Momentum Series Interview – Duke of Dollars: Building Your Financial Kingdom
This marks feature #20 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 am excited to welcome Chris from Duke of Dollars to the Momentum Series!
Chris is one half of the duo behind the great personal finance blog Duke of Dollars. At Duke of Dollars, Chris and Jack, share content and resource to help you build your wealth, invest your treasure and take hold of the keys for success.
Today Chris stops by to share his financial journey, battle against debt, tips on building your financial kingdom and so much more. I appreciate the time and effort Chris put into this interview. Great advice, resources and insight!
If you want to connect with Chris:
With that said, let’s get going! Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Chris. Here is the Momentum Series Interview – Duke of Dollars: Building Your Financial Kingdom.
Hello all of you wonderful people reading this interview!
I’m Chris, one of two authors from the Duke of Dollars Kingdom. I graduated from college a few years ago, and have been grinding in my career plus side hustles since graduation day!
Outside the realm of money and personal finance – there are many things I love. For one, my girlfriend – she keeps me honest, grounded, and loved. Second – my family and friends, they let me escape the stress and bring laughter into my life.
A few others!
Nature walks. There is nothing more relaxing, peaceful, and calming than taking my eyes of the computer and taking in a new scenic view, listening to the flow of water gurgling down a stream, or feeling the rays of the sun warm up your mood. Reading a new book for growth or taking an adventure to an imaginary fantasy land (like Alagasia) keeps my mind open, while starting a new project (like Duke of Dollars) in a hope to change the world one day motivates me each day!
My story takes us back to my college days. It was back then that financial hardships and divorce started to transition my life and future! As an 18 year old who took on loans to pay for college, and after having most of my expenses paid for growing up, I quickly learned just how fast you must become an adult sometimes.
During college, I was a typical broke college kid. I worked one or two jobs while walking to college campus (~20-30 minutes) because parking passes were ridiculously priced in my humble opinion. It was during this time I met Jack, and learned just how important taking control of your life and finances really is. These experiences really taught me how to live frugally, because no other choice existed for me and by the end of it, there I was ready to take on the world.
College came and went; I started my new career – it was time to buckle up and start the drive towards a happy life! I was in debt from college, had a car loan, and needed to update both my wardrobe and apartment items. My retirement and investment accounts were starting at square $0 and my net worth was in the red.
I started putting the pedal to the medal to turn that around!
Each year I work to max out my 401(k), IRA, and HSA contributions to build my wealth while putting all other extra funds to work on debt! My net worth has went from -50K to 60K+ in a few years, my debt will be halved by the end of this year; I’m excited to put one of my student loans into the grave!!!
While taking these extreme measures for one so young, I haven’t lost out on life. Thanks to Credit Card hacking I’ve traveled to ~10 countries and ~10 states to gain new perspectives on culture and life. There isn’t one thing I can truly complain about!
Our personal finance website I help write for (with my bro Jack!) and maintain is Duke of Dollars. It’s a blog about constructing your own financial kingdom! We have outlined in simple steps the milestones leading to a better life: starting with creating consistent income and budgeting to building your taxable brokerage accounts.
We mix in financial topics with anecdotes from our life, my battle with becoming debt free, and lifestyle choices that lead to an outstanding life financially while maximizing happiness!
There’s always more room in the alliance for a new kingdom – we welcome you to join!
I graduated from a public university with a Bachelor’s of Science within the IT field. Fortunately, this has helped me gain traction early in my career because there are many opportunities but for me it was based on passion not job potential.
I’ve worked as a Software Developer so far in my career, with a splash of leadership experiences that have helped me grow professionally along the way. Leadership has a habit of being one of those quieter skills on your repertoire!
These skills have helped me advance earlier than expected in both income percentile and career positions, mostly due to hard work, great mentors, and fabulous colleagues.Promotions have a habit of happening to those who have worked for them – just like Charlie Munger has recommended – I try to live by the “to have something you must deserve it” ethos!
How were you first introduced to personal finance and the financial independence mindset? What were your expectations with money and its role in your life before that?
There were two life epiphanies that put my foot into the door of personal finance.
- Sharon Muffins Calculator
Jack (our Sr. Personal Finance Guru) that introduced me to Sharon’s Muffin Calculator. Making a long story short, he told me the reason he kept a sports bottle of water in his car instead of stopping and buying bottled water each day would save him a total of $10 per week or $7,200 in 15 years of expenses; or instead, you could invest that same $10 a week for 15 years at a 5% return to accrue $11,000 in your accounts!
- Rice & BBQ Dinner
Like I mentioned, in college – I was broke, my parents were going through some financial troubles, and the very little money I did have was used for food and college expenses. One evening, I was forced to have Rice & BBQ sauce for dinner and it was at that moment that I knew that would be the last time! It was time to take a stand!
