In the popular imagination, becoming a millionaire is the ultimate marker of success. For privacy reasons we're not allowed to disclose this blogger's name so we'll just use his alias – FrugalTrader. This mysterious founder of the Million Dollar Journey, set an ambitious goal in 2006 to grow his net worth to $1 million by 2014, which he achieved. But he didn’t stop there.
Despite the allure of the number, hitting one million dollars is far from achieving financial freedom, and FrugalTrader was all too aware of this. Having achieved his ambitious goal, he set out to work toward attaining financial freedom through smart investments, diligent savings, and careful budgeting.
According to FrugalTrader (and most money experts) one of the best ways to obtain financial independence is to create passive income through your investments. If you can make enough in derivatives each year to cover all of your expenses and then some, you’re in a very nice spot. But the first step toward reaching such a comfortable place is ensuring you build up the capital necessary to make the right investments.
FrugalTrader initially started his site, Million Dollar Journey, as a way to keep himself accountable while working toward his goals. Since then, it has grown into a source of financial information for individuals eager to learn how to make smart decisions about their money. Visitors can review details about how FrugalTrader grew his money on Million Dollar Journey as well as follow along with his current financial planning. In an insightful interview with AdvisoryHQ, the money-wise blogger shares his advice on personal financial planning, the meaning of financial freedom, and how to avoid a curious trap called lifestyle inflation.
Image source: Million Dollar Journey
Tea Banic (AHQ): When and why did you start the Million Dollar Journey blog?
FrugalTrader: I started MillionDollarJourney in December 2006 (almost a lifetime ago in Internet years) with the purpose of creating an online financial diary to help me keep track of my financial goals. In 2006, my spouse and I had a net worth of around $200,000 and set a major financial goal to become millionaires by the age of 35 (2014).
AHQ: When did you reach your million dollar goal?
FrugalTrader: We hit the million dollar net worth milestone in June 2014.
AHQ: What do you do apart from blogging?
FrugalTrader: Blogging is a weekend and night time job for me. During the day, I’m an engineer with the government. When I’m not working, I enjoy spending my time with my wife and two young children.
AHQ: How did tracking your budget lead you to your current financial success?
FrugalTrader: I’m a believer that if you want progress, you need to set goals and track your progress along the way. With our savings habit perhaps being the biggest contributor to our wealth, tracking our expenses and having a budget has been a key tool in achieving our goals. We typically use a credit card for most of our expenses for the points, but pay off the monthly balance. In addition to the points, using a credit card allows us to easily track our expenses and follow a budget through tools like mint.com.
AHQ: What is your number one tip for saving money?
FrugalTrader: I think biggest contributor to saving money is keeping lifestyle inflation in check. Lifestyle inflation is when your lifestyle costs increase as your income increases. If you can live well below your means for as long as possible, you’ll be surprised at how much money you can save. For us, our first house was a small two apartment home where we rented out the basement. We lived there as long as we could (even with increased income along the way), up to having our first child where we needed more space. When we built our second home, it was still well within our means, and we saved aggressively (and sold a rental property) to pay the mortgage off in 3 years.
AHQ: What would you say is the best financial decision you ever made?
FrugalTrader: Bar none, starting Million Dollar Journey. Not only did it keep me focused on my goals, it led to other opportunities like starting and selling CanadianMoneyForum.com, and a web consulting business.
AHQ: How has your blog changed since you first started Million Dollar Journey?
FrugalTrader: When I first started blogging, I really didn’t have a long-term plan for the site. While it started as a financial diary, it quickly evolved into a place where I could express ideas and teach others the basics of finance.
AHQ: Do you have any future plans for your blog?
FrugalTrader: Since reaching the million dollar net worth milestone, I have shifted my financial priority to achieving financial freedom. That is, investing in assets to generate passive income. The goal is to generate enough passive income to cover our recurring expenses. The longish-term goal is $60,000/year in dividend income with regular quarterly updates on MDJ on my progress. Right now, we are close to $18k/year in dividend income.
AHQ: In your opinion, what are some of the top mistakes that new bloggers make? Do you have any advice for new personal finance bloggers?
FrugalTrader: It’s a challenging time for new bloggers because there are so many of them out there. My advice? Focus on finding your online voice and creating the best possible content, and second, networking with other bloggers in your niche.
AHQ: What are your favorite finance blogs?
FrugalTrader: I follow a number of Canadian financial blogs like Boomer and Echo, My Own Advisor, Sustainable Personal Finance, Retire Happy, Canadian Finance blog, Canadian Couch Potato, and basically every other major Canadian financial blog. On the U.S. side, Mr. Money Mustache is entertaining.
AHQ: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
FrugalTrader: Set big financial goals with a deadline, write it down, then break it up into smaller baby steps. Stay focused and keep moving forward. You’ll be surprised at what you can achieve.
FrugalTrader plays the long game. Despite his admirable success with growing his wealth, his focus is on a sustainable strategy that will guarantee comfort for himself and his family far into the future.
Following a budget and choosing to invest are great, but if there’s one thing to be learned from FrugalTrader’s achievements it’s this: setting concrete goals and working methodically toward them are crucial for positive results. Fortunately for those eager to apply FrugalTrader’s methods, he has made his knowledge available on his popular website and interacts with fans on Facebook and Twitter.
FrugalTrader’s work on Million Dollar Journey has helped him do more than ensure his financial future. It has also provided him with invaluable experience about what it takes to create a successful blog and grow an audience. The secret he shares with AdvisoryHQ is simple: have something original to say, and then say it well.
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