Personal Finance Luminary Series
Welcome to an inside look into some of the most important personal finance luminaries online. These influential people educate and entertain others about money topics. From authors to podcasters to writers, these money mentors are working to raise the level of financial knowledge and education.
What is your background and money/financial influences?
My training is in journalism. I began learning about money as a result of a gig. I read everything I could from financial gurus and others, and eventually began picking and choosing what made sense for me. I’ve cobbled together my own money outlook and philosophy as a result.
Describe your work and include a typical day.
I’m a freelance journalist, specializing in financial issues. I usually get up between 6 and 6:30 and putter around with email and social media. When my son gets up, I get him breakfast and help him prepare for school. Once he’s off to school, I usually exercise. After cleaning up from my workout, I sit down and complete freelance writing assignments.
I work until lunch. After lunch, I return to the email inbox, speak with people on the phone, work on podcasts and other special projects, and engage in other miscellania.
When my son returns from school, we do a snack, homework, and music practice. This is time that I work on my own self-improvement, including my own music practice, or I do a little cleaning. After dinner, my son and I usually play a board game, watch a little TV, or he plays a video game, if he doesn’t have an extracurricular activity scheduled. After my son goes to bed, I usually return to the inbox, then I unwind with a book or a movie before heading to bed.
Flexibility in my schedule means that some days don’t go like this. Sometimes I go to the spa or meet someone for lunch. I can push work to the weekends in these cases, or change things around if I’m traveling or if my son and I are camping.
From a masters degree in journalism, how did you become a money expert?
One day someone asked me to write about money. I’ve interviewed financial experts, investors, and others for the last nine years. I’ve read on various subjects, worked with financial planners and accountants, and engaged in my own experiments to see what works for me. For the most part, nearly a decade of being immersed in this space has helped me to learn a lot about money. Of course, I’m still learning. There’s always more to learn!
What are your investing thoughts?
Successful investing is, in part, about determining your own investing style. Invest like yourself — not like someone else.
One of the most important things you can do for your money, especially when it comes to your investment portfolio, is to know yourself.
As you consider your investing style, and put together a solid plan for your future money, it makes sense to understand your own situation, and how you react to market circumstances. You need to put together a strategy that works for you, so that you can avoid investing pitfalls that can bring you down.
I’m a very boring investor. I like low-cost index funds and index ETFs because they are easy to understand and they don’t require a lot of maintenance. I also like dividend stocks (particularly dividend aristocrats) because, again, they are easy to understand and they provide you with the chance for reasonable growth and reinvestment.
What are your best lifestyle hacks to manage being a mom and self employed entrepreneur?
It helps that I only have one child and he is at school for a good portion of the day. When my son was younger, I used to send him to a neighborhood daycare a couple times a week just to free up some time to work. Another thing I do is hit it hard when I feel motivated and when I have the time. I work best in the morning, from about 9 am to noon. I try to dedicate that time to client work and meeting deadlines. That way, I can do other things later. Plus, getting the important work done first thing allows for flexibility to deal with surprises when they come up.
What motivates you?
Mainly I’m motivated by my desire to progress as a person and to support my family comfortably and afford enriching experiences. I see money as a means to an end, but since it’s not an end itself, it doesn’t really motivate me — which is why I don’t make as much as I could.
How do you prioritize what’s important?
I prioritize based on my my values. My core values include family, helping others, experiencing life, and preparing for the future. I make sure those things are taken care of first, and everything else falls into place afterward. When prioritizing work commitments (that help me reach my goals), I base it on when items are due, my relationship with the client, and how much I’m being paid.
What are your best tips for living well and economically?
For me, it boils down to living according to your values and prioritizing your spending so that you cover the important things first. I don’t run into money problems often because all the most important expenses are planned for, so my choices are made. I can just drop the unimportant things right off the list.
What are your biggest splurges?
Travel and eating out. I like going places and experiencing good food.
What are your most important projects now?
Getting the Plutus Awards ready for this year. We’re still looking for partners, and we’re planning the voting and the ceremony, which will take place at FinCon. It’s one of my favorite things.
What are your goals for the next stage in your career?
Right now I’m in a sort of consolidation and consideration phase. I’ve been working with a couple of brands as an ambassador, and I’m trying to see how I feel about that. I’m at a point where I’m trying to figure out what the next step is.
How did you find the time to write Confessions of a Personal Finance Blogger?
I devoted some of that afternoon “free” time to it. I made it a priority a couple days a week to sit down after lunch and before my son got home to work on it.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to be a work at home entrepreneur?
Make sure you know what you are getting into. While I have a lot of freedom now, the first few years were grueling. Many home-based entrepreneurs quickly discover that they might spend more time working than they would at a more traditional job. Over time, as your business takes off, you can work less, but in the beginning you need to be prepared for the commitment.
What is your biggest mistake?
I have two. First, I racked up a lot of student debt, even though I didn’t need to. I had a full-tuition scholarship and a good on-campus job. I didn’t need student loans but I took them every year anyway. I also maxed out three credit cards before I finished college. My other big mistake was that I didn’t reckon on taxes when I started working as a freelancer. That self-employment tax can be surprising. On top of that, you need to remember to plan to pay state taxes as well as federal taxes.
What is your best accomplishment?
I feel it’s a great accomplishment that I have been able to fashion a life I enjoy on my own terms. I think it sets a great example for my son, who is learning valuable money lessons already, and who is already thinking about ways he can live a flexible lifestyle.
Miranda Marquit is a professional personal finance journalist. She is a contributor for several personal finance web sites. Her work has been mentioned in and linked to from, USA Today, The Huffington Post, The San Francisco Chronicle, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and other publications. She also has her own personal finance blog: Planting Money Seeds and you can find her Confessions of a Professional Blogger on Amazon.