The United States has always attracted people from all over the world. It’s been a dream land for many. People come to America every day in hope for better life for themselves and their families. All these families have a unique reason for immigration but at the same time they have a lot in common.
This blog is my story, a first generation immigrant from Russia. But there are also a lot of other immigrants with interesting stories and I would like to share them with you.
Today I would like to introduce you Menard a 45 years old immigrant from Philippines.
Menard blogs over at MillionaireBefore50.com and has a lot of stories to share with all of us. My favorite post are What 20 years in America has taught me about money and Rich Mom, Poor Dad: a tribute to my mom who saved us all
I asked Menard if he would like to be the first featured person in my series of posts and surprisingly he said yes.*
Without further ado then, let’s start our interview.
Introduce yourself and tell us about your blog.
My name is Menard. I’m a 45 years old software engineer who blogs semi-anonymously @ MillionaireBefore50.com. It’s a blog about getting rich through sound handling of personal finances. My niche is dual-income immigrant families with kids and regular jobs.
I picked the domain name because it’s S.M.A.R.T. — The name is specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-based. Being a millionaire before the age of 50 is a realistic and achievable goal for most people.
Why did you decide to start your blog?
I started a blog because I wanted to share my thoughts and opinions to the public about personal finance, which I am very passionate about. Secondly, I wanted a place where I can document our journey towards financial independence as a couple. And finally, to sow the seeds of my future online business– I needed something to do when I retire. In 5 to 10 years, I’m planning on using this platform to sell other products (e.g. ebooks, mobile apps, etc.).
How long have you been living in the States and why did you chose this country?
I’ve been living here for the last 20 years. I got a $38K/year entry-level software developer job only a few weeks after coming to America. That’s a very respectable entry level salary in 1997. I was on a non-working visa back then, so my employer held my salary for 3 months until I got my H1-B. So, my first paycheck was a cool $6,000. Prior to this, the biggest paycheck that I received was probably less than $150.
I spent all $6,000 on frivolous stuff. $2,000 just on a brand new laptop, which was stolen a year later at a Park and Ride in New Jersey, on my way to a job interview. And then the dotcom bust came in 2002. Fortunately, I changed my ways in 2000 and saved a lot of cash. Otherwise, I would not have survived financially because I was jobless for almost a year.
How and when did you learn about this FIRE movement?
I actually didn’t know about the FIRE movement until 6 months after I started my blog. It happened only after listening to Scott Allan Turner’s The Financial Rockstar podcast where I learned about the acronym (Financially Independent Retire Early).
What’s your Net Worth? (You don’t have to answer).
My current net worth is around $1,200,000 (65% stocks, 15% real-estate, 10% bonds, 5% cash, and 5% personal property).
My only debt is my mortgage, which I intend to completely payoff by 2020.
What’s your financial/Investment strategy?
I believe in low-cost index funds and value investing. I seldom buy individual stocks. But when I do, I spend a minimum of 100 hours researching about the company’s fundamentals before buying. The ones that I own, I’ve been held for a very long time. For example, I held on Microsoft shares as early as 2003 and Bank of America since 2009 when it was worth around $6 per share.
One exception is when I bought 200 shares of SNAP for $25 apiece. I sold the shares at a loss when the price went down to around $21. To be honest, I bought those shares only so I can blog about it. But I’m usually very prudent in investing my hard earned money.
Instead of just dollar-cost averaging, I sometimes ‘time’ the market by buying more mutual fund shares when the broad market indices (e.g. S&P 500) go down by a significant percentage.
If you can, what would you do different with your life?
I started investing only in my 30s. If I started just 5 years earlier, my net worth would probably be twice as much as it is now.
What advice would you give to a fresh immigrant?
If you’re a fresh immigrant, you’re at a slight disadvantage because of the language barrier. You can compensate by exhibiting a very strong work-ethic. For example, show your employer that you’re willing to work on weekends, when none of your co-workers are willing to do so. That’s one way to make them dependent on you and not the other way around. I’m still working for the same company that first hired me. I actually left them in 2000 to work elsewhere. If it wasn’t for the work ethic, I would not have been rehired.
Make yourself more marketable by acquiring new skills. Become an expert at what you do.
Take very good care of your body. You’ll save a ton of money in healthcare costs alone just by avoiding junk food and brown bagging your lunch regularly.
Live below your means, invest wisely and aggressively.
If you’re single – pick a frugal spouse who will stick with you through thick and thin. It also helps if she has a decent income.
What’s The American Dream for you?
For me, it doesn’t have anything to do with owning a fancy house or car. American Dream is about being able to provide for your family without relying on Visa, Mastercard or worst, Public Welfare. It’s about being able to pursue happiness without getting into debt.
Is it still alive?
Yes, it is very much alive. And I’m living it.
Once again, thanks a lot Menard, for stopping by and being mine first guest on this blog. I appreciate that.
* This man ain’t afraid of nothing.