Momentum Series Interview – Your Money Blueprint: Roadmap To Financial Freedom
This marks feature #35 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’s interview is with Nick from the personal finance blog Your Money Blueprint. Nick and his family live in New Zealand as a single income family pursuing financial freedom through a strategic roadmap.
Today, Nick shares his financial journey, top money resources, getting into money coaching, experiences blogging and much more.
If you want to connect with Nick from Your Money Blueprint:
Ladies and gentlemen please enjoy the Momentum Series Interview – Your Money Blueprint: Roadmap To Financial Freedom.
Hi – my name is Nick and I am 38 years old. I live in New Zealand with my wife and 7 month old daughter. We are a single income family seeking financial independence in the next 10 years.
I started my website 6 months ago after almost a year of wondering when to pull the trigger. There was so much good content on the internet, I felt I couldn’t add much more to the conversation.
I’m glad I did though. I occasionally get an email thanking me for my work and that is why I am doing this. I want to help people see money from a different perspective. One in which we are not a slave to our money but where we are the one’s in charge here.
My focus is on financial independence for the average income earner, focusing on the big wins.
In 1998 I started University in Dunedin. Not because I necessarily wanted to, but because it was the normal thing to do right? I also followed the advice to study what you are passionate about so I chose Physical Education and Management. I had a good time studying, but for my finances I regret not choosing more practical degrees.
My parents paid for my first year of university which was a great start. I guess much like what the new Labour Government has recently introduced. In every summer holiday, for 3 months I found full time work. Ranging from packaging boxes at Officemax stationery to picking apples and working in the vineyards of Blenheim. I was lucky to have very low cost accommodation during the holidays, with my parents letting me stay at home for minimal rent. It hardly covered my food! Thankfully I had low outgoings and was able to save enough each summer for the upcoming years fees of approximately $5,000.
Start of year 2 I had no debt, but I also had no savings. In year 2, I discovered that I may be eligible for a student allowance due to my parents income levels. Another lucky moment for me where I would pocket approximately $90 per week for the rest of time at university. This was enough to cover rent in most of my scummy flats. This means I was only out of pocket each year for all other living costs, such as power, food, and entertainment. Entertainment aka beers was a big proponent of my spending.
Fast forward to 2002, the fifth and final year of university, and I emerge with my double degree. And my net worth? Drum roll please…minus $27,000. I came out of university at the age of 22 with less money than the day I was born. Baby Nick was a baller by comparison. $27,000 was the cost of my student loan for my living costs and books for 4 years.
I count myself lucky that I was able to receive help from my parents, both with the first year costs and with cheap accommodation during holidays. I was also lucky to be eligible for a student allowance. Even so, I still had to take advantage of the luck by working hard.
I hadn’t yet discovered personal finance though.
The job market out of University was tough. This is when I started wishing I had picked a more specific degree. I was doing office temp work for about 8 months before I landed my first full time gig. I was a dispatcher for a large courier company earning approximately $38,000. Like many of us, nothing to do with my field of study whatsoever.
2010 hits, as does the age of 30. I am still in my same job as a dispatcher earning about $45,000 a year now. I have always been an extremely hard worker and always believed that I should work harder than I am paid to and that good things will happen. But at this stage had been working extremely hard with overtime and weekend work for 8 years and still no better off. Yes I was paying down a mortgage, but only the minimum on a 30 year term. Then my break came.
An opportunity came along for the role of Operations Manager. I applied and got it. Was a jump in pay of over 50%. My previous years of hard work had started to pay off finally.
I was now responsible for managing 40 courier drivers as well as the company operations. I kept this job for another three years, finally having enough as my role got significantly larger with no extra pay or help. It was affecting my health and well being under so much stress. I recognized what it was doing to me and courageously (or stupidly!) pulled the plug on that job without anything else to go to. I found out after I left that they hired three people to replace me. I hate office politics – why couldn’t they just look after their existing staff? I digress……
Shortly afterwards I was found another job in the parking industry. Sill as an Operations Manager but with a much better work/life balance, better pay and a company vehicle. I have now been there almost four years, enjoying one promotion. I am now a business manager of Operations overseeing the Operations team. This saw another 10% pay increase.
