How To Invest -An Interview with Betty Jean Bell

by Adam on May 17, 2011

Last week I had the pleasure of speaking with business coach Betty Jean Bell of Love Your Worklife

We met in Austin, Texas, at a party Betty Jean was throwing for Jenny Blake of Life After College. I couldn’t pass up the chance to meet such inspiring people and the event turned out to be one of the highlights of my trip.

Upon my return Betty Jean was kind enough to let me share the Magical Penny message with listeners to her podcast over at Love Your Worklife. In the podcast I shared how I do the bulk of my investing, specifically :

  • Why index funds (sometimes called ‘Tracker’ funds) are so great
  • How you don’t need a lot of money to start investing
  • The benefits of a strong mind-set and the fun of partying with high achieving people

Visit Love Your Worklife for the full podcast or read along below:

The Transcript

[00:00]

Betty Jean Bell: So welcome back to Love Your Work Life. I am Betty Jean Bell, and today I am quite excited because I am interviewing a new friend that I met at Love Drop– Adam Piplica. How are you, Adam?

Adam Piplica: Hi, I’m fine. I’m really excited too. This is quite surreal.

BJB: It’s great. So, yes, we met in Austin, TX at South by Southwest, and Adam, you are in Leeds? Are you in Leeds?

SXSWAP: Yes, I came all the way from the UK to come and see all of the amazing people at South by Southwest, where the whole Internet descends on an amazing, amazing city, and I just had one of the best times of my life. I got to meet amazing people like… like you.

BJB: Yes, likewise, and we had such a good time. I am so delighted to have met you there, and to have the opportunity to chat with you about what you’re up to over in the UK.

AP: Well, there were just so many amazing people. You could just talk to anybody and there were so many people just living their dreams, and living with passion, and I think that’s what your site is all about really, isn’t it?

BJB: It totally is, and it is really exciting, and I love that you just said, “Where the whole Internet descends on Austin, TX.”

AP: It’s true, it’s true!

BJB: It totally is, that is the perfect, perfect description of South by Southwest Interactive. So, you’ve got this really awesome blog called Magical Penny.

AP: Thank you very much.

BJB: I love it, and all the subject matter is-, the way you describe it on your ‘about’ page as, you know, seeming like something just rich people do, or just this big giant thing? That’s exactly how I feel about it.

AP: Well, that’s exactly why I set it up, because I felt like the whole issue of money and investing and personal finance is something that seems like such an alien concept. None of my friends were talking about it, and you might see about the stock market on the news, or you might hear about big pension funds, but when you actually get down to it you’re like, “Well, what actually is that? Is it something I need to be paying attention to, or is it really complicated? Is it something I need to look into a little bit more?” So that’s exactly what I did, and then after I did it, I thought, “Well, all my friends are missing out on this amazing power of compounding returns, and starting the process of saving long-term,” and I thought, “I’ve got something to share to make it a little less scary, a little less alien.”

BJB: Yes, that’s awesome. So how long have you been doing Magical Penny?

AP: I started Magical Penny just over a year ago, actually, in February 2010. I’d obviously been-, I’d been reading blogs and seeing the Internet grow for years, and I had a few little blogs and sites on the side, but I thought now was the time to actually get a little bit more serious, and I was just so inspired by so many amazing people doing really amazing things on the Internet, and I thought, “I actually have something to write now,” because I’d started learning all about investing and general personal finance when I was at university, when I didn’t have any money at all.

BJB: (laughs) That’s awesome.

AP: Yes, and I wanted to make sure that when I actually did start with a job, and started earning more money, that it wasn’t going to be squandered, because I was reading all these crazy horror stories of people in their thirties, forties and fifties, thinking, “I wish I’d started earlier.” I thought, “You know what? I’m young, I can start early. Why don’t I try and get the ball rolling?” although it was very scary. But if you just add some context, I’m just about to turn 25, so as I was in college, it was just before the financial crisis, as everyone calls it, or the credit crunch, was happening. I first started investing in 2007, so we all know what happened in 2008.

BJB: Right, oh my gosh. That is a terrifying time to start.

AP: So there was I, I was really enthusiastic. I’d done all the reading. I’d spent the best part of a year just dragging my heels, because I think it is quite scary, and people don’t really understand what the stock market is, and whether they should be investing in single stocks, or “What’s a mutual fund? What’s an index fund?” and I found it’s even more hard, because I was searching for things like index funds, and I couldn’t find them on any UK website. I was reading all these American sites, obviously, because-,

BJB: Right.

AP: I don’t know how many people read personal finance blogs, but a lot of it is very American-focused. I think generally the stock market in general is a little less scary and a little less taboo in America than it is in the UK. Like talking to my parents, and people of an older generation, from my experience they don’t really think about the stock market. They just call it something, a pension, and it’s in some black box thing that you pay into every so often and hope for the best. Whereas I think the American consumer was a little bit more prepped with the instruction of 401(k)s and things like that.

BJB: Right.

AP: So anyway, I started trying to work out how I was going to do this. It turns out, in the UK we don’t really call them index funds. We call them tracker funds.

BJB: Huh?

AP: It’s the same thing, it’s still tracking an index.

