I’d like to introduce you to Hank Coleman from Money Q&A, a personal finance blog that I admire. I met Hank at FinCon13 in October, 2013 and thought his story was interesting.
Here are the questions I put to Hank recently.
1. What got you started in blogging?
I started blogging in September 2007. Believe it or not, I actually started blogging because I was bored while stationed in Iraq on my second combat tour there. I had a lot of down time at night with the type of job that I had. So, a friend of mine knew that I loved finance and investing. He showed me a few websites, and then I find a few more. Before I knew it, I was trying to read 20 at once. Then my friend introduced me to the magic of an RSS Reader. Finally, I looked at him and realized that I could start a personal finance blog. I love personal finance. I love writing, and my college degrees are actually in finance. It was a perfect fit.
I ended up starting a blog called Own The Dollar, which I sold in 2010. I tell everyone that I’ve lived the bloggers dream. I built a successful blog, sold it for a small profit, and then decided to do it all over again. I had seller’s remorse and missed having my own little corner of the blogosphere. So, I started Money Q&A in September of 2010.
2. You explained your time management calendar to me at FinCon and I wrote about it on Square Pennies. What type of things do you list in the goals section for the week?
I’ve been trying to keep it simple with the goals section of my weekly calendar snapshot. My To-Do List is becoming huge, but I’ve tried to limit my weekly goals to five or so in order to keep it manageable. I’m obsessed with wearing my Fitbit pedometer. So, top on my goals every week is to try and walk 10,000 steps every single day. I also have been reading “The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield, which is an incredible book! So, I’ve been trying to act more like a professional writer and actually sit down to write for an hour everyday. Also, one of my goals is write a guest post for a large blog every day. That’s the one that I have been struggling the most with.
3. How has being career military influenced your blogging?
I think that the biggest thing that the military has taught me with respect to blogging is time management skills. A lot of people ask me after they find out that I’m in the military how I have time for all the stuff that I do with blogging, freelance writing, and serving in the Army. I simply tell them that I don’t sleep, which is partially true. That’s another way that the military has influenced my blogging. It has taught me how to operate with little to no sleep.
4. You have a beautiful family. What kind of family activities do you enjoy together?
My family and I are obsessed with professional baseball. I’m a die-hard Atlanta Braves fan since the 1980s with Dale Murphy. They are good enough every year to give me hope, and then they break my heart. One of my 100 goals before I die is to actually visit every Major League Baseball stadium. My family and I are from the south. I was born and raised in Charleston, South Carolina, and my wife is from Atlanta, Georgia. We love the beach. So, when we get a chance to vacation, that is usually where you find us. Other than that, we do the typical family stuff. My oldest is into Boy Scouts and Tae Kwando, and my youngest is shot out of a cannon and into everything. And, we have a little Yorkie, Winston Churchill Coleman, who has us all wrapped around his paw. He rules the house.
5. Any advice for parents?
I don’t know if I have any earth shattering advice. I think that we all, as parents, want the same thing. We want a better life for our children than what we had growing up. We want them to have all the opportunities that they deserve. We want them to be healthy and successful. I guess the only advice I can give is where I personally struggle sometimes. I struggle with materialism. I end up buying more presents and toys that my kids need. My wife has instituted a rule that Santa Claus only brings three gifts to each boy because that is how many Jesus received from the three wise men. It has been a good sanity check in that respect. I am constantly reminding myself (and my wife is reminding me too) that experiences are more important than possessions. We try to spend our money doing things instead of collecting things. This year for Christmas we are taking a family vacation instead of buying a lot of expensive gifts. I’ll only give you one guess where we are going…the beach of course!
6. What has surprised you about blogging?
I’m always surprised and humbled by how incredible the blogging community is, especially the personal finance bloggers. It’s a very helpful bunch. In seven years, I don’t think that I can think of one time where I’ve asked for help, advice, or a favor that was refused. It’s a wonderful community of people who have the most altruistic goal of wanting to help people. In one way or another, we all struggle with our finances, and we all want to help others take control of their finances and accomplish whatever goals they have.
