Simple Inspiration Interview with Jim Wang

Jim Wang

This week I am happy to have an oldie but goodie with us.  I am not sure if Jim will like me calling him old because he is not.  But he has blogged for a long time and some consider him one of the godfathers in personal finance.

I am sure many of you know Jim Wang.  He started Bargineering and is creating a new site  The new site is a personal finance blog focused on helping readers navigate major life events, overcome financial challenges, and do it all with as little wasted effort as possible. For example, you won’t just learn what’s in your credit score but the exact steps you take to improve it so you can qualify for a lower mortgage interest rate. We all have goals, he will help you reach them as quickly and with minimal wasted effort.

Let’s see what Jim has been up to and his tips to help you simplify your finances:

What event lead you to start Bargaineering?

If I had to pick, it was probably starting my first job. I suddenly had a great appreciation for how complicated money management was and now the stakes were much greater. Up until then, I had summer jobs and internships but never earned as much as I did working full-time. That was the biggest push.

How did creating this site help you with your finances?

It helped keep me accountable and it helped me learn. As I wrote about topics, readers would point out mistakes or misinterpretations, which taught me a lot. They also showed me how there were a lot of different points of view and that personal finance was more emotion than math. It helped me understand my own behavior within that framework.

What area of your financial life needed the most help?

Like many young professionals, planning for the future. As a kid, long term planning meant a single year. If you were really far looking, it was four years – the time it takes to graduate high school or college. Planning for 40 years and trying to see what life would be like with kids, with a new house, and other life changes was a very big challenge.

Describe your financial life 5 years ago to compare to now?

The biggest difference was in our family, we now have two kids compared to zero. That’s a big change all around. Outside of that, the numbers are bigger.

What steps have you taking to improve your financial life?

Spending more time planning and preparing, less time reacting and taking action. As you get older, you realize that it’s far better to be deliberate than it is to be fast. When you’re young, faster is almost always better; not so as you get older!

What was your biggest financial challenge or roadblock?

I was fortunate that I didn’t get into credit card debt as a young person, too many people fall into the trap of thinking they can buy now and pay for it later. It’s hard enough working for a boss, it’s even harder when you have no choice because you owe a bank some money. That said, I had significant student loan debt that I had to pay off early on in my professional career. It was low interest, under 3%, but it was a sizable sum.

 How did you overcome this challenge or roadblock?

When you have an anchor around your neck, you sacrifice as much as you can to get rid of it. Like every other “I paid off $XX,XXX in debt” story, I spent the first few years of working living like I was still in college, saving the minimum for retirement, and paying down that loan.

How much of your personal finances have you automated?

As much as I can, credit cards and bills are automatically paid, I just get the bill notifications so I can tell if anything is amiss. When I get the notifications, I scan my statements to see if there’s anything I don’t recognize.

What percentage of your income are you saving?

I don’t know exactly, I focus more on making more money and being smart about where I spend it.

What’s your best savings tip?

Always have a savings goal in mind and use it to make decisions. Do you want to buy X or be closer to achieving that goal? Without tradeoffs, you’re just restricting yourself and that’s not sustainable, especially when your willpower is weakest.

What advice or tips would you give to others who want to simplify their financial life?

Just start cutting things out. Start with things you haven’t used in a year, then things you haven’t used in six months, etc. You’d be surprised how much stuff you accumulate because you “might” need it.

Here’s one very simple step – carry a smaller wallet or purse. I went from a regular wallet to a money clip. I got rid of half the stuff inside, those loyalty cards and all that other junk. I thought maybe I’d miss it so I made sure I left those all in the car, which is close enough that I’d be able to get to it if I needed it. I never did. Not once.

What book, blog, or podcast would you suggest to someone who is looking to simplify or improve their finances?

Ramit Sethi’s I Will Teach You To Be Rich – it’s actionable and uses your own psychology to benefit you. There’s a reason it’s a NY Times bestseller and it’s not because I contributed to it. J

If money was not a concern, what would you do for fun?

Exactly what I’m doing now.

Do you have an emergency fund established, if so how did you determine the amount needed to fund it?

Yes, six months of expenses. It’s actually a holdover from when I was working in the defense industry, I tried to figure out how much I would need if I was fired and settled on six months. Since then, I kept it at that multiple but my expenses increased so the dollar amount is greater.

What app or tool helped you the most when it came to simplifying?

