Momentum Series Interview: The Mastermind Within – Money, Mind & Entrepreneurship
This is feature #7 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 and tips that others can take value from. Whether that be conquering debt, maximizing their career earnings, their own road to financial independence or health & wellness strategies that keep them on the right path.
This week’s Momentum Series Blogger Interview is with Erik from The Mastermind Within.
Erik runs a blog and podcast focused on providing you the tools to be more successful in personal finance, self-improvement and entrepreneurship.
This is a great conversation about Erik’s backstory, financial journey and goals for the road ahead with reaching financial freedom and growing The Mastermind Within.
If you want to connect with Erik:
Ladies and gentlemen please welcome Erik! Let’s get started with Momentum Series Interview: The Mastermind Within – Money, Mind & Entrepreneurship.
Hi, thank you very much Scott for giving me the opportunity to share my story with your audience!
My name is Erik and I’m a blogger and podcaster over at The Mastermind Within. I turn 26 in June and stay busy with my day job, side hustles and family.
In my day job, I do a lot of different things with code at a regional bank: web development, data analysis and statistics, and creating solutions to run existing processes more efficiently. For education, I have a Bachelor’s in Math and a Master’s in Financial Math.
In 2016, I started The Mastermind Within, and in 2017, I started a business as well as started side hustles with the intent to speed up my time to financial freedom.
Can you share your financial journey with us? Starting with how your youth and those experiences earlier in life might’ve influenced you to where you’ve reached now?
First, I’d like to say that I’m fortunate to live in the United States, and grew up in a supportive family – two privileges most people don’t have.
When I was 13, I started working as a lawn mower in my neighborhood. I had a few lawns I cut each week and I made about $1000 a summer (which I put towards college). Throughout my teenage years and high school years, I continued to work and save my money.
I was very lucky in that my parents saved money for my college, and when I started college, from my efforts and my parents’ efforts, I had about $20,000 to put towards my college education.
Going into college, since I wanted to make lots of money, I went for a relatively higher paying degree in mathematics.
Up until this point, I never really had to manage my money. My sophomore year, I was down to my last $40, and had to figure it out on my own. At that moment, I knew I had to take responsibility for my finances and shifted my mindset to start to want to learn how to become wealthy.
Also, I entered college with 23 credits, and through conscious decision making, I finished up my undergrad in 3 years (to save money and time). I finished college at a state school debt free, but at the ripe age of 20/21, I wasn’t mature enough for a real job and also had no idea what I wanted to do with my life.
I knew I needed more education, and was accepted into a Masters of Financial Math program to further my education. At this point, I was working as a bookkeeper making $12-16 an hour – which certainly helped me pay for my Master’s program.
Fast forward 2 years, through my Master’s program, I was able to secure a real job paying $63,000 a year, and upon graduation, I had about $8,000 in student debt with the full intention to pay it off as soon as possible. While I did pay it off 5 months after graduation, life never happens the way you expect it to: I bought a house the day before my 23rd birthday (I’ll get into this a little later when I talk about side hustles).
I didn’t just buy a house to live in it myself…I was going to have 3 of my friends pay me rent and become a house hacker! This set me up for great success, as right out of the gate, I increased my income by another $15,000 through renting out my house.
July 2015, I had a $0 net worth, a house and 3 roommates paying me rent, and a great job: it was time to grow. Over the last 3 years, I’ve made an effort to focus on my income and optimize my time and finances.
At work, I’ve increased my income from $63,000 to just over $90,000. For debts, I’ve paid off my student loan, and paid off an auto loan I took out in 2016. Now, I’m side hustling and in 2017, I made over $107,000 in total.
BUT, the income side is just part of the equation. It doesn’t matter how much you make; it matters how much you keep.
My savings rate is over 40%, and because of my high savings rate, I’ve been able to use my savings to grow my wealth: through debt paydown, investments, and building up my cash position.
In the past 3 years, I’ve grown my net worth to roughly $170,000, with the distribution of wealth looking like the following:
- $50,000 in equity in my house (House value minus mortgage)
- $50,000 in retirement accounts
- $50,000 in taxable accounts
And $20,000 in other assets (car, cash, etc.)
