The reason I started this blog was to help young adults and millennials get a better understanding of money and personal finance. In addition to giving my own stories and tips, I decided to add a new element to Money Goody. Interviews!
Through my new series, Money Talks (pretty clever right?) I'm going to be interviewing personal finance experts and bloggers to get their tips and opinions on money, budgeting, investing and personal finances. My hope is that their stories and advice will give you a new perspective, motivate you and help you learn a little bit more than you knew yesterday.
For the first episode of Money Talks, I'm interviewing Josh Holt of BigLaw Investor.
Josh is a private equity lawyer that has a unique story. Having graduated college with over $200,000 in student loans and a pretty hefty salary, he set out to learn as much as he could about personal finance and investing. On his site, Josh shares advice aimed at biglaw attorneys, but a lot of the content is applicable to everyone. I highly suggest heading over to his site to learn more about him and to read through some of his extremely helpful posts.
What got you interested in personal finance and investing?
Rather than thinking about what got me interested in personal finance and investing, I wonder what got you and your readers interested. We all came to this blog post from different paths, but as they say, all roads lead to Rome, right? I could tell stories about how from an early age I’ve been interested in finance, or how I once ordered 10,000 CDs delivered to my dorm room, but the truth is that we’re probably here for more or less the same reason: the desire to have control over our lives. I know that’s what got me interested in finances.
A lot of young professionals limit themselves to just their employer's 401(k) program to save for retirement. You're a big proponent of the Roth IRA. Can you break down the advantages of opening a Roth IRA account while you're young?
Most of the readers on my blog have a high income, so I encourage them to max out all forms of retirement accounts. The top priority is always the 401(k) because the tax savings are too good to pass up. However, the Roth IRA plays a crucial rule in any savings strategy.
- During your early years, the Roth IRA can double as an emergency fund. Why? Because you can always withdraw your contributions tax-free. Since you fund a Roth IRA with after-tax money, the government isn’t going to penalize you or tax you for withdrawing your contributions. That doesn’t mean you should withdraw those funds, but you can sleep well at night after making a $5,000 contribution to a Roth IRA knowing that in case of an emergency you have access to the money.
- Like all retirement accounts, Roth IRA annual contribution limits are “use it or lose it”, so you need to take advantage each year or risk not being able to contribute that year’s annual allowance ever again. For this reason, especially when you’re starting out, you should make it a habit to maximize your contributions to these accounts.
- Opening a Roth IRA account when you’re young means you’ll be able to take advantage of life’s little windfalls by making a contribution to the Roth IRA rather than spending the money. There’s a lot of friction each step of the way when it comes to saving, so why not open the account now and start funding it with some nominal contribution like $100 a month? You’ll be setting yourself up to make a good decision when Aunt Sally randomly gives you an unexpected $1,000 gift. You’ll know this is the right move for you if you’re resisting opening the account today because you think $100 a month is too small to really make a difference. If you feel that way reading this sentence, that means I’m talking to YOU.
- I saved the best for last. The real reason to open a Roth IRA is because when you’re older and richer, you want to manage your tax diversification like a boss. This means having many pots of money consisting of both pre-tax and after-tax dollars. You can use the money from your pre-tax account to fund the initial part of your lifestyle, paying tax at the lowest brackets, and then start pulling from your post-tax money once you hit a higher tax bracket. Next year you’ll do the same thing again. By mixing and matching, you ensure that you’re able to withdraw your pre-tax money at a very low tax rate.
What one piece of financial advice would you give to the person who just graduated college and is making a moderate salary ~$60K?
My one piece of advice would be that there’s much more than one thing that you should be doing with your money. It’d be a fallacy to think that there’s one principle above all which matters. The truth is it all matters. The lattes matter. Your job prospects matter. Your net worth matters. Paying yourself first matters. Living below your means matters. All the cliches exist for a reason. It’s your job to start learning.
If you could go back in time and change one thing you did financially, what would it be?
I should have never left that two-bedroom two-bath apartment on the a major street in Brooklyn across from the Trader Joe’s. I had been living with one random roommate after another and finally decided after a breakup that I wanted to get my own place.
Rather than moving out, I should have moved into the smaller bedroom and put the other on AirBnB. I could have lived rent free for a long time that way, with the minor hassle of dealing with random guests throughout the week. Given that each room had its own bathroom, it afforded a ton of privacy, and I would have made a good host and probably enjoyed meeting different people. I’m sure I could have generated enough money from that one room to cover rent for the entire apartment.
You have $1,000 to invest. What would you do with it?
VTSAX. Why make things complicated? You can own a slice of every company in the United States.
If you could recommend one book to young professionals (doesn't necessarily have to be finance related) what would it be?
Pick up a copy of The Obstacle is The Way by Ryan Holiday. It’ll teach you about Stoicism and to learn how your greatest challenges are actually your greatest strengths.
A big thanks to Josh for taking the time to share his insights. If you enjoyed this interview, head over to BigLawInvestor.com.