I drew a financial map and it helped me understand exactly how complicated my financial accounts were. Then I slowly pared it back, starting with accounts I rarely touched all the way until I only have a few today.

What are your current financial goals?

I don’t have strictly financial goals, they’re all associated with business goals I’d like to achieve.

Are you on track to reach your financial goals you set for this year?

My goals aren’t confined to a single year but they’re on pace.

Any other thoughts you would like to share with others who are looking to simplify?

There’s something in software known as technical debt. It’s when software gets so complicated that it’s much more complicated and expensive to make changes.

If your financial system is too complicated, it becomes expensive to make changes. That expense could be time, stress, or actual money – but it all stems from being too complicated. Simple things are easier to understand, easier to maintain, and often work better.

Jim thanks for your tips and thoughts on how to simplify. 

Jim always provides good content so check out his new site Wallet Hacks.  I am sure there will be many tips and ideas to help you with your finances.

You can also follow him on twitter @wangafific.

To read previous interviews in the series click below

If you are interested in sharing how you have simplified your financial life, send me an email and I will follow up with you.  Enjoy the rest of your week. Til next time, take one step at a time to simplify.

Simple Inspiration Interview featuring Barbara Friedberg

Barbara Friedberg


Welcome to this week’s Simple Inspiration Interview.  With this week’s stock market volatility, I happy to interview Barbara Friedberg.

Barbara Friedberg Personal offers:

  • A one stop destination for investing and wealth building strategies.
  • Less money stress and more money control.
  • Direct access to an expert in investing and in financial matters.
  • Strategies for efficient money management.
  • Tips to make your money grow while you sleep with basic investing principles.
  • A how to guide for greater saving, better living, and more wealth through investing and smart money practice.


What was your reason for writing your latest book?

All of my books are written to make investing and building wealth clear and easy to implement. I want people to understand that they can stop living paycheck to paycheck, get out of debt, and become wealthy with a few smart money behaviors.

What is one of the biggest challenges or roadblocks to investing do you see many people face?

Overwhelmed. They think it is too hard.

For someone who has never invested where is the simplest place to beginning?

If you have a workplace retirement account, direct 5-10% of your income into a target date mutual fund.

No workplace retirement account? Open a discount brokerage account and immediately set up a bank transfer into the fund. Have that money invested in a target date mutual fund. (If you have trouble, call the company for help)

How should someone go about setting their allocation?

Wow, that’s more than a few sentences. I lay it all out here in this free micro book, How to Invest and Outperform.

In general terms, if you’re young and can handle some level of risk, you’ll hold a greater percentage of stocks and stock mutual funds. If you’re older or a more conservative investor then tilt your allocation towards bond funds.

How often would you suggest reviewing your allocation?

Review your allocation every few years. Rebalance back to your preferred allocation once per year.

Should you invest differently for retirement vs non-retirement assets?

Any money you need within 5 years or so should not be in the stock market. That money should be in CD’s, money market funds, and I bonds. Money you need in the intermediate and long term can be investing in the stock and bond markets.

The book discussing using index funds for various reasons. There is any situation which it would be better to use an active manager vs index fund?

That’s a great question. I understand that there are some good active managers and you may prefer to try your luck with one of them, with the hopes of outperforming the markets. That said, there’s abundant research supporting the use of index funds and the difficulty active managers have beating the markets.

Besides your new book. What book, blog, or podcast would you suggest to someone who is looking to begin investing or looking to improve their finances?

The Elements of Investing by Malkiel and Ellis is a classic. And it’s only 100 pages! William J. Bernstein also has a great book, If You Can: How Millennials Can Get Rich Slowly.

Thanks for sharing your investing views.  If you are interested in learning more about Barbara, she offers some good information for the beginning investor to the individual who wants to beat the markets.  Here are two resource you can check out:

If you want to start at square one of the wealth building process, pick up How to Get Rich; Without the Winning Lottery from Amazon.

Next, if you’re ready to grow your future wealth to 6 or 7 figures with investing, buy and read Invest and Beat the Pros-Create and Manage a Successful Investing Portfolio.

To read previous interviews in the series click below

If you are interested in sharing how you have simplified your financial life, send me an email and I will follow up with you.  Enjoy the rest of your week. Til next time, take one step at a time to simplify.

Simple Inspiration Interview with Phil Ash from Baton Investing


Phil Ashe

Hope you are enjoying the Simple Inspiration Interviews and that they are providing you with thoughts and ideas on how you can simplify your finances.  This week I am interviewing Phil Ash from Baton Investing.  He discusses how he has simplified his investment strategy so he can have better returns on his portfolio.

