Momentum Series Interview – Apathy Ends: Take Action, Build Wealth
This marks feature #24 in the Momentum Series – an interview series to share the stories of bloggers from across the personal finance community.
The goal is to showcase their story, the wins, the losses and the actionable advice that others can take value from and insights about their blogging journey. Whether that be conquering debt, maximizing career earnings, the road to financial independence or other strategies for financial and blogging success.
This week I’m excited to welcome the great personal finance blogger Apathy Ends to the Momentum Series.
Apathy Ends shares insightful, thought-provoking content on his website to help readers take action and build wealth. Today, he stops by to share his financial journey, top money resources, growing his and Mrs. AE’s incomes, blogging experiences and much more.
If you want to connect with Apathy Ends:
Here we go! Ladies and gentlemen, please enjoy Momentum Series Interview – Apathy Ends: Take Action, Build Wealth.
My wife and I are in our early 30s and have 2 kids under the age of 18 months (yes, it is every bit as crazy as you think it could be). We have been married for 4 years, but have been together since our college days. We live in Minnesota and do our best to embrace the winters but last year tested our limits and we decided we will be future snowbirds.
We also have a dog that is adjusting to two kids and less attention than he used to get (still spoiled)
I run the blog ApathyEnds.com and primarily write about pursuing Financial Independence (and more recently pursuing Financial Independence with a family). I also talk about paying off debt, increasing income and investing. It is a healthy mix of hard numbers and the mental side of money.
I graduated with my undergrad in 2009, with a degree that was getting crushed by the current state of the US economy. People in my field were getting laid off and there were not a lot of attractive jobs available to a recent grad.
Instead of taking a job I didn’t want (more manual labor than I would have preferred as a college graduate) I decided to go back to school and get an MBA.
After wrapping my MBA up in 1.5 years taking extra classes and working part-time to pay the rent, I was lucky to find a job at a small company in Minnesota working in the customer service department. 7 years later, I am on my 4th job within the company (not including Senior titles). My current role is in Project/Product Management.
Has taking control of your money and mastering your personal finances always been your mindset as an adult? Can you share the coles notes version of your financial journey?
If we are counting adult as 18, then absolutely not. I was terrible with money throughout college (more on that later) and that continued through my first full year of post-college work.
Realizing I paid over $5,000 in student loan interest over the course of one year was my nudge into learning about personal finance.
Once I started, I was hooked and quickly consumed books and blogs until I felt comfortable investing on my own (with a short stint of day trading at the beginning – big mistake).
Initially we were focussed on paying off my student loan debt, but that focussed shifted to investing the majority of our extra money after the first 2 years. Our strategy was to focus on investing over debt payoff as long as our interest rates were under 5%. The idea of an extra double of our money excited me more than paying off debt.
Eventually I stumbled onto FIRE (Financial Independence Retire Early) blogs and fell in love with the idea. Since then we have been optimizing our life and finances while we accumulate enough money to pull the plug on traditional work (approx 11 years out – I will be 42 based on the last projection).
What strategies and tactics have you implemented in your to life to best set you up for financial success?
Since we are pursuing Financial Independence with kids, optimization is key if we want to stay on track. Here are a few of my favorite tactics:
- Automation – The lazy way to save, our money moves itself every paycheck and I don’t even think about it
- Cut Lifestyle inflation – We have worked our way up to saving 33% of our gross income by banking our raises instead of inflating our spending
- Investing – Mostly retirement accounts (index funds) but am starting to build an account for other investments (real estate/small business)
- Keep the big costs down – I don’t sweat the small stuff, we made a few big decisions that save thousands instead of hundreds of decisions that save pennies (More on this later)
Have you made any major financial mistakes? If so, what was the outcome and what did you learn from these mistakes?
The biggest mistake I have made is by FAR the amount of Student Loan debt I accumulated getting my degrees. When I graduated I had over $85,000 in Student Loan debt with interest rates ranging from 5% all the way up to 10.25%.
Student Loans debt might not sound like a colossal mistake, but I made basically every costly financial mistake a college student can make:
- Using student loan money for things other than student loans
- Not refinancing my student loans sooner (I did figure this one out eventually)
- Not paying off my interest is accrued and let it capitalize to my principal balance
- Assuming there was a high paying job waiting for me and not working hard enough to find internships
I am happy to say my student loans are a thing of the past and we are 100% focussed on building wealth.
Is there an area or area(s) of your own personal finances that you’re still looking to better master and improve?
Now that our finances are on “cruise control” through automation we have been more focussed on maximizing our time. A few things we tried so far:
- Bought a Roomba that runs everyday (Can’t beat it with kid crumbs and dog hair)
- Have a cleaning service come at least once a month
- Grocery Delivery (we actually had beer delivered recently from Amazon too)
We will keep looking for ways to buy time back as long as the cost is reasonable.
What are some of the most influential resources that have shaped your money mindset or financial situation?
