Expert Interview with Vanessa Page on Financial Planning and Investing for Mint

Vanessa Page has pulled off what many of us only dream of: She's lived on $15,000, even $10,000 in a year, all while traveling the world, investing in stocks, and living the kind of life we all think we don't have the money to lead, chronicling all of it on Vanessa's Money. She took a moment to speak with us about how she did it.

What inspired you to write a five-year plan for yourself, and what was the financial piece of it?

I was inspired to write a five-year plan while backpacking around Europe. At the time, I was running out of money and had no idea where I wanted to settle down and what I wanted to do with my life. I bought my supplies at a tiny stationery store in Budapest and spent two days in serious self-reflection to get it all out. The financial part is as follows: an $80k income, maxed out TFSAs, maxed out RRSPs, a passive income stream, one side business, a nice apartment and a $250k net worth.

When looking at your budget, what criteria do you use to adjust it? What gets cut and what stays?

I make my budget once a year and adjust it each month when needed, like when I moved to Korea and stopped paying rent. The ultimate goal is to not spend more than $15,000 in a calendar year. The only thing that I really cut, per se, is having a car and a cell phone - everything else is simply "cut" in moderation. I have Netflix instead of cable, a small apartment instead of a large one, and I love my coffees and meals out too much to give them up!

Do you feel there's still a taboo when it comes to talking about money?

I have a close set of friends with whom I can discuss money. Once I started traveling and met new people, though, I definitely noticed the taboo. I have co-workers now who absolutely blow through their money, and I am very tempted to ask them how...if, you know, it were politically correct!

If someone's considering selling an investment, what should be their first step? What information should they be gathering?

Double-check everything! Make sure that you understand the tax implications of selling your investment, and make sure that you don't sell everything the day before the yearly dividend is announced.

What were some surprises of owning stock in a company that you weren't expecting?

STOCKS GO DOWN!? In all seriousness, I don't think that I fully appreciated how well stocks perform against simple savings accounts. I knew, in theory, that I would have more money if I invested in the stock market, but even today, after years, I'm blown away by the awesomeness of getting free money.

What trends in personal finance should we keep an eye on?

As the economy continues to grow stronger, personal finance blog topics will start to get more creative. We will not longer see posts like "10 ways to save money on your electric bill" as frugal tips like that become less relevant in a more prosperous economy. Personal finance gurus will see a decrease in their popularity, and blogs which begin to cater to readers who are interested in investing and the like will become the go-to sites.

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