Welcome to another installment of IonTuition’s Q&A series with personal finance bloggers. We have Kristin Wong sharing her financial advice with us today. Her blog, Brokepedia is devoted to providing tips and advice to help others take control of their money.
Kristin graduated with a degree in English, then became a technical writer. She earned a decent income, but it wasn’t really what she wanted to do, so she switched careers in 2010 to pursue freelance writing, despite her fear of the starving artist stereotype. Growing up, Kristin’s family didn’t have much, so she’s always been afraid of losing everything. Gradually, she’s learned to let go of that fear as well as the notion that you have to choose between doing what you enjoy and earning a decent salary. She’s found a way to pursue the things she loves and make money. Since her career switch, she has written comedy, she has written for television, and now, she regularly writes for Lifehacker, Mentalfloss, and a handful of other sites. She keeps going back to writing about money, though. She’s intrigued by the possibilities that happen when you learn to control money, rather than the other way around.
What’s the best piece of financial advice you ever received?
I don’t think it’s a single piece of advice. It’s more like a few crucial lessons combined that made the biggest impact on my finances. My mom taught me at a young age that small savings can add up. She worked a minimum wage job at a grocery store and socked away everything she could, and in a few years, she saved thousands of dollars. My dad taught me the power of compound interest at a young age, too. In high school, he told me, “as soon as you can start investing in your retirement, do it.” And both my parents are very resourceful. They did whatever it took to make sure my brother and I were fed. Slow and steady savings, compound interest, and resourcefulness are a powerful combination when it comes to managing your money.
What’s your advice for those who already have student loans?
Think outside the box when it comes to repaying them. Look for any opportunity to throw extra money at your debt. I moved back home to save money on rent and pay off my loan faster, which was my mom’s idea. People kind of balk at that and label you a “boomerang kid,” but I didn’t care. I was lucky to have that opportunity, and I took advantage of it so I could get out of debt as soon as possible. I also worked a couple of part-time jobs and found ways to earn side income. It’s amazing what you can accomplish if you focus on resourcefulness.
Would you go to a different school if you knew what you know now about student debt?
I went to a pretty affordable school, and I was lucky to have scholarships, too, so my debt load wasn’t that big. Nowadays, though, I probably would think about my education more in terms of an investment. Back then, getting a secondary education was kind of a given. At least in my family, it mattered less what you majored in and more that you just got a degree. I think that’s changing. I think students are starting to look at the potential return on investment of their degree, and that’s a good thing.
Any other financial tips for our readers?
Financial goals can be overwhelming, so start small. Break your goals up into smaller, more digestible milestones, then take them one step at a time.