Earlier this year I also started what the young kids are now calling a ‘side hustle’. I earned a financial adviser designation and created a online business offering financial coaching and planning. That is where my passion now lies and I hope to turn that into full time income.
As you can imagine I am very busy at the moment with one and a half jobs, a wife and young daughter. Throw in one afternoon a week volunteering at a local budget advice service and things are hectic. I am front loading things now so that in a year or so I can hopefully drop my full time gig to pursue my business passion.
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?
Absolutely not. Personal finance was the furthest thing from my mind throughout my 20’s. I spent every dollar I earned. All pay increases were accompanied with an inflated lifestyle.
I wanted the nicest flat in the nicest neighbourhoods. I was eating in the best restaurants several times a week.
In my mid 20’s I moved back home with my parents to save some money. I decided I wanted my own house because that’s what everyone said I should do. No thought went into this, I was just following conventional wisdom. Three years later I had enough for a 20% deposit on an apartment in the central city. I was now a homeowner. I had made it, right? Not quite. Living in the CBD my spending went right back up again thanks to all the local restaurants and nightclubs.
Then I got a bit tired of the CBD lifestyle, with all the noise and lack of privacy. I again did what society told me to. Buy a bigger house and move up the property ladder. So I used the equity in the apartment and bought a 4 bedroom house in the suburbs just for me. I didn’t even run the numbers, but the bank said yes so I thought I must be ok.
Well, turns out this mortgage was huge. I couldn’t cover it on my own so I had to get in roommates. Even then it was tight. I was approaching my mid 30’s and finally decided enough is enough. This huge mortgage was hanging over my head weighing me down.
I downsized to a house that was one third of the price. I could breathe again and that was the best move I’ve made with my finances to this point. Shortly after the move I had a back injury that required two surgeries. During this period is when I had my financial wakening. 8 months out of work with limited insurance cover left me scrambling for money again. I knew I had to do something and I didn’t want to be so reliant on my employer for income.
This is when I found the online financial community and have gorged into as much information as I can over the last three years. I’ve since gone from a savings rate of practically zero to 45%.
I was definitely a late financial bloomer, but I now want to help people who may think it is too late or stop them making the same mistakes I made. Money is so important that we need to talk about it more. What better gift can you buy than time?
What strategies and tactics have you implemented in your to life to best set you up for financial success?
I have focused on just a few big wins. As mentioned earlier I am pretty busy and don’t really want to spend my spare time trying to cut coupons or find ways to try and save a few dollars here and there. I much prefer big and simple.
- My last two jobs have both provided company vehicles. Huge cost savings there.
- I downsized house (20 minute move) and have managed to save over $20,000 a year. Invested in stocks over 10 years, this should see a savings of $300,000. Not only does a smaller house result in a smaller mortgage, it also means lower council rates, lower electricity bills, lower insurance premiums, less time and money on home maintenance, less money spent on things to unnecessarily fill the rooms, less time cleaning, and less pressure to keep up with the Joneses.
- I have reduced most of my monthly expenses just by making a few phone calls. Electricity, home insurance and internet recurring expenses have all been reduced. I also cancelled pay TV since I don’t spend much time watching it anyway. Over time, it is the minimization of recurring expenses that can really add up.
- There are plenty of people that are smarter or better networkers than I, but I have still managed to earn several jumps in pay thanks to good old fashioned work ethic. Only recently though have I started saving the difference.
- Automation. All my investments, payments and banking are set to automatic. I don’t even need to think about it. It really is freeing not having to worry about money and will set me up for a good future.
All these tactics have led to no decrease in my happiness. They are not sacrifices. I still have a house. I still have a car. I still have electricity and insurance. By international standards I may be seen as lucky.
How have you progressed with your career during the journey thus far? Are there any mainstay pieces of advice you’d share with readers looking to ascend in their profession?
- Your 20’s are the time to put your hand up for extra work and really make an impression. Before you get married and have a family where work/life balance is more precious.
