Momentum Series Interview – Money Stir: Making Smarter Financial Decisions
This marks feature #43 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 Chris from the personal finance blog Money Stir to the Momentum Series! Chris is a senior web develop that lives in Montana with his wife and two children. Chris recently launched Money Stir in 2018 to share his own experiences with money and help motivate others to make smarter financial decision.
In the interview, Chris discusses his financial journey, resources that have impacted his relationship with money, dealing with debt, launching his blog Money Stir and much more.
If you want to connect with Chris from Money Stir:
Ladies and gentlemen, please enjoy the Momentum Series Interview – Money Stir: Making Smarter Financial Decisions.
Hello! My name is Chris Roane. I’m 35 years old and live in Billings, MT. My wife and I will be celebrating our 14th wedding anniversary this year. She is the love of my life. We have two children ages 10 and 7.
I launched MoneyStir.com in the middle of December 2018. My goal is to share what I’m learning to help motivate myself and others to make smarter financial decisions. I like to talk about topics relating to money management, without getting into too much number crunching. My goal is to get the most out of life and pursue our dreams with money the best I can.
I briefly went to college for a liberal arts degree but ended up quitting to pursue my web development career. I didn’t want to get a degree to have something on my resume, and I wasn’t sure what options a liberal arts degree would provide me.
I’ve always had a self-learning mentality. If I don’t know something, I have enough drive to figure it out enough to accomplish the task. Most of the time, this involves getting my feet wet with new experiences and learning as I go. I would say the primary skill set that allows me to do this effectively is my problem-solving ability and my tenacity.
I work as a senior web developer, primarily focused on Drupal and WordPress, for a web development agency out of my home office. My career is one area where I’ve done well. I’m known for my ability to prioritize and “get stuff done.” My driven nature has allowed me to receive promotions over others who are more intelligent and experience than me. I don’t say this to brag, but explain how my driven nature has benefited my career (but it has some downsides).
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?
Oh, how I wish I had mastered my finances earlier!
My financial journey is about a high-income earner who wasted his money on things that don’t make him happy. I wish I had something specific to blame. But I can only blame myself.
Right after high school, I developed a habit for expensive electronics and purchases I couldn’t afford. I dragged these tendencies into our marriage, which caused a collage of problems through my 20’s and early 30’s. I became an expert on spending more than I made and getting motivated to pay down credit card debt and repeating this economic death cycle.
As time went on I got frustrated in how someone who made a six-figure income could have so little to show for what they earned. I started thinking about how my future would look if I continued down that path. I enjoy my work but thinking about always having a negative net-worth became depressing.
Over the last few years, we decided to get serious about our finances and get rid of our consumer debt for good. February 1st is when we are going to pay off our last personal loan to be consumer debt free. This debt also includes paying the startup costs necessary to launch a new salon my wife runs.
We’ve lost valuable time, but we are going to make up for it by saving around 55% of our income. We started thinking about how we want the future to look and how we will get there. And these thoughts are helping us change our behavior and pursue what we want out of life.
What strategies and tactics have you implemented in your life to best set you up for financial success?
I’ve always done well tracking our income and expenses, but that didn’t prevent me from going into credit card debt. Thinking about why I tend to spend more than I make on big purchases is helping us figure out those things are not helping us pursue our dreams. Purchasing a massive $5,000 4K HDR over two years is not worth the cost, no matter how awesome the tv is.
The focus has become taking a close look at our spending to see if it will add to our lives and if it pushes us towards our dreams.
Have you made any major financial mistakes? If so, what was the outcome and what did you learn from these mistakes?
There aren’t enough words to explain the quantity and misery of my financial mistakes. But if I’m going to summarize these problems, I would say these choices affected something more important than money.
It made my marriage contentious.
It is normal for couples to have disagreements, but when emotional intimacy continues to degrade over time, things become miserable. I’ve always loved my wife Andrea but was stressed continuously about our financial situation. This stress carried over to creating emotional barriers between us that we tried to ignore for years. It got to a point where we couldn’t continue to ignore the problem, and things had to change.
We are now communicating better than ever and are thinking about how we want our future to look together. Instead of having our bad money choices dictate our future, we wanted our financial decisions to move us towards our goals. Instead of feeling like we are behind, we want to feel like we are on the correct path right now.
We can’t undo the damage of our past, but we can make smart financial decisions now to take us where we want to go.
What are some of the most influential resources that have shaped your money mindset or financial situation?
The two books that have been the most influential for me are the following:
The Millionaire Next Door: The book taught me most people who appear wealthy do not have a high net worth. They are trying to live up to a standard and look as if they are wealthy. The people with a substantial net worth do not live hyper-luxurious lives. Most of us have the opportunity to get to a place of high net worth if we get rid of wasteful spending and spend less than we make.
Your Money or Your Life: Your Money or Your Life taught me time is the most valuable resource we have. When we aren’t bound by having to work for money, this opens up our time to do what we want to do. This concept propelled me into the FIRE movement and got me excited about starting a blog.
