“I’m not rich enough to hire a financial planner.” Probably sounds like you, right? That was so 2016. Gone are the days of financial planning being accessible only to silver-haired multimillionaires. CFP® professional Natalie Bacon uncovers the benefits of hiring the right financial planner and explains who you should trust with your money.
She’s also a blogger, recovering attorney, and – as she puts it- personal development junkie. Natalie has been featured in Forbes, The Huffington Post, US News World & Report, CNBC, Elite Daily, and other major publications.
We checked in with her to learn more about her experience, and this is what she has to say!
1. What’s NatalieBacon.com? Who should be reading the site?
NatalieBacon.com is what I call “the modern girl’s survival guide.” Any young woman who wants advice about her finances, career, life, or how to monetize their own blog should read it.
I know the feeling of trying to figure out your career in your twenties, while paying off student loan debt, and pursuing a personal life. On my blog, I chronicle my journey of becoming a lawyer, quitting my job and taking a 50% pay cut to become a financial planner, all while pursuing blogging on the side. I’ve paid of over $100k in student loan debt, and I passed the Certified Financial Planner examination.
I believe that life is better when you live intentionally (with your money and otherwise). So, I teach young women how to do more of that in all areas of their lives, with a specific focus on finances, career, personal development, and blogging.
2. What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learned about yourself since you started blogging?
How naïve I was about how the world works. I had no idea about entrepreneurship, capitalism at its core, and what it means to be a business owner. I’m so thankful I learned all these things from blogging (and from listening to tons of podcasts!). I also learned that anyone who is willing to put in consistent effort and be ruthlessly committed and persistent can create a successful business that allows them to achieve their financial goals and create more freedom. This is so empowering to me.
3. What are the most straightforward ways to start earning money on a blog if you’re just getting started?
I think that for the first six months of blogging, you should not monetize your blog. You should spend that time branding your blog, producing amazing content, and focusing on getting a loyal following. After six months, I think the best ways to monetize first are through advertisements, affiliate marketing, and sponsored posts. I think these ways are best because they teach you a lot about sales and marketing. Only after you really master these avenues (especially affiliate marketing), do I think you’re ready to create your own products online (e.g.: eBooks or online courses).
4. What are some benefits of having a financial planner Millennials might not be aware of? When should we be considering hiring one?
I don’t think millennials realize that hiring the right financial planner can change the trajectory of their financial life. Specific benefits of hiring a financial planner include investment management (investing in retirement accounts and other investment accounts) and financial planning (retirement planning, insurance planning, estate planning, and tax planning).
For example, the right financial planner can give you advice on whether to save and max out your retirement plans or pay off your student loans first. She can advise you on how to save money on your taxes and ensure that you have the proper insurance protections in place and estate documents executed.
The benefit of having a personal financial planner is that there is a professional telling you exactly what you should do given all of your circumstances, which I don’t think you can get from reading general information. Your situation is different than the next person’s and a financial planner recognizes that.
I have a post called 15 Questions To Ask Your Financial Advisor that can steer millennials in the right direction when knowing who to hire.
5. What are some signs of a good financial planner, and why?
A financial planner who is a fiduciary has a duty to act in your best interest. That’s why I would recommend to anyone looking for a financial planner to ask the planner whether she is a fiduciary before hiring her.
The problem for millennials is that the bigger, more well-known wealth management firms that are fee-only often have “minimums”, which means they only work with clients who have a certain amount of assets already. This leaves millennials who are struggling to get started financially stuck with financial planners who are really salesperson because they don’t have minimums and instead are paid based on what they sell (i.e. they’re not fee-only planners).
For millennials who don’t have a lot of money yet, I recommend looking at the XY Planning Network. This is an online database of fiduciary financial advisors (fee-only) specifically targeted toward millennials.
6. What decision did you make in the past that has had the biggest financial impact in your life?
My decision to go to a private university for undergrad and then to law school undoubtedly had the biggest financial impact on your life. I graduated with a whopping $206,000 of student loan debt.
Ironically, this has been the biggest blessing in disguise. If it weren’t for my debt, I wouldn’t have started my journey of learning about money, and I would’ve never started a blog. I owe my entrepreneurial passion to my student loan debt and I wouldn’t trade that for anything.
As far as a positive financial decision that has impacted my life, the biggest would be choosing to never have a credit card. I am a spender at heart, so I don’t use one (and I never have). This has enabled me to stay out of consumer debt and focus on getting out of student loan debt. I love living off cash and have never had a problem getting a hotel, renting a car, or anything else. I really don’t focus that much on credit. I think it’s more of a debt-focused mentality. I do check my credit to make sure everything is accurate on my reports, and I know I have a pretty good score because I’m paying off my student loan debt. But personally, I’m just not obsessed with having a good credit score. Instead, I’m obsessed with getting to a debt-free life and building wealth.
7. What are some trends in personal finance we should be keeping an eye on?
I think people focus too much on trends in personal finance and it gets them into trouble. Specifically, millennials who don’t know where to start tend to dabble in the latest trend without having a plan. I think good ‘ole fashioned financial advice should be the focus – get out of debt (and stay out), build a 3-6 month emergency fund, max out your retirement accounts, and continue to make more money so you can save and give generously throughout your life. If everyone did this, the world would be changed forever.
8. What is the biggest mistake you have made financially that you’d love to go back and redo?
Tough question! I am so thankful for my student loan debt because I love the world of personal finance and blogging, and I wouldn’t be here without my debt. But, I think if I’m being honest, I would go back and do college differently so my debt was a max of $50k total. I know that’s still a lot of debt, but I’ve paid off $100k already so $50k would’ve been enough to still persuade me to leave law and blog. I think I needed the debt to have a wakeup call and learn about money, but I don’t think I needed $206k to do it! And I really value my education because it taught me how to think and be a professional in the world, so I wouldn’t change that. I would just change how I paid for it.
9. What are some of your favorite money-saving strategies?
My favorite money-saving strategy is to get out of all debt except your mortgage before you do any investing (except for investing in a retirement account up to your employer match). Then, after you’re debt free, max out your retirement savings. Only after you’re maxing out your retirement savings while being debt free do I think it’s a good idea to start investing on the side in a personal brokerage account.
The mistake I see the most from really smart millennials is that they want to invest right away in a non-retirement investment account because investing is sexy. But really, they’re drowning in student loan debt and they would be better off paying off their debt.
10. Which are some digital tools you just can’t live without?
- Gmail – how I communicate and organize everything.
- GCalendar – I’m committed to intentional living (i.e. personal development and life planning), so my calendar keeps me focused on my priorities and enables me to accomplish my goals.
- Evernote – An app where I take notes about any and everything (e.g.: books I’ve read, yearly goals, copywriting strategies, blogging tips, etc.)
- Podcast app – I listen to podcasts daily (Your Move by Andy Stanley, Smart Passive Income, EntreLeadership, Knowledge For Men, The School Of Greatness, The Dave Ramsey Show, Bad With Money With Gaby Dunn).
- Chase app – for my online banking
- Personal Capital – to track my net worth
- The Skimm – to read summaries of the news
- Venmo – to exchange money with friends and family
- Social media apps – blogger life
BONUS – Anyone who wants free budget spreadsheets, net worth statements, 21 Days To A Better Budget eBook, and more money tools, visit NatalieBacon.com/freebies.
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