BJB: Right.

AP: Essentially, rather than-, my big revelation was that the stock market and investing and saving for retirement isn’t all about finding one single stock, or one single share. It’s actually-, you can do that, but that’s where all the crazy horror stories come, where people lose their retirement and they lose thousands of pounds or dollars.

BJB: Gotcha.

AP: The big revelation for me was, “I don’t need to invest and spend all my time looking into individual companies and spinning the roulette wheel,” because a lot of people think that ‘investing’ is another word for ‘gambling’. Instead, I could buy the whole market. So that’s basically buying every single company, just a smidgen, just a little fraction of each company, in a different index, which is just a collection of lots of stocks and shares. So in the UK we have-,

BJB: That’s awesome.

AP: Well, yes, that’s the amazing thing, because I thought, “Well, I want to invest because essentially you’re giving money to companies that then have people working, getting up every day to work hard and create something of value, and then those companies grow, and then you can get to reap the rewards,” but I didn’t want to spend all my time looking at individual companies. Who has time for that, as well?

BJB: Yes.

AP: The big revelation was that you could invest in a tiny little piece of all the different companies in the country, or in the world, or all these different things, and that’s the power of the index, which I wanted to share at Magical Penny.

BJB: No, that’s so awesome. So what I’m really excited about is, I have entered into this-, you know, and maybe I shouldn’t be sharing this with the world, but I’m entering into this with not as much knowledge as I could have, and I think that you’re totally on point with a lot of folks, they-, because we don’t. We have to choose where we spend our time, and this is definitely one of those things that can be a rabbit hole of, you spend a lot of time reading and researching and playing, you know, learning how to do it. So I love running into folks like you, who have done that for me and everybody else.

AP: I also have a confession to make.

BJB: Please.

AP: I don’t consider myself a crazy guru who first spends eight hours a day for three months before I put any money into investing. I don’t think it’s as complicated as people make out, and I know that when you have complex tax issues and other, different sources of income, it can get complicated, just as everyone’s lives can be simple or as complicated as you make it.

BJB: Right.

AP: But the basics really aren’t as complicated as it sounds, and I think that’s the thing I’ve found most fulfilling about running my site, is being able to dispel the myths that it’s really complicated. If you get the basics right – and you don’t have to know everything – I think the most powerful thing, and I’m sure you find this with your coaching clients, it’s getting started, as opposed to doing it perfect straight away. You can always tweak. But the mind shift that happens when you start thinking, “You know what? I’m going to take this small amount of money-,” that’s another thing I wanted to say, actually. It doesn’t take a lot of money to invest. A lot of people think, “Well, I need to first save for a house, or I need to-, I can only invest if I have thousands of pounds.” No, you don’t.

BJB: Wow.

AP: You can do it with small amounts of money. A lot of different funds–, a fund is really just a collection of all the different companies all together, so a fund says, “I’ll take a small amount of money from each, from hundreds of people,” and then that fund will then invest it into the market. So you don’t need to be investing with a huge amount of money.

[10:00]

And those funds accept as little as-, in the UK they’re as little as £50, which I imagine a lot of US funds would be maybe $100 a month. Whilst I’m sure some people are like, “Well, how can I have $100? Where am I going to get that?”, when you start thinking about it and being a bit proactive about your spending, I’m sure you can get to $100 if you think about it. And I’m sure that it’s definitely worthwhile, because it’s just mind-blowing when you think about the difference that $100 every month, and then growing over time. That can really change your life and it’s not as hard as people think.

BJB: That is awesome. That’s actually really exciting. Anybody on this call listening right now, no matter if you’re making fifteen a year or $15 million a year-, of course, if it’s $15 million a year you already know this stuff, and you don’t need to worry about scraping $100 together.

AP: Although, if anybody does have $15 million a year, and wants some advice, I’m very-,

BJB: You’re very available.

AP: I wouldn’t mind giving it.

BJB: (laughs) That’s awesome. Yes, totally, you’re totally great. What I love is how, yes, you’re doing-, it feels very accessible. Your website makes investing very accessible for anybody. Even a high school student could mow a few lawns and get $100 together.

AP: Yes. I just want to-, just as a caveat, I don’t want to be saying, “Everybody should be investing at any age.” I think sometimes, when you start getting into it and you get enthusiastic, you think, “Wow, if I just start investing…” Part of my site has been saying, “Wait a second. Before you do invest, I just want to make sure that you are ready.” Because whilst I think people should be investing earlier than they might think, like a lot of people think, “Well, first I need to get a house, or I need to get a car, and I need to get this and that,” and whilst I say definitely you should start sooner rather than later because there’ll always be the next thing, I also want to say that a lot of the trouble that people have when they do invest is when they then need that money for something else, and they take it out. When you need to take money out of investment, that’s where it’s risky. Everyone knows that things can go up and down, and whilst I think the risk element is something that’s overplayed by the media and by the news, when you hear about people losing lots of money in the stock market, you don’t actually lose it until you sell, and you shouldn’t be selling unless you need the money. So you shouldn’t be investing if you need that particular money, so I definitely think that you need to be sure that you have enough savings and different other plans. Don’t just put everything into the stock market.