- Compounding works for your career too. The quicker you can get raises and a good income, the better your compounded income will be over time.
- I believe in adding more value to the company than your colleagues. As a minimum you should be adding value beyond what you are paid or the company wouldn’t pay you more than you bring to the table. But if you can outperform your colleagues you will be the first in line for a a promotion.
- Sometimes it is not always enough to be the best. Who you know is still very important. Build good relationships with the people around you and make you and your work known to those responsible for making decisions on your future.
- Grow a healthy emergency fund for two reasons. One, you can pick and choose the work you want to do. If you do not fear losing your job because of healthy finances, then you can focus on work tasks that will move you forward and let someone else who needs this job and can’t afford to say no to the boss worry about the other stuff. Two, you can leave to another company without fear of losing your job. This often leads to a higher income either from a new job or from a raise from your current employer.
- Know the business inside out. Whether you have people below or above you on the organisational chart, the more you can understand their jobs the more you can offer the business. No job is too small.
- Know intimately what your boss wants and go out and get it. The easier you can make your bosses life, the better off you will be. Give your boss solutions, not problems.
Have you made any major financial mistakes? If so, what was the outcome and what did you learn from these mistakes?
I think my financial journey answer addressed these mistakes. Living paycheck to paycheck for 10 years. Increasing spending when income increased. Buying too much house. Starting saving late.
I didn’t even start a company retirement savings scheme until my early 30’s.
Yes, I made a lot of costly mistakes. But I did learn from them.
I’ve learned how important a diversified portfolio of assets is, and not just to rely on housing. I’ve learned about the concept of financial independence which I may not have discovered had I not made these mistakes. I’ve learned you can have fun and still be responsible with money. I’ve learned that my mistakes have provided me with the fuel to start a business and help others.
Is there an area or area(s) of your own personal finances that you’re still looking to better master and improve?
I am always looking for improvements. I am pretty happy with how we are tracking.
One category that we could probably improve on is food. We don’t eat out a lot, but we do buy nice cuts of meat and lots of fresh fruit and vegetables. It may different in the States, but fruit and vegetables are expensive here. Eating healthy comes at a financial cost, but I think the health cost which is hard to put a number on is important. Push come to shove we could decrease our spending here, but only if we had to.
The other area I sometimes struggle with is delayed gratification. Since my financial epiphany a few years ago I have become very future focused. I want to reach financial independence for all the benefits that it offers. Sometimes I feel am working too hard now to achieve this. I need to constantly remind myself to live for today, but I do have 15 years of catching up to do.
What are some of the most influential resources that have shaped your money mindset or financial situation?
- The Richest Man In Babylon by George S Clason
- The Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham
- Your Money or Your Life by Vicki Robin, Joe Dominguez & Monique Tilford
- The Millionaire Next Door by Thomas J Stanley & William D Danko
- A Random Walk Down Wall Street by Burton G Malkiel
- How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World by Harry Browne
- The Little Book of Common Sense Investing by John C Bogle
- The Four Pillars of Investing by William J Bernstein
- The Behavior Gap by Carl Richards
- Choose FI on my Tuesday drive to and from work
- The Wealth Hound on my Wednesday drive
- Your Money Your Wealth on my Thursday drive
- BiggerPockets Money on my Friday drive
I find podcasts a great productive use of time doing an activity (driving) that you have to do anyway. You may as well use that time as best you can. Sometimes I just feel like rocking out to music too.
I sometimes read too much, at the expense of creating. I read so many blogs, but some of my favorites are:
- Accidental FIRE
- Apathy Ends
- Mr Tako
- Abandoned Cubicle
- Four Pillar Freedom
- Think Save Retire
- Montana Money Adventures
- FI Introvert
- Financial Samurai
- Afford Anything
- James Clear
Apps or Services
I don’t use any apps for financials. I only use Spotify when I’m not listening to podcasts.
I do all my financials manually on Excel. It just makes things simple not having too many apps and I am trying to simplify my life with less distractions.
