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J.Money: Budgets Are Sexy, Accidental Entrepreneur & The ‘Drama List’

My guest is somebody that you are going to absolutely fall in love with. He is an award-winning personal finance blogger, a FinTech consultant and daddy of three with over a decade building communities online.

His projects have reached over 30 million views and are regularly featured in the media. He is an avid coin collector, money experimenter and a hip-hop fan. He loves connecting the online world with the real world and feels blessed to be able to do this every day for a living.

His name is J. Money.

In this amazing show, we talk about budgets and how they can be sexy. We talk about being an accidental entrepreneur, the drama list and why everybody needs the drama list.

We talk about the ride of going from $50,000 in net worth all the way to $1 million and where you can see this each and every year undocumented. We also get into a $40 bottle of water and how that's even possible.

We finally cover what J calls The Triad of Hustling and why this can be a good thing and a bad thing. There is a lot jam-packed in this show. You're going to love this if you're an entrepreneur, into personal finance and love an amazing story and want to have a good time.

With that said, let's get to it. 

Dustin
It's 2007 and you're out looking for a two-bedroom apartment to rent. Somehow within 48 hours, you end up buying a $350,000 house with no money down. J. Money, how in the heck does this happen?
J.Money
I got lost. We were looking for a two-bedroom apartment to rent and I took a left instead of right or left instead of right. I came across this place and it had a for sale sign. I thought, "That's a nice place. We should call and just for fun check it out." One thing led to another. Its society and a lot of my friends are getting married and buying houses. Everyone kept saying it all likes, "You'd be an adult, you’ve got to buy a house." I fell into that trap of doing stuff because everyone said to do it. At this point, the market was starting to crash; the bubble is starting to pop, but not yet. I can get as much money as I want it to buy a house like, "You're approved for $350,000, let's go spend $350,000." I fell for it and I did it. Thankfully, I could afford the place, but that opened up my eyes to like, "I have to start paying attention to my money and what I want out of life."
Dustin
I fell into that same trap too. I felt that pressure early on to go and buy the condo for me to put my status in the world as an adult. Many people fall into that trap.
J.Money
Many of renters get shamed on. I'm a personal finance blogger. We own the home, I figured out it wasn't for me. I sold it and I went back to renting and loved it. It was in bliss for three years. I'm a renter and I got crapped on as a finance blogger because that's not financially prudent. You have to stay strong for something that you know you want but it takes a while to get to that point sometimes.
Dustin
You've got this $350,000 house. The light bulb turns on, you've got the crazy mortgage and you've got this debt now. Is the story that you have this thing and you're like, “I should get better about being in finance." Did you go online? Is that the story here?
J.Money
I didn't know what a blog was. I googled how to budget, budget template or something like that. That's what sucked me in. I’ve got stories from regular people like, “Here's how I manage my money. Here's my savings, here's my debt, here are my tricks, here are my fails, here's my net worth.” I'd never seen anyone in real-world say actual numbers talk a normal person and not a company or an organization that's professional. I got sucked in and I started listening to them and changing habits. After a few months I was like, “I can start a blog on how you save money; you're drinking beer on the weekends.” I was in that bachelor mindset. A lot of the blogs at that time were personal but they were still conservative and I'm not as conservative. I started blabbering on, I'd curse and I’d talk about beer and parties. That was refreshing to other normal people. That's what launched my whole career and changed my life, my habits and everything for the better. It's crazy.
Dustin
If I got my facts straight, you start going out, talking and like you said, you're not conservative. You hang it out there, which makes it fun and entertaining. This thing starts to take off. Do you feel that that was the reason why it was you being you or were there other factors that play that people enjoyed and it started spreading the word quickly?
J.Money
It was a mixture. When you start a blog, you're the most real and raw version of yourself. At that time, I didn't know you can make money online. Everything I was doing was purely out of passion, fun, and holding me accountable. There's that part there when you're not building something to make money specifically and you're doing it out of curiosity or enjoyment. It changes and lot and people can sense that. I'd also like to try and be funny. I like to laugh. I don't like to be serious all the time. That helped people enjoy it more. I'd tell jokes or I talk about the stupid stuff I did. That added to it and the market started crashing and the bubble popped. Everyone was going online. People that don't even care about money, all of a sudden, were scared. There was this influx of people looking for help. My blog was in there as that was going on. Social media was just starting, Twitter was about to come out, there was Facebook. It was good timing as well as accidental luck. I’ve never started anything in my life. I'm not an entrepreneur. It was all accidental. I kept riding the flow because it was fun in the beginning.
