Momentum Series Interview – Young And The Invested: Finding Financial Independence
This marks feature #41 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 it’s great to welcome Riley from the personal finance and financial independence blog Young And The Invested. Riley is a financial analyst from a Fortune 500 company and writes on his website with the goal of helping young professionals reach financial independence.
In today’s interview Riley shares his financial journey, money goals, managing debt, blogging experiences and much more.
If you want to connect with Riley of Young And The Invested:
Ladies and gentlemen, please enjoy the Momentum Series Interview – Young And The Invested: Finding Financial Independence.
Hello, all. I thank Scott for having me participate in this series and for giving me the chance to write to his audience. My name is Riley and I’m a 29-year-old senior financial analyst at a Fortune 500 company.
I’m very interested in personal finance, investing, travel, ketogenic dieting, fitness, and finding ways to build my life together with my wonderful wife, Lily.
The two of us recently made 1 year together as a married couple and we hope to purchase our first home together in the coming couple of years.
I write at Young and the Invested, a site dedicated to helping young professionals reach financial independence. I cover topics including investing money, saving money, getting out of debt, frugality, side hustles, human behavior, and trying to live your best life.
I have a BA in Economics and a BS in Business Administration and Finance. Also, I have a MS in Applied Economics and recently received my CPA license. I have taken some online coursework in data science to gain more exposure to this field because I feel it overlaps well with the finance discipline.
Currently, I work as a senior financial analyst at a Fortune 500 company, as I mentioned above. I make 5 years with the company at the beginning of February. I have assumed roles in the company’s finance, product development and regulatory departments.
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?
Thanks to habits instilled in me from my parents, at a young age, I always saw myself as a saver and someone who would live frugally.
Some of my fondest childhood memories involved clipping coupons with my mother on Saturday mornings. While Shaggy and Scooby investigated a spooky mansion, I’d sleuth through coupons in search of products I recognized from our kitchen. When we finished cutting, we’d sort them into her accordion-like binder, go shopping, and tally up our savings afterward. At the time, I had no idea these activities would shape my way of thinking.
I did it for the enjoyment of matching products to pictures, filing coupons into a binder, and maximizing savings numbers on receipts. I didn’t do this with the intent to learn but as it turns out, these activities instilled some strong personal finance lessons in me at an early age.
Looking back, I saw a common theme in my life of wanting to master the ability to delay my gratification. I hope I can begin to transition toward enjoying the moment more now that my wife and I are looking to buy our first house. I’ve struggled a bit with living in the moment but know the importance of it. By laying down roots with my wife, I feel my mindset will orient more toward the now and allow me to have a foot firmly planted in both the present and the future.
In many ways, I’ve become the man I always wanted to be and feel overwhelmingly satisfied with where my life has taken me to this point. I can’t wait to see what steps we take next.
What strategies and tactics have you implemented in your to life to best set you up for financial success?
When I can, I attempt to view the world from a flexible budgeting perspective. What I mean by that is if I intend to spend $500 on something I didn’t budget for, I attempt to find a way to earn sufficient income or cut costs in other areas to offset this cost. Doing so preserves our savings rate and cancels out the unaccounted-for spending.
But I know I view this overly simplistically. Like most people, I tend to misclassify expenses as “unusual and unexpected” when in fact, they’re “unusual and infrequent.”
For example, when most people go to an auto shop and are told the timing belt needs to be replaced because they’re at the recommended mileage point, they view this expense as unexpected and didn’t make room for this maintenance in their budget.
In reality, this is an expense you could be aware of if you knew the recommended maintenance items by age or mileage of your vehicle. Infrequent expenses like this are why I try to maintain a high savings rate and offset “unexpected” or “infrequent” costs as much as I can.
Have you made any major financial mistakes? If so, what was the outcome and what did you learn from these mistakes?
I have. Formative mistakes which require sincere inner reflection to withdraw actionable steps to avoid committing them again. I detail my first such financial mistake in a post fittingly entitled How to Make Smarter Decisions in Painful Times.
In it, I recount my harrowing moments of buying a stock I felt certain would go up but did nothing of the sort. Along the bumpy, treacherous road down, I dealt with great anguish, physical discomfort, and crisis of confidence.
What I failed to do was separate the sunk costs incurred from making the investment apart from the clear decision of needing to cut bait and bail. Clear decision in hindsight, mind you. I’m sure this happens regularly with people who make investments. It’s human nature you’ll read in the referenced post above, after all. But this mistake isn’t as grievous as the next.
What shouldn’t happen is the follow up action I made. This is the mistake I consider to be my crown jewel.
I chose to gamble on the stock again by buying at the bottom. It was a move of desperation. I threw good money after bad. In all honesty, I shouldn’t have been rewarded as I was. The stock managed to recover to a point where I broke even. I was beyond fortunate for receiving this outcome. But as I mentioned, it was not one I deserved.
In those moments, my mind manifested the worst versions of myself. I learned in those moments of pain, I’m not acting rationally. My primal self takes control and exercises its fight or flight reflex. If I can just hold on for a moment longer, I can use the rationed section of my brain, the prefrontal cortex to call the shots. I can choose the inputs which come into my brain, but I can control my actions if I so allow.
What are some of the most influential resources that have shaped your money mindset or financial situation?
- Invest Like the Best – Patrick O’Shaughnessy
- Animal Spirits – Michael Batnick and Ben Carlson
- Drive – Dr. Peter Attia
- EconTalk – Russ Roberts
- The Meb Faber Show – Meb Faber
- Financial Samurai
- Money with a Purpose
- Accidental Fire
- A Wealth of Common Sense
- Of Dollars and Data
- The Blair Belle Curve
- Fat Tailed and Happy
- Debt and Cupcakes
Apps or Services
Is there an area or area(s) of your own personal finances that you’re still looking to better master and improve?