BJB: Yes, definitely.

AP: Just to try and strike it rich.

BJB: Yes, that’s awesome. So, for anybody listening right now, if they wanted to-, if they’d got $100 in their pocket that they can afford to spend-, and actually, to build on your point before I go on, it sounds like the way you think about investing is the same way I think about lending people money.

AP: Yes.

BJB: If I can’t afford to give them the gift of the amount that I’m giving them, it’s not worth it, then I can’t lend them the money. Because the one thing for me is that I don’t want money to ever come between any of my relationships.

AP: Absolutely, yes.

BJB: So if I can’t afford to lend someone the cash, if I can’t afford to just outright give it to them, then I can’t lend them.

AP: But I think it is easier to end up having money that you can afford to invest than people often think. I always come back to the idea of ‘defaults’. Everyone gets into certain habits and certain lifestyles, and you just have a default, like, “Of course you’ll spend this amount of money on groceries,” or, “Of course I’ll spend this amount on living.” I think this applies to so much in so many different avenues of life, but I think it really helps to just take a step back and go, “Do I actually need this?” Or, “Am I doing this just out of habit, or am I actually getting a lot of enjoyment out of it?” Just the very fact that you’re even thinking about more than just trying to get it to the end of the month with enough money, but you’re thinking, “How am I going to get to the end of my life with enough money?” without having to do anything where you’re just forced to do something for the money later on in life. Instead of taking a step back and thinking, “Do I actually need this now, or can this money help my future self more than it can help my current self?” I have massive respect and hope for my future self, and I don’t want my current self getting in the way.

BJB: That is very well said. When I start editing there’s a few sentences I’m going to pull out as, like, ‘Quotes of the Day.’ You said some really good stuff in there. That’s awesome. That is an extremely important mindset that you’ve pulled out of that. So a pattern here that I’m noticing is that you’ve got a lot of really good-, yes, you’re talking about finances, you’re talking about investing, but you’ve got a lot of ‘bigger picture mindset’ things going on here, about everything that you’re doing.

AP: I think that’s really great that you’ve picked up on that, because that’s something that’s surprised even me. When I first started writing I was like, “Right, I’m going to be writing a personal finance blog. I’ve learnt all about index funds, I’ve learnt about mutual funds, I’ve learnt about 401(k)s even though I’m not in America.” I know so much about the American finances system.

BJB: (laughs) That’s amazing.

AP: I feel like I could set up a Roth IRA and 401(k) and I know all the allowances and everything. I’ve had to kind of think, “Wait a sec, let’s just learn a little bit about the British system…”

BJB: That’s amazing. How hilarious is that? You can consult!

AP: So if there are any English readers-, I’m sorry, English listeners here, I’ve fallen in love with the stocks and shares ISA, which is the individual savings plan. It’s like a Roth IRA for the US; however, it’s not just limited to retirement, and the limits are much bigger than the $5,000 limits in the US. It’s like £10,000 a year, and whilst there are pros and cons to the Roth IRAs having the restriction to just retirement, I still think they’re amazing.

But just to go back to what I was trying to say before, actually – when I first started writing, I was really into the specifics, and I was just going to show everyone how they were going to invest and what they should do. Then, as I started writing, as the blog progressed, I started broadening out a little bit, and just the amount of empowerment and sense of pride in yourself and progress you see yourself as you regularly save month on month and see your investments go up and down – they do go up and down, but generally over the long term they do go up – and you start feeling really, just-, you do feel amazing. And whilst there’s a lot more to life than money, knowing that you’ve done that in that particular part of your life means-, you’re never sorted with money, but you’ve given yourself a good foundation. It gives you the confidence, and the feeling of accomplishment, that you then move into other areas of your life.

For me, just seeing how powerful the impact of doing stuff when I’m young in terms of my money, made me realise how much return on my investment of time and effort can I do and get from other parts of my life, like in my career, or in just generally thinking about things and growing my knowledge. So it’s not just money that I think people should definitely learn to master when they’re young. It’s just everything else, because you can just compound that over time and just become better and better, and grow as a person.

BJB: That’s awesome. So as you’re talking about this, what’s really funny is all these things about Zen Buddhism start coming to mind. I’m thinking about, you know, the Beginner’s Mind. For folks who don’t know what Beginner’s Mind-, in Buddhism, they talk about that being the ideal state, that a master doesn’t-, you always want to get in touch with your beginner’s mind, even if you’ve become very good at something, because when you’re in beginner’s mind, it’s like you’re awkward, you don’t really know what’s going on, so you tend to be more hyper-aware of what’s happening, and your present moment.

AP: Yes.

BJB: So with that, it sounds like through investing, you’re learning compassionate self-discipline?

AP: Definitely.

BJB: And how to be aware of what you’re doing, and how to, I guess, work towards enlightenment in the other parts of your life. (laughs)

AP: Yes, definitely. It’s just something where you can kind of step away from yourself and your present day, and another thing that people come and say to me is, “Oh, I’ve got so many needs in the present, how can I afford to keep money aside for the long term?” But as I say, my site’s only been a year old, and I’m thinking about all the different things that I want to do in the future, and I realise, for me, long-term doesn’t feel long-term anymore.