This list could get insanely long:
- Our Next Life
- She Picks Up Pennies
- Financial Panther
- Budgets Are Sexy
- Guy On Fire
Two aggregators of personal finance content:
Apps or Services
I think the only one I consistently use is Personal Capital.
Both you and Mrs. AE have grown your incomes quite substantially over the past seven years, can you share those growth figures? Has that always been your primary focus more so than cutting expenses?
- My salary: From $36,000 to $92,000 in 7.5 years
- My wife’s: From $36,000 to $70,000 in 6 years
Income has definitely been our primary focus since we started our careers. I think it is the most important thing you can do to improve your financial situation, especially if you are on the younger side.
Cutting expenses is great, but my go to example is I can’t “cut” my way out of $18,000 of childcare costs. The only way to pay for that and hit our savings goals is to earn more.
What strategies have helped you most in growing your incomes to that level?
I am very passionate about increasing income (if you can’t tell) here are some of my favorite strategies:
- Getting the most out of yearly raises – It drives me crazy when people complain about their salary but “phone it in” the one time every year there is an opportunity to discuss compensation
- Relentlessly pursuing promotions – The big boosts from promotions (~8-12%) are worth the relentless pursuit.
- Asking for raises when responsibilities expand – Don’t let your responsibilities bloat too far without compensation matching
- Knowing your worth in the market – If you are willing to accept being underpaid your company will happily continue to do it.
If there was one tip you could give to give readers on growing their own professional income, what would that be?
Don’t waste an opportunity to negotiate. Ever.
Income compounds just like investments so the sooner you can stack up percentage raises the quicker you will hit your income goals. Start before accepting the job and continue during yearly reviews.
You aren’t the biggest fan of budgets, are you? Can explain the thought process here and the mindset you take for managing your money?
I am definitely not a fan of traditional budgets, in fact I think Budgets Suck*. We tried using them 3 times, and 3 times we failed.
Instead of busting open an excel document and categorizing our spending we set a savings goal for the year and iterate our way to it through automated savings. As we ratchet up our savings and money gradually gets tighter, we have to prioritize our spending or our credit card bill will be hard to pay off every month (being able to pay off our credit card as the hard rule in this equation).
As long as we are on track for our savings goal, any money left over in our bank account is for guilt free spending.
*If budgets work for you, keep doing it! This is all about creating a system that works
What are the biggest areas of cost cutting that you feel the “average” person can improve upon?
Housing and Transportation cost make up between 48 and 54 percent of the average Americans expenses (the other big bucket is taxes). We spend significantly less than that on our home and transportation.
Home ~12% of our income
When we were looking at new houses, we made a conscious decision not to be house poor. We told our Loan Officer how much we were planning on spending and were promptly informed we could spend a lot more. We opted to stick to our conservative plans and use the savings to boost our savings rate.
Transportation ~ 6% of our income
How we save on transportation:
- I drive a 2002 Honda that costs next to nothing to maintain and insure
- Our “new” car was bought used (It is a 2014 that we bought after someone else’s lease expired_
- Take the bus to work which saves a few thousand dollars every year
If you can find a way to shrink Housing and Transportation expenses it is a lot easier to save.
When did you first start blogging? Was there a specific launching off point or what influenced you to go down that path?
I started blogging between 2.5 and 3 years ago. I had been a personal finance “lurker” reading and commenting on other people’s sites for about a year before I finally started my own site.
The biggest barrier was coming up with a name I finally just Took Action and that is how I landed on Apathy Ends.
Is there a mission statement or underlying purpose to what you intend to accomplish with Apathy Ends?
I want to move people from thinking they need to do something and start actually doing it. My go to statements are:
Knowledge without Action is useless
Take Action. Build Wealth.
I also want to show that Financial Independence is possible for most people. You can do this with kids, you don’t need to make hundreds of thousands of dollars, and it doesn’t take extreme sacrifices to make it happen.
Do you have any specific goals with your blog(s) over the next 12 months? What tactics are you planning to leverage to accomplish these?
With two small kids and full-time work it is hard to carve out enough time to set lofty goals for the next 12 months. I view my site as a long play that allows me to learn new skills that I can use when I step away from corporate life. I am mainly focussed on writing more content and grow my traffic. Guest posting has also been a priority lately (Hence why I reached out to Scott about the Momentum Series).
If you could recommend 3 of your blog posts for Making Momentum readers to check out, what would those be?
3 of my recent favorites:
- 5 Things we Optimize to Make Financial Independence Possible
- Cut The Crap – There are not a MILLION ways to pay down Debt
- Can You Do 1% Better?
Any final pieces of advice or recommendations?
Don’t seek perfection, start doing something today and iterate as you learn. If you wait until you know everything you will never start.
Any special shoutouts?
Thank you for hosting this series! I appreciate the opportunity to share with the Making Momentum readers