Momentum Series Interview – Invested Wallet: Money Mindset & Investing
This marks feature #42 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 Todd from the personal finance blog Invested Wallet. Todd works in digital marketing for a start-up based out of Salt Lake City but he works remotely from Pennsylvania. Since 2014, personal finances and mastering money has been at the forefront of his priorities.
On his blog, Invested Wallet, he shares advice, strategies and first-hand experiences focused on personal finance and investing for beginners and beyond.
In today’s interview Todd shares his financial journey, top money resources, thoughts on the financial road ahead, his investing mindset, blogging experiences and much more.
If you want to connect with Todd of Invested Wallet:
Ladies and gentlemen, please enjoy the Momentum Series Interview – Invested Wallet: Money Mindset & Investing.
My name is Todd Kunsman. I’m 30, turning 31 soon and I live in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. It’s about an hour north of Philadelphia.
I graduated from DeSales University in 2010 with a B.S. in Computer Science and minor in Communications. I went for graphic design, but I have not really worked in graphic design at all since graduating. Feel like that happens pretty often to people, right?
Since graduating college, I’ve basically been working in digital marketing. I started as an entry level email marketer for a big magazine publisher, worked remotely for a few start-ups, worked at a marketing agency, and then landed one of my most rewarding positions to date. I’m currently the head of marketing for a start-up based out of Salt Lake City. I work remotely full-time and it’s been a helluva an experience so far.
Additionally, I launched Invested Wallet as a side business with the potential to one day become a full-time gig or a financial asset. I’m currently in the process of getting my LLC together to make the blog more legit.
Has taking control of your money and mastering your personal finances always been your mindset as an adult? Can you share the cliff notes version of your financial journey?
Not not really, in fact I didn’t really start caring until 2014 when I was 26 years old. I had a good mindset about paying bills on time, establishing good credit, and trying to save money. However, I never really cared much outside of those things, nor really payed attention to my savings, or knew anything about investing money.
Needless to say, I was ill prepared for a while to the point where I was living paycheck to paycheck, had little saved in case of an emergency, and really had no sense of financial direction.
In Summer 2014 I was starting to figure out what to do and what needed to change. A random conversation with a good friend who was already way ahead financially stoked the fire. He helped me learn a bit about Vanguard and then I took over the rest. I started reading tons of financial, investing, and entrepreneurial books to learn as much as I could.
I had no background prior to 2014, other than the very basics. Since then, I’ve been self-managing my retirement accounts, saving almost 60% of my income, and accelerated my career. It’s crazy to look back on the last 4 years.
My goal is never have to worry or be stressed about money. I already am less stressed, but I have a lot of work to do yet to get to full financial freedom. This year I will hopefully pass $100,000 saved and invested, which itself is a huge milestone. I don’t really plan on retiring early (an initial goal of mine), but I’ve since realized I rather be excited to say if I chose to retire, I could.
What strategies and tactics have you implemented in your to life to best set you up for financial success?
There is quite a few things I did, but some of these things have also shifted over the years. For most, there will be some overlap to what you should do, but some things might be more unique to my situation.
- Be prepared to dive in and really see how bad your financial state might be. Looking at my loans, car payment, rent, bills, what I had saved, salary, etc. It was not pretty. But knowing your net worth and seeing where gaps were was a big eye-opener. I still track my net worth, but not as religiously like many do. For me, it was the necessary place to start to make me get on track.
- I created a budget of everything that I pay and my total income each month. I never really did that before and basically just did any finances on the fly. Not good, because I overlooked some spending issues and things I was paying for that I could eliminate.
- Started reading books on finances, investing, and money. It was the best way to learn, figure out what moves I needed to start making, and to keep my knowledge bank growing. Investing and finances tends to appear hard to learn, but while there is a lot to know, it’s much easier than you think.
- Started doing some freelance, contract, and side hustle work in order to make extra money that could go to bills and savings. Up until 2015 from college, I never made more than $36,000/year. While I could save a bit more from learning about my spending and budget, I needed to make more. I took steps to improve my marketing knowledge and skill set, but during that time I took on paid contract or freelance work that could go towards saving more.