Dustin
You publish your net worth numbers online and I want to talk about that. At first, was it scary or because you saw other people doing it and you're like, “I'll do it.” You were young and you're like, “Whatever.” Was it scary to you? It seems like it would be?
J.Money
It wasn't scary because I saw some other people doing it. I chose to be anonymous. I was at a company that had some goods and bads. I wanted it to be the realest me as I could be. I knew if I had my real name and my face that I would hold back some. I don't want my work and my friends to find out. I did that from the beginning. That made it less scary because it's me, but it's an alternate version of me. That helped out. As a guy with more money, kids, a family and I'm back to owning again. I'm glad I put that in place because I'm more worried for kids and privacy stuff because there are psychos out there. Whereas back then, I didn't care and I was way naiver. 
Dustin
Having that blogged a bunch, what do you say like, "I overspent here and I'm trying these budgeting things?" Didn't you know what to talk about? Does that come easy to you?
J.Money
The nice thing about money is it affects you. In everything you do, there's some tangent relating to money. I'm one of those bloggers. I don't go and say, "I'm going to teach you how, like the in-depth, how to create an IRA and to backdoor this." My whole goal is to get people to stop and think about money and hopefully enjoy it. I'm a fluffy dessert. Once you get it, if you want an in-depth thing go to my other friends who are bloggers that they have degrees or they're financial experts' experts. There's plenty of that out there. Since I talk about my daily life as it relates to money, all I have to do is live my life and then like, "What can I take from this to put on the blog?" It's hard. I've run over 2,000 or 3,000 articles. I write every single day, Monday through Friday. There are times where it sucks and if I can't come up with something. I find what my friends are doing or books I'm reading and I share other people's awesome stuff. It gives me a break but then it also gives my audience like, "Here are some other things that you might enjoy out there." 
Dustin
This thing is taken off and I've got to imagine people are commenting, you're getting excited and you're engaging. Finally, at some point, you're like; "I can make money here." Talk about that and what are your next steps?
J.Money
The first realization was in some random company emailed me and said, "I like your stuff. Can you put this banner in the sidebar? I'll pay you $50 a month." It was back when sidebars are popular. I was like, "This is awesome." I don't even know if I even looked at what the company did. I was like, "I like what I'm doing and if you're going to give me money, this makes it even better." That's when it started catching on. I was like, "I could do that. Can I get more ads? What other things I can do?" I started testing it around. It wasn't until I had a friend, I had a good blog. It was called DINKSFinance.com, Dual-Income, No Kids. It's still there. He was like, "I'm leaving out of the country. I can't manage the site. What do you think about buying the blog?" I thought, “Buying a blog? You can't do this, it's not a company, it's a blog and it’s your thoughts.”
He made a point. He was like, "It makes money. You hire a writer and you manage it. It's a small business." I said, "No,” and we got to talking. Eventually he said, "Take it for this price, experiment and learn." I said, "I'll try it." That exploded because then I'm like, "Now, I have two properties. Anytime I get an ad, I can display it across both of my sites like real estate." I opened my eyes and I started paying attention to all the blogs. When you google budgeting or whatever, a lot of those sites that come up especially now that look like blogs, a lot of them are companies in the backend that you don't see but they're making gobs of money. If you place top three ranks for credit card, budget, savings account or something, they are making millions. It's bonkers.
Dustin
I want to make this real for people. Not everyone knows ads and what the possibilities are here. You don't have to be a big company as you described. You can go out and do it. Since your light bulb went off, your eyes got open, you've made over $1 million a year in revenue from all the various sites. Many people work in corporate. They have a job or they do something they don't love and they want to make that transition. For you, getting $1 million is great and it's a big number. At what point did you realize like, "I can ditch my 9:00 to 5:00 and I can go full on in this?" What advice do you have for others that want to do that?
J.Money
I had the 9:00 to 5:00 and I'd sneak my blog stuff in there too. I wasn’t the perfect angel working the full 40 hours. Once the blog took off, I started managing, getting the comments, the emails and I respond to everyone. It's added time. I was spending 40 hours at work and then another 20 to 30 hours offline, nights and weekends. At some point, my wife looked at me. She was like, "You look you're burning out. You can't do both." She made me decide which one was better. I couldn't stop the blog because it was so exciting.
I had to personally choose one of the other and take the risk or stop the blog and go back to conservative that I knew was solid. Here's the crazy part. I went into work one day. I was like, "I'm going to do this. I got to put it in my two weeks. I'm going to go all-in. I got laid off the same day." I was bonkers. I laughed and the guy was like, "Why are you laughing?" I was like, "Because I was coming in here to give you my two weeks." This is crazy. That was good for me because it forced me. There was no more choice in the matter. I did and I started. I'm on it for the next month or two months. I'm going to do this full-time and if it sucks or I fail, I can always go and apply to another job. As far as advice, starting it on the side where it doesn't matter if you fail and you can go all-in. On the side, it’s great because you still have that 9:00 to 5:00. If it takes off, you have the luxury of choosing if you want to do one or the other or both.