[20:00]

If I’m saving for retirement when I’m in my fifties and sixties, I’m just starting to think, and I will be that age very, very soon if the last few years are anything to go by. So all this talk about long-term, to me, I think even saving for retirement seems positively medium-term as opposed to long-term, just because there’s so much that will happen so quickly.

BJB: Yes, gosh, that is so, so true. More and more I think about it all the time, but what do they say? I guess you would know this probably off the top of your head. The average retirement age is-, was it 50 or 60, or something like that?

AP: Well, it’s getting older and older as people keep working longer and have better health and things, but I’d hate the idea of people planning for a certain retirement date, because I think that’s wishing your life away a little bit. I think it is important as you get older to kind of tighten up your plan of how you’re going to move into the next phase of life when you’re not so focused on supporting a family or being able to afford work. To me, it’s just crazy, and that also extends to different parts of your life, when people think about-, I know that your site is focused on loving your work life, and I don’t want people wishing away their work life, because there’s so much you can do, and it will be gone before you know it. I feel like-, I’ve only been in the workforce since 2007, 2008, and already I’m feeling like, “Wow, I can see how a career can go one or two ways, and it can quickly happen, and then before you know it, you’re done,” and you just want to make sure that when you still have a chance you’re moving in the right direction.

BJB: Yes, totally. And for me, especially-, yes, I have this podcast called www.lovedrop.us. I don’t see myself ever retiring. I have way too much fun. For me, work is play. Doing this, you know, creating marketing strategies and helping identify why small business and solo entrepreneurs aren’t making sales. That’s not work for me. For some people it is miserable, mind-numbing work, but when you really get in tune with something that jazzes you – like, for instance, understanding financial markets for you, and just writing about them – it’s fun. It doesn’t feel like something I have to do to make sure I’ve got food on the table. Suddenly, money, the reward that you reap, becomes more of like, “Oh, awesome! So I just got to go to something I really love and you’re going to give me money? That rocks!”

AP: Yes, I often have people say, “Why do I need to save for retirement? Because-,” either, “I love my job and I’m never going to stop,” or, “I just want to keep working, it’ll keep me active.” I say, “That’s not the only reason. Money isn’t just to make sure that you are not hungry.”

BJB: Totally.

AP: I’m not an authority on money, and I haven’t got £1 million in the bank, but I think, whilst money can only go some way, it’s very empowering to have the choice and to direct those resources in a way that you should choose to. So even if you never intend on retiring, I think it’s definitely worth saving for retirement, but I wouldn’t use the word ‘retirement.’ I’d just say, “Save for your future self, so that money is never an option for your future self,” and it helps you just do what you want to do in the future, when-, you don’t know what’s going to happen in the future. Maybe you’ll need your savings sooner than you anticipate. Or maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll be able to do something amazing with them, or leave them to a next generation.

BJB: Yes. That is amazing. So I’m totally pumped. I want to ask you more about-, in a minute, I’m going to switch gears and ask you a little more about how blogging and doing this blog has affected your life, hopefully for the better. But before I do that, if there are one or two blog entries you’ve got, or something, what would be one of the best places for folks to start on your website? If, after listening to this call, they are so ready to start investing – like I am – where would you send me? “Betty Jean, go look at this article and this article, and you’ll be able to start investing this week, if you have the cash.”

AP: One of my most popular articles on the website, on Magical Penny, is actually ‘Five Reasons Not to Invest in Single Shares.’ It’s one of the-, when people start to invest, they often think, “Oh, I’m going to invest in Apple,” or, “I’m going to invest in Microsoft, or BP.” People think that investing in single shares is what stock market investing is all about. In fact, it’s not. I find the best kind of investing is investing in those big mutual funds, so big companies that just-, I find the best way to invest is investing in mutual funds, where all the different companies are all invested in one particular mutual fund. So that helps you eliminate as much risk. Say if Apple-, for some reason, something went wrong with all of their MacBook Pros-,

BJB: Oh, no. (laughs)

AP: I know, I know. Imagine if it did, though. All their shares would go down to close to zero, because investors would say, “Well, they’re not going to make any money in the future.” Then if you had invested all your money in Apple stock, then you’d lose all your money. Of course, you’d only lose it if you sell it, but the value would take a while to come back up again, and you never really want that.

BJB: Right.

AP: So I think when people are starting to invest, they shouldn’t be investing in single shares because it’s really risky. You should be investing in mutual funds, which have lots of different shares. And it’s also-, people never really realise, but investing does cost money. You have to pay the brokers who buy and sell the shares for you, and if you’re investing in single shares, and investing only with small amounts of money – and who has loads of money to invest, really, at our age? – you can get-, all your particularly good returns can be just eaten up by fees. So that’s the great thing about if you’re investing regularly, and investing in mutual funds. Those fees are diminished because you’re taking advantage of all the different people who are-, you’re making a bulk saving because essentially the mutual fund only needs to make one purchase as opposed to thousands of people making thousands of purchases.

BJB: Gotcha.

AP: That’s one of the key things that I’d say. And also, I dutifully tag all my articles in different themes – they’re magical themes, on MagicalPenny.com.

