Leave It to the Pros: Q&A with Financial Blogger Will Chen

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Q&A with Financial Experts

Q&A with Financial Experts

When it comes to tough financial questions and issues, it’s often best to leave it to the pros. In part two of our 10-part series where we take our pressing financial questions to the experts, we talk to Will Chen, co-founder of the uber-popular personal finance blog, Wise Bread.

Q: Hi, Will. Great to have you here. Tell us, as the founder of one of the most popular personal finance blogs in the country, what do you do? And how did you get there?

A: I’m a full-time blogger and community outreach guy for Wise Bread. Some of my favorite career highlights include:

  • Co-hosting a SXSW panel on Blogger Credibility with my good friend (and super mom) Linsey Knerl.
  • Giving a presentation on Small Budget Blog Marketing at the very first Financial Blogger Conference.
  • Serving on a Blog World Expo panel on blogger compensation with Darren Rowse and fellow Wise Bread co-founder Greg Go.
  • Co-hosting a New York Times Small Business Summit Q&A session with small business experts Anita Campbell and John Jantsch.

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Q: That’s quite a resume. What inspired you to create Wise Bread? What did you learn from doing so? 

A: Before I co-founded Wise Bread, I was an attorney working at a big litigation firm. Even though I had a good job, I was clueless about personal finance and saved very little money. When I mentioned this to my good friends Lynn Truong and Greg Go, they told me they were going through the same thing

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There are no mandatory classes in high school or college about personal finance. We tried looking for help online but most of the resources were too boring or intimidating. That’s when we decided to start a blog that will explain personal finance in simple and entertaining terms.

In less than a month, our blog hit the front pages of sites like Reddit, Digg, and BoingBoing. We received tons of emails from people telling us how much they identified with our new approach to personal finance. That’s when we knew we struck a cord with people.

Q: I can believe it! Wise Bread specializes in credit card rewards. What is the best credit card out there? The worst? How does one decide which card is right for them?

A: Really analyze whether you’ll ever use the promised rewards. If you rarely take a vacation, you’re not going to suddenly become a dashing world traveler just because you picked up a fancy new travel rewards card. Be realistic and only pick the best cards that fits your existing lifestyle – and not the lifestyle you wish you had.

More importantly, you must constantly monitor your credit card usage. If you’re actually spending more money because you think you’re earning a reward, you are setting yourself up for financial ruin. However, if you have the discipline to keep your spending steady and pay off every credit card bill in full, you can earn cashback rewards without spending extra cash.

The worst credit cards are generally department store cards. Most of the time they are terrible deals.

Q: What are some of the most common mistakes Americans make with regard to their credit?

A: The worst mistake is to not carefully monitor your spending. According to the American Economic Association, “The initiation of a 1% cash rewards program yielded, on average, a $25 reward each month – and an increase in spending by $68 a month and in credit-card debt of $115 a month.”

This happens to people who are not carefully monitoring their monthly spending levels. If you want to avoid this mistake you must make sure that:

  1. Your monthly spending level remains the same whether you’re using cash or credit.
  2. And you pay off your credit card bill in full each month.

If you can’t follow these two rules you should not get a credit card.

Q: Great tip! What is the most important piece of financial advice you’ve ever received?

The best financial advice I’ve ever received came from The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss. His greatest tip is the 80-20 rule, which states that 80 percent of the benefits very often come from 20 percent of our efforts.

This idea inspired me to constantly audit my life to see which 20 percent of my life’s work is generating the most benefits. Instead of wasting my energy trying to be frugal at every aspect of my life, I focus on the most important battles that yield the greatest results.

Q: If readers could do one thing to improve their financial lives, what would you tell them to do?

Find a support group with positive financial values.  We are easily influenced by our peers.  If your friends are all living above their means, you are likely to do the same.  Avoid hanging out with wasteful people and tune out the media.  Start hanging out with smart, frugal-minded people who take financial responsibility seriously.

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You can find frugal people at your local church or volunteer organization. If you have a hard time finding such folks in real life, you can join a virtual support group by reading top personal finance blogs.

Learn more about Will Chen at Wisebread.com.

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