Today we have another Beginner to Blogger interview with Moose from MSoLife.com. Moose says he was “late to the game” with his personal finances, but since changing his financial habits, he was recently able to take a mini-retirement – not something that is easy to do!
Here’s a full intro from Moose:
I’m Moose from MSoLife.com. I’m an immigrant, a former Army Captain, and finance professional. My blog focuses on the key concepts of financial independence and early retirement (or at least having the option to retire early). MSoLife is written from the perspective of someone who used to work in “high finance” (pronounced “finnance” to seem more sophisticated and worldly) and boils down advanced financial concepts into something palatable and actionable in your life. Mix in the occasional piece of philosophy and that’s MSoLife.
What prompted you to start focusing on your personal finances?
I was late to the game. I “woke up” when I found out my wife was pregnant. Prior to that, I’d been reckless with money. Think expensive suits and high-end cars. The stress of constantly juggling bills in my head and overspending had taken a mental toll on me and I was exhausted. I needed a change and personal finance brought me back to a place of sanity.
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?
The biggest obstacle was me, myself, and I. I sabotaged my own success. I battled to break old patterns and habits and work on becoming rich instead of simply appearing rich. I got over this by no longer caring what others/the world thought of me and instead focusing on what I thought of myself. I had been disrespecting myself through my actions, financially, for years. I realized I’m worth respect, especially my own.
What is one area of personal finance that you still struggle with?
I constantly have to subvert the impulse to buy expensive, shiny things. Maybe I should have used the nome de blog “Raccoon” instead of “Moose”. I think it’s a by-product of growing up without much money. You either penny-pinch or set cash on fire.
What does financial independence mean to you?
It means living the life I want, and not wasting my time on someone else’s dream. I’ve been keenly aware of my own mortality for a long time, and I don’t want to regret things I never said or places I never saw. Financial independence gives me the ability to pursue my own plan. For example, I’m currently on a mini-retirement and there’s no way I could have done that a few years ago. I’ve been out of the workforce for over six months and my net worth has somehow increased. I was living paycheck to paycheck before.
Financial independence also means that I’ll be able to spend as much time as I want with my kid. My dad worked his ass off to keep us afloat and as a consequence of that, I didn’t get to see him much as a child. Even now, he’s constantly working. I wouldn’t be in the position I’m in now without his sacrifice, but I want his sacrifice to be worth it.
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?
The big surprise for me is the sense of calm I now have. I had this undercurrent of stress before because I constantly walked the knife-edge of disaster. That constant is gone now. I feel more empowered and in control, and you can’t put a price tag on that. This decrease in stress has improved all aspects of my life, I can be more “me” than the ultra-stressed drone I used to be.
What advice (money or career-related) would you give to a recent college graduate just starting their first full-time job?
Keep living like a poor college student. Don’t think that now you’re hot stuff because you have a job. This is just the beginning!
Buy a cheap car (I drive a 16 year-old minivan that I bought for $1,600), find a cheap apartment and/or split the rent with a roommate. Invest as much as you possibly can into your 401(k), especially if your company offers you a match, and avoid accumulating more debt.
Pay off any high-interest debt you have, and after that, continue to make more than the minimum payments on ANY debt you have. You can still have fun without spending much money, it all comes down to prioritizing what’s important to you.
What is a common misconception or belief about money you’d like to warn beginners about?
Money by itself is meaningless. It doesn’t fix all the problems in your life purely because you have it. If you don’t have money, you are almost guaranteed to have a lot of issues, but a fat bank account doesn’t make life all Mountain Dew and roses.
You have to leverage your financial stability to achieve something better, and that takes work and a lot of introspection. The world abounds with examples of people who have a lot of money and are still miserable.
You must have a purpose, a raison d’etre, and money, alone, doesn’t give that to you. Yes, get your financial life in order. But at the same time as you’re progressing to your goals, have the REASONS you want to be financially independent in the forefront of your thoughts. People with a lot of money but no plan or no mission tend to self-destruct.
In the last three years, what is one new behavior or decision that has most improved your financial situation?
One powerful behavior is tracking your finances. I did this even when the financial picture was ugly and I had a negative net worth! Tracking your progress shows you where you’re doing well and where you can still improve. I used to run away from my finances and avoided confronting the fact that I was on a collision path with disaster. Embrace the suck, and confront reality so you can improve it.
What is one item you like to splurge on?
Photographic equipment. I used photography to partially finance my MBA and got to do cool things like shoot sunrises on top of volcanos and have a photo shoot on a massive yacht with a well-known model. Photography also taught me how to slow down and observe the world around me, and how to connect more with people. It smoothed out my rough edges.
Lifting heavy weights keeps my inner savage in check (I’m excellent at destroying things, both by nature and by training), and photography gives me an outlet to be creative and express myself, as corny as that sounds.
If you could give a personal finance book to everyone just starting their financial journey, what book would you give them?
My recommendation isn’t a book, but Mr. Money Mustache’s blog. It’s a great introduction to FIRE and really helps to get you into the right mindset to succeed. Tailor his advice to your own situation as you see fit.
What led to your decision to start a blog, and what has your experience been like so far?
I believe that if I can get my money habits in line with FIRE, anyone can. I freely admit how awful I once was with my personal finances. Given the diversity of my life experiences, I figured that I may have a different way of looking at things and that people would enjoy reading about it. I also started my blog to refine and archive my thoughts.
If you had to delete all of your blog posts except for one, which post would you keep and why?
I’d keep my first post. That post is called “What’s Your Money Multiple?”. Basically, I used Excel to calculate what a dollar today is worth in retirement. The Money Multiple changes based on various inputs like your age and when you retire. I found out that every dollar I wasted now was $8 I wouldn’t have in my pocket later. Or every dollar invested now is an extra $8 later.
Being acutely aware of the Money Multiple will tilt you toward doing the right things, all by itself. You’ll save more money, invest more, pay off that toxic high-interest debt, and go out of your way to earn more. It’s potent.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Nope, I’m good to go. Thank you, Aaron, for interviewing me and allowing me to post on your excellent blog!
Of course, Moose! Thanks for sharing your story and thoughts on personal finance and financial independence. Looking forward to more great content from you!