I backed into personal finance the way a lot of people these days do — by virtue of being woefully uneducated on the subject and as a result, doing a whole lot of things wrong.
At the age of 35, with zero savings and over $40,000 of credit card debt hanging over my head, I finally admitted to myself that this was not working, and I needed to make a big change.
My partner and I shuttered our small business, which wasn’t paying for our expenses, and made digging out of the debt hole a top priority. We were lucky in our timing: the employment market was on an upswing, and we were both able to get better-paying jobs within a few months.
Our combined incomes broke into six figures, and with some modest changes to our spending habits, we were able to save 40% of our take-home pay and eliminate our $40K debt in less than two years.
With the debt rapidly dwindling, I stopped avoiding money and started actively trying to learn about it. I read various money-management books and some of the first personal finance blogs on the web. My job happened to be at an investment brokerage, which meant that I was surrounded by finance pretty much around the clock. I graduated from grappling with credit card debt to wrangling stock market investments and mortgages.
In June of 2008 I started Pocketmint. By that point I had been debt-free for well over a year, with a good salary, my first house, and a growing pile of savings. I thought I finally had it together, and I wanted to help other people avoid the mistakes I’d made.
Then, just four months later, the financial crash: lost jobs, slashed salaries, plunging house values, and investments in freefall.
When I picked up Pocketmint again in October of 2011, our lives were wildly different. More importantly, I was different. I’d fallen in love with the science of behavioral economics and the psychology of happiness, and in the process my goals and priorities had shifted.
Here’s what I wrote then:
Over two decades of adulthood I’ve collected a heaping pile of personal, empirical evidence that the world does not operate, economically speaking, in the ways we have been told it does (‘we’ meaning roughly ‘middle-class Americans of my generation and beyond’).
So I’ve been chasing a greater understanding, studying not just economics but also history and psychology and sociology. I’ve found it fascinating, and that reading has often been the impetus for practical changes … I hope that I can both provide a window into ‘what’s really going on here’ and tie that understanding back to the question of ‘yes, but how do I get through the week?’.
Two things haven’t changed: my love for storytelling and my passion for sharing what I’ve learned.
So my mission with Pocketmint now is to synthesize these hundreds of disparate influences into a series of clear, simple, practical things that we can do to improve our lives — not just financially, but also emotionally. And I say ‘we’ deliberately, because I too am constantly learning and changing.
Please don’t hesitate to contribute to the conversation — leave a comment, or write me at firstname.lastname@example.org. And thank you for reading!