People often ask me how I came to write about personal finances. It kind of fell into my lap, but I get ahead of myself…
I graduated from Colorado College with a degree in Sociology. If you ever want to graduate with a completely worthless degree, choose Sociology. While the actual required readings and courses for the degree itself provided me with little to help me in the world, I did hone my creative skills in the elective classes and this could be said where the foundation for creatively getting what you want within the constraints that exist began.
For example, we had to do a field research project for one of our classes. While most people chose pretty boring topics, I decided that since it was winder, I wanted to ski. With that in mind, I came up with an elegant solution to do the research project and ski at the same time – I chose the project of studying personal behaviour of people standing in lines and the ski resort as the place to do my study. Since only gathering data from the lines at the bottom of the ski area would give skewed data of behaviour in all ski lines, I was forced to purchase ski tickets so that I could get to other areas of the mountain to study the lines. I know what you’re thinking and that again sums up the value of a Sociology degree (by the way, I got a B+ on my ski line paper;)
Somehow I parlayed my Sociology degree into a management training program at Hallmark Cards in Kansas City. The pay was great, the benefits were even better. They showed me the timeline that if I stayed with the company until I was 65 I would leave a multi millionaire even if my salary never increased through stock vesting. It took less than 2 years for me to decide that writing humor cards for Hallmark was not the way I wanted to spend the rest of my life. I gave my 2 week’s notice, sold the house I had purchased and decided that I would travel from Alaska to the tip of South America.
As I was doing this trip, I heard about a teaching program in Japan and applied for it as I was traveling down the western coast of the US. I learned that I had been accepted and needed to leave for Japan while in Belize, Central America. I hopped on a plane, spent a day packing and was off to Japan for a year. When I arrived in Japan, I found myself in the middle of the countryside without another foreigner around and nobody that spoke English. Of course, I didn’t know a word of Japanese at this point…
To give me a break from teaching classes all the time, I started to write. I began to write travel articles for a local magazine for expatriates living in Japan and did this for about a year. The editor of the magazine noted that many of my travel articles included information on how to save money when traveling and told me one day that they needed someone to write the money matters section. It didn’t seem to matter to him that I had no knowledge of financial matters so I accepted and my personal finance training began and Japan was a perfect place to lean and be creative with finances because it’s such an expensive country.
I was still writing for that magazine when Nate and I met online. After working on a few other projects together, I mentioned that I had a bunch of finance material I’d written in Japan, but could easily be rewritten to apply to those living in the US. That was the beginning of SavingAdvice, pfadvice and all the other sites we have built.
That is the quick version. Along the way my soon to be wife and I took a 9 month around the world trip together, got married started an Japanese antique and Hello Kitty business on eBay to name a few other events. It certainly hasn’t been a classic work your way up the business ladder career and has had its share of excitement.
I truly believe that if there is something that you want to do, you can find a way to do it if you are willing to be creative in the process. I believe that life is too short not to do what you love and if you do what you love, there is always a way to make money at it (again, sometimes it requires a bit of creativity, but it can be done).
I’m pretty sure that my summary doesn’t answer most of the questions people had when they asked how I got into personal finance writing, but it’s a basic background explanation. Feel free to ask specific questions and I’ll be more than happy to answer…