BJB: (laughs) That’s awesome.

AP: So if you were to look on the right-hand side, there’s an ‘investing’ magical theme, and that’s all my articles on investing. However, as I said before, I think personal finance and investing is a lot more than just the mechanics of investing. It’s about the bigger picture, it’s about personal development, making sure that you’re working, you’re creating value and helping people, and just doing good so you actually have money to invest in the future. It’s about making sure you’ve got control of your debt, because I know a lot of people have student loans, and have credit card debt, and people don’t know what to do with that. It’s hard enough to work out what to do with their debt, let alone invest. So there’s the big debate of whether you should pay off debt, or whether you should be investing or whether you should be doing both. So I’ve got all those different themes there. Then even the more fun things, like philanthropy. So when you actually have a little bit of spare money, or you’ve got everything in place, then it’s really great fun to also make sure that your charitable giving is there, because that’s one of the fun things about being able to spread your resources.

BJB: Oh my gosh, you are so not kidding. I am the president of my Rotary club, and Rotary has been one of the most important-, it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. It’s been good for my business, my personal growth, yes. I totally am high-fiving you.

AP: It’s crazy how actually-, I don’t know if you know the song called ‘The Magic Penny.’

BJB: No, I don’t. Is that what the blog title comes from?

AP: Well, in fact, it’s partly yes.

BJB: Awesome.

AP: I actually thought this was an American song, and it turns out none of my American friends know the song, so maybe I’m wrong.

BJB: (laughs) That’s hilarious.

AP: But essentially, I wanted to call my blog ‘Magic Penny,’ because it’s basically this song that everyone sings in elementary school.

BJB: That’s amazing.

AP: I’m going to sing it, if you don’t mind.

BJB: Please, yes! Awesome.

AP: You can edit it out if it’s not very good.

BJB: That’s great. I’m keeping it.

AP: It’s basically talking about love, and comparing it to money, and how:

(sings) “Love is like a magic penny,

Hold it tight and you won’t have any,

Give or share it and you’ll have so many,

They’ll roll all over the floor…”

BJB: That’s awesome!

[30:00]

AP: So it definitely works for an investing-themed blog, because when you start investing and taking advantage of compounding returns, as in money growing upon itself each year and becoming more and more and more, the song is about love is like that, and, “love is something, if you give it away, you end up having more.”

BJB: That is awesome.

AP: So that’s why I named my site Magical Penny, because it’s all about how growth begets growth, and I think that works not only in the stock market and investing, but also in yourself. If you invest in yourself, you end up reaping even bigger rewards, and investing-, giving money away to different charitable causes as well can actually mean that you actually attract more money and do better, and feel better. You realise this whole crazy thing that we call life is all-, we’re all connected, and we all just need to be the best we can.

BJB: Oh, that’s fantastic. Literally my cheeks hurt from how much I’ve been smiling on this call with you. (laughs) It’s so good.

AP: I definitely want to give a little shout out as well, talking about philanthropy, actually, because one of the things that came out of the personal finance community – I know my site-, I support it with any revenue I make from my website – is a charity-, well, it’s not a charity, actually, it’s a movement, called Photography by Benjy Feen.

BJB: Yes, I love Love Drop. It’s awesome.

AP: It’s amazing. If any listeners do not know what Love Drop is, you can access-, you can read the story at www.lovedrop.us, and it’s my friend J. Money who blogs at BudgetsAreSexy.com.

BJB: Yes, he does.

AP: I definitely hold my hat up to him. If anyone’s reading Magical Penny, stop, and just go to www.budgetsaresexy,com, and-,

BJB: I love it.

AP: I think that’s a brilliant website. Essentially, they go and, each month-, anyone can join the community, give a dollar to change a life, and they essentially take the power of the Internet and everyone all connected and give money and love and support on just one family each and every month. I just think it’s amazing, and I think it just helps gain a bit of perspective, that whilst saving money for yourself and taking your life off autopilot, consciously spending on things that mean something to you, and stopping the minor spending, means that you end up with more money that you can then direct even more purposefully into helping others, as well as helping yourself.

BJB: Oh, I am just gushing over here, Adam. I am so glad we’re talking today, I can’t even tell you. I adore, not only everything you’re talking about, but yes, Love Drop and J. Money over at Budgets Are Sexy. And also, It Starts With Us.

AP: Oh, yes.

BJB: Yes, those guys are fantastic, and they too, folks, were at the party where I met Adam.

 

Andrew, Norcross, Jenny Blake, Nate, Scott, Adam, Betty Jean, Kristi, J$

ObliviousInvestor.com

 

AP: There were so many amazing people at this party. Guys, if you are not in Austin, TX in South by Southwest, oh, come next year.

BJB: Yes.

AP: I want to meet everyone who’s listening here.

BJB: I am the exact same way, and folks, I am based in Austin, TX, for anybody who is not in Austin and is listening to this, which is actually the majority of my listener base is not in Austin, believe it or not. So you guys should all come to Austin. Definitely. And definitely check out Love Drop, it’s fantastic. I’ve actually been kind of hitting back and forth with them about seeing if we’re going to be doing some work together, so definitely a great group of guys doing some good stuff. So-,

AP: I think-,

BJB: Go ahead.

