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When it comes to Band of Bloggers, we’ve had all sorts of people on. Self-employed Airbnb hosts, ex-band teachers turned Facebook ad gurus and millionaire bloggers who are icons in the personal finance space.
One type of guest we’ve never had is a military veteran…but that all changes today.
Moose is the West Point grad and ex-Army officer owner of MSoLife (Making Sense of Life). After spending several years serving in the Army, Moose moved into a life of high finance. He got his MBA, and started helping millionaires and billionaires make even MORE money!!
Now his aim is to help regular folks achieve FIRE.
And he’s practicing what he preaches. Last year he invested over 100K while paying off $30,000 in debt.
So ya, he’s a financial rock star.
And he was kind enough to take some time to share some of his hard-won wisdom and insight about life, work, family and finances, with us.
Tim Ferris says that “Life punishes the vague wish and rewards the specific ask.” What is one vague wish you were punished by or one specific ask you were rewarded for?
That’s a great question, and I haven’t heard Tim Ferriss say that before, so thanks for highlighting it.
I’ve always been highly specific with my asks. I have particular goals, and I break those goals down into specific smaller actionable steps. Whether it’s going to West Point and serving as an Army officer or breaking into a lucrative career, most of life has flowed loosely within the confines of the “master plan.” Even when life throws in a twist or two, I’m better off for having a challenging goal and working toward it.
(Me in Red) If you’re a regular reader of Band of Bloggers, you know how many of the high achievers featured here have talked about achieving their goals in a similar fashion.
After all, “The best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time.”
What is the one book (or books) that you have given to your friends?
A book that I have gifted to a couple of friends is The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson. It’s a fantastic read and something that I think all Type-A people can use to their benefit.
We all need more chill in our lives.
I have seen this book EVERYWHERE.
I must admit, whenever I see a book with this kind of a title, I’m a little skeptical that the contents won’t live up to the hype of the title. But hearing Moose speak so highly about it makes me think that I should check it out.
Even though I’m definitely not Type-A, I can relate to needing more chill in my life. It’s a book that I may take a look at picking up through Audible so that I can find my chill on the car ride into work (ya know, when all those crazy drivers are driving me insane).
How has a failure or apparent failure, set you up for success later? Do you have a favorite?
While I was an Army infantry officer, I was injured badly enough to be no longer able to continue in that line of work. I wanted to go to a Special Forces group and had already experienced some of the training, but that was now in the realm of impossibility.
It was a massive blow to my ego, frankly, to move to a non-combat branch. It was also a bit of a culture shock. However, it all ended up working out since it smoothed over my transition to a highly competitive MBA program. I don’t know how well I would have adjusted and kept up without the transition.
The new, more relatively laid-back role also gave me the chance to beef up on my Excel and presentation skills, and I got to work on some cool secret squirrel projects. Looking back, I have no regrets, and there’s nothing I would or could have done differently.
I have a TON of respect for the way Moose handled this potentially devastating situation. I’ve never experienced something quite so permanently disappointing, but I have had situations where I desperately wanted something and worked my butt off to get it, only to come up short. In those instances of failure, it was so easy for me to get down on myself and get stuck in a rut of being bummed out.
Moose didn’t let that happen.
In an example of dealing with difficulty reminiscent of The Dragons from a few weeks ago, he took a nasty situation and made the best of it, using it to reorient his life-goals in a different, yet equally fulfilling, direction.
That takes true grit and character, both of which Moose possesses in spades.
What is a quote(s) that you live your life by or that you find yourself repeating to yourself?
I appreciate profound and eloquent quotes as much as the next person. However, the one that helps me the most is “embrace the suck.”
I’ve written about it a time or two at my site, MSoLife.com. It means that instead of running away from adversity, embrace it and know that you’ll emerge on the other side stronger and better equipped. “Embracing the Suck” has gotten me through an incalculable amount of suck in life and has never let me down.
Embrace the suck. I love it.
In typical Army fashion, embrace the suck isn’t flowery or eloquent. It’s practical. Deadly practical.
My wife is doing her Masters of Psychology in school counseling right now so in our house we talk a lot about psychology. One of the thoughts that has come up multiple times when it comes to counseling is that the only way past is through.
Moose gets this.
You don’t turn and run from nasty situations. Whether it’s a 20-mile march, a devastating injury, or a breakdown in a relationship or financial hardship, the only way past is through.
Embrace the suck and as Moose said, you’ll emerge on the other side stronger and better equipped.
What’s one of the best or more worthwhile investments you’ve made (money, time, energy, etc.).
I’ve made very high returns investing in individual stocks over the years. I’ve got a strong hit-rate and have had more winners than losers since I started investing at 18. It was pure luck when I was younger and now I know a little more and can build out complex valuations that give me more of a clue.
However, this requires 100+ hours of work to get to know the company and a bit of luck (still!). We all have blind spots, and while I’ve yet to get severely pantsed on a systemic basis, I don’t want or need to tempt fate.
Since I’d rather spend my time with my family instead of pouring over 10-Ks, I now invest in low-cost index funds. I also just don’t care as much as I used to, if I’m completely frank here. You get burned out on that stuff.
O.k., phewf. I was getting nervous that Moose was going to be advocating investing in individual stocks! And, as you know, I am NOT a proponent of that methodology.
For basically all the same reasons Moose listed!