I am more conservative in that regard. I would never quit a job and then go launch an idea the next day without even exploring it. I would never do that. I also always do stuff that you're interested in even though I'm an accidental entrepreneur, I've never been able to succeed in a project that I was purely doing for money or for fame or whatever. I have to enjoy it because it's so hard and it's so grinding, especially you're working nights and weekends and your friends are out partying. Even your friends aren't motivated but they're still having fun doing whatever they're doing. If you're choosing the path of building an empire or building a side hustle, you have to enjoy doing it because you can get burnt out easily.
Dustin
It is a sound advice there and I completely agree with you. It's so easy for me to stay on the entrepreneur, let's talk biz and we will come back to it. I want to talk about that journey. You went from $50,000 in net worth to over $1 million. It's all on your site, BudgetsAreSexy.com, so people can check out the journey there. I know you've communicated with so many others and not everyone's going to go and build a blog, trade websites or do that thing but there is a formula to growing your net worth to retiring early if that's your choice. Can you talk a little bit about what that general formula is if someone wants to escape the rat race?
J.Money
The guiding principle which is boring and spins around for thousands of years is spending less than you earn and banking that difference. As long as you're always doing that, your net worth is going to grow. There's no way for it not to. The real question becomes, how fast do you want it to grow and what are your goals in life? In the beginning, I started reading about money. I was never bad with money and I was never good. I did stupid stuff like buy the house. I was never in crazy debt. I was always breaking even. When I got and I started the blog, I was at $50,000 net worth. 
I remember thinking I want to be a millionaire. I was in my twenties. I was partying, people talk about money and they want a lot of it. That's what my goal was originally. Over the years, I realized that even if I had $1 million at that point, it wouldn't have changed my lifestyle that much. I would have been more secure. Even now, I'm technically a millionaire. I don't feel crazy different than I did a couple of years ago. What I did change was figure out how to use the money to live my ideal lifestyle which is working roughly half days, spending time with my kids and then working on projects or whatever I want to do. Having time to myself to do as I please, it feels wealthy to me.
This depends on your lifestyle, your goals and stuff but some people could be happy spending $100,000 a year. Others can be happy spending $20,000 a year. If you can be as happy with spending less than spending more, that speeds everything up. If you have $20,000 and that's all you need to earn to survive, your job is how do I find properties or how do I invest, how do I build something that gives me $20,000 positive cashflow that year? If you're spending $20,000 and you're earning $20,000 and you're even, especially if it's passive. The passive stuff is important. You invest money and let's say you're getting $20,000 returns.
It only costs you $20,000 to live your life, and then you’re financially free. Your income is paying for your expenses. This as an oversimplified way of saying it but if you thinks of terms of that. There are always numbers out there. You need $3 million to retire $5 million. It is as if everyone has the same damn lifestyle and that's not the case. If you can figure out what you can comfortably need to survive, you do need some luxuries or you don't. Living in a smaller house with a crappy car, but you can do whatever you want every day of your life that changes.
I don't want to go earn an extra $1 million to have a fancy house. It's all philosophical things. In my twelve years of blogging, I've realized that it's not about the money itself; it's about what your dreams are and what fulfills you. You can always get more money. I have friends that made $1 million, $2 million or $5 million and they always want more. I'm like, "When is enough?" They've never ever said, “I have enough now.” If you're chasing money and growth and that stuff which is a different lifestyle. If you focus on what makes you happy during the day, then your daily lifestyle in a way, I find you're always much better off.
Dustin
J, I want to poke the bear a little bit here. You said earlier, you weren't good with money but you weren't bad too but you're the guy that bought a $40 bottle of water.
J.Money
That was in my beginning blogs. I don't even know if it's still out there. I was one of those guys. I fell for stupid stuff but it was a bottle of water. It was a Swarovski crystal in red all around. It's called Bling H2O and I thought it was awesome. I'm going to spend the $40. I still have that bottle. I've never opened it. I don't want to open it because I know it's going to suck. I want to celebrate it in some way like, "Finally, ten years, I can drink this thing." If you ever come up with ideas, we can share it. 
Dustin
Do you keep that with the wine?
J.Money
Yes, it is with the wine.
Dustin
I thought I also caught wind of you living at one point off a $69 paycheck. I had to ask you, did you have the world's worst job? How did you make that happen?