Comparably to many college students, my mindset was focused on achieving wealth for the finer things in life. Armani suits, rolexes, traveling wherever I want, etc. etc.
Since then, money has became my tool to wield as I bustle about to get control over my time, reduce the stress in my life, and rid myself of the debt gremlins. I’ve learned the importance of lasting happiness coming from anything but material things.
Jack and I both agree that living our lives is still important, and much to the happiness of my girlfriend, I’m not the epitome of frugality. Spending money on experiences that maximize happiness – such as traveling to Europe or seeing my family fit in the budget.
Have you made any major financial mistakes? If so, what was the outcome and what did you learn from these mistakes?
Buying a car on a loan.
A few questions down you will see a story of why I was rushed into buying a car, it was used and 3-4 years old, had low milage and the Carfax looked just fine. It gets great gas mileage and will last a long time. Overall, it wasn’t a terrible purchase.
The reason that I think it was a mistake was a bit based on hindsight. At the time I signed the loan, my commute was going to cost more via Uber than the car note + insurance. Since then, I’ve moved closer to work and don’t require a car. I use Amazon Fresh for groceries, and barely need the automobile for trips. It would be more cost efficient for me to Uber or Lyft, walk or bike when needed.
Hindsight can’t be used and of course we can’t predict the future – at that moment, the commute was necessary since my job does pay the bills :D.
What strategies (or roadmaps) have you implemented since graduating college to make the most momentum with your financial situation?
Is there an area or area(s) of your own personal finances that you’re still looking to better master and improve?
I know many people believe index funds are the end all be all of investing for the average person, and that has shown to be true. It also doesn’t mean that you can’t use the buy-and-hold strategy on great companies like Microsoft or Johnson & Johnson to beat the market by creating your own smaller index funds.
Jack’s written about this and at the moment index funds are the main slice of my investment portfolio flavored pie, but as I get older and have more money to invest – I’ll be taking my investing skills to the next level.
We’re not speaking of day trading. We’re talking about buying great companies at great prices then enjoying the fruits of their labor as they continue pouring money into our coffers each year! I’ll still be keeping a base portfolio that includes index funds, but will be deploying funds into great businesses at great value to hold for the long haul (like Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger do!).
We like to use a Software Developer metaphor to help explain our thoughts on why investing in individual stocks can be useful if done in a safe way.
As browsers continue to become better technologies, the people using them to view different websites also notice the improvements in the improvements. Just like using index funds in the stock market – you are are going with the flow of improvements and not really caring much about the details, but do enjoy the results.
But let’s change gears to an app like YouTube running in the browser – do you think they can just use the average performance of the web? They can’t. YouTube would run slow, people wouldn’t be able to watch videos as efficiently. The developers at YouTube are some of the greatest in the world, and because of this, they can take advantage of the knowledge they have to do better than the average. The same can be said for the stock market, especially for the private investor who has time to dedicate for learning to be one of the best. He can reduce turn over, pay less fees, and buy companies when values make sense while diversifying his own portfolio on his own terms.
What are some of the most influential resources that have shaped your money mindset or financial situation?
- Getting Things Done (productivity leads to mula)
- How to Win Friends and Influence People (build your network)
- The Millionaire Next Door (mindset to become rich)
- The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*** (care about the important things)
- The Inheritance Cycle (it doesn’t matter where you come from, only that your rise up to the challenge to be the best you)
Apps or Services
The Great War of Debt is upon you and you’re fighting back with full force. Are you able to share the sources of the debt that started this war?
Absolutely! There are really only two sources of debt that have started the war!
1 – Auto Loan
The main reason I have an auto loan is because after college, my priorities were investing in my 401(k) to get my match, maxing out my Roth, and paying off my car which had a balance remaining from college. Somehow, after grinding out on my side hustle (independent contracting) eventually led to finally sending in the amount require to outright own my first asset, even if it was depreciating each year. It was an old car, so not much but hey, it was Something!
With that goal in the bag, and my focus switching to student loans – life dealt one of those cards that cause them to fold the hand.
Long story short, the car was hit by a driver with no insurance. Since the deductible on the car was more than it was worth, I chose not to pay an insurance company money each month for collision or comprehensive damage – plus with an emergency fund I could afford for unplanned issues. But I had uninsured motorist insurance right? Wrong!
This was one of the two big lessons learned throughout the hand – my uninsured insurance only covered bodily harm – so no help there. My other option was to sue the individual, but small circuit courts don’t garnish wages and paying court costs seemed like a waste of money. So yes, a guy hit my car while it was parked (hit and run who was caught), didn’t have insurance (broke the law), and didn’t pay a dime.
Such is life – sometimes life hits you where it hurts – be thankful you prepared with an emergency fund, have a decent job to keep on moving on!
