Momentum Series Interview – MapleMoney: Four Pillars of Personal Finance (For Canadians And Everyone Else)
This marks feature #19 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.
Joining us this week is someone I’ve followed for a long time and have learned a ton from about personal finance and blogging, Tom Drake from MapleMoney (and a collection of other great projects).
Tom has been a member of the personal finance blogging community for 9+ years and brings with him a wealth of knowledge to help educate Canadians (and everyone) on mastering their money. At MapleMoney he shares content focused on his four pillars of personal finance: how to make money, save your money, invest that money and spend money wisely.
Tom also recently launched a new podcast, the MapleMoney Show, which has quickly become a must-listen every Wednesday for anyone looking to take control of their personal finances.
If you want to connect with Tom:
Ladies and gentlemen please welcome Tom Drake! Here is the Momentum Series Interview – MapleMoney: Four Pillars of Personal Finance (For Canadians And Everyone Else).
Hi, I’m Tom Drake, the founder of MapleMoney, which I started back in 2009 as Canadian Finance Blog. I’m a husband, and father to two great boys. We live in Airdrie, Alberta, just outside of Calgary.
In addition to MapleMoney and The MapleMoney Show, I have a few other blogs but am trying to focus on the ones that are really making an impact.
Retire Happy picks up an older age demographic right where MapleMoney starts to drop off. Financial Highway targets a mainly US audience, while Create Hype is where I get to go into some entrepreneurship and marketing topics.
I went to NAIT’s Business Administration program to get my Marketing diploma, but I never ended up in a marketing job.
When I first finished college, I needed a job, any job. So I stared in the admin department of a grocery store in 2000, from there I moved to the corporate office and I’ve been a financial analyst since 2003.
When did you first get interested in personal finance and better managing your money?
I really became interested in personal finance in 2008. We were getting married that fall, and the new year would then find us expecting a baby and looking to buy a house. All of this happening in a six month period made me really want to optimize how we handled our finances, so I started reading every book and Canadian personal finance blog I could find.
Have you made any major financial mistakes? If so, what was the outcome and what did you learn from these mistakes?
In my 20s, I spent every dollar I made, not only did I not save or invest for that entire decade, but I’m still dealing with the repercussions as I have too much stuff and am still looking to get rid of it. Now I carefully research and consider any purchases, making sure it’s something I’ll use and will be worth the cost.
As you’ve progressed in your financial life, what have you changed or implemented to set yourself up for the most success?
The biggest change has been the evolution of my investing. At first, I started with some mutual funds from my bank, then moved to TD eSeries when I learned the importance of indexing, and now I’m in ETFs with Questrade once purchasing ETFs no longer came with trading fees.
Is there an area or area(s) of your own personal finances that you’re still looking to better master and improve?
While I’m happy I have all the basics covered, there’s always room to optimize our personal finances. For me, I’m looking to earn more money so that I can invest more. I’m also trying to really master the rewards game, stacking programs to increase my travel miles and cashback rewards.
Let’s assume there is a 24 year old that has just graduated from university with $40,000 in student loan debt. They’re entering their professional career at a starting salary of $50,000. What advice would you give to them to best set them up for success?
I would suggest they do whatever they can to bring down their expenses to pay down the debt as soon as possible. Once the debt is brought down to a more comfortable level, and since interest rates are still somewhat low, I would also have them look into investing before the loan is completely paid off as they may earn more than the interest they’re paying, plus it gets the habit started sooner.
As a fellow Canadian the finer details of our money management and investment strategies can differ slightly from our neighbours in the States. Do you have an underlying strategy for your own financial decisions and investments?
The two big differences for Canadians versus Americans come down to governments (taxes and programs) and companies (services and products).
In my RRSP, I have mostly ETFs along with some Canadian stocks purchased through Questrade.
What are some of the most influential resources that have shaped your money mindset or financial situation?
Two books that really influenced me early on were:
Two more recent Canadian books that I recommend are:
- Stop Over-Thinking Your Money!, by Preet Banerjee
- More Money for Beer and Textbooks by Kyle Prevost and Justin Bouchard.
Canadians should be listening to the Mo’ Money Podcast and Build Wealth Canada for their personal finance fix. Stacking Benjamins and Listen Money Matters are a couple of the most entertaining podcasts from south of the border.
These are four of my favourite Canadian personal finance blogs. All great bloggers with great sites!
- Boomer and Echo: Robb and Marie Engen cover the personal finance issues of two generations.
- Money We Have: Barry Choi mixes personal finance with a good dose of travel hacks.
- Money After Graduation: Bridget Casey should be one of the first stops for Canadian millennial women looking to improve their finances.
- How To Save Money: Stephen Weyman and team offer the best frugality tips in Canada, always super detailed and informative.
Apps or Services
I think we’ve covered every app for Canadians at MapleMoney, but I wanted to point out a few that Canadians might not know about.
All four of these can be set and forget services, either to invest or stack on additional rewards.
- Lending Loop: Invest in loans to small businesses. Can be set up to automatically contribute and invest in a wide variety of businesses.
- Drop: Tracks your spending and gives rewards when shopping at certain retailers.
- Mylo: Rounds up your purchases and invests it towards goals you set.
- Butter: Let this service track your subscriptions and receive 1% cashback. It’s just that simple.
When did you first start blogging? Was there a specific launching off point or what influenced you to go down that path?
As I mentioned earlier, I was reading every book or blog that I could in 2008. By 2009, I had all the information in my head and started to have my own take of personal finance. In February, I decided to start what was then known as Canadian Finance Blog.
What was the that first “big win” on your blogging journey that kept you motivated and reinforced your belief?
In the summer of 2009, I was featured in The Globe and Mail and I had my first $100 payment from AdSense. This is also around the time I started networking with other bloggers more, on Twitter and in forums, many of those early connections are still great friends and we’re in a great mastermind group that continues to help me grow.
Do you have any specific goals with your blog(s) over the next 18 months? What tactics are you planning to leverage to accomplish these?
I plan to double the revenue of my company, Drake Media Inc. The tactics include SEO improvements, Facebook advertising, mixed with new income sources.
Is there any specific advice you would give to anyone that is either looking to start or has recently launched a personal finance blog?
Every personal finance blogger needs to attend FinCon. For newer bloggers, the sessions are eye-opening and will make the trip worthwhile. The networking you can do in person there will build your influence and open up a lot more opportunities.
If you could recommend 3 of your blog posts for Making Momentum readers to check out, what would those be?
- A Beginner’s Guide on How to Buy Stocks shows Canadians how to invest, where to get started, and what to watch out for.
- The Best Credit Cards in Canada is the hub where MapleMoney readers find the right card for their spending habits and reward preferences.
- 47 Ways You Can Make Extra Money in Your Spare Time gives so many ideas to make money that everyone should be able to find a couple they like and could start right away.
Any final pieces of advice or recommendations?
My advice has really become the mission statement of MapleMoney. I believe there are four pillars of personal finance to master — how to make money, save your money, invest that money, and spend money wisely. Only once you cover all these bases, will you have your financial house completely in order.
Any special shoutouts?
Frugal Trader, at Million Dollar Journey. His blog is that last active blog of the six I read before starting my blog. He was also a great supporter of my blog in the early days.
Jim Yih, who saw some early signs of success in me with Canadian Finance Blog which led to us launching Retire Happy over eight years ago.
Scott, for taking the time to interview me and the support he’s shown to MapleMoney!