Behind the Screen Interview with Kristin Wong
There is pure gold in this interview with Kristin who blogs over at The Wild Wong. She is one of those amazing writers who is both funny and gets her point across effortlessly.
There are a lot of great points in this interview a few of my favs are: 1) She has amazing taste in music (not a lot of people name Pet Sounds in their musical choices but the album changed music forever). 2) Her money lesson is amazing! If my kids ever say something like this to me, that will be my response. 3) She got to interview Charles Duhigg, who has quickly become one of my favourite authors and my go to for habits and productivity. Alright take it away Kristin
Let’s talk a little bit about who you are and where you are coming from. Tell me about your money journey? What got you started in learning about personal finance?
Growing up, my family didn’t have much money, but my parents were excellent financial role models. They were resourceful and frugal, and I saw them work hard to put food on the table and help us save for college. I feel grateful that I got to witness that first hand, because I developed a strong internal locus of control at an early age. I felt if I worked hard enough, my own efforts could pay off.
So I’ve been saving since I was a kid, and even though I haven’t always made the best financial choices, I’ve been an avid reader of personal finance since I was a teenager. It’s always been my goal to become financially independent–to have enough money that I never have to worry about money.
What would you say the biggest money obstacle has been for you to overcome?
Negotiating. I have a hard time speaking up, and for years, I undervalued my work. It’s hard to just say, “hey, I’d like more money,” you know? Of course, that’s not how you ask, but that’s what negotiating feels like when you’re afraid of it. However, a few years ago, I forced myself to start asking for more, and I was amazed at how effective it was. I still struggle with it, to be honest, but it’s getting easier.
How has overcoming that obstacle changed you?
For one, I earn more money, which is awesome. More importantly, though, I feel more powerful and in control of my career, and that confidence is invaluable.
Are there any obstacles you are still working on ?
I’m working on being resourceful with my freelancing business. I used to say,“I’m a freelance writer, why are these clients asking me for writing advice? Why are they asking me to help build their platform? That’s not my job.”
That was true in the past–as a freelancer, you were assigned an article, and that was that. But the job market is changing. Jobs are less standard than they used to be, it seems, and employers and companies are looking for people who can help them adapt to the way the online world is changing everything. Rather than try to avoid that because it’s not traditionally what a freelance writer does, I’m learning to go with it and use it to my advantage. I think the job market is changing in a way that will hugely benefit resourceful people.
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?
Spending money on restaurants. I’ve gotten better, but it’s my biggest spending weakness. I love food.
If you were to start your money journey all over what would you do differently?
I would have taken full advantage of my employer sponsored 401(k). I had no idea how great of a deal that was until I started freelancing.
What is your proudest money accomplishment?
Learning to negotiate. I left a decent-paying job to switch careers and freelance, and at first, it was not lucrative at all. I was broke. But now, I earn nearly $40,000 more than I did in my old career. That would not be possible if I didn’t learn to speak up and develop some confidence in my skills.
Who is your money hero?
It sounds corny, but my mom. When I was a kid, she worked at a grocery store and we lived in a terrible neighborhood. She wanted us to have a better life, so she did everything she could to earn more and cut back on expenses. Doing this, she saved $10,000 in a few years–on a grocery store salary. Everyone has their own set of obstacles, of course, but that doesn’t make her story any less impressive. What she did took drive and resourcefulness.
What was your worst money mistake?
My biggest mistake was probably learning about how taxes work when I officially became a full-time freelancer. I didn’t pay my estimated quarterly taxes, so I owed $5,000 at tax time, which completely wiped out my entire emergency fund at the time. No fun.
What was your first money lesson?
At a young age, I learned that small amounts can add up. That’s why I can’t take the pushback against the Latte Factor very seriously. It’s just $3, it’s not going to make a difference! I mean, that’s the same argument I made when I was eight years old, and my mom had the best response: what if you had $3 every time you said that?
The other argument is that earning more is better than saving money, so saving money is a waste of time. The thing is, they’re also not mutually exclusive. Earning more is obviously more lucrative, but you’ll do a lot better financially if you optimize both methods and use them to your advantage.
What money habits do you see in yourself (or others if you are perfect) that make you cringe?
I’ll admit: like most people, I have a bad habit of judging other people’s money decisions. It’s none of my business, I probably don’t know the full picture, and everyone has to do what works for them. And people judge my habits, too. I’m not sure why we do it–perhaps to validate what we know about money–but it’s kind of silly.
Would you classify yourself as a Spender or a Saver?
I’d like to say both, but I’m more of a saver. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoy spending money, and I spend all the time. However, I love the freedom and options that come with financial security. Money is just a tool, and it’s meant to be spent, but I’d like to have enough so that I can use it whenever I want without giving it much thought. I’m not quite there yet, so for now, reaching that goal means I have to focus on saving.
What’s the one personal finance book that had the biggest impact in your life?
Not everyone is a fan, but Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover. I’m not religious, and I can see why the book might turn some people off, but the financial advice is solid. It made me realize money is more about behavior than math.
Ok now for some non-money questions
Give me a list of your top 5 foods?
Chips and salsa (counting them as one because I like them together)
What is your favorite drink (alcohol or non-alcohol)?
Coffee. I drink way too much of it.
What kind of daily traditions or habits do you have?
I also try to do one uncomfortable thing everyday–one action that breaks me out of my comfort zone and keeps me on my toes, like hopping on the phone with a client instead of emailing. Or going to a conference even though I’m shy. Comfort is great, but getting too comfortable can keep you from growing.
Which group do you fall into:
Apple of Samsung? Both. I switch every few years.
Coke or Pepsi? Pepsi. Sue me.
Coffee or Tea? Coffee.
Night owl or morning bird? Morning bird.
I’m a huge music fan, what’s one (or more) of your favorite albums?
Pet Sounds, Queen’s A Night at the Opera, De La Soul’s 3 ft. High and Rising, Neil Young’s Harvest
What’s the one movie you could watch over and over again and never get tired of it?
There Will Be Blood.
What book are you reading right now?
Just finished Charles Duhigg’s new book, Smarter, Faster, Better. I got to interview him about it, too!
Finish this sentence with the first thing that comes to mind
I would rather be a forest than a street?
Do you have a favorite quote?
I’ve been churning on this James Baldwin quote a lot lately: “Anyone who has ever struggled with poverty knows how extremely expensive it is to be poor.”
I write and read a lot about poverty and I think people often underestimate how many obstacles low income individuals have to overcome.
Where can people find you online if they want to get ahold of you?