- Built an emergency fund and made changes to my 401k. Once I was let go from my job in early December 2014, I rolled everything over to Vanguard. I started investing in low-cost index funds. At the same time, I started saving more money and once I had a few months cushioning, started doing more investing in Vanguard.
Have you made any major financial mistakes? If so, what was the outcome and what did you learn from these mistakes?
Oh man, who hasn’t right? But some make worse mistakes than others. I was pretty lucky in that yes, I did make some mistakes, but they ended up being the best financial education for me later in life.
A few mistakes I made:
- Moved out of my parents house immediately after college with little saved for emergencies or much financial prep.
- Bought a new car too soon when I had a low salary, two student loans, and was paying rent/utilities to live on my own.
- I got too comfortable at a mediocre cubicle job that had a stagnant salary. I ended up leaving money on the table by not being more aggressive in my career. Then when I got too complacent, I was let go unexpectedly a few weeks before Christmas.
These mistakes and a few others I wrote about led me to that paycheck to paycheck lifestyle. But it also was a lesson and fire I needed to get me on the path I am today. At the time, I regretted these mistakes but as I got older I realized how these mistakes were needed.
What are some of the most influential resources that have shaped your money mindset or financial situation?
I’ve read a few books in the last four years that were crucial to my financial and investing knowledge, but also ones that shaped my mindset. A few that come to mind:
- Rich Dad Poor Dad: What the Rich Teach Their Kids About Money That the Poor and Middle Class Do Not!
- The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America’s Wealthy
- MONEY Master the Game: 7 Simple Steps to Financial Freedom
- The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich
- Your Money or Your Life: 9 Steps to Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Achieving Financial Independence
I actually do not listen too many financial podcast, just started getting into some. However, the ones I started listening to over a year ago include:
- Millennial Money Minutes – I think this is now defunct, but Grant has another awesome one called Financial Freedom.
- His and Her Money Show – I started listening to this couple back in late Fall. I’m actually going to be a guest on the show probably by the time this is published. Stoked!
- Joe Rogan’s Podcast – This is not exactly money related, but he has guests from all over the world and in different topics.
Just like books there are a ton of blogs I read, but I’ll go with the ones that I first found before I launched my own site:
- Millennial Money – Grant’s blog was the first one I found that really opened more of eyes to personal finances. His interests and story resonated with really well. In fact, I actually wrote a few guest blog pieces for him back in 2017. He also inspired me to launch my own platform.
- Millennial Money Man – At the same time, I also came across Bobby’s website which had a similar name to Grants. A lot of great info about student loans, paying off debt, side hustles, and more.
- Rockstar Finance – This of course is a popular name in the personal finance space, but I love what the website does not only for readers, but PF bloggers.
Apps or Services
I actually do not use many apps or services. But the one I still use occasionally is Personal Capital to track my net worth and spending.
Is there an area or area(s) of your own personal finances that you’re still looking to better master and improve?
Right now I’m working towards passing the $100,000 milestone. That is the total I want saved and invested in my retirement and brokerage accounts. By the end of 2019 I should be able to pass that number. It’s a lot, but also in the grand scheme of my finances, it’s still a long ways to go. But compared to most people I know my age, I’ll be at a huge advantage.
Are there any specific financial goals you’re working towards in 2019?
Besides the above mentioned $100,000 I want to start making some monthly passive income from my blog, Invested Wallet. I’m already getting some opportunities here and there just 6 months in. And eventually I would like the blog to cover all my monthly expenses so I can save 100% of my after tax income from my full-time gig. That will revolutionize my savings goals and get me to financial freedom much soon.
If you could send a memo to every 18-22 year old in North America about better managing their finances and understanding money but it could only be 3 sentences long, what would that memo be?
It may sound boring, but read a finance or investing book 1 hour each week. Stop worrying what your friends and peers have, focus on a better financial future. Be patient, success does not happen fast (although it can, it’s not the norm).
Based on your own experiences and knowledge you’ve gained, what are the best approaches if someone wants to get started with investing for retirement but feels overwhelmed?
Man, my younger self would be laughing if he knew now that I’m the one giving advice about this. I was pretty overwhelmed at first too, but before going crazy, I took a step back. I focused on my financial goals, why I was doing this, and what it could mean for my future. After knowing this and writing it down, it let me start to put a plan in place.
