Today’s Beginner to Blogger interview is with Cody Berman, a 22-year-old entrepreneur, runs the personal finance blog Fly to FI where he focuses on financial independence, personal development, and life optimization.
He also co-hosts The FI Show podcast and co-founded disc golf company Arsenal Discs. Cody also enjoys travel, weightlifting, and hanging out with friends and family.
What prompted you to start focusing on your personal finances?
I have focused on my personal finances throughout my entire life. Fortunately, my parents instilled the value of saving and compound interest in me from an early age.
I’ve maxed out my Roth IRA since age 18 and constantly strive to maximize the gap between my income and expenses. You could say that I’m addicted to making money…
The reason why I focus on my personal finances is not because of the money, though. It’s because of the freedom that money can buy me.
What was the greatest financial obstacle you faced or mistake you made during the “early days” of your personal finances? How did you improve the situation?
Fortunately, I have not had too many financial obstacles in my life (it might help that I’m 22 years old). Nonetheless, paying for college could have been burdensome if I paid the ticket price.
However, I was extremely fortunate to understand the power of scholarships, AP exams, and grants and ended up getting an 80% discount on my college of choice!
What is one area of personal finance that you still struggle with?
I am an over-optimizer and sometimes it’s to my own detriment.
I literally check Personal Capital three times per day and am constantly trying to optimize every minute of my day in the pursuit of money and business growth. I think sometimes I just need to take a chill pill.
What does financial independence mean to you?
Financial independence means that I can spend every single day EXACTLY how I want to with no repercussions. I may still be running some (or all) of my businesses, but if it doesn’t feel like work, then I’m perfectly happy.
Unlike many people in the financial independence community – who are planning on accumulating a massive nest egg and pulling from it using the 4% rule – I am chasing what I call Cash Flow FI LINK. This is the point where my passive / semi-passive cash flows can cover the cost of my lifestyle.
At that point, I will consider myself “financially independent.”
Since making your personal finances a priority, how has your quality of life changed (happiness, relationships, career, hobbies)? What’s improved that you may not have expected, or what unexpected challenges may have surprised you?
Since discovering the FI movement at age 19, my life has changed for the better drastically.
I’m happier, garner better relationships, hold a sense of purpose, and so many other ancillary benefits!
Finances are often one of the most stressful pain points in people’s lives. If you can eliminate that stress, you can optimize all of the other facets of your life.
What advice (money or career-related) would you give to a recent college graduate just starting their first full-time job?
To any recent graduates reading this, live like a college kid as long as you possibly can. I know you’ve probably heard it a thousand times but it’s so true. I would not be able to take this entrepreneurial leap if I adopted an expensive lifestyle. Let’s do a quick case study to illustrate.
Let’s assume my take-home pay is $36,000 per year and my lifestyle costs $36,000 per year. After one year of work, I have $0 saved up and no flexibility whatsoever.
Instead, how about we assume that my take-home pay stays at $36,000, but my lifestyle costs only $12,000 per year.
After one year of work, I have TWO YEARS of living expenses saved up!
The cost of my lifestyle in this scenario gives me so much more flexibility in taking risks and pursuing my passions.
What is a common misconception or belief about money you’d like to warn beginners about?
Money is not the end goal.
The point of life is not about accumulating as much money as you possibly can. Money is a tool that allows you to craft and design your ideal lifestyle.
Once you realize this fact, your whole financial worldview will change.
In the last three years, what is one new behavior or decision that has most improved your financial situation?
Trying new side hustles without fear of failure. In the past three years, I have attempted to start five different companies. The first two failed miserably.
Imagine I gave up after that?
One of the most powerful tools in your arsenal is your ability to learn from your failures, get back up, and try something new. I credit most of my success today to my prior failures.
What is one item you like to splurge on?
Definitely alcohol and going out to the bars. I’m 22…it’s the thing to do! Don’t get me wrong, I’m not spending hundreds of dollars per weekend on this stuff, just definitely more than I’d like to.
If you could give a personal finance book to everyone just starting their financial journey, what book would you give them?
I was going to say the 4-Hour Workweek, but I think that might be too hardcore for the average person.
Let’s go with Rich Dad Poor Dad. That book lays a fantastic foundation down for the average person to start thinking about money in a different light.
What led to your decision to start a blog, and what has your experience been like so far?
In January of 2018, I attended a financial meetup called Camp FI down in Gainesville, Florida. Many of the attendees were blown away by how young I was and suggested that I start a blog. Four months later, I did just that!
Since my first blog post on April 28th, 2018, the experience has been amazing. I have connected with dozens or maybe even hundreds of people whom I otherwise would have never met.
The blog has also served as a launch pad into many other partnerships and opportunities. There is nothing better than having a community to support you.
If you had to delete all of your blog posts except for one, which post would you keep and why?
Ooh, this is a tough one. I think I’m going to have to say Travel Hacking for Dummies.
For those of you unfamiliar with travel hacking, it’s basically using credit card rewards and sign-up bonuses to travel the world for free.
I honestly thought it was some type of scam at first, but two years in and I’ve earned thousands of dollars’ worth of free travel! If you’re a travel junkie like me, travel hacking with absolutely transform your life (and save you a ton of money).
Anything else you’d like to add?
I will be joining Grant Sabatier of Millennial Money on a book tour around the country for the release of his new book, Financial Freedom. We are stopping in 40 cities and would love to connect with like-minded individuals along the journey.
Feel free to drop me a note if you’re interested in planning an event or just saying hi! Hope to see you on the road.