J.Money
I had the world's best job. I worked at a start-up and you have 401(k) plans and all that. Most companies match 3% or 6%. This company matched 100% of 100% that you put in up to the legal limit. At first, I was like, "That's not possible," but I did. I tested it. The most they had allowed me to jack my paycheck up was 90%. Ninety percent of my salary paychecks would go to 401(k) and then they would match that 401(k) right away. There was no vesting. That's when my money started to take off when I said, "Screw it. I'm going to live off of $60 to $70 paychecks for a few months, max it out, get the max and then I'll have my normal paycheck the rest of the year." All that stuff will start compounding.
I did that for two years and there's a lot more to the backstory. There was some legal stuff that happened. The company ended up shutting down because it was spending money everywhere. Giving people like me but there was 15 or 20 of us; I was 1 of 2 or 3 people that were even investing in their 401(k). They were giving you free money. That's why and because I was investing to the market that was crashing, I was buying stuff cheap and now everything started going up. There is a certain degree of luck there but without me going balls to the wall at the 90% paycheck, I wouldn't have anything to ride on the luck.
Dustin
One of the things you talk about is side hustling. If you've got a job, you do a side hustle, try something on the side and get some extra income. I came across one of your ideas about The Triad of Hustling, which shows the other side of it because it's so easy to say hustle, grind and build your empire, put everything back in the business but you had this realization around it. Will you share that a little bit?
J.Money
At one point, I was having kids. I had my blog, I'd sold a lot of other stuff I was doing and then I had another site called RockstarFinance.com that was getting popular at that time. My kid wanted to go on a walk on a Saturday and I was like, "No, I’ve got to work,” but was like, “Let's go." There's a path down the street that was a little hike in the woods. I took him out there and he was so happy and we were breathing in nature. For whatever reason, at that moment it struck me that there was more to hustling. I had these glimpses before but that struck me that I need to live my real life, not just online life.
I started thinking why do I have these projects? What's missing? What worked in old projects? What's not working now? I came up with this thing I'd called The Triad of Hustling. There are three variables and you have to hit two of the three variables in order for me to think it's successful. It either has to be making a lot of money has to be fun or it has to take up a small amount of time. RockstarFinance.com at that time wasn't making any money. It was popular but it wasn't making money. It took up four or five hours of my day. It was fun but it wasn't 100% fun. It was a lot of work. It crossed off half of a point instead of two of the three that I needed.
I decided to sell it. That was a big shock in our personal finance community because to the outside, it was growing and popular everyone knew about it and talking about it. I had to give up something that was popular and that's hard to do. You can give up projects that are failing. That's easy but this one was failing on some but overall, it was doing what it was supposed to do. I sold that. I got freedom back and then I read a book called Essentialism by Greg McKeown. It solidified spend your time on the stuff that matters that hits most of your goals and get rid of the rest in a nutshell. That’s the path I went down. Because of that, I started two things that I did that changed my work ethic but also my life. I stopped working nights and weekends which you'd think it would create chaos but magically you fit all your stuff you need to do during the week. I got my life back, so now my kids know at nights and weekends, I’m not allowed to go to the laptop. I have full-time to spend with them or other things. That keeps me refreshed for Monday. There were a lot of cool things that came out of that.
Dustin
Where do you draw that line especially in start-up mode with that formula? When you're birthing something, it's not making money generally and it's taken a lot of time. How do you draw that distinction?
J.Money
For the first 3 to 6 months, you have to go all-in, grind and do the best you can. After the six months point, it's where you can look back and say is it working or not working? So much happens in these first months. On the positive side, it's the time where you're most excited. You have an idea and you want to get it out to the world. You're so excited that it helps you overcome all the negativity of it. After six months, in my experience, I can know easily if I need to continue or not or change things. I always give it at least six months until I make that choice because then you'll quit something after a week of failing which is no time especially in the startup world. All the startup stuff I've ever done is online where you can build a WordPress or you can tap social media and all of a sudden you have a business where it's different than brick and mortar and these other kinds. Everything I'm talking about business-wise, at least in this call, relates to online stuff just to clarify for people.
Dustin
Along the way, you sold sites and properties online. You generated $250,000 over your career thus far probably more now at this point. You've talked about that was great and all but they came back to bite you because you sold your asset. There was no more cashflow. Can you talk a little bit about that?
J.Money
There are three different times in the twelve years where I sold stuff in the beginning. I had my blog, Budgets Are Sexy, and then I had about 11 or 12 other finance sites with other writers. I'm managing these little mini businesses. I was managing stuff. I wasn't passionate. I started to lose interest and burn out. I decided that I needed to sell them. I knew the facts that I'd get a chunk of money upfront, but then I wouldn't get the money recurring every month. If I sell this, it's no longer mine. I was like, "I need the money and the times." I sold everything except my blog. I got the chunk of money which is great. A year later, I realized that I wasn't hustling more to recoup any of the money.