7. What is/are the strangest question(s) you get about finance?
Someone else asked me that the other day, and I actually have trouble thinking of too many strange questions that I’m asked about finances. I’ve been lucky and get some really great ones from my readers that I’ve turned into a series of blog posts answering readers’ questions. I typically get the craziest ones from my co-workers. Many members of the military are notorious for having some pretty unique financial situations and questions. Lately they’ve been asking me about what to do with a huge pile of cash sitting on the sidelines of the market, paying taxes on a home sale, buying whole life insurance from a friend whose turned into a insurance salesman, and a host of other questions. A lot of people I talk to simply do not know where to start. They are paralyzed with the fear of doing the wrong thing with their money. So, they do not invest for retirement or pay down debt. That’s why one of my friends has $100,000 sitting idle in his savings account.
8. On your bucket list (“100 Goals”), you have the goal of driving the entire length of the old Route 66. Why does this appeal to you? What do you expect to experience on that road trip?
I think that like most trips, it is not about the actual destination. It is about all the cool things to see and do on the way. I guess that I’m a bit of a romantic in that respect. I love the idea of seeing the small towns of America. I love the 1950s era. I always thought that driving Route 66 would help capture that time in American history again. I think now I heard that you physically cannot drive the entire route anymore. The road is not physically there in all the places anymore. I guess that I’ll just have to do my best and drive as much as I can of it. I will chalk it up to another goal that can never be fulfilled like seeing a space shuttle launch.
9. Is there anyone who has influenced your life who is a role model? How has that person influenced your choices in life?
I am an only child, and my parents divorced when I was 10 years old. My mother and I are very close. By far, she has been the biggest influence and role model in my life. She is always so encouraging. She is definitely my biggest fan. I owe her everything. I can remember that she was pretty much my only blog reader for the first month I think. She was also the subject or an anecdote for some stories in early blog posts much to her chagrin. After I passed the 500 subscriber mark, I deleted her email subscription to Money Q&A and my mother-in-law’s too!
10. How do you define success in life?
I think that success is how you make this world a better place. Whether that is by raising wonderful children and/or helping people, to me it is about serving others. Maybe that’s why serving in the Army and being a personal finance blogger fit so well in my life. I want to help others. Helping others to make the world a better place is success in life.
11. If you could give just 2 pieces of advice to people to improve their personal finances, what would they be?
Spend less than you earn. It seems simple, but so few of us actually do it. It takes a budget. It takes having control over your spending. It takes actively trying to increase you income, which is a side of the equation that a lot of people forget about. And, spend your money experiencing things and not buying things. We have our entire lives to collect things. We’re a nation of collectors. We all have knickknacks on the wall, decorations that we’ve accumulated. But, we should all strive to accumulate memories. It is a wonderful thing to spend your money doing something, visiting something, building memories with your family.
12. What advice do you have for bloggers just starting out?
I would say that it is a marathon and not a sprint. We all get depressed or bummed out by writing a brilliant, prolific blog post that has the potential to change the world, or at least our little subset of the world. Then we rush to Google Analytics and continuously hit refresh. And, it is a crushing blow to realize that it is just mom who has read it. Or, in my case, my mom would only skim it and miss all the good points of my blog post. It takes a lot of time to build traffic and a following, and I think that a lot of people get discouraged initially when they are just starting out blogging. I sure know I did. But, you just have to keep going.
Thanks very much, Hank, for sharing your thoughts on so many topics. I appreciate you taking the time to give us a window into your world!
Check out Hank’s blog, Money Q&A by clicking here. It is well worth your time!
Click: “Schedule & To Do List ” to see a sample of how Hank sets up his schedule and goals for the week. One look at his spreadsheet and you’ll see how necessary it really is! Thanks for sharing this and thanks for fitting Square Pennies into your busy schedule, Hank!
Thanks, Al! You bring up a great point. I remember when I joined the Army that I wasn’t a morning person growing up. My mother would dread getting me out of bed each morning for school. Now I can’t sleep in past about 5am even on the weekends. That’s what almost 12 years of the Army will do to a person. But, you’re right….I can get a lot of productive work done on my blog, hobby, side income, etc. from 5am until the day job starts at 9am. That’s a productive use of 4 out of the “other” 8 hours of our day. Thanks for adding to the discussion and for your service as well. I really appreciate it.
Hi Al! Thanks for your comments. Setting goals is so important. As you’ve read, I’m not a big fan of losing sleep, but there are times when it’s necessary. You are so right about the comments here. I love how much they add! Thanks for stopping by!