In the 21st edition of our Best of the Best Blogger series, we spoke with Bret Frohlich of Hope To Prosper.
Bret is truly the poster child for the American Dream. He’s what I refer to as a “throwback” American with a very simple (not necessarily easy) formula for success. He has been saving and investing his entire adult life and his success has been rooted in, well, simply keeping things simple.
As lifelong savers and investors themselves, Bret’s parents provided the crucial imprint for his financial philosophy, which can be summed up neatly in the following 3 tenets:
- Put an honest day of work in every day
- Spend less than you earn
- Invest a portion of what you save
Now, things haven’t all been financial rainbows and roller skates for Bret. He’s looked into that deep, dark, financial abyss, just as many of us have, overwhelmed by massive revolving debt, stuck in low-paying jobs with anxious spouses watching and wondering.
Despite the difficulties that Bret faced along the way, he had faith, he kept things simple and he stuck with the things he learned from his parents. Today, Bret owns a home near the ocean in one of the most desirable places to live in Southern California with a great job, manageable expenses and a few bucks in the bank for retirement.
We sat down with Bret recently to talk about saving, investing and figuring out how to raise a family in a Southern California beach community on a single income.
Q: What was your inspiration behind HopeToProsper.com? Be specific.
My inspiration for starting a blog was to try to help people get started investing. Even though the savings rate has risen from -1% when I started my blog to around 5% now, most of the people I know arent saving anything for their future. I have been saving and investing since I was 21 years old, so I have a lot of practical knowledge and experience to share. Most important, I just wanted to encourage people to get started. Its not that difficult, but a lot of people are scared or confused.
Q: Youve described how your parents, including your two Dads, have had such a huge impact on your life. With two grown children of your own, how often do you find yourself sounding like your own father(s) when talking to your kids about money?
I have a saying about talking to kids (and young adults), Its kind of like pouring water on a rock; it takes a while for it to sink in. My kids can look forward to many years of me repeating this message, until I can see that they get it. The financial future is more tenuous for young people than I can remember. It is more important than ever for them to make wise choices.
Q: Of all the advice youve received, whats the most impactful personal finance advice that your parents have given you?
A: Both of my parents (and my Step-Dad) have given me an enormous amount of helpful advice, but it was the example they set that had the biggest impact on me. When you are young all you really hear your parent say is blah, blah, blah. But, when you see them make smart financial moves, its the example that grabs your attention and makes you want to emulate their success.
Here are some of the things I watched my parents do:
- My Dad invested a high percentage of his income in mutual funds so he could retire 10 years early.
- My Mom and Step-Dad accumulated 3 paid off houses to help fund their retirement comfortably.
- My Mom went to night school while raising us, got a business degree and started her own business, which she sold at retirement.
- My Mom and Step-Dad started mutual funds and gave savings bonds to each of their 20+ grand kids, to encourage them to save and invest.
Its pretty hard for me to slack off with examples like that. Most people arent nearly as lucky in receiving good financial advice from their parents. This is a big reason I wanted to become a resource and help people.
Q: Youve talked about the book The Richest Man In Babylon and its influence on you. Why is such simple wealth-building advice like spend less than you earn so difficult for Americans to grasp?
As for the age-old question of why people spend more than they earn, thats easy to answer. There is an enormous amount of time, money and brain power spent to separate people from their money. Things that were wants a couple of years ago are now perceived as needs, thanks to advertising. From the TV commercials for expensive consumer items to rules for how much you should spend on diamond rings, the advertisers are winning and consumers are losing. I just read debt is now among the most aggressively marketed products in history.
This has led many Americans to have expectations that vastly exceed their incomes. Working-class folks expect to have a big house, two new vehicles, flat-screen TVs, dinners out and nice vacations. Their kids expect cars, laptops, cell phones, a college education and a dream wedding. Managing these expectations realistically is the difference between living in debt and saving for your future. People need to regain control of their finances and ignore those who benefit from their spending.
Q: Youve been saving and investing for 25 years. With all of the financial demands that come with living in Southern California, how has raising a family on a single income in Southern California impacted your saving and investing philosophy?
No matter where you live, how much you make or how many kids you have, there is no practical substitute for saving and investing. Even in the most challenging financial times I saved money and I was very glad I did. Now that I make a lot more and our expenses are low, I save even more. Its also very important to avoid payments. They are a killer when your income stops.
Q: Youre an IT manager by trade. How does an IT guy become a personal finance blogger?
I’d like to thank Bret again for taking the time and sharing his experiences with us. There’s remarkable wisdom in “sticking to your knitting” and keeping things simple and Bret’s story is proof of just that.
Thanks again for sharing your story with us Bret.