What are the specific strategies, in the past and present, you’ve put in place that have created the biggest financial successes for you?
There are 3 main things I’ve looked to do in my life to become better financially:
- Get a job in a relatively higher paying field (having a long term focus back in college picking a major).
- Provide immense value to my team so they can’t ignore me (which has lead to 2 10%+ raises in the past 3 years).
- Tracking my income and expense while also learning more about investing and other aspects of personal finance.
One of my mantras is what gets measured, gets managed. It’s so true, from your finances to health to career to whatever.
I track my income and expense – each month, I go back and identify where I was successful and where I wasn’t, and I make adjustments for the next month.
In my career, I’ve made conscious efforts to get paid more each year. While I do believe I could and should be making more, I’m in a great spot now to explode my income in the coming years – and it was all because of a long term view and providing immense value.
Have you made any major financial mistakes? If so, what was the outcome and what did you learn from these mistakes?
I haven’t made any huge financial mistakes, but I’ve certainly made some sub-optimal money mistakes. The first one was a $200 mistake where I got sucked into a MLM company.
The second one, which is still a work in progress, is a business which I’ve put nearly $20,000 into without any return. It’s unfortunate, but at the end of the day, I’ve learned SO much, and if I never make anything back, then it’s basically an MBA without the official degree.
Even though I have had these mistakes, they’ve lead me to become the person I am today.
What are some of the most influential resources that have shaped your money mindset and financial situation?
My favorite book of all time is The Slight Edge. It’s not solely a personal finance book, but you can apply it to personal finance. The Slight Edge is a book which looks to alter your life’s philosophy – essentially, drilling home that simple daily disciplines performed over time will result in great success.
It’s the compound effect – applied to personal finance, it’s the same concept of saving $10k a year for 30 years. Even though you only invest $300,000, you’ll be a millionaire!
When I was learning about wealth building, I read Financial Samurai and Gen Y Finance Guy religiously. They have some amazing content on increasing your income, investing, establishing a brand, and career growth.
I love the FIRE Drill Podcast. Run by two enthusiastic and amazing young women, the FIRE Drill podcast is all about inspiring stories about financial independence and side hustles.
Are you interested in achieving financial independence through interesting and unique ways? The FIRE Drill Podcast is a great place to start. Each episode features a different, highly successful person who is on their way or is at financial independence.
I was featured on their podcast back in October 2017 and I had a great time talking about my financial story.
App(s) or Service(s)
I use Mint to aggregate all of my transactions into one spot, and then I use my own personal finance income statement spreadsheet to categorize and identify strengths and weaknesses on a month to month basis.
I use this method because I’ve been using it for a number of years and it works. I’m able to customize the categories and get exactly the view I want. I know a lot of other people like Personal Capital, but I don’t have a wide range of investments, so I haven’t checked into it as of late.
What are your short-term financial goals? Are you doing anything specific or making any changes to achieve these?
First off, I’d like to make a point that when making goals, I’ve found it’s important to focus on the ACTIONS vs. the result. You can’t control the result, but you can control your actions.
This year, my only true financial goal is max out my tax advantaged accounts (401k and Roth IRA here in the United States), which will result in $24,000 put into the stock market. I will not speculate on the status of the stock market, as I (like 99.9999% of people) do not have a crystal ball.
Outside of this, I want to increase my physical precious metal position as well as build up my cash reserves. In 2017, I took on a lot of risk, as I made some asymmetric bets to hopefully build wealth, and as a result, this year, I want to focus more on growing my emergency fund, look to grow my business, and make sure my future is protected.
For debt, I’m comfortable with my mortgage and windows I’ve financed at 0% for 3 years, so there’s no real rush to pay either of these off.
Each year is different, and I really don’t know where I will be, in terms of work, in the next few years. If I’m still at my day job, I will continue to max out all of my tax advantaged accounts, which will result in $72,000 put into the stock market in the next 3 years.
If I’m not still at my day job, this means either some of my asymmetric bets paid off. As in, I grew my business to a level where it replaced the majority of my current income or I have multiple income streams (or I saved up enough cash and got fed up).
To be honest, I don’t really have a 3 year goal (maybe I should). As, like I said, each year is fluid and different at this point in my life.