To end the anecdote, I still had to get to work and needed a way to get there! Uber or public transport were both considered, but in the end I decided to take on the car loan only with the promise to myself of paying it off early!
I paid of my initial car loan. It was hit while parked, insurance wasn’t involved, and I chose not to sue him. This ended with me having to get a new car quickly!
2 – Student Loans
Typical story here – didn’t have enough money for higher education and parents weren’t able to pay it either. Student loans are an investment to me because of the earning potential depending on the degree of choice in one of your passions!
An intangible benefit was the experiences I had in college that made me into the young adult I am today.
Even with the investment being worth it – screw the loans now 🙂 I’m going debt free baby! The raging war continues with half of my student loans on track to be paid off by the end of the year!
What battle tactics are you using to best conquer this debt?
The Student Loan Pool
Many people immediately make payments on their student loans with any extra money they save or earn – this make sense because by reducing your principle, you save money. I can’t disagree with that.
Jack and I have another option for people that are more inclined on having a safety net during their debt pay off phase.
Instead of putting all of my extra money into the loan account, I choose to deposit into a savings account. This will cost me more money (a grand or two), but with an early pay off timeline; I prefer to have that money accessible in case of an emergency. To me (and Jack), paying extra on a loan (excluding mortage here due to size) doesn’t have a direct affect on cash flow. It isn’t until paid off that you feel the benefits each month, and with emergencies being a possibility, liquidity overrides the small savings for me. Once the loan pool grows larger than the loan, say goodbye to that loan and hello to more cash flow each month!
Frugality & Sacrifice
“If you don’t sacrifice for what you want, what you want will be the sacrifice.”
I want to be debt free – doing what I need to for that to happen is the constant battle I face!
When you picture that day when the war is won, what is the first thought that comes to mind? Can you explain the strategies that would immediately follow that with your money and life?
- Buy quality professional clothes for next career moves (I’ve been on a shopping ban!)
- Experience life more! Say hello to new travel adventures!
- Build up taxable brokerage accounts
- Save for big life events
- Move from 50% to 65% income savings!
You’ve written about two actions that can increase your income percentile this year. Can you explain the concept of income percentile and introduce those two actions?
A percentile is defined from Google as: “each of the 100 equal groups into which a population can be divided according to the distribution of values of a particular variable. In other words, the 100th percentile is the top income for your age, 0 is the least.”
By determining where you lie on the income percentile path for your age, you are able to determine how well your doing from a cash flowing in perspective. I like to use this as motivation to keep growing, because unless your in the 100th percentile – you have room to grow!
There are two main opportunities to increase that percentage for yourself:
- Manage Your Career – Promotions happen to those who deserve and earn them!
- Side Hustles – Extra income on top of your job can be one great way to use free time, especially if your passionate about the area.
When it comes to building your career, what recommendations do you make for individuals to follow?
We wrote about this in the article about income percentiles, and will be having a career series in the future!
Which actions have been the most beneficial in your own financial situation?
- Budgeting & Tracking income
- Taking advantage of tax advantage retirement accounts
- Putting myself and my goals first
- Career growth and self development
- Focus and Celebrate!
When did you first start blogging? Was there a specific launching off point or what influenced you to go down that path?
When you graduate from college, trade-school, or start working full-time, there comes this moment that your first paycheck is deposited into your paycheck.
You quickly notice two red flags:
- The government takes a big chunk of your gross salary, way more than you expect
- This is the first time you’ve had this much money direct deposited into your checking account (maybe this happened at your internships if you were on top of it in college), and you have no idea what to do
Yes – the education system has failed you in this regard.
What do you do next?
Some people have parents who know how to handle money, others have older friends, mentors, or colleagues. Others have no one or people who give misinformation. Either way, your life and your decisions are now in your hands!
For me – I was fortunate to know that Jack was passionate about personal finance, so my questions became discussions about different decision points. From those conversations, we decided to start a blog with the goal to change the world or mindset of those who read it.
Is there a mission statement or underlying purpose to what you intend to accomplish with Duke Of Dollars?
We want to help the world in their quest to build their finances into a solid foundation, changing money into a tool they wield, rather than a scarce resource dictating their stress levels; in other words, build your financial kingdom to achieve happiness and wealth with easy steps and lifestyle habits!
If you could recommend 3 of your blog posts for Making Momentum readers to check out, what would those be?
Any final pieces of advice or recommendations?
Start now with your finances. Subscribe to your favorite or top blogs in the space, read a little bit each day, and use the mental model of progressive overload to continue growing your knowledge muscles each day. That’s called making momentum! You will be surprised how much you learn in a year doing so!
Don’t have time to read this stuff? Instead of those times you check Instagram or Facebook, read an article instead!
Any special shoutouts?
To the personal finance community in general – you all are awesome!
Thanks Scott for this opportunity!!