Baton Investing is a stock-picking system that has delivered 500% returns since 2003 while the S&P 500 has only delivered 170%. Its success is based on an algorithm designed by an M.I.T. engineer that mimics the investing strategies of Warren Buffett, Peter Lynch and eight more of the most successful investors of all time.

With the Baton app you, too, can gain access to that market-beating performance and manage your portfolio in just 30 seconds a month.

Eliminate all of your investing fears by joining a community of investors, including the Baton founders, who no longer settle for the 5-8% annual returns that most brokers and funds are lucky to achieve. The Baton system has delivered 16% average annual returns since 2003, and for many, it is the only way that they will actually achieve their retirement goal. Visit Barton Investing to see a completely transparent track record.

Let’s hear how Phil has simplified his finances:

What event lead you to realize you needed to improve your financial life?

In late 2013, about five years into a bull market, I calculated my average annual investment returns and determined that I was woefully under-performing the market. My portfolio was a mish-mash of income stocks, sector ETFs and high-risk bets that had no underlying strategy behind them. I would have been better off simply investing all my money in the SPY ETF that has returned 9% annually on average.

What area of your financial life needed the most work?

I needed to adopt an investing strategy that would deliver the necessary returns to hit my retirement goal. That required three steps: 1) figuring out what my historical average investment returns had been, 2) calculating what my retirement goal is and what average annual return I need to get there, and 3) identifying a proven strategy that would give me the necessary returns (because my current “strategy” was not.) Shockingly, with an online retirement calculator I created, I determined that my retirement goal was a minimum of $4 million and that my current returns were not going to get me anywhere close to that goal.

What was your biggest challenge or roadblock when it came to improving?

After identifying a strategy that had a successful, long-term track record, the hardest part was to put my emotions on the shelf and adopt the system wholeheartedly. With the 24/7 news cycle, it’s so easy to get caught up in the hype of a particular stock, or the fear that the market is about to crash again, or hundreds of other distractions that make people veer of course. All that noise is what causes people to make bad investing decisions, typically buying high and selling low, rather than just staying consistently invested for the long-term.

How did you overcome this challenge or roadblock?

After many months of research, I identified a stock-picking system developed by an M.I.T. engineer that mimics the investing calculations of the greatest investors of all time, including Warren Buffett, Peter Lynch, and eight more. The inventor, John P. Reese, began using it for himself and his high-net-worth clients in 2003, and it has delivered a 500% return since then while the S&P 500 has only delivered 170%. His system’s 16% average annual return over the span of both bull and bear markets was very reassuring. I knew it was the perfect emotion-free system to get my investing back on track, but it was more complicated and time-consuming to use than I wanted. So my brother and I worked with John to build an app (Baton Investing) and partner with a few brokerage firms to greatly simplify its use.

How has your life changed since you began to change your financial life?

It now takes me just 30-seconds a month to execute the system and manage my portfolio. And since I started using it in May 2014, I’ve earned a 24% return while the S&P has returned just 13%.

How long did it take you to make the changes?

It took us about six months to improve the process and launch the Baton system. Anyone else can now get setup in just a few minutes and reap the same benefits. We even offer a 60-day free trial for people to gain a better understanding of how it works and decide if it’s right for them. It’s only a good fit for less than half of the people who visit our site.

How much of your personal finances have you automated?

My investing is now semi-automatic. I like that I’m now forced to take a few minutes each month to do a quick check-in and set my portfolio for the next month. I know too many people with a set-and-forget approach that really have no clue how they’re performing and if any changes are needed. I’m a big fan of the two brokerage platforms that we run the Baton system on: Motif Investing and Folio Investing. Both allow for quick and cheap buying and selling of baskets of stocks in one transaction. To fund these accounts, I have automatic payroll deductions. Beyond investing, I have most of my bills setup with auto-pay, and I use Mint to keep track of everything.

What advice or tips would you give to others who want to improve their finances?

First, pay off any debt that has an interest rate above 9% (the market’s historical average.) Second, build your emergency cash fund of however many months you deem necessary. Then, amass enough money to start investing (about $5,000 minimum.) Either cut your expenses or find another income source somehow to get that first little pile of money together. If you have very little money, consider using Robinhood as your broker since they’re completely free. Begin by just investing in the SPY ETF, knowing that your emergency cash fund will keep you from having to panic and sell should the market head south. Continue adding funds to your account as often as possible. Initially, that will grow your money faster than any investment returns possibly can. As your account grows, then look to adopt other strategies that may give you higher returns. The return you need will be based upon the retirement goal you’ve calculated for yourself.

