At equities.com, we’ve always been focused on building an active community among the leading voices within the world of finance.
As with many other fields, in finance, we’ve noticed a significant shift away from traditional sources of financial news, tips and predictions, and toward a growing number of financial bloggers.
In this series, we profile some of the most distinct and noteworthy voices in the world of financial blogging. Here, you’ll find our recent interview with Paula Pant, founder of the site Afford Anything. Read below to learn about the importance of minding the gap between your income and your spending, and Pant’s belief that while you might not necessarily be able to afford everything, you can certainly afford anything.
EQ: Thanks for speaking with me today, Paula. To start off, what inspired you to start Afford Anything?
Pant: In 2008 I quit my job and spent the next two and a half years just travelling the globe. And when I did that, everyone’s first question, naturally, was “How can you afford that?”
EQ: Sure, that’s not surprising.
Pant: I kept hearing that question over and over and over, and I noticed that predominantly many of the people who were asking it were people who I knew earned quite a bit more than I did. And so they would comment something like “I’d love to do that but I can’t afford it.”
These were the same people who were driving much nicer cars. They were renting much nicer apartments, you know, they were getting manicures or getting their hair professionally styled or spending lots of money at restaurants. And so I started Afford Anything to spread the message that you can afford anything you want. Not necessarily everything, but anything.
EQ: That makes sense.
Pant: Since then, it’s sort of grown to encompass any type of freedom – ranging from building streams of passive income through your investments to launching your own business. Any way that people can live an epic adventure now rather than waiting until a traditional retirement age.
EQ: The ability to live the way you want to when you’re still young certainly has exceptional value. I think that’s something everyone would love to know how to do. How did you originally learn how to take care of your money so well?
Pant: Well, I come from an immigrant family, and so when I was little we were very frugal, just out of necessity. We had to be, because we didn’t have any other family members here, or any support or anything like that.
So, my parents were almost 40 when they came to the United States, and they were starting completely from scratch. I grew up watching them be very, very frugal and very careful, since they didn’t have any safety net other than cash in the bank. I just grew up really observing that, and so right from day one I was able to adjust to continue on with that learned frugality.
EQ: I’m sure it helped that you had that structure at a young age. So then, how long did it take for Afford Anything to take off?
Pant: Oh, I mean taking off is always a moving target [laughing]—
EQ: Sure, sure.
Pant: Four years ago, if you were to tell me where I would be today, I would say “Wow! That’s amazing, you made it!” But of course, four years later, now that I’m sitting here with the readership and the following that I have, you know, of course that moving target is just pushed further down the line. No matter where you are, you always want to be 10 times bigger.
EQ: Yeah, that’s true. Do you have a long-term goal for the blog then?
Pant: That’s a great question. I didn’t know exactly what kind of metric or numbers to put with it, but I knew from the very beginning that I wanted the blog to be my full-time occupation, my full-time source of income. And I was able to achieve that within the first two years.
EQ: Wow, that’s great – very impressive. Was there ever a point where you felt certain that this will work as a full-time job?
Pant: Well, probably when I landed my first big client. A lot of the income that I make through Afford Anything comes from consulting and coaching, specifically B2B consulting and freelance coaching.
EQ: I see.
Pant: And so when I landed my first large client, that was probably when I was finally confident in my prospects—it gave me that proof of concept.
EQ: That makes sense. How much do you talk about investing on the blog? Do you ever discuss specific stocks or anything like that?
Pant: I do. I start by introducing the average investor to broad investing concepts. A lot of the people who read my blog don’t know what an index fund is, or how it’s different from a mutual fund.
You know, they aren’t aware that equities are classified based on style, size and geography. So in a lot of my posts, I introduce those concepts to the general readership. Beyond that, I typically advocate that people put the bulk of their portfolio in passively managed index funds—and then if they want to buy and trade individual stocks that they do that with the fund part of their portfolio.
I do that myself, so oftentimes I’ll walk my readers through my example, down to sharing screen shots of “Hey, check it out, this is what I bought. This is the PE ratio, this is why I chose it, and this is why I find it exciting.” And then of course I’ll clarify that this as a whole is less than 10% of my total portfolio.
EQ: Ok. That sounds like a fairly conservative but effective model. So is there any specific stock or investment that you like at the moment?
EQ: Ok, cool.
Pant: In my opinion they’re well managed and well run. The other thing that I did, after oil dropped precipitously I bought into some of the very large companies that were affected by that – Marathon Oil Corp. (MRO) and BP plc (BP) . I have the patience to wait for three to five years, however long it takes for that to bounce back.
EQ: That definitely seems like a good, safe long-term play.
EQ: Do you have any single piece of advice that you could impart to your readers?
Pant: Mind the gap between your income and your expenses. So, in between what you bring in and what flows back out, there’s a gap. Make that gap as big as possible.
EQ: That’s great advice.
Pant: The two ways to do that are earning more and spending less. Between those two, spending less gives you the immediate gratification, it’s easy to do, so it’s a quick win. But earning more is more powerful in the long-term because there’s no limit. There’s a limit to how much you can save, but there’s absolutely no limit to how much you can earn.
Pant: And those earnings don’t necessarily have to come from a job. In fact, it’s better if they don’t. So if you can produce those earnings through a combination of businesses and investments, that’s where you’ll really shine.
EQ: Nice – a diverse portfolio, with a few solid long-term investments. So, as a blogger, have you found that the financial blogging landscape has changed in the time since you started? Do you correspond much with other people who are involved in investment and finance blogging?
Pant: Oh, yes. Some of my best friends are finance bloggers. We’re a very tight-knit community. There’s a financial blogging conference called FinCon that I’ve attended every year since its inception. This year is going to be my fifth FinCon conference. I’ve spoken at it every year except for the first, and I’ll be speaking at it again this year as well.
And then during the rest of the year when I’m not at FinCon, we still interact, there’s a Facebook group that’s specifically for FinCon attendees only. We’ve got sort of mastermind groups, we’re all friends with each other. We follow each other on Twitter and we’re friends with each other on Facebook, so yeah, we’re a very close crew.
EQ: That’s great. Perhaps we’ll have a presence at FinCon as well in the near future. Is there anything that we didn’t touch on at all that you wanted to share?
Pant: I’d say that my parting advice would be: Get started with saving and investing. You know, don’t get locked into analysis paralysis. Just start investing right now and, you know, remember that done is better than perfect. Also, read affordanything.com and subscribe to it.
DISCLOSURE: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors, and do not represent the views of equities.com. Readers should not consider statements made by the author as formal recommendations and should consult their financial advisor before making any investment decisions. To read our full disclosure, please go to: http://www.equities.com/disclaimer