AP: Well, I think this segues quite nicely on, because the thing about Love Drop, and all blogs really, is that we have all these amazing connections in cyberspace, but it’s when people come offline and you take the advantage of all these connections online, and take it to the offline world, that’s where the magic happens, really.

BJB: It is.

AP: And even though my site, I feel like I’ve managed to help people and I’ve been de-mystifying the stock market – and I’m nowhere near finished, I feel like there’s so many different things, and I don’t-, it’s definitely not a finished site yet, and if anyone has any questions or would like any clarification on anything more then I’ve definitely got my work cut out, and I’m going to be keeping on writing – but it’s not just other people who I hope to benefit. I’ve just been-, I feel like my life has completely changed, from just throwing up some words on a website. I don’t know if you felt the same way-,

BJB: Absolutely.

AP: But there’s something about putting yourself out there in cyberspace for anyone in any country around the world to look and see what you’re about, and it makes you want to better yourself. It’s an ultimate accountability partner, really, your blog.

BJB: It is! Oh my god, you hit the nail on the head. That is true.

AP: And for me, it’s just been amazing, just that everyone’s rallying around everybody else and sharing, and sharing knowledge. I think we live in this Internet age where nothing has to be a mystery for too long.

BJB: It’s true.

AP: I think about-, just thinking about my site, at least, say if my dad was just coming out of college and he was going into the working world, and he wanted to learn about the stock market or investing, he’d have to search through lots of books, or speak to an investment advisor, and it would be a mission. You’d have to be motivated to actually go and find out about things, and sometimes people don’t even know that they don’t know. They don’t even-, it’s a completely different alien world. Whereas on the Internet, if you’ve heard me say any single word-, say if you’ve never heard of the word “mutual fund”, or you’ve never heard of the FTSE or the Dow Jones, or any financial thing that I might spout, you can just Wikipedia that and you’ll instantly know more than my parents would have known, or anyone of previous generations.

BJB: Yes.

AP: And to me, that’s just mind-boggling. I don’t think-, you can’t have an excuse. I feel like there can’t be-, you can’t just say, “Well, I got to 50 and I didn’t know about investing,” or, “I didn’t know how important anything was,” really, because you just need to keep going down those roads and learning from the Internet, and I just think it can change your life in so many ways.

BJB: It totally can, yes. I’m enjoying listening to you so much, and I love that I don’t even have to ask you many questions. You’re literally reading my mind as you go. (laughs) I’m enjoying it so much. So what are some of the ways-, you’re right, Love Your Work Life, I, like you, started out and had lots of different blogs I was trying with, and I didn’t really know what I was doing or why I was writing. It wasn’t until I decided to start doing what I was already doing, which was spending time offline interviewing other entrepreneurs, or people who were in businesses or jobs that they loved.

AP: Can I just interrupt?

BJB: Oh, please do.

AP: Just to say, nobody knows what they’re doing. Don’t ever feel like-,

BJB: That is so true.

AP: Like there’s loads of people who know what they’re doing. I was learning to invest, I didn’t know what I was doing. I still don’t know a lot, but you tweak it and you see what works, and with anything, with writing, no-one has the master plan. And if you do, that master plan’s going to change pretty quickly.

BJB: (laughs) That’s totally true.

AP: So, yes, I’ll let you continue.

BJB: No, you’re 100% right, you just make it up as you go and you try to be as strategic as possible as you do that. But if it weren’t for Love Your Work Life, I would have never met you, I wouldn’t have met Jenny Blake, Josh Kaufman, Budgets Are Sexy, It Starts With Us, Love Drop. Oh, my goodness. I’m going to put out on our podcast, I’m going to put a group photo of just some of the ones-, you and I are both in it. Just some of the other folks that actually we’re talking about on this phone call, that were at this party. But none of that South by Southwest, that day of happiness that I planned for Jenny Blake and Josh Kaufman, it would have never happened if it weren’t for Love Your Work Life. And that was one of the best-, I got so many compliments on that party, and I think that everybody had a-, I had a magical time, and it seemed like everybody out on the lawn chairs was having a good time too, and it’s all because of the blog, or-, excuse me, all because of the podcast.

AP: Yes, well, also because of you, so don’t-,

BJB: Aww, thank you.

AP: I think it takes fabulous people to make a fabulous blog, so-, but yes, you’re right, there were so many amazing people, and the fact that you have something that you can point to and say, “Look, this is what I’m passionate about, this is what I know.” It’s not something abstract, it’s something that, “Oh, all you need is a URL, type it into any web browser in a computer anywhere around the world, and you’re just like, ‘Right, there’s that person, that’s what they-, there’s 50 hours, there’s 100 hours of that person’s output of passion,’” really, and you can-, and because people have that at their disposal, you get to connect with people who are similarly awesome.

BJB: (laughs) Yes.

[40:00]

AP: Even if I didn’t know people at that party-, and it wasn’t just that party, it was the whole of South by Southwest, and also, I don’t want to just say South by Southwest. Whenever I met anyone who’s read any of my stuff, or we have a shared interest in any particular website, whenever I’ve met them it has that whole extra dimension of, “Oh, so you’re into that, and you know this person, and this is what you’re all about,” and I just think it’s brilliant that we have this tool that facilitates all that.

