My Journey So Far - Distilled Dollar

My Journey So Far

My journey in Personal Finance began the summer after my first Finance course as an undergrad. During that semester, I became fascinated by the material and wanted to learn more quickly.

As the youngest of four siblings, I did what I often do in these types of situations; I leaned on my older brother for some advice. My brother handed me a biography of Warren Buffett.

My First Business Book

The next few days were a blur as I dove into the book and absorbed as much as possible.

This book opened up the doorway to learning about financial habits from one of the richest men in the world.

Up to this point, I had mimicked my financial habits off of my parents and family friends. Growing up middle class meant inheriting the financial habits typically practiced by those in this income bracket.

One such habit is not talking about money. For my family, the subject of money was taboo because it often related to stress. As a result, I was left with no playbook.

I used to believe that having extra money laying around meant there was something wrong with you, as if people who had money were bad people. I would spend every penny of summer paychecks and avoid saving or investing any of my hard earned cash.

It would take some time until I was able to move away from these old mindsets and perspectives of money and move towards building new, valuable habits.

My old view of life had always been short term. I asked myself, ‘What classes am I taking next semester?’, or “Should I study abroad next year?’.

But here I was reading about a man who thinks long term – in 10 year or even 20+ year increments. A man who doesn’t waste a dollar today because, he knows how compound interest will make that dollar worth more in the future.

I wouldn’t have described it as such back then, but I was breaking into a new phase of financial independence. Often, the most difficult phase to break away from.

I could not believe the amount of new information I was absorbing – especially in the field of Personal Finance.

One specific lesson I took away from the book came from a single quote that hit me real hard. When discussing Warren Buffett’s early escapades at making money in his early years (from collecting lost golf balls to delivering newspapers), the author highlighted a critical fact.

By the time Warren was sixteen, “he had read at least 100 books on business.”

I recall putting down the book and going for a run to clear my head.

In some ways, I felt like I had missed out by not having been exposed to the discipline of Personal Finance earlier in my life.

On the other hand, I also felt excited and optimistic because I was learning about new tools and mindsets I could use to better my own circumstances.

After finishing the book, I knew my journey would never be the same.

I now had enough to lay down my own foundation for intelligent investing. Granted, I had zero cash on hand and, similar to my classmates, I was accumulating student loans at a frightening rate.

I was starting to see the immediate impacts that derive from learning about personal finance.

Turbulent Times

The recession hit my family hard. Income dried up and my scholarships did not cover all of my college expenses.

I witnessed firsthand the stress and chaos a tough financial situation creates for a family.

It made sense for me to continue learning about Personal Finance. I didn’t want to end up in the same financial situation as my parents.

I needed to find different ways to save and invest my money.

Graduating Into the Real World

Fast forward a few years, and at least a hundred books later, I went on to wrap up my bachelor’s degree in accounting and become a CPA.

At this stage in my story, my knowledge of Personal Finance has been a culmination of professional experience, initial college coursework, and reading books.

A lot of books.

My own financial track record has not been perfect, but I do believe my ability to save and invest has been better than the vast majority of my peers.

Despite my profession as an accountant, I credit the advice I received from all those books for giving me this advantage.

Within 36 months, I went from having zero assets and a negative net worth of nearly -45k (thank you student loans) to having a positive net worth of nearly 40k. My starting salary out of school was 56k and I’ve worked myself up to earning nearly 72k this past year. I did not receive any inheritance or major windfalls during those first three years. (Full disclaimer: I did move back in with my parents for six months when I first graduated which helped me save around 6k.)

For my latest New Worth update, check out the combined new worth for myself and my girlfriend here.

Why Create A Blog?

This blog is my journey in both pursuing financial independence and understanding myself throughout the process.

The purpose of being transparent via a blog is to solidify my good habits while bringing to light my bad ones. The learning aspect of blogging and sharing comments with readers is that I get to refine my approach. It also keeps me accountable and focused on hitting my financial goals.

Equally as important, I hope to help guide and educate others seeking to gain financial confidence and security.

I enjoy learning about how diligent I can be with savings and about what I value most.

Money is by no means an end that brings happiness.

To me, money represents freedom and independence. Money can open the door to being secure and feeling grounded. A friend once asked me, “Why make all that money, so you can save it?”, to which I replied, “Why spend all that money, so you need to earn it again?”

Final Thoughts on My Journey

This blog serves as an outlet for me to summarize concisely the ideas, tips, and tricks that have helped me in a way that’s easy to digest, understand, and implement in our lives.

My journey has already been highly rewarding and will continue to embolden me as I continue to gain a larger share of my financial freedom each year.

I am confident you will find value and wisdom here.

– Matt
Master Distiller

4 comments… add one
  • Ray Ray Jul 12, 2016, 6:48 am

    Nice to hear that you broke the family mould Matt.
    The financial blogging community is so open when it comes to money! It’s great! I truly believe that that’s how people learn… By hearing stories of other people’s mistakes and accomplishments.

    • Distilled Dollar Jul 21, 2016, 6:21 am

      Breaking the family and the mold of my peer group was critical. It is shocking how people tend to adopt the behaviors of those around them, even though they express a desire for change. Thankfully we can read about other examples and pull ourselves out of a rut.

      Agreed 100% – the financial blogging community is a great resource for what to do and learning from the mistakes of others.

  • Katie Nov 14, 2016, 8:19 am

    Which biography on Warren Buffet do you recommend? the link in this article is no longer working. Thanks!

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