I’ve just recently met David, but in that short time I’ve become a fan, he has a great sense of humour that I’m sure you will see in this interview. Take it away Finance Superhero!
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 in a dual-income household, I spent much of my summer under the watchful eye of family, including my Grandpa and Grandma. Grandpa and I spent many summer days playing baseball, swimming, hunting for bargains, and hiking in the woods. One sunny summer morning, we ventured out to a local flea market, and while Grandpa searched high and low for miscellaneous treasures, I had my sights set on baseball gear. Upon finding a wooden baseball bat for sale, Grandpa and I had the following conversation:
“Grandpa, I want that bat! It’s only $5.”
“We’ll get you that bat, but not for $5. We will get it for $2, or that can guy can keep it.”
“But. . .”
“Now, take these two dollar bills and tell the man you want to buy that bat. Show him the money, and tell him that it’s all you’ve got. I’ll be right over here.”
Moments later, I was the proud new owner of a beautiful antique baseball bat. More importantly, I had just learned lasting lessons in communication, negotiation, and the power of willingness to walk away.
From that moment on, I was very interested in the power of money and its utility in my life.
The second eye-opening experience in my life was an accidental exposure to a Dave Ramsey DVD while in a Sunday school class immediately after graduating from college. To make a long story short, I ordered the Total Money Makeover that afternoon; when it arrived in the mail, I read it in one day. Dave Ramsey’s illustration regarding the power of compound interest caught my attention, and in that moment I knew I wanted to be wise with money.
What would you say the biggest money obstacle has been for you to overcome?
Among the many financial obstacles that my wife and I have encountered, student loan debt was the biggest – by far! My wife was fortunate to graduate school without any student loan debt, as her parents had the means to pay her tuition. On the other hand, despite a full-tuition scholarship, I had to take out student loans to pay for room and board and miscellaneous living expenses. Fortunately, since getting married in 2010, we had been making strong headway on my undergrad loans for quite some time and had been nearing the light at the end of the tunnel.
Then I decided to go back to school for my Masters degree in School Leadership. And then we decided to buy a house.
In the fall of 2015, we finished paying off my undergrad loans, and after the hustle of Christmas, I had a quarter-life crisis (I fully plan to live to be 120!) when I realized that we still owed nearly $18,000 on my grad school loans. For the next 54 days, we went nuts, and on May 13, 2016, we made our final payment on my grad school loans, then looked up and realized that we had paid off $17,831.65 in just 54 days. You can read the full story here (https://www.financesuperhero.com/kicking-sallie-mae-to-the-curb-goodbye-student-loans/).
How has overcoming that obstacle changed you?
Freeing ourselves from the shackles of student loan debt has been incredibly freeing. In the process, we learned the value of taking action to initiate change. We also experienced the rich rewards of sacrifice. It was also extremely gratifying to work together and accomplish a goal faster than we thought was possible.
Are there any obstacles you are still working on ?
That’s a great question, Andrew. I think there will always be money obstacles to overcome, mostly because I’m very good at manufacturing them.
Currently, my wife and I are still in all-out hustle-mode to pay off our one remaining debt – a few thousand dollars on our 2013 Hyundai Sonata – and then we are going to shift all of our resources toward maximizing our FIRE (Financially Independent Retire Early) investments. At this point, we’re not even sure if we WANT to retire early –that will probably be the next obstacle – but giving ourselves the flexibility to do so, if we choose, excites us.
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?
Just one? Thanks for letting me off the hook!
Hands down, my worst money habit is spending at restaurants. Growing up, my family went out to dinner frequently, and the practice has been stuck with me ever since. My wife and I do a good job at keeping this spending in line a majority of the time, but once in a while, we spend an ordinate amount of food at restaurants. For example, I devoured a 48 ounce steak on our honeymoon in 2010. That steak was more expensive than our current monthly restaurant budget.
If you were to start your money journey all over what would you do differently?
I am very grateful that I do not have too many financial regrets at this point in my life. Please don’t take that the wrong way; I have made plenty of mistakes with dollar signs in front of them. However, the mistakes I have made have helped me and my wife learn and get to where we are today. They have also driven my passion to help others with their finances, which is the primary reason I started FinanceSuperhero.com in March 2016.
That said, if I could go back in time, I would not have purchased my Grandpa’s 2008 Honda Accord in the summer of 2011. I was in love with that car the moment he drove it home off the lot in 2007, and when he told me he was selling it, I just couldn’t say no. While I still have the car and plan to drive it for many more years, it was not a smart purchase at the time.