In 5 years, I’ll be turning 31. I want to be a millionaire by 30 and my net worth is roughly $170,000 now.
Even though I said you shouldn’t focus on the results, 1 million dollars is a hairy audacious goal and I’m working each and every day towards it. If I don’t hit it? Well, there’s a great saying: shoot for the moon, and even if you miss, you’ll fall among the stars!
If you could give advice to a 24-30 year old who is now looking to start putting personal finance at the forefront of their priorities but doesn’t know where to start, what would that advice be?
Start simple: track your income and expense. What gets measured gets managed – this quote exemplifies exactly what this is all about.
Knowing where you are financially is so important to financial success. How much are you spending on food each month? Rent? Your car?
If you don’t know the answers to these questions, you won’t know the answer to how much are you saving each month…and you certainly won’t know the answer to how much should you be saving each month to become wealthy in 10, 20, or 30 years.
What gets measured gets managed: track your income and expense (see my spreadsheet above).
What’s one area of your own personal finances you need to improve or better master?
I love this question, as I ask this question in almost every area of my life: how can I become better.
I asked myself this question many times over the last 6 years… while I’m not perfect, but honestly, I’ve fell into habits and a framework which fits me for now:
- Track my income and expense each and every month
- Look to save/invest 40%+ of my income
- Look to continue to learn and explore different investment classes to get a better understanding of how finance works.
Could my debt situation be better? Yeah. Is it possible I could have more cash? Yeah.
At the end of the day, personal finance is personal. Financial freedom is a goal of mine in the future, and I’m on my way.
When did you start side hustling or start to think about diversifying your income?
After graduating college, I had a lot more free time to start exploring side hustling. My first splash into diversifying my income was when I bought a house the day before turning 23.
My college roommates and I wanted to move to a more hip area of town, and we were having no luck.
I said, “what if I buy?” A week later, I put an offer on a house and in the next 2.5 years, I collected nearly $40,000 in rent from my friends. This allowed me to paid off my student and auto loan, and also start to take on more risk through investments and a business.
I didn’t start “side hustling” in the traditional sense, until last year, when I started statistical consulting for dog doctors.
What are your current income streams?
My current income streams are my day job, having 1 renter in my house, and some statistical consulting I do.
I’m working to turn my business and also blog into something that is producing income as well (and struggling on those fronts).
How do you plan to grow and diversify those income streams moving forward?
Regarding my blog and business, I’m looking to stay consistent there and I’m learning a ton of different things on marketing… Pinterest is the latest beast I’m tackling, and so far, it’s been an uphill battle but it’s working.
I do want to get another house at some point, but the market it pretty hot, and I’m finding success in my day job and took on a lot of risk in 2017 like I mentioned – so I’m fine where I’m at now.
Finally, I’m actually thinking about stopping my statistical consulting. It’s a headache.
If someone is looking to start side hustling and diversify their own income streams, what advice would you give them?
First, I’ll say side hustling isn’t for everyone.
If you can afford it, I’d recommend working on something you can scale (a blog, podcast, Etsy shop, business, etc.).
Why? While I think trading dollars for hours is great in all, at the end of the day, I believe a great situation is having your income tied to something other than your time spent (as time is a scarce resource in itself.)
But, if you love something, then the hours don’t really matter. For you, it’s figuring out what you love and then doing it.
You’re a big proponent of not only growing your personal wealth but also investing in personal development. Has that always been a mindset you’ve had?
This is going to sound silly, but it always starts with a break-up, ha! I got broken up with my sophomore year and was devastated.
This was the first time in my life I really experienced failure – and it motivated me to become better. I was weak and started to hit the gym. I was coasting through school and needed to hit the books. My communication skills? They needed a lot of improvement.
It wasn’t until a few years later when I really dove into self improvement (reading 10s of books, practicing at work and with friends) but that moment of failure sparked something in me which hadn’t been lit before.
Have you ever had any breakthrough or “aha” moments that really helped you in your own development?
I used to be a consumer: I consumed movies, TV shows, video games, and blogs.
Once I realized producing content and taking action actually lead to success, I became action driven and started taking chances, doing things my teenage self would’ve been scared doing, and dropped many of my consumer habits.