Before investing any money, read your company 401k plan, read about the financial institution, look online for some basics on 401ks and retirement. Then, start reading some investing books, but start slow. Don’t rush, take your time reading and re-read if something doesn’t make sense. The media and investing industry folks can make it seem difficult to learn. Even though there is a lot of material, if you digest it slowly, you’ll see it’s not as hard to understand as you think.
Anytime you feel overwhelmed, you take a step back and take a break. Go work out, entertain yourself, meditate, whatever you need to give your brain some rest.
How would you describe your current investing strategy?
Somewhat aggressive, but also very methodical. I started really fixing my investments and knowledge in my mid-twenties so I had some work to do. I was pretty aggressive on index funds that were stock heavy, but now slowly adding more to balance it out.
I’m also a firm believer in dollar-cost averaging, that is investing a fix amount consistently whether the market is up or down. That way you never miss the highs, even if you hit some lows. I’ve learned to take emotion out of investing, not choosing stocks just because I think they are cool. Not selling just because the market is down a few days. I trust my decisions, I trust compound interest, and I’m investing and holding.
Do you think your investing strategy shift in the next 5 years? 10 years?
I don’t see myself having a major shift over the next 5 years, other than maybe adding some commodities to my portfolio for a little more diversification. It took me a good two years to be really comfortable with my investments and to stop tinkering. I think only if we really see a bear market that I have not weathered against as strongly as I thought, I may make some slight alterations.
I think in 10 years, I will be adding more aggressively, but may be more conservative to where that money is invested as I will be 40 by then.
When did you first start blogging? Was there a specific launching off point or what influenced you to go down that path?
I actually started blogging in November 2010 when I launched a music blog. I always thought I might end up working in the music industry, so thought it was something I should do at the time. I ran it for almost seven years and was a stepping stone to learning more about marketing, blogging, and making money online.
I then launched Invested Wallet in June 2018, not only as a way to document my financial journey, but to inspire others in a similar situation. The media likes the big headlines, but majority of people can not relate. I’m also looking at this project as a business and financial asset as well. A passion project that can also make me extra money.
Is there a mission statement or underlying purpose to what you intend to accomplish with Invested Wallet?
Personal finance and investing for beginners and beyond.
That’s the simple statement of what my site is, but it’s basically to inspire anyone that no matter your situation, you can make some serious moves to help your future.
Do you have any specific goals with your blog over the next 12 months? What tactics are you planning to leverage to accomplish these?
Grow my traffic, connect with more readers, and start making some passive monthly income. I’m fortunate to work in marketing and know a lot about growth. I’m exploring a few tactics to help reach more people like guest blogging, podcast interviews, SEO, Facebook ads, and more.
If you could recommend 3 of your blog posts for Making Momentum readers to check out, what would those be?
I think the below three are some good options to get a sense of what I write and my style:
- The 3 Problems with the Current FIRE Movement – Some issues I have with FIRE and sort of gives you the insight to why I started Invested Wallet as well.
- Financial Freedom Is Not About Money, It’s About Living Your Best Life – One of my personal favorites and one I think can resonate with readers well.
- Opening Your First Investment Account? Here’s What To Look For When Choosing – A more recent post, but covers about investing for beginners.
Any final pieces of advice or recommendations?
There are a lot of things you can do to improve your personal finance, but not everything is for you. Advice is good to read, but everyone has a different situation. See what best fits your goals and needs. For instance, I only did budgeting in the beginning, but now I barely look at a budget. I’m comfortable with my current process and have enough discipline to stick to it. However, others may need to and should keep budgeting.
Lastly, if you are on your own financial journey, do not compare yourself to others. Just like the above, your situation is unique to you. Someone will always be better off, make more money, save more, have more invested, etc. It will drive you nuts or discourage you if you keep comparing. Focus on you.
Any special shoutouts?
Thanks Scott for allowing me to do this and for doing this series for the PF Bloggers out there. Also, thanks to all the readers who have visited my blog. It’s hard out here for new websites to get some notice so appreciate the comments and shares.