What is your proudest money accomplishment?
Thus far, paying off my student loan debt still ranks as my proudest money accomplishment. I hope to blow that accomplishment out of the water in the next five years.
Who is your money hero?
As I wrote in my very first blog post (https://www.financesuperhero.com/welcome-to-finance-superhero/), my Grandpa was my first Finance Superhero, a self-made man who epitomized hard work and valued every cent that passed through his fingertips. Though he passed away in 2013, the lessons he taught me, both consciously and unconsciously, remain as vivid ideals in my heart and mind. Grandpa always hustled, maximized his time, mastered the art of the flip before HGTV put flippers on TV, and practiced stealth wealth. I could write an entire book at what I learned from Grandpa (and probably should someday!). For now, a post (https://www.financesuperhero.com/no-april-fool-lessons-from-finance-superhero-grandpa/) will have to suffice.
What was your worst money mistake?
While in Europe in 2009, I ordered a meal at an airport Burger King while waiting for my flight back to Chicago. Through my own error, I didn’t receive my credit card bill in the mail because it wasn’t forwarded to my summer address from my university mailbox. I racked up a pile of late fees and interest charges, and by the time I realized my mistake, I ended up with a very expensive Whopper of a mistake (https://www.financesuperhero.com/my-biggest-financial-mistakes/).
What was your first money lesson?
My first formative money lesson came from a job mowing lawns for a couple family friends. I learned that money is earned through hard work. I also developed a resourceful, entrepreneurial spirit from that experience.
What money habits do you see in yourself (or others if you are perfect) that make you cringe?
As I said previously, I often get angry at myself for my spending so much money at restaurants. However, that anger pales in comparison to the rage I feel when I see people who lease vehicles. With apologies to all who lease a vehicle because they feel it works well for them, I hate to see people throw money away to finance an inflated lifestyle.
Would you classify yourself as a Spender or a Saver?
I am a natural saver. I only enjoy parting with money in three ways: giving to others, dining out, and buying cars.
What’s the one personal finance book that had the biggest impact in your life?
As I previously mentioned, The Total Money Makeover is the book that lit the fire to my personal finance passions. I still read it from time to time because I like the stories and timeless, principle-based advice.
Ok now for some non-money questions. Let’s give our readers a glimpse of what makes you who you really are. These are optional but I really, really, really want to know.
Give me a list of your top 5 foods?
Cheeseburgers, steak, cheeseburgers, BBQ ribs, and cheeseburgers.
What is your favorite drink (alcohol or non-alcohol)?
Alcohol: Allagash White, a wheat beer from Allagash Brewing in Portland, Maine
Non-Alcohol: Coke with cherry grenadine
What kind of daily traditions or habits do you have?
I always start my day by reading the latest news, along with Family Money Plan (not a joke!) and countless other blogs to which I am subscribed, all before I even get out of bed. From there, productivity quickly declines throughout the day. I always take out our two dogs, Ramsey (yes, named after Dave Ramsey – quit judging me!) and Coda, and enjoy my morning gallon of coffee before attempting anything else.
Which group do you fall into:
Apple of Samsung? Apple
Coke or Pepsi? Coke
Coffee or Tea? Coke
Night owl or morning bird? During the school year, morning bird; summer David is a night owl!
I’m a huge music fan, what’s one (or more) of your favorite albums?
There are so many! Just to name a few:
Lifehouse – No Name Face
John Mayer – Continuum
Dave Matthews Band – Away From The World
Dave Matthews Band – Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King
James Taylor – Greatest Hits, Vols. 1 and 2
John Coltrane – Giant Steps
What’s the one movie you could watch over and over again and never get tired of it?
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971) is the first movie, among many, that comes to mind.
What book are you reading right now?
DollarLogic by Andy Martin. It is an in-depth look at how risk does not necessarily equal reward in the world of investing. Shameless plug: Keep an eye out for my upcoming review of this book.
Finish this sentence with the first thing that comes to mind
I would rather _______________, than _______________,
I would rather give a gift than receive one.
Do you have a favorite quote?
One of my earliest mentors taught me to ask, “What is it time for now?” It has stuck with me ever since.
Where can people find you online if they want to get ahold of you? (Think social media accounts)
Twitter – https://twitter.com/FinanceSuprhero
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/financesuperhero/
Pinterest – https://www.pinterest.com/FinanceSuprhero/