From Stockbroker to Frugality: Q&A with John Schmoll

By Andy Hayes

Sometimes, our most interesting interviews here on the blog are with those who had a traditional career in the finance industry and then branched out into their own endeavors.  That’s the case today with our guest John Schmoll. His website encourages “freedom through frugality” by attacking debt, learning to invest, and smart frugal living – that’s all things we can get behind!

Here’s the conversation we had with John….

I can’t help but notice many of your “frugal rules to live by” center around goals and focus. Tell us more about having goals, large and small, and keeping our focus on them.

Yes, thanks for mentioning those! I believe goals are a key part to living a financially healthy life. I view goals as providing direction to where you want to take your life. When you go on a vacation, in most instances, you’re going to plan where you want to go. You save the money to make it possible and then plan how to get there. Having financial goals is the same idea. You determine what’s important to you, what it’ll take to achieve them and set up a plan to help you do just that. I find that it helps give greater focus and thus greater probability of reaching said goal.

Is it true that you’re an ex-stockbroker? What was your biggest lesson of the finance industry when working in that arena?

Yes. I was a stockbroker for about 5 years, right at the time of the stock market meltdown and the run back up. The biggest lesson I took from the importance of a long-term mindset. I spoke to countless people who lost half of their money only to be plagued by fear of what would happen to them. As a result, they lost out on riding the wave back up. In many instances, though not all, they allowed fear to grip them as opposed to taking a long-term view and realize they needed to be proactive if they wanted to reach the kind of life they wanted later in life.

Being “frugal” tends to have negative connotations – but you have a very upbeat, positive focus. What do you wish people associated with the word frugal?

I wish people didn’t view frugality as being miserly. Being miserly means you’re being cheap – not frugal. Frugality is about getting value out of what you spend so you can have the things you want and that matter to you. While that might mean choosing to save money on certain items or simply avoiding the call to consumerism, it also means making money work for you in such a way that you can have what you value.

You’re at a dinner party, and the host mentions to the group that you run a blog about money. Another guest (that you don’t know) asks you what’s the best piece of advice you’ve learned since you started blogging. What do you tell them?

I’ve learned so many lessons since I started blogging. I think the biggest one I’ve learned is how you can’t always take a cookie-cutter approach to money. Yes, there are some tried and true things we all should be doing – spend less than you earn, find ways to grow your money, etc. much of it should be based on what your specific circumstance is. So, what works for me may not work the best for you and vice-versa…and that’s ok. The point is you actively seek that out and run with it.

For more great conversations about investing and frugality, be sure to follow John on Twitter & Facebook.

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