I got in this weird funk where I didn't want to work hard because I was starting to want to live my life more. At that time, my wife was in grad school and we were pumping out kids. I had savings of $120,000 from selling stuff. I went all the way down in three years. I went through $90,000 of cash, straight-up savings as a finance blogger. My wife got a job, I started paying more attention to my stuff, I built another successful project and then we had a dip and then we started skyrocketing again. That was a conscious choice and then I had a struggle with, “How much do I want to not spend with my kids in order to build something online?”
It's still something that a lot of people struggle with because how much money do you need or not need? We did some other life choices along the way too. That was that first time. Interestingly, up to where we are now while talking to you, I don't own anything. I sold Rockstar Finance, I sold all the sites. I sold BudgetsAreSexy.com, which was my baby. I started getting into minimalism over the years. That was the number one thing. What happens if you sell that last thing, you lose that attachment? What happens psychologically like money? Budgets were a lot bigger of a site so I got a bigger chunk of money.
I waited for the opportunity where a company said, "We, the site, want to keep it and we want to hire you to keep writing for it." You don't have to manage a site, do tech, sales, or anything except be yourself and write which is the only reason I started the blog to begin with. For six months, I told everyone I sold, I got a chunk of money and I updated my net worth, which put me over the million-dollar mark which is a cool thing to accomplish. I've been blogging there every day and taking a salary. Nothing so far crazy has happened now. By the time I leave this site, I will see what happens. For now, that's where I'm sitting in it. It's interesting to be in this position when I love something, I talk about it, but I don't own it.
Dustin
It seems like you would negotiate and you're not chained to a desk 9:00 to 5:00 because of what you've shared. How is it being an employee? Is it you owe projects at deadlines or you got to write one article a week or how did you engineer that?
J.Money
The company that bought was The Motley Fool, which a lot of investors will know. It is a very cool, very cultured, centered site, not very your main stream type of company. They created another company, an internal project called Soapbox which is the one that technically bought it. I'm consulting with them and honestly, this is going to sound lame. I called this thing the drama list. I made a list. I said, "Here's the stuff I'm willing and not willing to do if we were to go into this project together." The nice thing when you own a project that's doing well, you don't have to be in a rush to sell and you could do it on your own terms in a perfect world.
I created this list and I said, "Here it is. I'm not working nights and weekends. I'm not going to write about anything that I don't believe in or I don't think is good for my audience." I put that on a list and I sent it over to them and they said, "This is great. Our values match up. This is fine. Let's do it." I said, "Great." I kept my Twitter account of Budgets Are Sexy, which is the name of the blog that I sold. That account is my connection to the world. That's important to me. They said, "That's fine. We want to work with you and we can be successful with or without that." I did that and that helped with a lot of the way I feel now which is perfectly fine. I'm glad that I made the decision.
Dustin
For the guys and gals reading this who sell a business or a site like you, a lot of people are concerned with the golden handcuffs, which if you are just hearing this. That’s you’ve got to stick around for three years, take a salary or whatever. It's part of the deal because they bought this asset. They don't want you disappearing. Talk about that.
J.Money
I'll say in business that anything is negotiable. You could ask for anything you want and sometimes you'll get it, sometimes you won't get it. If both parties agreed to it, then it's fine. You'll have some people that say, "I'm done. Pay me less, give me a less chunk of money upfront, but then I'm going to walk away as soon as we sign." Both parties know the risks and rewards to that especially blogs like mine, it's very personal. I'm so personal. It's like a diary for me. It's not like freelance writers. I'm very much intertwined with it, no matter what which also makes things harder to sell too on the flip side. At any rate, I agreed to stay on for six months. I said, "I'll stay on." It's been past six months, I signed for longer so I'll be there for a while longer.
These are all things that you can negotiate. It all goes back down to your lifestyle. I'm not financially free yet but when I am financially free, I'm still going to be doing something; I'm still going to be working on a project for at least four or five hours a day. As long as I have that lifestyle, whatever I plug and play in those four or five hours, there will always be something there. For now, it's Soapbox and it's blogging for the blog. They're going to come out with another project that I'm helping with. I'll switch from my blog to their or do half and half, I'm not sure. I'm a contractor technically, so I say, "We'll do six months or a year and then I go with the flow with things. If you're a planner, you can also set things up. To answer your question, everything is negotiable. You have to figure out what you want so that you can ask for what you want.
