Better Know… Ben from Money Smart Life

Better Know A Blogger - Ben from Money Smart Life

This is our 9th “Better Know A Blogger” interview. We’ll be posting two per day, except on Saturdays and Sundays, leading up to the 2012 Financial Blogger Conference next month. The purpose of this series is to introduce you to some excellent bloggers from all across the web who are able to shed light on topics ranging from debt to saving money to investing. (Each interview is conducted via e-mail and then published here)

Today’s interviewee is Ben from MoneySmartLife.com. Enjoy!

Ben from Money Smart LifeYour blog is one of the ‘veteran’ personal finance blogs around. Were there many other such blogs when you started? And what gave you idea to start blogging?

I was a fan of Consumerism Commentary and Bargaineering when I first started Money Smart Life back in 2006. I loved reading about personal finance and had a lot of my own ideas I wanted to share. Flexo, Jim, and the other sites in the former Money Blog network definitely inspired me.

I think the birth of our son was what got me to pull the trigger. I took three weeks off of work and in my down time from the crying baby I set up the site and started writing posts.

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Wow, that is a great use of three weeks off! Have you been surprised with how much the site has grown since then?

No, I’ve invested thousands of hours into the site over the years. After all the late nights and early mornings I’ve put into it I’d be disappointed if it hadn’t grown. I think anyone that runs a website or blog would agree that it’s always nice to see growth, some return on your time invested.

That makes sense. We write a lot about getting out of debt at the ReadyForZero blog, and you write about both debt and investing. What advice would you give our readers who may have some debt but would like to start investing?

You probably will get different opinions on this but I don’t think its wise, from a numbers perspective, to invest a lot of your money while you’re in debt. Particularly if it’s high interest debt.

Your return on investment is uncertain, based on how the market performs. The cost of your debt is certain, the faster you can pay down the lower your costs will be.

If you want to put away money just to establish a habit of investing, I can see how it would make sense to setup a small regular investment – then use the rest of your free cash flow to pay down your debt.

I tend to agree with you. One thing that is helpful for people in debt is getting better at budgeting. You have an epic story on your About page detailing how you saved (and invested) $150 as a kid instead of buying a Nintendo. What’s your philosophy on how to determine which things are worth spending money on?

I’d be interested to hear what your readers think about investing while you are in debt.

Defining the worth of something is obviously a personal choice. Two people can put a totally different value on the same thing. I think anyone who has been married or in a long-term relationship can attest to that.

I think defining worth really boils down to what your priorities are in life. That is why your friends and family can have such a big impact on your financial situation. Their priorities tend to become your priorities as well.

If you are on your own it’s much easier to decide what you want in life and spend your money accordingly. If not, you really have to get to the bottom of those priorities to help figure out together which things are worth spending your money on.

That’s wise advice. Just two more questions: First, did you attend FinCon last year? If so, what was your impression and what would be your advice to a first-timer? If not, what are you most looking forward to about this year’s conference?

Yes, I was in Chicago. There were a lot of new faces to meet and a lot of good info to absorb.

My advice would be, don’t try and meet everyone and learn everything. Figure out the people you really want to spend time with and the things you really want to learn before you go and focus on those when you’re there.

In terms of what I’m looking forward to. We have three little kids that are always waking us up in the middle of the night so I’m looking forward to getting a few nights good sleep in my own room :)

Other than that I’m just excited to reconnect with friends from last year and to meet some new people as well. And the free drinks of course!

Great! That sounds like a lot of fun. I hope we’ll get a chance to meet in person at the conference. In the meantime, good luck with getting at least a little bit of sleep!

Have questions for Ben? Post them in the comments below.

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