Welcome to another installment of iontuition’s Q&A series with personal finance bloggers. We have Frugal Rules’ John Schmoll sharing his financial tips with us today. John is a veteran of the financial services industry who’s learned the hard way on how to invest, save, and manage his money. In Frugal Rules, John has created an online community where together, they pursue financial literacy and freedom.
What’s the best piece of financial advice you ever received?
The best piece of financial advice I received was prior to me beginning to pay off debt. I was at the brink of declaring bankruptcy, had about $45,000 in debt and had no idea where to turn. I met with a non-profit credit counselor and they introduced me to tracking my spending. I had never heard anything about budgeting growing up, and she taught me about the power that comes with knowing where your money is going and what it’s doing. That was nearly 20 years ago, and I still live by many of the practices I picked up from her.
What’s your advice for those who already have student loans?
Be vigilant about paying off your loans and make sure you’re on the right plan based on your situation. Regardless of the amount you’re paying off, remember you can and will have success in paying them off for good. The Internet is full of stories of individuals with significant amounts of student loans having success. If you come up with a plan and have the will, it can be done.
If you could go back in time and give your 18-year-old self a piece of financial advice, what would it be?
It would be two things: Credit cards aren’t free money, and start investing as soon as possible. The first is pretty self-explanatory. Credit cards can be good tools, but only if you use them wisely. With the latter, I allowed myself to give into the excuse I didn’t have enough money to invest. I thought you needed to have a lot of money to start investing. You don’t. You simply need to start because it’s the time you’re investing that matters, not the amount you start with.
Would you go to a different school if you knew what you know now about student debt?
I don’t believe I would. My in-state schools were relatively expensive. I ended up going to an out-of-state land grant school, and it was more affordable. That being said, this is why it’s so important to do your research prior to deciding on a school.