I love how actions tie in with goals.
You want a beautiful wife, or $1,000,000? Go do it! Sitting on the couch isn’t going to get you there!
I live with an abundance mindset and believe anyone can do anything in life… while it might not be tomorrow, the next week, or even the next month, in a few years, you’ll be better and more successful than you could ever have dreamed of being.
This is reflected in my favorite quote:
“Your level of success is rarely exceeded by your level of personal development, because success is what you attract by the person you become.” – Jim Rohn
In terms of goal setting, what are the tactics you use and advice you can share with others looking to improve that skill?
Focus on actions vs. results. What can you control? Your actions.
While I do believe the desired outcome should be considered, and ultimately, that’s what you want, the goals should be focused on the results.
As someone who used to be a complete gym rat, I always go back to my weight lifting days: if you want a six pack, the goal shouldn’t be “get a six-pack”. The goal should be something like “eat clean greens once a day, go to the gym or exercise or whatever 3 times a week, focus on core once a week, etc.”
Again, what can you control?
Are there any books you’d recommend on personal development and self improvement?
All of these have a different message, but were all very beneficial to shaping who I am today.
When did you launch The Mastermind Within?
I launched The Mastermind Within the last week of December 2016, went strong for 5 months, didn’t have a schedule during the summer, and have been going strong with 3 posts a week since November 2017.
Are there any specific moments since starting The Mastermind Within that really stand out? Any “big wins” or positive reinforcements that kept you motivated?
One of my readers emailed me the other week. She’s a single mother of 4 with six figures of debt in her 50’s and no savings.
I was feeling down on myself and feeling stressed – with a lot going on, I was burnt out. This email came through and changed my perspective.
“I’m happy where I am now, I’d like to think that I’m a good Mom: I raised my kids alone and they are now beautiful and bright, working their way through college.
I managed to keep them safe, healthy, and stable throughout their teens and that’s a hard task for a single Mom. But Hey! I did it and I’m very amazed at my Personal progress.
Erik, I’ve highlighted the word personal because everything in our world is personal, and it’s up to me to embrace the challenges, failure, obstacles, setbacks, etc.”
I’ve come to realize I am actually impacting other people’s lives – and that is all the motivation I need.
What are your goals over the next 18 months with The Mastermind Within?
This year, I have 3 blog related goals: 3 posts a week, answer questions on Quora, and pin 10 times a week. My hope is I get to 25,000 page views a month and make $1,000 on it, but I’m not quite there (April was my first month of 10,000 page views and I made $80 profit).
Honestly, in the next 18 months? I just want to stay consistent.
Think about it: I post 3 times a week. In 18 months, that’s 78 weeks * 3 posts = 234 posts. At that point, I’ll have a collection of 500 articles on my site. Also, since I produce 1 podcast episode a week, in 18 months, I’ll have 78 more podcast episodes and will be coming up on 100 episodes.
At the 18 month mark, do you think I’ll have a big blog making money? With 500 articles and nearly 100 podcast episodes, I’d imagine so…
So again, by focusing on my actions, writing and producing content consistently over time, I’ll get to my hope and dream of having a big blog.
If you could recommend two blog posts and two podcast episodes from The Mastermind Within for Making Momentum readers to check out, what would those be?
2 blog posts which I loved writing and people really enjoyed reading are:
- What A Relatively Frugal 25 Year Old Male Living In The Midwest Spends His Money On
- How I Earned Over $105,000 At Age 25
I think there are 3 really good ones:
- Selling Your Way to Wealth in all Areas of Life featuring Wealth Well Done
- How I Met My Girlfriend Blogging featuring Fiery Millennials
- Practicing Simple Daily Disciplines to the C-Suite featuring Gen Y Finance Guy
Any final pieces of advice or recommendations for the readers?
Constant daily efforts will lead to massive success.
What are you doing each day? Are you moving towards your goals or away from them? Each week, everyone on this Earth has 168 hours to do whatever they want with their lives.
Are you spending this time wisely, or just floating along?
Diving into these questions will be very beneficial for anyone who is looking for success.
Thank you Scott for the opportunity to interview!