BJB: Yes. I love it, because I’m a big relationship person. You just described it perfectly, like having a blog, no matter what it is, is a tool for facilitating relationships. That’s all it is. Which, and I think is another great way of saying, that’s pretty much the definition of marketing. Marketing is two things, it’s how to make the sale easy, is one purpose, and the other one is to facilitate relationships. And that’s awesome.

AP: And I think it’s through relationships you can also understand about the value that you can give as well. I know my website, I think it’s made me want to-, as I said before, a website is like your accountability partner. It makes you want to better yourself. It makes you want to have awesome stories so you can then share them on your site.

BJB: Yes! So true.

AP: There have been times where I’ve done things that I did more for the story than just for any other reason, and it was just brilliant. Like, for example, one of the funnest posts that I got to write was when I-, last summer, my friend, who’s in Dublin, in Ireland, was having a birthday party, and he was going to go Go-Kart racing, and I was like, “Oh, I’d love to come. Unfortunately, I have work, and I have the Irish Sea in the way, so-,”

BJB: Oh, no.

AP: “So I’m not going to be able to attend.” And he just put on Facebook, he just said, “Get a ticket. Get a plane ticket.” And I think he just did it as an off-the-cuff remark, just, “Haha.” And I thought, “You know what? I actually work right next door to an airport.”

BJB: No way!

AP: So I can see the runway from my desk. And I thought, “You know what? I’m young.” Thanks to what I preach on Magical Penny, I had the money to be able to get a plane ticket, and that’s-, sorry, I just want to interrupt and say, that’s one of the things I want to just pound into everybody. I’m not all about saying, “Don’t spend money. Oh, you need to spend money on investing, don’t spend it on normal life.” No! I’m just all about spending money consciously, and getting away from the automatic, getting away from the default, so you can take a step back and go, “You know what? I’m spending money on these takeaways, I don’t really like them that much. I’m spending money driving all the time, I’m going to do something else. I’m spending all my money going out partying every night.” If you’re having fun partying every single night and spending all that money, then that’s great. But if you ever find yourself going through the motions, and spending money on things that you’re not actually really enjoying but you’re just doing it because it’s a habit, just take a step back and think, “Am I actually getting this enjoyment in the same way that I should be, or is it having an impact on my life that I want?” And that means that you don’t have to pinch your pennies and never go out and never have fun. It means you have more money ready for when you want to do something impulsive and fun, and not necessarily good with your money.

BJB: Yes, that is awesome.

AP: So with that background, I thought, “You know what? I’m just going to do it.” So I bought a plane ticket, this was like at the weekend, and then on the Tuesday, I finished work at a normal time-, well, not at the normal time. I tried to sneak out a smidgen earlier. I’m not sure-, I work in a place that does require a lot of work, and whilst it’s brilliant and I love it, I did need to sneak out a

little bit earlier. So I ran across the road to the airport, got on a plane, took off. I could still see all the cars in the car park as the plane flew over.

BJB: That is awesome.

AP: I was in Dublin, like, 45 minutes later.

BJB: Awesome! That is so awesome.

AP: And then I went and surprised my friends and said, “Surprise! Look at me, I’m here!” Went Go-Karting and had a great time with all my friends in Dublin, and then flew back in the morning the next day, so I got a plane at seven in the morning the next day, and I was at my desk before 9am with all my work colleagues none the wiser. Yes, it was a little impulsive. Was it the best thing to do with my money? I actually think it was, because I got to see my friends, I made sure that my spending was in line, that I wasn’t just spending everything I earned. I’d taken a step back, I wanted to do fun things, as well as save for the future, and that’s also the great thing about investing automatically and regularly, and automatically saving. It means that with the other money you can spend it guilt-free. You don’t have to feel really bad about, “Oh, I’m spending all this money on this,” because you know you’ve got your bases covered. And also, it got me a great story for Magical Penny.

BJB: I love this. So what is the name of that one? So I can have a link for everybody who’s listening to this podcast?

AP: So that post where I talk about my crazy evening in Ireland was actually called ‘My Crazy Evening in Ireland.’

BJB: (laughs) That’s awesome.

AP: So it’s MagicalPenny, and I just talk about, “Would you like to have the freedom to visit friends in another country, on a whim? It’s not about income level, it’s all about planning,” and in a way it wasn’t even planning so I could afford to go to Ireland. It was just planning to make sure that I can have spontaneity in my life.

BJB: That’s awesome. I love it, I love that title. So as we begin to wrap up, first of all, how can people contact you? And do you do consulting? Is there a way for people to work with you, or is that not what you do?

AP: I’d love to do consulting. I already consult with a lot of my friends for free, and I’ve helped my friends start investing, and the amazing thing is when they actually follow through and they actually do it, and I’m just sitting there in awe just thinking, “Wow. They’ve actually listened to me.” So yes, it’s fun.

