In this new series of interviews, my plan is to introduce you to bloggers whose stories and/or advice I have enjoyed or found most helpful.
Punch Debt in the Face is a blog that I've been reading for about 3 months now. I really enjoy his take on finances as well as reading about his personal life. And as a bonus, each post comes with its very own original stick figure artwork. I recently spoke with Ninja, the author and illustrator of this blog, about his life, blog, and financial advice:
Me: Please tell my readers a little about your personal life.
Ninja: Well, I do blog anonymously (out of fear some crazy blog reader will stalk me, cut my skin off, and wear it) I am open to sharing a few things about myself. I'm a 24 year old dude, living in San Diego. I've worked for the federal government as an investigator for a little over two years now. I'm newly engaged, and look forward to my wedding this August. Besides that I love Dr. Pepper, personal finance blogs, playing tennis, and Dove cucumber and green tea body soap. I hate cats (sorry cat lovers), chocolate, and negative people. If you want to know more, check out my "About Me" page.
Me: So why the name "Ninja"?
Ninja: That is a really good question. One that I don't have the answer to. Ninjas are pretty awesome though and I guess I just wanted to be a little awesome!
Me: You're very financially wise for your age. Where did you learn financial responsibility at such a young age?
Ninja: Honestly, I learned it from a friend. He is a financial analyst for a major bank and has his stuff together. We had a conversation about compound interest one day and how awesome it is. I don't ever plan to have a uber-high paying job, so I needed to figure out how to get rich on a blue collar salary. I decided to start reading some PF books and blogs. After a few months of taking in all that I could, I figured I wanted to join on the fun and start my own blog that caters to the twenty something crowd.
Me: Being so far "ahead" of other people your age financially, when do you hope/plan to retire and just enjoy the fruits of your savings?
Ninja: I don't know if I'll ever retire. I'm too darn active to just sit on my butt all day. After all, one can only play so much golf before they want to do something else...right? That said, I would like to have the ability to "retire" at 50. I put retire in quotes because I won't necessarily stop working, I'll just have the ability to do something else, like work part time, or work for a non-profit. I have laid out my plan to being filthy stinkin' rich here.
Me: If only I'd been as knowledgable at your age (but I guess you hear that all of the time).... What advice would you give those younger than you to help them see the importance of getting a good start financially?
Ninja: Quit waiting for tomorrow. Most of my friends don't contribute to retirement, they don't pay down their debt, and they don't live within a budget. They think that they can wait until "tomorrow" to do that. Sad thing is, tomorrow never comes for them. They keep living outside of their means. When they are 60 years old and realize they only have $20 in their retirement accounts, they will realize the mistake they made. Ask anyone over the age of 40, if they wish they would have saved more when they were 20 and see what they say. The time to get your financial act together was yesterday, yeah that's right yesterday. Quit reading this stinkin' interview and go put some money in your savings account.
Me: Do you consider any debt "good" (or worthwhile) debt?
Ninja: Umm, I actually wrote a post about this called "Good debt is for dumb people". So to answer your question. No. While I can understand why people would take out student loans to get an education or take on a mortgage to buy a house, I wouldn't call that debt "good". I prefer to think of it as "less bad." I plan to take out a loan when I buy my first house, but I'd be lying if I said I was super excited about taking on hundreds of thousands of dollars of so-called "good" debt. People often forget that a degree does not guarantee a higher income, or that their house will not ALWAYS increase in value. So please don't go in to debt, just because some bank has convinced you school loans/mortgages are good.
Me: Would you consider taking some money from savings (not retirement) and paying a huge chunk of it as a down payment? Living in CA, I doubt you would probably 100% pay for it up front, but was curious how much you'd be willing to put down on a house?
Ninja: Ya know, I've done a lot of thinking about how much I want to be able to put down when I purchase my first home. I don't really have a set amount or percentage that I will actually put down as that will depend on the market, interest rates, location, etc. Ideally, I'd be have $100K in the bank come time to purchase a home, but I don't know if that means I'd put $10K down or $50k down. One thing is for sure, I don't plan to rent forever.
Me: What is your thinking in keeping student loans while you have enough cash to cover them (even before the engagement!)?
Ninja: Ah, the student loan dilemma. I have blogged numerous times about this issue. On November 18th, 2009 I finally had the ability to pay my $15K student loans off in full. I outlined why I decided to hold on to the loans for a bit longer in this article. Basically I'm in a period of transition and am waiting for things to settle down a bit more before I deplete the majority of my savings account. In my defense, I would like to mention that, even though I haven't paid the loans off, I have still reduced them greatly. I brought them down over $10,000 last year. Had I paid only minimum payments, I would have only contributed about $2,000 towards them. I have made a resolution to pay them off by the end of the calendar year.
Me: I love reading the various topics (including, but not limited to financial topics) on your blog. What topics usually get the most feedback on your blog?
Ninja: I've found that I tend to get the most feedback when I come up with an article that everyone can contribute to. I wrote an article asking people to share their Financial Secrets and it was wildly popular. People also seem to enjoy when I rant about something like my honeymoon or the role of men and women in a relationship. Stirring a little personal finance controversy definitely gets people to chime in with their two cents. People don't really respond when I write about investing, saving, or debt. Nope, they want my engagement story or why I think being a girl is worst than being a boy (financially speaking of course).
Me: Congrats on the engagement! What is your biggest fear about combining finances with Girl Ninja when you two are married?
Ninja: For those that don't know, Girl Ninja is my fiance. I honestly am not scared at all about combining my finances with her. In fact, I can't wait. She is debt free which is super sexy. She is a teacher and makes a decent living. I'll be 25, she will be 23 when we marry. Our combined income will be between $80,000 and $100,000 (depending on if she gets a teaching contract). I'm pretty excited about sharing all of my life with her, including my money. She wouldn't be debt free if she had bad spending habits, so I have nothing to worry about.
Me: Who are your favorite bloggers to read?
Ninja: I basically read any personal finance blog I can find. I don't have a favorite as enjoy reading multiple points of view. Before I started my blog though, I was consistently reading Budgets Are Sexy and The Simple Dollar. If you (the reader) have a personal finance blog, drop me a line 'cause I would love to check it out.
You can find Ninja and his artwork over at his blog, Punch Debt in the Face or on Twitter at @punchdebt. Go pay him a visit. You will be entertained by his writing and his commenters (including his mom, Mom Ninja). If you're really smart, you'll add him to your blogroll, reader, or however you keep up with the blogs you read. Personal finance really is fun around his site.