Dustin
That's solid. You created your personal code; you call it the drama list, what you want, what you don't want to do. That's important even before you sell it; it's more star to help you decide on projects or something I’ve recently done. It's extremely helpful. I've got to ask you about this because you're famous for having turned down a million-dollar offer for one of the sites there. What was going on in your world at the time? How did you say no?
J.Money
It was a number of things. This is around the period while I was losing the $90,000 in cash. I was getting burnt out. I couldn't figure out what I wanted out of this whole business thing. The deal, I should clarify, there's more of a million-dollar package where I'd get a chunk of money and I’d stay on for a couple of years, a salary. I had bonuses built-in there that I was confident I could hit. Altogether, it was about $1 million. At first I said no, I didn't know if the culture fit was going to be there. I didn't truly know what I wanted all the way. I knew that I was stuck and I didn't know what to do. I said, “No.” I went on a vacation for a week and then I said, "Screw it. I've been working hard for eight or nine years. $1 million is good money. Worst case, I have money, I can start a new thing." I flipped my answer. I called him back. I said, "I changed my mind. If the offer is still on the table, I'll take it." They said, "Great." Every week they said, "We'll be in touch."
Two months went by and I'm like, "What is going on?" In the meantime, since I don't know exactly what I want, I start flipping. Maybe I don't want to sell or this is the sign. I go to FinCon, which is a conference for financial bloggers, vloggers and money conferences. I go there and I win the Lifetime Achievement Award which sounds funny because it's only seven or eight years. I'm in my 30s but that's the biggest award you can get in our community. I went it, I'm walking, and I'm thinking, "I'm about to sell my site. I won this award. I'm out." I felt a faker for that hot minute. Even though I've earned it, but having these nods. I started talking to people about things that I wish I would have done on my site at that time Rockstar Finance. I only did half of the things I ever wanted to do. I was like, "Screw it. I'm going to go back and tell no again." It's been two months. I'm going to go all-in on myself for this next time.
I did and I said no. They said, "It sucks to hear. Sorry, it took so long. We were in the process of being bought out. That's why we were dragging you along because we were being bought our self." I didn't think about. It was a whole new team I'd be working with. I went all-in on myself. I did everything I wanted to do with Rockstar, Budgets Are Sexy grew a little bit. Both sites, when I ended up selling them, piecemeal of different people over the next couple of years, I got more value off of that than I was getting off the other deal. More importantly, I felt that now is the time and I don't regret it whereas looking back, had I done that first deal and never gone in on myself, I would still be regretting this stuff I'd never did. It's one of those things where your brain goes back and forth, but again, it still goes back to like, "I didn't know what I wanted." That changes everything because you do things that you might not normally do because you don't know what you want to do. Having that clear picture is best as you can get. It's super helpful.
Dustin
I want to go back. I share this with you having exited a business before. I didn't exit on great terms and at first it's like, "This thing is not going to succeed without me." I was thinking about the hands of a baby I put in the world, I want it to succeed. With Rockstar Finance, I was very fortunate now being in this new world of personal finance a couple of years ago. Now, I went back and checked in. I know it’s changed hands but what's your view on that? Is this something mentally it’s like, "I wish they had gone this direction with it." Can you detach from it? Are you thinking of going back and buying?
J.Money
This is an excellent question that a lot of people online here will love especially your readers. The backstory is I sold it to another blogger, John of ESIMoney.com. He's been blogging more than I have and he bought it. Everything was good. He then sold it to someone else and when it's sold, the person after a month shut it down. It went offline for about six months. It's online now and I don't know what it is. It's there but it's not there. That's where we are now. Rockstar Finance was built for the community. It was built to send traffic to other bloggers. It was a curation site. I read articles and my friend, Cait Flanders, and I would pick our top favorite three, we'd share them and that's all it did. It was a curation site and we added the directory and some other things but it was meant for the community. Accidentally because of that, I had the emails of all the bloggers in the community. I didn't want to sell to someone that would then start spamming or take advantage of my whole community that I still love.
I was very particular with whoever is taking it over. John and I decided it was the best bet. We talked, we'd been friends for years. He didn't take it over. He changed some stuff. Originally, we were supposed to work on it together for a few months. It turned out that he had ideas and then he wouldn't tell me. Nothing bad or anything but we realized that it's better for him to do it and pretend I don't exist. It's his now. I backed off silently and say, "Do your thing. Let me know if you need anything." That was it. He didn't need anything because that's his. I wasn't expecting it, but I was fine with it. I had to stop looking at it for sure because then I would start seeing the things that was going on and that's weird. When he sold it, that was another big hubbub like, "What's this new person going to do?" As owner, seller, or entrepreneur, you never think about what's going to happen the second iteration. I thought John was going to have it forever and that's what it'd be. It's a business to him. It made sense when he bought it. It didn't make sense by the time he went to sell it.
