Jonathan Ping doesn't consider himself a financial guru, yet he runs the very successful MyMoneyBlog.com. That shows us that you don't actually have to be a guru to manage your money well.
Jonathan has a very interesting story, so we thought it would be great to share it with you today as part of our interview series. Here's Jonathan.
Tell us your story and the story behind your blog.
Like many people, I finished college with a negative net worth of $30,000 in student loans. I started the blog four years later, after I had dug myself out of those loans and now had a $60,000 salary and little knowledge of what to do with it. MyMoneyBlog.com was started to document my learning process and to share how I grew my net worth through saving and investing.
Who are your heroes in the money world and do you have any recommended reading?
I have definitely come to respect Jack Bogle for founding Vanguard and introducing low-cost index funds to the average person. Even as I dig more into the details of investing, rereading some of the basic concepts from his old book Common Sense on Mutual Funds still teaches me new things.
I also respect the writings of Charlie Munger, best known for being Warren Buffett's best friend and longtime investment partner. Many of his essays and speeches are collected in the book Poor Charlie's Almanack.
What's your philosophy for building wealth?
That's a hard one to distill. I have several. I think saving is more important than investing. Your savings rate in particular needs to be greater than 20 percent. Spending less than you earn and then investing your savings prudently will get you wealthy eventually. Very, very, few people made their money on investing "skill" alone.
I don't think you need to be a high earner to retire early. However if you do want to be a high earner and don't have a top professional degree, you need to invest in yourself and either start your own business or own part of a business.
Why do you think we so easily fall into debt these days?
For one, marketing. Other people want to get rich as well, and convincing people to pay them 15 percent interest is a sure fire way to do it. Debt is acceptable in today's society, but there should be much more stigma attached to it.
Do you think we've learned anything from the recession?
I think so. Jobs are not guaranteed. Stock market returns are not guaranteed.
What's your recommended debt pay-off method?
I like the Snowball method of paying off your smallest balances first and gaining some momentum. Over time, I have come to appreciate the behavioral aspects of debt payoff.
How do you remain positive about money in tough times?
I try to combine thinking both long-term and short-term. Long-term, I have confidence that my investments will be higher in 30 years. Maybe not five years, but 30 years. Short-term, I make sure that I keep spending less than I earn and that I am continuously learning something new to improve myself every day.
How do you think Mint.com helps people manage their money?
Mint.com takes away the hassle barrier to tracking their expenses. The interface is clean, pleasant, and relatively intuitive. The account aggregation happens seamlessly most of the time. I've realized that very few people actually budget their money on an ongoing basis. By automatically telling me how much I've spend on Food & Dining, for example, I can see some honest numbers at a glance.