What app or tool helped you the most when it came to simplifying?

I like Mint for getting a quick take on my Net Worth and how I’m progressing towards my goal. And for my actual investing, I’m a huge fan of the MotifInvesting app. It takes me just 30 seconds once a month to re-balance my Baton portfolio.

What are your current financial goals?

As shocking as it sounds, I now know that my wife and I need $7 million to retire at age 65 and maintain our current lifestyle. $4 million is our bare minimum. There are lots of online retirement calculators to figure this out, but I prefer the assumptions we built into the Baton Retirement Calculator.

Are you on track to reach your financial goals you set for this year?

Yes, my wife and I are now on track to greatly exceed our retirement goal. Previously, we were not on track and we didn’t even know it. Regardless, we know there will be bumps in the road and we just need to stay committed to the revolutionary process we’ve now embraced.

What book, blog, or podcast would you suggest to someone who is looking to improve their finances?

The podcast does a good job of covering a wide array of introductory investing and personal finance topics.

If money was not a concern, what would you do for fun?

I have plenty of fun already, mostly outdoor athletic endeavors like running and biking. My hobby and dream job, however, would be as a furniture maker. It involves both the math/logic side of my brain and the creative side.

Any other thoughts you would like to share with others who are looking to simplify?

I’m certainly a fan of simplification, but I try not to let the tail wag the dog. Don’t simplify to the point that you’re not using the right tool for each job. With Baton, for example, the system works infinitely better if you open a brokerage account at Motif or Folio. Even though opening a new account only takes 10 minutes plus a bank transfer, many people will avoid that step and the value it brings in long-term simplicity. And with a tool like Mint, for example, it is now much easier to keep track of multiple accounts.

Thanks Phil.  Appreciate you sharing how you have simplified your finances.

To read previous interviews in the series click below

If you are interested in sharing how you have simplified your financial life, send me an email and I will follow up with you.  Enjoy the rest of your week. Til next time, take one step at a time to simplify.

How to Simplify in case you lose your wallet?



If you lost your wallet or purse would you remember everything you had in it?  Misplacing your wallet or purse is a terrible feeling.  I know I would not remember every item in my wallet.   I do know I have carry a credit card or two as well as debit card and driver’s license.  But remembering what other cards are held in my wallet may take me some time to remember.  So why put myself through this stress of trying to remember everything.  Losing a wallet, you run the risk of not only losing your money, but also your personal identity.  Your wallet can hold many sources of your personal and financial information.  You want to take immediate action to make sure the information in your wallet is not used.

Here are a few tips to help easily remember what is in your wallet so you can take immediate action to prevent any fraud:

Make copy of all important contents such as credit cards, driver’s license, insurance cards, debit cards and any other card or identification.  I know I do not know my driver’s license number like I know my social security number.  This way if missed place you will have a copy of the information.

Make a list of all phone numbers needed to replace the information that was lost.  This way you will not have to go looking for old account statements.  The numbers should be keep with the copies of the contents so all information can quickly be obtained.

Contact your bank and credit card company to inform them that your cards have been misplaced.  They should be able to send out new cards with new accounts numbers.  If stolen you want to do this as soon as possible so that your cards and accounts can be closed.

Contact your health insurance company to inform them that your cards have been misplaced.  They should be able to send out new cards.

Pull your credit bureau several weeks after you misplace your wallet or purse.  You need to do this to make sure no one has tried to use your information to open new accounts.   Reviewing your credit bureau will enable you to see if any additional accounts were opened without your knowledge.

Minimize the information you carry in your purse or wallet.  Limiting the cards and information you carry will eliminate the need to contact every credit card company, bank, or other company you have accounts with.

Establish fraud alert on your credit.  In case someone tries to use your personal information found in your wallet.

File a police report if you believe your wallet or purchase has been stolen.


Review the current contents you have in your wallet or purse.  Decide what you should carry everyday and what should not carry.  Then make copies of the information you believe should be held in your wallet or purse and put it in a file.  This way you can quick know what was in your wallet if you happen to misplace it.

Til next week take one step at a time to simplify your personal financial life.