Personal Finance Interview on Being a Cubicle Renegade with Caleb Wojcik for Mint.com
Caleb Wojcik is certainly an interesting and inspiring character. He has done what many still dream of doing: moving from the cubicle to a successful entrepreneur who manages his own time. But how did he do that? Well, that's why his story is so inspiring.
He calls himself a "cubicle renegade" and inspires us to follow in the same path at Pocket Changed where you can learn to dominate your money through his Make it Rain course. Joining the course also helps to bring clean water to Africa through a charity he supports.
Here's a quote from Caleb: "In order to live a simplified life, be financially secure, and have a successful career you must follow your passion." We heard that and wanted to find out more, so we got hold of him.
Tell us a bit about who you are, what you're passionate about and why.
I'm an online entrepreneur who keeps founders of online businesses from failing. Last year I co-founded a program called Fizzle.co, which creates video training for entrepreneurs, but for a fraction of the price of something like an MBA. My wife and I also run a wedding photography and videography company in San Diego.
I'm passionate about creating more entrepreneurs in the world because a lot has changed in the last 150 years and the majority of us have gone from living self-sustaining lives off our own land to trusting a system will educate us, give us a job, and take care of us until retirement. The problem with this is that you lose all the power in your life. At any minute you could become a redundancy, the economy could tank, or you could lose your pension. The more people that have control over their careers and income the better off I think the world will be.
Tell us a bit more about your slogan: "From cubicle renegade to thriving entrepreneur."
There is a substantial gap between "quitting your job" and "running a profitable business." There are risks to take, failures to endure, and long days to work. More often than not, people are trying to get away from something, hence the term "renegade." What I'm trying to do with all of my work is help them survive and thrive through the gap so they don't fizzle out and have to go back to doing the work and live the life they had before.
What is the number one thing you say to people when it comes to managing debt?
Write it all down, set a realistic date to pay it off by, and make your payments automatic. When you write it all down it becomes real. You see all the amounts, the percentages, and the interest you'll be paying. Then, when you set a realistic date, you have a deadline. Instead of just being overwhelmed by how much debt you have each day, you instead have a goal in sight as long as you stay on track. Making your payments automatic (and non-negotiable) is then the best way to stay on track.
How does the present culture stop us from getting out of debt and following our passion?
Even if you don't watch Mad Men, it is pretty easy to see how much advertising and media play a role in how people spend their money. That's not to mention the pressure of society to go to college, which typically puts people into debt for a decade or more. Or to buy a house, which is the most expensive thing most people buy and takes them half their life to pay off; and they end up paying twice as much as it costs due to interest.
Sometimes, the less risky choice of following the cultural norm puts other parts of our life at risk, such as our happiness, health, and self-worth. Our "debt culture" needs to change.
How do you encourage people to manage their personal finances better?
The main things I do are educate and inspire. The biggest problem with people and their money is that they are rarely taught how to manage it. Through my writing I show people that the fundamentals of personal finance are easy to grasp (e.g. spend less than you make, save for the future, get out of debt) and the rest of it just comes down to willpower and habits. I also showcase what other people have been able to do when they've been in dire financial circumstances on my podcast (e.g. starting businesses while in debt).
How do tools like Mint.com help people to do this?
I have a business background and worked in corporate finance straight out of college, so I know my way around spreadsheets, but for most people they are incredibly intimidating. The same can be said for most accounting programs. One of the greatest things about Mint.com is how easy it is to set up and use.
That being said, it still has some great 'advanced' features like setting goals and monthly reports that make it a great solution for people that need more than just a list of all their transactions. Heck, I even switched over to using Mint.com a few years ago because it saved me time over doing it manually in Excel.
Do you feel it's easier to manage our finances these days with the tools that are available to us?
Yes and no. It can be easier to quickly see all of your accounts, pay bills, etc. But with the influx of tools also comes automation, which is a double edge sword.
On one hand, automation can be used to set up automatic savings plans, pay your bills on time, and fund retirement accounts. On the other hand, you can get used to never looking at your bills that come in to see ways to save money on them. Perhaps you don't watch all the channels you're paying for, you got charged twice at the deli, or the energy company is billing you for your neighbor's power each month. Without looking at your actual bills you can't know for sure that you aren't paying for things you aren't supposed to.
What are the top three questions people ask you again and again?
How can I get out of debt? How can I start a business online? How can I do both of those when I have a spouse/family/mortgage/lifestyle to support?
My answer for each of these is often the same: slim down your lifestyle, solve people's problems, and do that for a decade.
What is the main reason, you think, why people get into unnecessary debt?
Unnecessary debt to me is going into debt (or even not getting out of debt) because you are living a lifestyle you can't afford and spending money you don't have on experiences and possessions you don't need. When you are in debt you are borrowing from your future. You're choosing to do or buy something now that you are not willing to wait for. You don't have the patience to just be happy with what you have now.
I'm not saying all debt is bad. I went into debt to go to college and it helped me get to where I am professionally today. I went into debt when I bought a used car because I needed to drive across the country to start my first job. Debt isn't bad if you know fully well why you are going into debt and that you are consciously making the decision to borrow from your future.
Do you think everyone can be an entrepreneur?
I actually chatted with my Fizzle co-founders about this exact topic recently on our podcast. I came down on the "yes they can" side.
There are definitely traits that help entrepreneurs, specifically five that Paul Graham brings up: determination, flexibility, imagination, naughtiness, and friendship. If you're the kind of person that can try new things, learn on your own, take risks, and get back up after you get knocked down, then you can be an entrepreneur.
Tell us about Make it Rain?
Make It Rain is a personal finance course I put together that encompasses everything I've learned about personal finance over the past five years. I basically created it as if I was teaching it to myself the day I graduated college. Everything from setting a realistic budget you can stick to each month and an easy way to track all of your spending to a 'get out of debt plan' that will minimize the interest you pay and strategies for net worth tracking. It's geared toward anyone that is overwhelmed by money and wants to turn things around.
Also, 25 percent of all profits go directly towards charity: water (hence the play on words in the name).
Want more savvy advice? Follow Caleb on Twitter.