Unfortunately, I have not gotten into any podcasts yet, but that is something I want to start doing later this year. I need to find the time.
Mr. Money Mustache was the first FIRE blog I encountered that showed me it was possible for someone who got serious in their early 20’s to early retire in their 30’s. Of course, that ship has sailed in my case, but it got me exposed to some FIRE concepts.
I then started reading the content at Financial Samurai. This blog was the one that took me over the edge in deciding to start Money Stir and write content.
I’m relatively new to the community, but I’m finding new content through Twitter all the time (like this blog!).
Apps or Services
I think it was around 4-5 years ago when I started using You Need a Budget. Before then I was using a manual spreadsheet to track our budget, but it was time-consuming and challenging to keep track of the specifics. YNAB made it simple for Andrea and me to know precisely where we art at and how much we have left in a budget category. I also found it useful in projecting how much we could pay towards our debt with future fixed income.
Is there an area or area(s) of your own personal finances that you’re still looking to better master and improve?
I want to get to a spot where we see our net worth exponentially growing every month. Last year I started learning about different investment options. It is about starting to build our nest egg to retire by our mid-50’s hopefully. Not quite as early as some FIRE bloggers, but still better than where we would be without making changes.
Are there some specific financial goals you’re working towards in 2019?
For 2019 we are focused on prioritizing these things:
- Paying off our last debt outside of our mortgage (February 2019!).
- Building a 4-month emergency fund to prevent the need to go into credit card debt in the future (April 2019).
- Tweaking our budget to give us the comfort we want, and invest large amounts of cash towards our future (June 2019).
- Learning to spend money and time on things that pursue our goals.
- Continue to share my thoughts on improving our financial lives on Money Stir.
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?
If you want to be broke and miserable later in life, rack up credit card debt and spend more than you make. Also, don’t invest in your company’s 401k and try to fulfill your happiness by regularly purchasing expensive electronics and luxury items. Make sure you find a job you hate that pays the least amount of money, so you ensure you hate getting up in the morning to go to work.
How has the debt cycle played a role in your own story with money management? Has it been connected to lifestyle inflation?
My spending correlated with lifestyle inflation. As my income increased, so did my spending habits and credit card debt. I’ve done well tracking our spending, but that didn’t lead us to cut costs and to eliminate waste as much as making us feel guilty about not being where we wanted to be.
It is incredible how we can get used to being financially miserable. We need 3,000 square foot houses, with four bathrooms that are expensive to own and hard to clean. We need to drive brand new vehicles that cost us $350/mo. Buying the latest expensive electronics often has become the norm. It is as if we think these things are going to help us reach our goals. And how many of us think about where our spending habits are leading us?
We got to a tipping point a few years ago that caused us to reflect on our situation. The future was looking bleak and out of control, even though we had a high income. We are no longer settling for being financially miserable, and want our future to be bright and optimistic.
What impact can debt have on your emotions and mindset?
Having massive credit card debt makes you feel like you always have a negative net worth and are constantly playing catch up. And it is true.
Being debt free remove an enormous mental burden from money management. It opens up the possibility to see your money grow on its own. It is as if you are receiving the money you would usually be paying towards credit card interest. Once you have gotten used to having massive amounts of credit card debt, becoming debt free becomes life-changing.
Are there 2-3 surefire tips or strategies you have for individuals or families dealing with debt and just starting to prioritize getting out of it?
Communication is crucial. Thinking about where your current habits will take you in 10-20 years can show you if your patterns are sustainable. Financial problems are rarely just about money, and often point us to more significant issues that we shouldn’t ignore if we want to change our behavior long-term.
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 in the middle of December 2018. I decided instead of pointing my passion towards things I wanted to buy I was better off redirecting that energy to writing down my thoughts on pursuing financial freedom.
I also got excited about connecting with and learning from the community. There are tons of great blogs out there (including this one) that motivate me to change the direction of my future.
Is there a mission statement or underlying purpose to what you intend to accomplish with Money Stir?
I don’t want to get to the end of my life and be surprised by the result of my choices. I want to pursue things that will take me to where I want to go. And that destination involves having options in how and when I work.
Money Stir is about taking an in-depth look into our decisions and how our thoughts and ideas can change our trajectory.
If you could recommend 3 of your blog posts for Making Momentum readers to check out, what would those be?
Here are three blog posts that I enjoyed writing:
Any final pieces of advice or recommendations?
Don’t feel like it is too late to start making financially smart decisions. We all have our unique flaws, and thinking about how we spend money can help us get to a spot where we can deal with our core issues and live happier lives.
Any special shoutouts?
I want to thank Andrea for sticking with me even when times were tough. I made a good choice for a life partner, and she has shown me how to be patient and loving when things aren’t easy. Without her, I would not be who I am today, and I’m grateful for having her in my life.