Planting Dollars – Best of the Best Blogger Series

Planting Dollars - Best of The Best Blogger SeriesNext, in our 42nd edition of our popular Best of the Best Blogger series, we are thrilled to have the opportunity to sit down with Ryan Schmitz from Planting Dollars.

Ryan is a another one of our ‘young turk’ bloggers that we’ll be featuring today.  As a twenty-something real estate professional by day, Ryan started blogging back in 2009 just prior to moving back to his native Wisconsin because he just couldn’t “stop talking about personal finance”.

I strongly identify with Ryan’s simple but profound philosophy, as stated on his blog:

I believe in living simply, below your means, and working hard.

What strikes me about Ryan’s philosophy is how far astray the American culture has drifted from this philosophy. While not earth-shattering in nature, this living below our means philosophy is, by and large, so conspicuously absent from the American way-of-life. Ryan lives on about $1K a month, drives a used car, does not carry debt, and above all, he “lives pretty simply”, which, from my own personal experience, seems to be the cornerstone of so many financially successful people.

He also invests over half of his income each and every month and is keenly focused on building multiple streams of income in his business ventures, yet another common tenet of financially well-off individuals. He was raised in a “frugal millionaire next door type family” that taught him how to lead a fulfilling life without having or needing to “just buy more stuff”.

My father used to tell me that, at some point or another, we all have to go through a “stuff-gathering” phase, where we find ourselves chasing bigger houses, better cars, fancier clothes, more expensive jewelry, only to be left at the end, having gathered it all, totally unfulfilled.  Twenty years ago, my Dad told me something that still rings in my ears to this very day: “The sooner all that ‘stuff’ becomes unimportant to you, the better off you’ll be.”

We sat down with Ryan recently to talk about stuff-gathering, The Matrix and the Green Bay Packers.

What inspired you to start Planting Dollars?

Planting Dollars LogoIt was an outlet after I graduated college to get my thoughts out about personal finance. I’ve read hundreds of books (about personal finance) and have always been the guy people ask money advice from so why not write about it online? At the time I was also teaching myself how to build websites so I thought it’d be a great combination. If I can help a few people get their finances back on track that’d be great. Likewise I saw several other bloggers in the niche making money so I thought It’d be a great way to make extra money.

You’re a real estate management professional by day and a personal finance blogger by night. How do you find the time to attend to the heavy workload that comes with full-time employment and blogging as a ‘moonlighter’?

I guess I don’t see it as a heavy workload since I enjoy doing both quite a bit. Where I live there isn’t a long commute, but I spend about 40 hours a week at the full time job, about 20 a week working on a portfolio of websites I own and the rest is free. That still leaves 108 hours in the week to do whatever I’d like. It also helps that I’m a single guy without kids. I give kudos to the bloggers who work long hours at their full time jobs and have kids on top of that. They work much harder than I do.

The American way of life seems to run counter to a “living simply and below your means” mentality. From my experience, financially successful people ALWAYS live below their means. Why is that mindset so hard for Americans to get their arms around?

I think this is a lot like the movie “The Matrix” where most people are still plugged in and think that the things that matter most are new cars, big houses, and whatever shiny new object is “in.” They can’t seem to separate themselves from the things they own, emotionally and physically.

The constant marketing message, cultural status cues, and a lack of money management education make it hard for anyone to “unplug” from the mainstream ideas in America. I think a lot of people aren’t happy just being themselves without needing to demonstrate their worth, that’s why brand names are so popular. People pay $50 for a shirt with somebody else’s name on it, that doesn’t make sense to me. I’ll buy a pack of white t’s, be my own brand, and invest the $40 difference I just saved.

The moment you step out of needing consumer items and realize that you already have everything you need (shelter, food, clothing) and that you can live better on minimum wage here (in America) than billions of people do in other countries, is the moment you essentially set yourself free.

What are 3 of your best “frugal millionaire next door” tips that our spendthrift American brethren might find useful?

  1. Avoid consumer debt like the plague – Even Warren Buffet says he can’t beat 18% interest with picking investments so you’re never going to be able to justify carrying high interest rate debt.
  2. Learn to cook – I can’t remember the last time I went out to eat, and that alone saves me a couple grand a year. I eat healthy, have learned a skill, and have more money to show for it. Not to mention, it comes in handy with impressing the ladies. I can’t believe how packed restaurants are these days. I work about 60 hours a week and still find time to prepare food myself, why can’t other people?
  3. Diversify your income – When many people lost their jobs a few years back they lost 100% of their income as well. I can’t remember where I read this, but something like half the people in America are living paycheck to paycheck. That’s way too risky in my book. Create multiple streams of income such as a part time job, side business, passive investments, or real estate rentals and use the additional streams to boost your cash reserves or purchase more investments. On a similar note, now is probably the best time to buy a house in the past eighty years, so if you can afford it, buy a house from a bank at a discounted price, and it’ll be the easiest money you’ve ever made when the market recovers.

Describe 2-3 of the most influential business people who’ve had the most impact on you?

I’d have to say that both my dad and Warren Buffett have had the most impact in terms of business and often life lessons. I say Warren Buffett because the guy is so practical, loves what he does, is giving away the majority of his wealth, doesn’t give into fads and has a great moral fabric. I’ve read almost every book about him and he just seems so grounded and genuine, yet intelligent that he possesses a lot of traits I’d like to have.

And as for my dad, he’s had the strongest influence on me from a business perspective because I saw him go from no business experience to running a successful real estate investment business based solely on determination and sheer hard work. It showed me that you don’t need a college degree or credentials to become successful, just ambition, determination, and the drive to accomplish your goals.

As a Wisconsin resident, it’s a pretty safe bet to assume that you’re a Green Bay Packers fan, right? What happened to your boys this year? Too much of a good thing?

Oh my gosh! That was such a terrible game to watch, probably the most frustrating game ever. I think the Giants oiled up the football because I simply can’t explain so many dropped passes and fumbles! They’ll win it all next year though. 🙂

Thanks again to Ryan for sharing his story, his philosophy and his outlook for the future. Best of luck to you Ryan in all your endeavors!

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