Chelsea is a wife and loving mother of a one-year-old. She is also the creator and author of Mama Fish Saves, a personal finance blog aimed at helping young families attain financial independence.
With professional experience in corporate finance for the past seven years she actively manages a portfolio at a major hedge fund. There is no doubting her experience with finance however in her free time she enjoys hiking, quilting, and curling up with a good book. She also spends time helping her friends and loved ones achieve financial success. Though geared towards young families, Chelsea’s blog, Mama Fish Saves, has valuable insight geared towards a wide audience.
I wanted to learn more about how Chelsea plans on achieving financial independence as a parent. All of us have a story to tell about personal finance, and I created the Meet Millennials series so that anyone can share their unique story with money. Talking about money has been considered taboo in the past but we are here to change that.
Here is the interview I had with Chelsea:
How would you describe your current financial situation?
Solid, but in transition. We are doing well with our savings goals and my husband and I manage our budget well together. However, because of my investing restrictions through work almost all our savings have been going into diversified mutual funds. Now I am more focused on finding creative passive income sources and investing strategies to improve our returns and move us closer to achieving FIRE. I am speaking to a local business who is looking for an investor, dipping into P2P lending and investing, and started Mama Fish Saves.
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Do you consider yourself to be money-savvy?
Definitely. I work investing at a hedge fund, started my career at an investment bank, and allocate quite a bit of time to learning about personal finance and managing my family’s financial situation. We keep short, medium, and long-term goals and discuss them on a regular basis. My one year old doesn’t have much to add yet, but he can put coins in his piggy bank so he’s off to a great start!
What financial advice would you have wished to hear when you started working?
If you are going to be working a lot early in your career (a) make sure you have roommates and (b) find roommates who are frugal or make less money than you. I spent my first year out of school without roommates because I thought I would want the alone time after long days at the office, but the truth was I was almost never there and spent way more money on rent than I needed to. After that I moved into an apartment with 2 people, which cut my rent by over 50% and one of those roommates later became my husband so it worked out well!
On the spending habits of your roommates – I had a really good friend who lived with her buddy from college who had gone into journalism and it forced them to find a lower cost apartment and limited their social expenses when they wanted to go out to dinner or drinks. She saved over 50% of her income those first few years working compared to other friends of ours who lived with other banking analysts and saw a lot of lifestyle creep and didn’t save as much as they could have.
What financial achievement are you most proud of?
When we were looking at buying a house we found out my in-laws still had loans outstanding for my husband’s college. For Christmas that year we were able to pay the loans off in full and that was a really great feeling. To be able to afford a mortgage down payment and pay off those loans in one year without dipping into our retirement savings was a pretty awesome thing.
What expense can you not live without?
A high-speed internet connection. Not only do I love reading the news, personal finance blogs and keeping up with friends, but a strong internet connection lets me come home at a reasonable hour during the week to spend time with my son before he goes to bed, then jump back into work for a few hours.
What expenses could you cut down on?
Groceries. Absolutely my husband and my kryptonite when it comes to budgeting, we always spend more than we intend to. We eat at home almost every meal because I have food allergies, and once or twice a week we forget to take meat out of the freezer in time and end up making extra runs to the grocery store which add up quickly. We are working on a better system to reduce our expenses and food waste.
What are your long-term financial goals?
My long term financial goal is to develop enough savings and passive income sources to achieve FIRE. I would love to be able to leave my desk job and have more time at home with my family. This is a little more complicated for me since my job significantly limits what investing I am allowed to do for compliance purposes, but we are making progress.
What are your short-term financial goals?
This year my goals are to:
1. Develop two sources of passive income. I am talking to a local business that needs an investor in the next couple weeks and looking for other investment opportunities.
2. Save +50% of pre-tax income. Last year we saved ~34% of pre-tax income and ~52% of post-tax. This year we are taking less trips and are working on cutting some expenses to get to +50%.
3. Allocate some money to P2P lending and investing platforms. I think there are some great P2P sources out there now, but I haven’t spent enough time digging into them to be comfortable allocating much money to them. This year I plan to dive in more.
Do you have any side hustles or ways to gain supplemental income?
Besides a very small amount of selling baby quilts to friends and colleagues who want them to give as gifts, not yet. 2020 will be the year of laying the foundation and I hope to have some by year end!
How do you manage paying off student loans and/or consumer debt? Any tips?
I was incredibly lucky and my parents were able to pay for my college. I got out of undergrad in three years to reduce the cost which helped as well. Our only debt today is our home mortgage and because our rate is low we aren’t paying it down as aggressively as we could. Every year we allocate some of the budget surplus/savings to the house and the rest to investing and retirement.
My biggest tip is to not get lulled into a sense that debt is normal. Know how much you are paying in interest cost every month or year and acknowledge that that is money you are just burning. Use that figure to stay motivated to keep a tight handle on your budget and pay down debt.
What career path would you choose if money was not an issue?
I would love to teach or start a non-profit offering financial education for youth.
One of the main reasons I started Mama Fish Saves was frustration over the financial education gap – if your parents don’t know how to manage their money and you weren’t taught in school, how are you supposed to get out of the debt and paycheck to paycheck cycle? I wanted to offer easy to understand guides to budgeting, investing, and debt management.
“It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.” – Confucius
Gaining financial security and sanity isn’t a sprint. Every extra dollar you can put towards debt reduction or retirement savings will make a difference and if you have a bad week or bad month, learn from it and just keep moving. We all have bad habits we have to unlearn, new best practices we could incorporate into our lives, and expenses we could learn to cut. Decide each day to do a little better than the day before and success with come to you.
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