When a third person came, it was strange and no one knew this person or does to this day and then it’s strange that I just got shut down. He bought a company that was now at the time were three times more than when I sold it. John built it up, he got income, she killed the income and went offline and you're like, "What's going on here?" Long story short and I don't want to say too much and get anyone in trouble. There was talk about buying it back. It didn't work out. I believe she still owns it. I'm not sure what the plan is or anything. What's interesting is now you've seen other bloggers all take up the torch and launched their own curation sites. There are about 3 or 4, maybe 5 other smaller curation sites or maybe they're bigger. There's a whole bunch of them now, so it's cool to see it and move on. Other people have done it. I don't know if there is still one that overreaches all of them. There's a whole bunch of them now. 
Dustin
It's funny you talk about you don't think of the second iteration. I can appreciate it because I exited and then someone else bought it from them. I thought my former partner would run with it. You never think about that. It's interesting. It's some good insight. You’ve got to be careful.
J.Money
For me, you have to know because I am more conservative, I always say like, "What's the worst thing that can happen?" The worst thing is I sell the blog, someone puts payday loan as, they put porn on it, and it gets shut down. That's the worst that could happen. I'm like, "I have to be okay. I know the odds are low, but you have to be okay. No matter what happens, that's a possibility." I've seen because, with Rockstar, I track. I would track every single financial blog I found, I put him in a tracker and we had over 2,000 of them. I saw 80% of every single thing that was being published every single day in the personal finance space. On average, about 200 new articles every day would show up. I saw trends and I saw what happens when people would shut down their site and not renew the domain.
A porn site would come in and buy it and redirect it. I saw this stuff because you don't think about it. You're like, "I'm not going to pay for it anymore." Us bloggers, it used to link to you and now we’re linked in to all these crappy sites. It's interesting to see what happens in the ecosystem. I started seeing what everyone else was blogging. At first, I was like, "This is crazy." I got so tired because 90% of finances are all the same. I started getting down on our community like, "Everyone is talking about the same boring stuff. No one is exciting." It made me become a better writer because I'm like, "I don't want to be that. I wanted double down on my personality online." It's interesting what happens when you track these of what you think is going to happen and ends up changing stuff. That's what makes it exciting. 
Dustin
I'm realizing J, our conversation is about investing. I want to talk about investing your style as you were going from the $50,000 to $1 million. Obviously, you're sitting on some capital. That's more about growth. I want you to explore that with us. Now that you do have the capital and you're in a protection mode, how are you investing differently?
J.Money
In the beginning, all of my money was in 401(k) because I had the crazy matching. The funds weren't anything great, but it was the matching that was giving you so much money. The 100% match of even 3% or 6% is still doubling your money. You still do it even if your fund is suck. That's where all my money was originally. The FIRE movement started happening and everyone was talking about index funds. I remember being on The Dough Roller Podcast. Rob had a podcast or maybe still does. He asked me what my investment fees were and I said, "I don't know." He started laughing. He's like, "How can you be a blogger and not know it?" I just didn't. It was the area I didn't care to pay attention to.
I went back and I wasn't invested in 50 different funds, different stocks. I started dabbling outside of the 401(k) and all that. I was paying anywhere, all the stocks or whatever but funds. Some of my funds are 3% or 2%, a crazy amount of money to manage my funds which is a lot of money. I caught on to the indexing stuff. I found that's for me. I don't need to beat the market. I don't want to go under. Whatever the market is doing, I'm cool because the market genuinely goes up slowly over time. That is what I chose to put all my money in. All my money is in index funds at Vanguard, particularly VTSAX, the Total Market Fund. I'm lazy, I put it in there, I don't think about it and it does its thing.
I don't like real estate talking about the home stuff. I chose that route. Other people will buy a portfolio of rental properties and they'd rather manage something physical that they can control more than the stock market, which is bonkers sometimes. That's where my money is. Anytime I get a chunk of money, I'd like to sit on it because it feels so good to have money in your savings. It's fun to dream. I've been dreaming for a few months and now it's time to put a couple of hundred thousand somewhere. It's not sitting there with inflation eating away at it. I might pay off the house or invest that back into index funds again. I'm in that spot right now.
I do think more about how do I protect it more? I'm still going to be working for a long time, so I can still be somewhat risky. It'll still be in the market or in the home paying it off. You have to figure out what you're comfortable with, how risky you want to do, big risks sometimes big rewards. The more conservative, less rewards but you feel safer. As long as you can go to sleep and not stress, that's important to me. Going back to the lifestyle, I want a peaceful life. I'd rather have a peaceful life with $1 million than a stressful life, having $10 million at the end of the day. I lined up based on my stress levels too.