I’m always looking to improve my decision-making abilities and how I perceive and react to risk. As explained above, I sometimes succumb to my less-rationed self. I find my decisions are prudent most of the time. However, the extreme minority color the entire experience and demonstrate how much improvement I feel I need to make.
Some mistakes are forgivable and benign. Other require intention to improve and not repeat.
The goal is to learn from them and improve yourself, even if only marginally. That continuous level of improvement is the most important part. I always pursue a better version of myself and feel my self-awareness to recognize what about me needs to be improved helps me tremendously. If I can’t recognize there is a problem, I can’t attempt to fix it.
By writing my blog and attempting to explain personal finance concepts to others, I hope to clarify my own thinking and help others with theirs. Writing helps to organize my thoughts and I greatly enjoy connecting with others to learn about new ways I can master my behaviors and improve.
Are there some specific financial goals you’re working towards in 2019?
In 2019, we’ve got some big personal developments my wife and I working towards realizing. My wife will finish her medical residency and will become eligible to work.
We continue to save toward a down payment fund we intend to make on a house next year or the one after. The timing of that will depend on the housing market and general economic conditions.
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?
Be mindful of your income and expenses and how you choose to allocate them toward your life goals. Working hard toward accomplishing these goals should be your main priority and everything else will sort itself out. Above all, make sure you pursue the things in life which make you the happiest and try your hardest not to settle.
On Young And The Invested you’ve written about mortgages and expediting that repayment timeline. Are there some surefire tips and strategies to paying off your mortgage faster you can share?
Ultimately, your goal when investing (be it acquiring assets or paying off debt) should be to maximize your expected return in accordance with your risk tolerance. Evaluating the expected return on asset returns against the guaranteed return of debt repayment should be your first step.
If you feel pursuing one or the other makes you happier, that’s the route you should pick. But in all likelihood, a balance between the two is the most effective decision for building your net worth.
That is why I would pursue the method of paying your mortgage bi-weekly to allow for an extra equivalent-monthly payment per year. Additionally, you could pursue my favorite method, which entails you investing the extra payment you would have made in a low-cost index fund.
Doing so will match the duration of your low-cost index fund with the expected age of your mortgage. Because stocks tend to perform well over long periods of time, this strategy aligns the higher expected return of long-term stock investing with the goal of paying off your mortgage early.
For readers unfamiliar with Public Student Loan Forgiveness (PSLF), can you briefly explain the concept and who might be qualified to receive this? Are there ways to increase the likelihood of being qualified?
Public Service Loan Forgiveness is a program established in the 2000s which aims to make an exchange of time in service for loan forgiveness.
In essence, anyone with qualifying student loans (Federal Direct Loans) can choose to work for a non-profit, government agency, or an employer performing qualifying services for a period of 120 months (10 years). In exchange, this program participant will receive complete loan forgiveness from the federal government. Along the way, the program participant enrolls in an applicable income-based repayment program where they pay a set percentage of their income each month toward their qualifying student loans.
I write about several tips anyone interested in the program should follow in a post entitled 10 Tips to Qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness. One of the most common mistakes intended participants make is failing to enroll in an incorrect income-based repayment plan or working for a non-qualifying employer.
In either case, make sure you read that your specific decisions qualify for program participation. As recent results tell, many operated under the false impression they would receive loan forgiveness only to be disqualified for not following the eligibility criteria.
When did you first start blogging? Was there a specific launching off point or what influenced you to go down that path?
I began blogging in earnest at the beginning of August 2018. I had written a few posts prior in July but chose not to publicize them because my blog contained all of 5-7 pages at that point.
The reason for the timing came on account of a career transition. I worked in a very time-intensive position for the nearly two years previous to launching the blog. I regularly worked 60-80 hour weeks and knew I would need to occupy a lot of my newfound time with a productive pursuit.
My wife read Financial Samurai’s blog and shared multiple of his posts with me while we’ve been together. I took to his story-telling about personal finance advice and found it to be something I’d like to pursue as well. At the time, I selfishly wanted something to absorb my entrepreneurial tendencies. I saw the wonderful platform he had built, the relationships he had cultivated, and the rich stories he told.
With my wife’s encouragement, she suggested I could do something similar. Were it not for my wife’s support, I wouldn’t have made the jump. I might not have even done more than read a passing blog post someone might send.
I am so very grateful for her gentle push in the right direction.
Is there a mission statement or underlying purpose to what you intend to accomplish with Young And The Invested?
Young and the Invested is a site dedicated to helping my fellow young professionals find financial independence. I’ve always had the desire to reach it myself and felt it would be a great way to connect with others in similar life situations as myself.
I’ve ended up meeting more than just people like me and feel like blogging has turned into something so much more than I’d originally imagined. Because I don’t blog anonymously, I’ve had considerable contact from people I know in my daily life and heard a lot of positive reactions about the content I publish.
Most are kind enough to share how informative the posts are or how it helps them to understand personal finance better. Hearing this feedback fuels my desire to continue creating content and connecting with more and more people.
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?
Try to have humility and self-awareness to understand you might be wrong. Avoid only reading information or points of view which confirm your opinions. Seek out resources which challenge your views and make you evaluate if your opinion is valid.
Any special shoutouts?
I wouldn’t be here without my wife. She’s supported me in this endeavor and many others. I wouldn’t be in a great position in life without her.
And as a follow on to this shout out, thanks to Financial Samurai for writing content great enough to catch my wife’s attention and convince her to support my decision to start down the blogging path.