Today’s post is a quick interview with Gary Grewal, author of Financial Fives, a new personal finance book that shares 325 ways to save, earn, and thrive with your money. Gary was kind enough to share his thoughts and background with you, The Best Interest’s readers.
Gary! Thanks for being here. Give us a quick intro about who you are and what you do?
Hi folks, I’m Gary Grewal.
I grew up in Northern California (NOT the same as Silicon Valley) in a nice middle-class neighborhood. That neighborhood certainly had the “haves and have nots”, even just on my street. Some kids in high school drove $50,000 Mercedes cars while others drove rusted old Ford Tempos (anyone remember those good old days?).
The income discrepancy was accelerated leading up to the housing crisis, as people were flashing around their money like there’s no tomorrow. You couldn’t help but wonder, “what do they do to earn that much money?”
During career day in high school, everyone wanted to be a real estate agent because their parents who worked in the trade were making $50,000 per month!
Though that all came crashing down during the 2008 Financial Crisis, that exuberant experience cemented my passion for personal finance and learning as much as I could to be successful. I ditched plans to attend dental school, graduated college early, and started working so I could contribute to a retirement plan. I spent time after work at Barnes and Noble devouring personal finance books (I still assumed libraries were too depressing at this point, practically living in them during my senior year to finish on time).
Almost a decade later I am now a financial planner and I run a zero-waste moving box rental company as a side hustle, along with working on Financial Fives.
Tell us about Financial Fives – what can a reader expect from reading this book?
Readers can expect a friendly format, unintimidating narrative, and engaging topics that help them effortlessly incorporate ways to reach FI.
Financial Fives was written because I felt there isn’t a book out there that is easy to follow, concise, and also densely packed with useful advice and actionable tips at the turn of each page.
I intentionally wanted this book to be different from all the other ones on the shelves by providing bite-size guidance on a variety of topics that most relate to a millennial with ambition. Each chapter has 5 pieces of advice and is no more than ~5 pages long.
My hope is that a busy parent can flip back and forth on chapter’s that they are interested in while folding laundry, or a busy professional with a side hustle can squeeze in a chapter or two while in line at the grocery store (while reading the chapter on “Saving Money at the Grocery Store” of course).
Whether it’s learning about steps to negotiate rent on the subway ride home, or finding out how to save on festivals and events while waiting for your lunch order, Financial Fives is meant to be an accessible, handy toolkit.
The goal of the book is also to provide easy-to-follow tips in areas of personal finance that are applicable to the average reader, to absorb ideas effectively, and also refer back to for easy reading. This book can help readers retire early, negotiate a pay raise, save money on home renovations, save money on your wedding, buy a home, become debt-free, and so much more.
Unique chapters on things like saving money on dating, getting the most money out of travel and hotels, even how to make the most of launching a business idea.
Very cool! Thanks for breaking that down.
So…how is your message affected by your career as a financial professional? How does that differ from the hordes of amateur bloggers?
That is a great question, and one that I’ve thought about but haven’t been asked, so thanks Jesse!
I would say my message is affected in the sense that I am careful about what I say and conservative in my recommendations. You won’t see me recommending any stocks or cryptocurrencies. Nor will I be really giving any targeted investment advice.
I have discussed ways to learn about investing, but never endorse any “financial gurus” or create affiliate links to brokerages. Many blogs are focused on dividends or show their investment portfolio, which I think can be immensely helpful to give readers a roadmap. However, even though I have the same disclosures as anyone else, I don’t ever want to risk my career by giving specific advice on my blog.
It is totally different writing a blog post and writing an email to one client. Giving generic advice is fine, as I have done in guest posts for other blogs.
I would also say that many readers look to bloggers as if they were their own financial advisors. That’s not the case. I focus my blog on strategies that have worked for me, using things I’ve learned both in my profession and on my own.
That makes sense to me. And I’d say The Best Interest tries to toe that line too—provide sound advice to readers without assuming we know each individual person’s financial plans.
Let me take you in a new direction. Imagine you’re talking to an 18-year old who knows nothing about personal finance & investing. What are the top three things you’d tell them?
The first thing I’d yell at them is “Enjoy it while it lasts, this is the best time of your life!”
While there are certainly times I would trade anything to go back to being 18, I recognize it’s not all it fantasized to be. There are a lot of pressures and hidden struggles that 18-year-olds have to deal with. Everything from a hostile household, affording college, fitting in, and figuring out who you are.
But then again, at 18 you have so much life to look forward to. I used to joke with my friends that being a teenager is being old enough to really enjoy life and live in the moment while being young enough to get away with little-to-no responsibilities.
So, the first thing I’d say to an 18-year-old is to have fun, it always works out in the end!
With that being said, here are the top three financial things I’d tell them:
- Create a Savings Account – And fund it with any money you get from birthdays, graduation, jobs, etc. At this stage in your life, you probably have few bills outside of gas or a cell phone. Use that fact to your advantage. Depending on your familial relationships and support system, that savings account will give you choices in the future. It may allow you to go on that service trip where you find your passion or it might allow you to live in a safer part of your college town. Even if you don’t plan to go to college, a savings account can help you with a deposit on your first apartment or seed money for your business.
- Avoid Consumer Debt – This one is simple. The better spending habits you create now, the easier your life will be. Always pay the full balance on your credit card. Don’t take out personal loans. Don’t co-sign on a car loan. Stay humble and save for what you need. There will be plenty of opportunities for debt in the future.
Invest as Soon as You Can – Surely you’ve seen the charts that show someone investing at 25 versus someone investing at 35. Even though the 25-year-old invests way less money, they end with much more money due to the power of compounding returns. Just look back at stocks 20 years ago. One day you will be 38, wishing you had started investing at 18. I don’t know a better time to take risks than when you are young and have few obligations.
I love that advice, Gary. One more juicy one – what was your biggest financial mistake, and what did you learn from it?
Oh man, putting me on the spot here!
I actually wrote a post on my biggest financial mistakes, and I would have to go with buying a brand-new car. I knew exactly what I was getting into and that I would lose money with depreciation, and yet I still did it. I was 24 years old and wanted to feel like a boss walking into a dealership, writing a check, and driving home in that new car smell.
I wish I had a wise uncle to slap me upside the head and tell me to invest or buy a rental property, but like I say in the post, you live and learn. Life is not a smooth escalator; it’s a hike, and sometimes you think you can clear the gap between the rocks, only to get your knee scraped.
But you probably will think twice when you have to do it again!
Gary, thanks so much for sharing those thoughts with us.
And readers – if you want to hear more from Gary, check out his new book – Financial Fives!