Interview: A postgraduate left job and started a blog on frugal living
Len Penzo is a personal finance blogger. His blog is based on finance and there’s a lot of emphasis on staying responsible throughout one’s life. The articles in his blogs are about budgeting, saving more money, and how to get debt-free. He also shares his real life experiences and the money mistakes he has made. His blog was selected by Political Calculations as one of the best blogs in 2009.
Let us see what Len has to say about his blogging and financing experiences.
Sarah : From where did you get the idea of blogging?
Len : You know, I never ever intended to be a blogger, but I became one out of desperation. Yep. I got tired of writing op-ed pieces that continually got rejected by all the major newspapers, so I decided I would start my own forum!
Sarah : Do you think blogging has changed your life in some way or the other?
Len : Oh yes. It has given me a brand new hobby that I love. I can't imagine not blogging now.
Sarah : There are so many topics on which you can blog. But why Personal Finance?
Len : I've always been extremely good with managing my money. I've always detested debt and lived well below my means. That's not to say I am a cheapskate or live so frugally that I don't enjoy life. My family has everything they need, and we go on nice family vacations every year. But I refuse to squander my money trying to impress others. And while most people over the past decade were taking cash-out home refis to live way beyond their means, I was paying down my mortgage and taking advantage refis to lower my interest rates. At the time people thought I was being overly conservative. Well, over the years I have lowered my mortgage payment from over $1400 to $600 - and I live in Southern California, where home prices aren't cheap by national standards. Most of my friends are now in hangover mode, stuck in homes they owe more on than they're worth - and very little money in the bank. Anyway, what was the question? LOL Oh yeah, I thought personal finance was the area where I could be most effective. (Sorry, can you tell I'm a bit passionate about the topic?) LOL
Sarah : What was your best personal finance decision ever made?
Len : That is a tough one. I've made so many good ones. LOL But seriously, I've made PLENTY of dumb mistakes. As for the best one, it is probably a dead heat between: 1) making the conscious decision out of college to never put anything on my credit card that I couldn't pay off at the end of the month, and; 2) pulling all of my money out of the stock market at the start of 2008, and completely avoiding the market crash later that fall, as well as the subsequent erosion that followed.
Sarah : Where do you see yourself in 10 years down the lane?
Len : One year into a debt-free happy retirement, which I intend to start at age 55 - if not sooner. :)
Sarah : What made your blog as one of the best blogs of 2009 by Political Calculations??
Len : Well, here's what they said: “What happens when you combine a lot of common sense, a lot of irreverence and really entertaining writing? You get Len Penzo’s blog, that’s what you get! Maybe the best description that we can offer is that reading Len is like reading what Dave Barry might be able to achieve if Dave Barry wrote about personal finance.” Those are their words, not mine. It was a great honor, to be sure, and I am very humbled that Political Calculations would even consider mentioning me and Dave Berry in the same breath.
Sarah : What is a major personal finance issue that is on your mind right now?
Len : I think most people are so over-extended after the party that occurred prior to the housing bubble bursting that they are just not able to save enough now for their retirements. And to compound the problem, the safety net of Social Security will probably not be there to help them when they need it. The US has roughly $110 trillion in unfunded liabilities (including Social Security and Medicare - but not counting the new Obamacare law!) and I just fail to see how the US will be able to cover any of that without destroying the dollar - and everyone's standard of living - via massive inflation.
Sarah : Please advice our readers how to pay off their debts from your past experiences?
Len : Don't accrue them. The only good debt I recommend taking on is mortgage debt, debt to start-up and/or expand a business, and (possibly) education debt. I say possibly because I would only take on education debt if it went toward certain degrees that can be used across broad swaths of industries and are always in high demand - like engineering. Some might say I am biased because I have a degree in electrical engineering, but it's true. When it comes to paying off your debt, pay off the highest interest debt first.
Sarah : We saw that you have huge number of networking with other finance bloggers. Do you think this networking is necessary to survive in the finance blogging industry?
Len : Absolutely. I didn't network with anybody for the first five months and my blog suffered for it. Once I started networking my readership numbers started taking off - relatively speaking, that is. I realize nobody is going to confuse my blog with Get Rich Slowly or the Simple Dollar. LOL
Sarah : I see that you have written a review for "Get Financially Naked". Please tell our readers what have you learnt from this book?
Len : At the risk of sounding like a pompous horse's behind (I know, too late) it really didn't tell me anything I didn't already know. But I highly recommend the book - especially for anybody who is seriously considering marriage. When you are married, personal finance becomes a team sport, so to speak. You and your spouse have to be on the same page or the marriage definitely suffer - if not outright fail. So it's best to get your money expectations and personal finance philosophies out in the open BEFORE you get married. If there is a major disconnect that can't be resolved - don't get married. Once married, it is also important that both parties stay involved in their personal finances.
Sarah : How do feel by becoming a part of world’s largest debt consolidation community now?
Len : You better pinch me, because I still don't really believe it. :)