What was the thought process behind becoming a financial coach? Were there any challenges you faced when first getting started?
In New Zealand our average household savings rate is currently minus 1%. We don’t learn finances in school or the workplace. Our families and friends don’t tend to talk about it. It seems to be a taboo subject here.
Too many New Zealanders are spending too much money. They are feeling overly confident thanks to rising house prices. It is paper wealth, not real wealth.
I started my business because I want to help people turn around their finances like I have, so that they can live a life of freedom without worrying about their finances. The benefits of buying time are so incredible that I wanted to share it with others.
I am still only a few months in, so my biggest challenge is attracting new clients and getting my name out there. I am blogging twice a week, and I have appeared on a podcast. It is a challenge with a full time job and a family to find the time needed to properly market my business.
New Zealand is also a nation of do it yourselfers. Many would rather bumble their way through life than pay for a financial service. This is a belief that is hard to crack.
What are the most common problems you see people making with their personal finances? How do you help them overcome those specific issues?
- Not thinking about tomorrow. Too many clients have a belief that he future will take of itself. To overcome this belief I use a few scare tactics. Not quite at Suze Orman levels of scaremongering, but just a reality check.
- Not tracking expenses. It is surprising how many clients have no idea how much they spend each year. Others think they spend one number, but find out they were a long way off. I help them develop ways to track their spending
- Investing in single stocks. It is alarming how many hold just one or two individual stocks. It is highly risky. I coach them on different types of investments that can make up a well diversified portfolio
- Not having specific goals. How can you prioritize spending if you don’t have clear goals? I help them develop clear goals that will help them become more intentional with their spending.
- Finally, buying too much house. I have had several clients with over 80% of their net worth tied up in housing. I educate them of the risk of being in just one asset class and help them focus their attention on other assets. You can’t pay for life’s bills with your house.
Can you explain the concept behind having a blueprint? How does that theme showcase itself within the work you do with clients?
A blueprint is just like a roadmap. It is knowing your start point, end point and how you plan to get there. My advice is based on these three stages.
Knowing your start point is a comprehensive analysis of where you are financially and how you got there. Recognizing and owning up to past mistakes.
Next is finding your end point. This is your long term goals. Do you want to retire early? Do you want to travel more? What would an ideal day look like for you? Once you have a clear picture then you can find your motivation much more easily. It can be a long journey and you must have a strong why.
Now you know your start and end point, it is how to get there. This is where I help clients come up with strategies to close the gap between where they are and where they want to be. This could be by downsizing house, getting a side hustle, reducing expenses, starting a business, etc.
There are many ways to skin a cat and I am here to provide options and support. This is also where short and medium term goals come in handy. Long term goals can be difficult to implement, so it is extremely important to also set shorter milestones and goals that help break the long journey into smaller mini journeys.
When did you first start blogging? Was there a specific launching off point or what influenced you to go down that path?
May 2018. As I mentioned earlier, starting a blog was a long time coming for me thanks to imposter syndrome. The urge to help people and tell my story finally gave me the push I needed to start the blog.
Is there a mission statement or underlying purpose to what you intend to accomplish with Your Money Blueprint?
I want to help people understand the power of money. Not as a spending mechanism, but as a lever for freedom. We are not on this earth for long, and I don’t want everyone changed to their desks forever.
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?
Life is a long road so don’t be in such a rush to get to your destination. Our destination often changes as we age anyway. So don’t forget about the present time. Try and build your ideal life now so that it doesn’t feel like you are spending all your time running away from something.
Keep saving your money. Even a small increase in your savings rate every year will compound over time. Once you have a large enough safety net you can do some incredible things with your life.
And don’t be afraid to ask for advice.
Any special shoutouts?
Just to all the bloggers and podcasters out there doing their thing. There may be times where you think if it is worth it. Just know that there are people that do get value out of your content, even if they don’t engage with you. I thank you for all your great content. I now know how much time goes into it.
Maybe one day the FIRE movement will become more mainstream. Keep fighting the good fight.
And Scott, thanks for introducing me to your audience. It has been a pleasure.