Obviously, I just want to tell everyone, I’m not a financial professional. I don’t have any qualifications; I’ve just learnt by doing, but I also want to say that I think the idea that you have to go to a financial planner or a financial advisor is a little bit misleading. A lot of the time, especially with the Internet and the fact that you can learn it-, and even if you’re not really that interested, it’s not that hard. If I had to tell people in just a few sentences what I think they should do, I’d say, “Make sure you have some money set aside if things were to go wrong with your income, with your job.” There are lots of different benchmarks out there – some people say three months’ worth of expenses, five months, ten months. Have whatever you’re comfortable with. Also have some other cash around, because it’s always good to have money in the bank just to-, because you don’t know what life’s going to throw at you.

But if you are thinking you’re relatively comfortable, you have a little bit of money around, I’d say start investing some of the minimum amounts, like maybe perhaps it’s $100 or £50 in some index funds or tracker funds, from a fund supermarket. Essentially a fund supermarket is what some of the big financial institutions call their platform where you can go in and compare lots of different mutual funds, like you were shopping in a supermarket. So you can say, “Well, I’d like this one that invests in an index of all the UK companies.” So, for example, I invest, say, £50 a month in the FTSE All-Share. So the FTSE stands for Financial Times Stock Exchange, and that essentially buys every single share in the UK, every single share of every single company in the UK. There’s other indexes, like the FTSE 100 which is the top 100 shares. There’s American ones, there’s the New York Stock Exchange, there’s the Dow Jones. You can just pick any index you want – I’d pick an index rather than a mutual fund, because the fees attached to them are cheaper because you’re only really paying a computer to make the trades as opposed to paying for investment expertise. Paying for investment expertise is a whole other podcast.

BJB: That’s awesome.

AP: Where there’s lots of people debating whether, “Can people over time successfully invest in the stock market, or at the cost that they charge for investing, do they ever-, can they ever recoup that?” And there’s a whole other debate on that, really. I don’t really want to go into that now.

BJB: Amazing.

AP: One brilliant website that I’d say, if anyone’s interested in this side of the debate, would be AdamPiplica.

[50:00]

So essentially he talks about how index funds, which just track the market, are just over time, because they have such low expense ratios and they read what the market is, they do better because, say, 90% of funds done by humans don’t actually beat the benchmark, which is like the market, than if you just got a computer to buy every single share.

BJB: How about that.

AP: It’s fascinating, and I think, as with anything, it’s finding the right line. I don’t want to bore all your listeners and all your readers about the technicalities of investing in a mutual fund versus an index fund, but-,

BJB: But the index fund’s a great way to start.

AP: Definitely it’s a great way to start. You can’t go wrong because that just invests in everything and it’s relatively cheap, and you can always graduate to other investing styles as soon as you get more cocky and think that you’re better.

BJB: (laughs) That’s awesome.

AP: I’d still say, I’m being cheeky, I don’t think you can do better than an index, because who has time to-, who either has time to do research themselves, or who thinks that one person is going to be the whole rest of the market? Yes, you have some outliers, like Warren Buffett, and some famous people, but even they are the minorities, and how do you know you’re going to pick the best one? So it’s a risk and a gamble itself. So yes, stick with index funds. Just invest a little bit, it doesn’t have to be a lot. You don’t have to be talking thousands of pounds. Some index funds do have limits, like in America the number one cheapest tends to be Vanguard.

BJB: Oh, cool.

AP: And they do have a minimum of I think it’s $3,000.

BJB: Wow, so you’ll have to have some saved on the side if you’re starting out.

AP: For Vanguard at least. Whilst they are the cheapest, they do have that thing. However, I don’t think that is necessarily a bad thing, because it gets you in the habit of being putting a small amount aside anyway, and within a short period of time in the grand scheme of things, you will have accumulated that.

And also, just like if you’re training for a marathon, the fact that you’ve been running and you know you can keep running and not stop for quite a while, it’s a mind game. The biggest obstacle in investing is yourself, and the fact that if you prove to yourself that you’ve managed to consistently put a certain amount away, in a savings account, shows that you’ll be able to keep that going when you start moving to investments. Also, I don’t have all the answers, and it’s really easy to talk about all these things, but the bottom line is actually doing something, so I just hope that people, rather than just feeling inspired, actually do something. Even if they just put a small amount away in an envelope and just say, “You know what? I’m not going to spend this.” And I’d also love to hear from anyone, if anyone wants to contact me.

BJB: Yes, how can they get a hold of you?

AP: Well, my email is adam@magicalpenny.com, so that’s really easy. Or on a contact form at MagicalPenny.com. I’m also on Facebook and Twitter under LoveYourWorkLife.com, and you can also follow my personal Twitter feed at ove Your Work Life. I’d love to hear from anyone, because the world is such a small place, and it’s full of awesome people.

BJB: It is.

AP: And I want to hear from as many awesome people as possible.

BJB: Yes, everybody shout at Adam. Hit him up on Twitter, my favourite place to be. Adam, thank you so, so much, and folks, all the links that we’ve mentioned on this podcast are going to be on LoveYourWorkLife.com where this podcast is located, so if you’re listening from iTunes and you didn’t catch those URLs, head on over to LoveYourWorkLife and you can click the links, and I’ll take you there directly. Adam, thank you so, so much for your time.

 

Listen to the audio at Love Your Work Life

 


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