If you were to start your money journey all over what would you do differently?
I would have just started EARLIER – like, in high school – saving and investing. I’m happy with how I’ve progressed over the years, but had I been doing it for a decade or two earlier I’m pretty sure I would have been retired by now 🙂 I think that’s the trick to any of this stuff really – just starting as early as possible and getting that magical compounding going while you have time on your side. Most of this stuff is pretty straight forward, but *time* is the magic ingredient needed to fuel the fire.
What is your proudest money accomplishment?
Probably hitting $50,000 of net worth. It took 20-something years to hit that and was the hardest, but after that point got easier and easier, again, cuz of harnessing the power of time. Even hitting $500,000 last month was easy, though of course I’d choose that over $50k any day of the week 🙂
Who is your money hero?
Hmmmm…. Probably my mom. We grew up hitting yard sales and thrift stores every weekend, so I learned at an early age how much easier it is to save when you buy used. She also taught us how easy it is to entertain yourselves on the cheap/for free, so fortunately I don’t require much to be happy since the simple things in life do it for me 🙂 Like walking – one of my favorite things!
What was your first money lesson?
To make sure you’re enrolled in your company’s 401k plan! My dad was on me for a full year to get it set up at my first “real” job, and I kept telling him I had even though I hadn’t, and eventually tricked myself into thinking that I had! It wasn’t until months later when I asked HR why my statements weren’t showing the $$$ when I realized I had never actually set it up – d’oh. I literally lost a thousand dollars on that move and from then on made sure I was not only enrolled, but getting *at least* the company match to get all that free money coming in… That’s actually how I got to my first $50k of net worth – by just pouring $$$ into my 401k! So my dad was def. right!
What money habits do you see in yourself (or others if you are perfect) that make you cringe?
Really just doing any sort of budgeting or number crunching in your head vs on paper (or spreadsheet/computer/etc). We suck at accurately forecasting how much money is coming in or out of our lives, so until you start tracking it all you really don’t have a godo understanding of your financial picture. One of the first things I stated doing based on other blogs was tracking my net worth on a monthly basis. Doing that you can’t help but NOT know where all your money is, and it’s a great (and easy!) way to build up confidence as well as motivation to keep on growing it. It literally only takes 5 mins a month once you’ve set it up the first time.
Would you classify yourself as a Spender or a Saver?
I spend way more than I save statistically, so I guess a spender? 🙂 It also doesn’t help having kids, haha… But of course I still save.
What’s the one personal finance book that had the biggest impact in your life?
I have three favorites, but my #1 is I Will Teach You To Be Rich by fellow blogger Ramit Sethi. That book not only gave actual action-items to do, but it was funny as hell! And I’m all about being entertained while also learning at the same time, haha…
The other two books btw are The Automatic Millionaire by David Bach, and The Richest Man in Babylon – a classic – by George S. Clason.
Give me a list of your top 5 foods?
Chicken Tikka Masala, spaghetti and meatballs, peanut butter on a spoon, E.L. Fudge cookies, and bananas
What is your favorite drink (alcohol or non-alcohol)?
I’ve been really digging blood orange sparkling water lately by San Pellegrino.
What kind of daily traditions or habits do you have?
I’ve been waking up around 5 am every morning since finding Benjamin Franklin’s daily schedule
last year – been eye opening! So peaceful and relaxing while everyone’s sleeping, and get a lot of good work done as well. I’ve always been a night person but so far enjoying this ongoing experiment.
Which group do you fall into:
Apple of Samsung?
Coke or Pepsi?
Coke! I once drank a Pepsi and my entire left half of my face was paralyzed for about 6 hours and have never been able to enjoy it ever since, haha… No idea what could have caused that?
Coffee or Tea?
Night owl or morning bird?
Recently converted morning bird.
I’m a huge music fan, what’s one (or more) of your favorite albums?
I LOVE Kanye West’s “Graduation” album, as well as Wyclef Jean’s “Carnival” and then anything by Johnny Cash.
What’s the one movie you could watch over and over again and never get tired of it?
Groundhog Day! And not just saying that cuz it goes over and over again!
What book are you reading right now?
I picked up “The One Minute Manager” by Kenneth Blanchard and Spencer Johhnson the other week while on a beach vacay ($2.50 at a used bookstore – woo!) but have been stuck halfway through ever since… I’m great at starting books but rarely finish 🙁
Finish this sentence with the first thing that comes to mind
I would rather make a decision and fail, than think about it forever and never find out.
Do you have a favorite quote?
“It’s always better to be at the bottom of a ladder you want to climb, than half way up one you don’t.“
Where can people find you online if they want to get ahold of you?
Why are budgets sexy?
Budgets = Confidence = Sexy!
There you have it. What a great interview. Make sure to check out his site Budgets Are Sexy
and sign up for the best in personal finance article on his site Rockstar Finance
Make sure to check out his site Budgets Are Sexy and sign up for his daily does of personal finance Rockstar Finance.