Personal Finance Interview with Steven Zussino for Mint.com



Personal finance. Two words that can make all the difference in your living. We decided to chat up Steven Zussino of CanadianPersonalFinance.com for some tips on this subject. He's quite passionate about this and you'll see why.

Tell us a bit about why you do what you do.

We (the team at CanadianPersonalFinance.com) love helping people save money by blogging about ways around paying full price for things in life. That's why we have GroceryAlerts.ca, CanadianTravelHacking.com and CanadianPersonalFinance.com. When not doing that, I love playing outdoors.

What is the number one thing you say to people when it comes to managing debt and their credit cards?

People often say that managing money is easier said than done. It's easy to set up a budget but sticking to it is the hard part. The discipline required to manage debt is a challenge with everyone no matter what walk of life you come from. It is easy to spend money; I've even heard people associate money to water in the sense that if flows in easy and flows out even easier.

For those who follow through their commitments, I see a big sense of accomplishment and power that comes from being on top of their personal finances.

How do you encourage people to manage their personal finances better?

To encouragement people to manage their personal debt I suggest setting goals to help stay on track of your budget. Whether it's paying off debt, saving for a house or topping up TFSA.

Some of the best things I often suggest to people is to start with a detailed budget. Create a spreadsheet that outlines all income and all expenses. Until you have a clear picture of how much money you have coming in and and how much money is going out you will never be able to manage your finances.

How do tools like Mint.com help people to do this?

Mint.com is a wonderful service. We (as a family) use Mint to mainly track our expenses. Personally we like that we can see every cent spent and every cent that has been deposited into our account. If I have a question about a particular bill, I can login to Mint and see the transactions.

It makes managing finances as a couple a lot easier. It is like an open book to our finances and makes communication with finances clear to both parties. Mint.com also offers a few other features that I love, such as the email notification for large deposits or withdrawals.

Has technology made our finances easier to manage or not?

Technology is extremely advanced and it's made managing finances even easier. I think taking the time is consuming but it's time well spent. Everything is at our fingertips these days and I personally take every opportunity to educate myself on how to grow my net worth with the technology available.

Do you think banks are keeping up with technology? If not, what can banks do?

My experience with banks and their technology has been a positive experience for the most part. I have used some financial institutes that did not provide the tools I required to manage my stocks however with research I was able to find a trading platform to suit all my individual needs.

An example of some of the platforms I've had experience with is Questrade. I used Questrade for a few years and they suited my needs however as my portfolio grew I found RBC Direct Investing offered more tools that is better suited and I am able to manage my finance better with the RBC Direct Investing platform in my current position.

How do you think investing can be made easier for the average person? Or, would you say it's quite easy already, and many people are just unnecessarily intimidated by it?

Investing takes time and most people don't have the time, hence the reason why a lot of people choose to give their money to an financial advisor. If you are really focused on growing your portfolio and want to learn the best or easiest way to invest, take the time to learn the tools and the technology available to invest. It is intimidating, however, but as I mentioned, the satisfaction you get from knowing where you are and where you are heading financially is powerful, and that alone will help you succeed. In other words, take the time to learn it's time that will turn into more money.

What are the top three questions people ask you again and again?
1. How do you know this stuff?
2. How can you afford it?
3. Can you repeat that?

What is the main reason, you think, why people get into unnecessary debt? What do you consider unnecessary debt?

People go into debt for all sorts of reasons. Over the last few years I have seen most people get into debt for two reasons. Reason one, they have some unforeseen circumstances that pop into their lives, such as a job loss, divorce, or illness. This is tragic. I cry every time I hear one of these stories. I lost my dad to cancer and I know the financial impact it has in peoples lives. The other main reason I see people go into debt is a lack of financial education. There are a lot of people that I have come across in life that just don't know how to deal with money. This too is sad. They make the money but have no idea how to spend or save it.

Over the years I've seen friends who make $200K/year but have over $100K in personal debt all due to the lack of education of managing money. The problem with it is these people just will not take the time to learn until something major happens in their lives.

Want more knowledge from Steven? Check out CanadianPersonalFinance.com and then follow Canadian_PF on Twitter or like Canadian Personal Finance on Facebook.