Dustin
You talked about when you first started blogging, you didn't use your name. One of the things that you're known for online is you're an avid coin collector. Your name is J. Money. Was this an interesting part of the story or is this legit that you are a coin collector?
J.Money
I am a coin collector but not when I started the blog. A funny fact, my first iteration of my name was called J. Savings. I thought that was cool and my wife would lay into me almost every week like, "What's up, J. Savings?" She thought it was so nerdy. Once I was like, "Screw it. I'm going to change it but I like the J.” I don't know why. My real name doesn't even start with J. Money popped in my head, I was like, "J. Money." That sounds much better. There's rappers J. money. I love rap. I changed it with my first year of blogging and then over the years, I randomly stumbled across coins at a yard sale. I'm a yard seller. I like it so I’ve been collecting for 4 or 5 years. I have a coin blog that I never update called CoinThrill.com. It's my hobby and even that, I struggle with as a practicing minimalist, I'm collecting. Fortunately, they're tiny and you can put them in a box and you're good.
Why am I spending $100 on this piece of coin that could be invested or it can be given to charity? The coin just sits there. It doesn't do anything but for some reason, I enjoy it. Some of the years, I'm hardcore, some I was like, “I'm done collecting.” I've gotten into books. I'm going back to not working on the weekends. I found that I enjoy reading books for the first time in my life like physical books, not online. I'd read a book and I'd fall asleep and I take a nap in the middle of the day. It's crazy. I've never taken a nap as an adult. I’ve never read real books out of college if I'm being honest. I only read articles or magazines. I'll buy a book that's rare for $50, but I'll read the entire thing. It's a much more useful and gratifying than buying a $50 coin.
Dustin
I’ve got to have a follow-up. What's the one that you covet, whether it's a book or a coin? What would you love to have in your collection?
J.Money
One of the most beautiful coins in the world and it's from the US is a $20 Saint-Gaudens gold coin. That was made in the early 1900s. It has a beautiful Lady Liberty with a torch, which is gold. It's heavy. It's worth about an ounce of gold so that whatever the gold prices are going fluctuates. There are some rare ones out there, but that's the coin that's somewhat attainable. It costs me $1,500 to $1,700. It's also beautiful to look at. The nice thing if you collect silver and gold stuff, you can always cash it in because gold and silver are more liquid than other investments. You can go to a pawn shop or coin dealer.
There's inherent value or at least we, as the US thinks or the world thinks is value, the silver and the gold metal. It makes me feel better knowing that coin collecting is not growing. It's declining, let's be honest. I know if it all declines, at least I have precious metals that are worth a fraction, but at least I can still cash that in which was makes me sleep a little better. It's one of those hobbies I like to do on the frontend. I should say, I do learn about history because when you're looking up, I collect older coins from the 1800s and you're always learning about stuff from the 1800s when you're researching them. That has spurred a history interest in me too now.
Dustin
That's very cool, J. I could talk to you forever. You're a lovable guy. You have a lot of wisdom and insights. Before we wrap, I do want to ask you this. You mentioned Soapbox. You're still writing. You're taking weekends off, spending it with your kids. I'm curious to know, what are you most excited about? What's that future project that you're working on or maybe not a future project that gets you excited?
J.Money
I don't have a future project. I'm working with Soapbox. We'll see what this next one comes that I'm consulting on. I like being able to wake up and not know what's going to happen that day, but I could start a project or get an opportunity or someone will want to put something to me. That's exciting but only because I can then act on it. When you're tied to something, even if something awesome comes your way, you have to somehow get rid of the thing you're tied to in order to do it or double up on your energy. Having the space to say, "If something comes to me now that excites me, I can start it right away." That is exciting to me and that's the position I have. At some point, I'm going to get bored if that exciting thing doesn't come. As of now, I'm happy laying low. It’s like I'm a tankful of gas. I'm like, "I'm waiting to pedal but nothing juicy has happened yet."
Dustin
I want to acknowledge you. Thank you for paying it forward and sharing your journey online. It's not easy to put your net worth numbers and the stumbles along the way and run it into characters that are asking you, "You don't know what your fees are." It's telling of the person you are. I appreciate you coming on the show and sharing the wisdom. If people want to check you out, BudgetsAreSexy.com and JMoney.biz. Is there anywhere else that you like to send folks if they want to continue the conversation with J. Money?
J.Money
On Twitter I am @BudgetsAreSexy. I hang out there during the day and I'm talking to people. I love the community and answering questions. I like having fun and talking about this stuff. You're free to hit me up on any of those spots.
Dustin
Thanks for being on the show, J. 
J.Money
Thanks to you. That was a lot of fun.

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