Expert Interview with David Leto on Teaching Yourself Personal Finance for Mint

David Leto came to personal finance the way many of us do: learning about it on the Internet. It led him to start Save A Little Money, one of the most comprehensive blogs about personal finance on the Web. He talked to us about learning about personal finance and what always stays the same when it comes to your money.

What first sparked your interest in personal finance?

I first became interested in personal finance when I was trying to tame my own financial problems. Searching online for answers led me to many websites offering helpful articles. Their helpful posts educated me and led me to do better handling my money.

What are some common misconceptions about personal finance you see online?

One common misconception is that being able to handle money is a matter of following a few easy tips. I have found that the majority of people are quite capable and knowledgeable in handling money. Their most pressing problem is they are not earning enough money. When you don't have a good income, you tend to get into credit card debt. You live above your means and borrow just to get through the month.

How has the Internet changed personal finance? Are things better, worse? Just different?

The Internet, in my case, gave me a broad education in personal finance, investing and earning money. Before the Internet, if you wanted to learn, you had to use your local library. I spent many weekends at my library studying investments. Today, we have so much information at our fingertips only a few keystrokes away.

Before making an investment, what should we know about it?

Before investing, realize that it is a long-term process. Also, diversification is imperative for success. New investors should stay away from stocks and only use mutual funds with low management fees. One last thing is, remember that Wall Street gurus are only interested in lining their pockets with your money with commissions, advisory fees and management fees. Stay away from them and educate yourself.

What are some good strategies for managing and eliminating debt?

To eliminate and manage debt, you have to realize that you should live on your income. Only spend the cash you have. Live debt-free. Save for what you need. Live within your means. Also, along with this, you need to raise your income. A good income cures almost all debt problems. They say the sweet spot for income is $65,000. You earn enough at this level to pay cash for everything and save for future needs. Income. Income. Income is the answer.

What personal finance trends should we be keeping an eye on?

Personal finance has stayed the same for many years and will continue. Earning and spending is basically the same as when our parents were young. Our problem today is we have so many more things to spend our money on. Money common sense never changes. It's the job of corporations to get us to spend our money. They have nice shiny things for us to buy, and they have invented new, easier and faster ways for us to spend our money. The new trends are just new ways to separate us from our money. Don't fall for the hype. It will always just be earning, saving and spending. If you do that right, you will be fine. Chasing the next shiny thing with the NFC iPhone is just a way to get us to spend and be in debt. Don't fall for it.

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