The Key to Success Is…Interview with Derek Sall
I’ve known Derek Sall since 2010, when we both started our online financial website empires. Derek’s story inspired me and I wanted to share it with you. His deliberate life decisions, successes and failures hold lesson’s for anyone who’s said, I don’t have time to take care of my family, start a side-hustle, work out or get rich.
Derek of Life and My Finances.com is a personal finance luminary and a regular guy with a passion for life and building wealth. Here is his story.
1. Let’s peak into your background and your personal story.
My background isn’t simple, and it’s not exactly pretty, but it’s mine and I’m sticking to it! I got married to a young beauty in 2009. We fought often, she was horrendous with money, and she left me in 2012.
We were debt free…until she left and wanted half of our $42,000 estate. They say action is prompted by fear or greed…well I discovered a third trigger: anger. I was pissed off and I didn’t want to have any ties whatsoever to this money-sucking, low-punching….you know what.
Long story short, I paid off $21,000 in just 6 months.
I was so surprised by what I accomplished that I figured I may as well keep up the intensity and take down the house mortgage!
By cutting my expenses down to nothing and earning money in any way that I could, I paid off $54,500 in less than a year. I was completely debt free!
Today, I’m remarried to a wonderful woman (that probably handles money better than I do), and we have an infectious daughter that we can’t get enough of. We’re building wealth via our 401k and rental properties and I’m sure we’ll be millionaires before we know it.
Life is good.
2. How did you got started with your website? What goals did you hope to achieve at the outset?
I graduated in 2008 with my degree in finance….and ummmm, that didn’t work out so well with all the banks closing down and such…. So since I couldn’t get a job in finance, I figured I’d stay sharp by starting my own blog and talking about money there.
The blog was born in 2010 and my initial goal was to make $1,000.
In less than a year I was making $3,000+ a month! Since then, I’ve focused less on the dollars and more on helping people.
I truly believe that everyone can become rich if they really want to, but I’ve got to be able to reach them to show them it’s possible.
3. How do you manage a family, aside hustle and a day job?
Whew, it’s not easy, especially with a little one. The key is scheduling and keeping your partner in the loop with what’s going on and what’s coming up in the future (with interviews, speaking engagements, etc.). The beauty is that the side hustle is actually making money, and it has the potential to earn much more if I just put in the time.
4. How do you define and measure success?
I started my current job two years ago. Almost immediately my boss told me that if I wanted to become a director or a VP, I’d better start getting used to 80 hour work-weeks (which is exactly what he did).
I looked at his life… he was stressed all the time, he barely ever saw his kid, and his marriage was hanging on by a thread. Then I viewed my coworker’s life. He earned $80k a year, worked just over 40 hours a week, and had an amazing relationship with his wife and their 3 boys.
Between these two guys, who would you rather be?
The “successful” one who’s life was spiraling out of control because he turned into a workaholic? Or the guy that maxed out in his career as a senior analyst and loved his life every day?
Hands-down I’d rather be the second guy! And that’s more what I’ve modeled my life after. Would it be cool to be a VP? Sure. But would I want to be trapped at work and tied to my cell phone 24/7? Nope.
Success is when you’re winning in your faith, your marriage, your friendships, your fitness, and your finances. All of them. It’s not just about the money.
5. What are your thoughts on passive income. Is there any real passive income?
I absolutely LOVE passive income. The premise of working once and earning an income for years and years should be the goal of every living being. Our passive income of choice is rental properties, and we discovered that if you pay with cash, it’s almost as passive as it gets. In the past 1.5 years, our rental has had three issues that have required about 10 hours of work. With that 10 hours of work, we earned $15,000 in profits. Yeah…I’d say passive income is worth it.
(Barbara’s comment; I’ve owned rental real estate and haven’t been as fortunate as Derek. I’ve found buying and renting out real estate is fraught with non-passive emergency calls, managers who don’t fulfill their responsibilities and time-consuming work. For real estate investing, I lean more towards the truly passive REIT investing)
6. Describe your typical day.
Haha, are you ready for this?
I set my alarm for 5:20 am every weekday morning and head straight to the gym. I either lift weights, swim, or run for 45 minutes and get back home around. I work on my website (typically writing posts) for 45 minutes until 7:15 am and then run around like a mad-man to get ready and get to work by (lucky I only have a 5 minute drive).
At around 5pm, I call it quits at work and head back home so I can play with my 16 month old until about 7pm (her bed-time). Then I take her up to her room, read her stories, sing her some songs, say her prayers, and lay her down. By the time she’s sleeping, it’s about 7:30.
My wife and I eat dinner together, watch some sort of American Picker type show, and then we both get back to work – her with her photography edits, and me with blogging – typically responding to comments, emails, and editing posts.
We call it quits around 9:30 to 10pm. I read a chapter of some sort of financial or self-help book in bed, and then it’s lights out!
…and we do it all over again. It sounds like a ton, but it’s all fun to me!
7. What are your best lifestyle hacks to manage being a dad, employee, entrepreneur, and spouse?
Plan, plan, plan, and plan some more. Specifically, here’s how you should do it.
- Start with the distant future — for work, it’s “What do I have to do this year to line myself for an amazing review and a potential promotion?” I start with those things and plan time on my calendar all throughout the year.
- Then I ask, “What needs to get done on a monthly basis to make me shine above all the rest?”, and I plan those items on my calendar.
- And finally, it’s the weekly and day-to-day things that have to get done (supposedly) to keep the corporate wheels moving. Those get planned into the calendar last.
With fitness, family, faith, friends, finances, etc., it’s pretty much the same story. Think about what will make you successful in the long-term first, then the medium term, and then the short-term.
8. What are your best tips for living well and economically?
Keep in mind that the more you have, the more you’ll have to worry about…and the more time you’ll have to waste on them. RV’s, lawn mowers, cars, outbuildings, boats, dune buggies… the list could go on and on. The more of these things you own, the more your life will become absorbed in them (ie. they need to be washed, stored, repaired, insured, gassed up, etc…).
If you buy a few things to advance your relationships, fine. But, if you acquire too much, it’s only going to stress you out more and take you away from what’s truly important.
9. Where do you splurge and why?
Vacations! For the memories and the relationship building! The old me would have completely disagreed with this. I would have voted for stuff all day long. But, that’s not where happiness comes from.
Happiness comes from deep love and affection for other human beings, and that can only be nurtured with time and experiences. These days we plan out at least one big vacation a year, and then a bunch of small ones each month as filler. In the future, I’m hoping for more and more BIG vacations. 🙂
10. Describe your most important projects now.
Right now, my main project is revamping my website to make it more user friendly and more appealing. I’m afraid I was stuck in 2010 for far too long….
I’m done with stage one (which was a basic clean-up of the site), and I’m hoping to move onto stage two in another couple of weeks (here comes a new theme!!). After this, it’s time to create my own online course.
More to come on this soon!
11. What professional projects are you most proud of?
I’m most proud of my Free Tools page on my website. Over the past year, I’ve created 10+ tools that people can use to create their own budgets, get out of debt, save for their kids’ college funds, etc. These tools have really helped my readers and I absolutely love pointing them over to this tab.
I’ll continue to make more tools and add to the list in the future. Have an idea of a tool that tons of people need? I bet I can create it for you! Let me know!
12. What is your best lifestyle and money advice for your millennial peers?
Keep it simple.
- Do whatever you can to get out of consumer debt.
- Save up a beefy emergency fund.
- Invest 15% of your income each month for retirement.
- Invest for your kids’ future.
- Pay off your house.
- And then invest like crazy and become insanely rich!
That’s it. There’s no special secret to wealth. Just work your tail off and earn.