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How A CPA Approaches Personal Finance

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I’m Joe and currently, I’m a CPA working in corporate America.  How A CPA Working In Corporate America Approaches Personal Finance

I’ve been interested in finance since I was 12, when I asked from parents for Apple and Microsoft stock for my birthday.  Since then it’s been a passion of mine to learn as much as I can about investing and personal finance.  

Let’s Talk Money: Meet Millennials Series with Joe

How would you describe your current financial situation? 

Today, my financial situation is in a good place, but the future is the main focus for me.  As I approach 30, how I interact with my finances is changing.  In my 20s, I was happy to just get a job out of college and be able to start saving.  Now I’m starting to think more long term.  Will I have enough money to retire in 30-35 years? If I wanted to retire early, how much extra would I need to start saving now? If my wife and I have kids, how will that impact our financial plan?  These are all difficult questions to answer since the time horizon is so far out.  I often struggle, like many people, in determining if I am truly on track.  My approach now is to set smaller, monthly and yearly targets to hit to make it more manageable.

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Do you consider yourself to be money-savvy?

I’m money-savvy based solely on the fact that I actively seek out information to help me manage my finances better.  Often, if you consider yourself an expert at something you stop seeking out new information about the subject.   To prevent this, I remind myself that there is always more to learn.  So while I have done a lot of research on topics such as investing or building passive income streams, I’m always trying to learn more.

What financial advice would you have wished to hear when you started working?

Automate your savings.  The idea is to setup a transfer to your savings account each pay or month so you don’t have to actively decide how much to save.  When I first started working, I would decide how much to move to my savings account and as a result I wasn’t saving as much as I could have.  Now I have everything on autopilot, which has boosted my savings and removed one more decision I need to consciously make.  Also, I would recommend setting your savings amount to be a little bit more than you think you can save.  You can always transfer some money back if you really need it, but I’ve found that if the money is automatically transferred to my savings account I am less likely to spend it.

What financial achievement are you most proud of?

Both my wife and myself completing our Masters without any student loans.  

What expense can you not live without?

Traveling.  My wife and I love to travel, anything from a weekend road trip to a week in the Caribbean.  While traveling can be expensive, being able to immersive yourself in different cultures and experiences can be invaluable.

What expenses could you cut down on?

Pretty much every area I can.  I like to get pretty detailed into my budget, so I’m always trying to find ways to cut my variable expenses.  Recently, I made the leap and got rid of cable.  So far I haven’t missed having access to 100s of channels and I was able to save about $50 a month.

What are your long-term financial goals?

Financial independence. This is a pretty abstract term that gets thrown around a lot, but for me it means having enough to be able to retire comfortably.  I have about 30-35 years until retirement and I’ve calculated that I will need about $2.7 million by that point.  It’s a long journey, but I have about $90K saved so far and am saving around 15% of my income each year specifically for retirement.  The key for me is realizing that while the results don’t seem like much year to year, if I stick to my plan, in the end I will be able to retire comfortably.

What are your short-term financial goals?

Saving for a trip to Australia.  My wife and I are planning on spending two weeks there and it would be our longest trip and farthest traveling by far.  We’ve been planning for a while so I’ve been able to get enough airline miles for the flights, which will help keep overall costs down, but my goal is to save $5,000 for hotels, food, experiences, etc.

Do you have any side hustles or ways to gain supplemental income?

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I recently started my own personal finance blog – Average Joe Finance. Being an Accountant and being interested in money from an early age, I do a lot of financial reading in my spare time.  One thing I realized is that a lot of the information available is either written for people who already understand finance or hasn’t been updated for today’s economic environment.  In the past 10 years, we’ve seen the Great Recession and the rapid advancement of technology.  My goal with the blog is to provide easy-to-understand solutions for the issues that people face today when it comes to managing their money.

How do you manage paying off student loans and/or consumer debt? Any tips?

I was lucky enough to have good paying jobs throughout college so I didn’t have any student loans, but when it comes to consumer debt, the best payment strategy is to limit how much debt you take on in the first place.  I pay off my credit cards each month in order to avoid the high interest rates and when it comes to mortgages and car loans, I’ve tried to purchase less than what I could afford based on a “normal” debt to income ratio.  This has allowed me to pay additional amounts toward the principle as my finances have improved, which has reduced the total time it will take to pay off these loans and the total amount of interest I will have to pay.

What career path would you choose if money was not an issue?         

Something that offered a creative outlet, possibly an artist or writer. 

Closing thoughts?

Managing your own finances may seem like a daunting task, but with time and dedication it is absolutely possible.  I recently read The Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz in which he discusses how are society is suffering from actually having too many choices.  When it comes to their finances, it seems like people are paralyzed by the amount of information available and are worried about making a mistake.  The truth is,  you will make mistakes, but that’s a good thing, because every mistake is a learning opportunity.  As long as you aren’t betting the farm on everything you do, a mistake every now and then won’t ruin you financially.  So do your research, but don’t overanalyze yourself into indecision. Before long you’ll be amazed at how much you’ve learned.    


All of us have a story to tell about personal finance, and I created the Meet Millennials series so that anyone can share their story with money. Talking about money has been considered taboo in the past but we are here to change that. 

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