Yes, if you spend a TON of time researching companies and their financials, you can get to know a lot about a company and build some more detailed valuations. But as Moose said, there are still blind spots. After 100+ hours of research, you still have blind spots, so really, what’s the point?
How much do you value your time?
For me, like Moose, I’d WAY rather invest in low-cost index funds and be spending my time with family and doing things that I really enjoy rather than researching stocks every night.
Do you know how much time I spent managing my investment portfolio last year? About 30 minutes.
Yup, half an hour. And my portfolio returned almost 13%. Sure maybe if I did a bunch of research I could get better returns, but there are no guarantees.
For me, with the hundreds of hours I was able to invest in other areas, like my family, work and my health, it’s a trade-off that’s well worth it.
In the last 5 years, what new belief, behavior or habit has most improved your life?
The habit that has helped me the most is always to be learning and be inquisitive.
Industry changes at a lightning-fast pace, and if you’re not keeping up with the latest trends, you’re likely to get left behind.
For example, I think that going forward you’ll see a lot more remote freelancers. If you’re not already freelancing as a side hustle, I recommend you get on it now. I’d rather have a good feel for that life now before it’s essential than to get caught up at the same time as everyone else.
Being a lifelong learner is SO critical to your long-term success. It doesn’t matter if you’re just starting out in your career or if you’re winding down, the ability to learn is absolutely crucial to being able to survive and thrive in the new economy.
It’s all part of having a growth mindset, a trait that research has shown is instrumental in having sustained success in all aspects of your life.
What advice would you give to a smart, industrious, newbie blogger as they start out?
It helps refine your “craft” (such a snotty term) and keeps you disciplined. Also, you never know what’s going to be a hit when you click “publish,” so crank out high-quality posts as often as you can.
I’d agree with this. The more you write the better writer you’ll become.
There are so many reasons why people don’t practice their craft as much as they should. Work, family, health, hobbies, Netflix, Youtube; the list goes on and on. And some of these things are legitimately awesome.
But at the end of the day, they all boil down to one thing. They’re just different forms of what author Steven Pressfield refers to as “resistance” in his AMAZING book The War of Art.
Our job as “artists” is to do all we can to overcome resistance. In the end, producing art is less about having those MOMENTS of brilliance and more about grinding out the work to produce WORKS of brilliance.
What common advice should they ignore?
They should be wary of the extreme of the previous tidbit of advice. Don’t write so much that you deter from quality. If you’ve got nothing useful to add to a topic, think about something where you can add value and write about that instead.
Oh man, TOTALLY agree with this!!
For a while, I was posting twice a week. And it sucked. Not only did I hate it, I constantly felt like I was rushing out my posts just to get them out. I wasn’t happy with the quality of them and I felt like they were, to be honest, way crappier than what I was capable of.
Not to get on my high horse, but I see some of the posts out there and I’m shocked people read them. Ya, you’re posting 4 times a week but your pieces are uninspired and recycled versions of posts done by hundreds of others.
And I get it, some posts will be like that.
Every personal finance writer needs to have a post on budgeting (I should get on that). Everyone needs a piece (or 10) about how to make more money.
But don’t write so much that you can’t put in the time to write stuff that ROCKS. When I do a post, it takes me HOURS to write it start to finish. By the time I read on the topic, research my piece, write it, and optimize for SEO (which I’m trying to do more of), it takes A LONG time.
And I’m o.k. with that. Because I’d way rather produce high-quality content less often than watered-down work 5 times a week.
What are 1-3 apps/programs/plugins that have allowed you to maximize your time/energy?
I like Grammarly. My punctuation or grammar is decent, but I have a nasty habit of writing in the passive voice or using too many commas.
Yoast SEO is a must, in my view. It makes optimizing for SEO much more accessible and is a good stand-in until I delve into that ever-changing mess.
For my finances, I use both Mint and Personal Capital. I go over them at least weekly to make sure everything is trending to plan and that my accounts are secure.
Yes and Yes to both Grammarly and Yoast. Great plugins and the free versions are AWESOME!
As far as finances, I’ve heard good things about both Mint and Personal Capital. My wife and I use the free version of EveryDollar and we LOVE it.
Bottom line, there are lots of great options out there for managing your money.
What one thing has been most effective for increasing traffic on your blog?
I’ve found guest posting to be great for increasing traffic. There’s a cross-pollination that occurs when you do that. You get new fans that are interested in what you have to say, and you also introduce some of your readers to someone else.
It’s essential that you write good guest posts and that you don’t publish bad ones. If a guest post is poorly written or adds little to what you’re already saying, don’t post it.
Amen to this. Like I said, I spend hours on my own posts. But my guest posts? It’s NUTS how long these babies take me to get done.
And I’ve been very fortunate to post on some great sites like Get Rich Slowly, Budgets Are Sexy and Millennial Money Man. And I’m PUMPED to have a guest post coming up in a week on Making Sense of Cents.
Not only is this great for building the authority of your site, the relationships I’ve built by guest posting have been AMAZING!! These relationships are invaluable when it comes to building your audience and your business.
What does resilience mean to you? When have you had to be resilient?
It means rolling with the punches and I’ve had to be resilient almost my entire life, as I’m sure is the case with most of the people reading this. Life isn’t easy.
Which is better? A goal that is smaller and you achieve it, or one that is too big and you don’t? Why?
The latter. Achieving easy and insignificant goals means nothing. It’s a quick dopamine rush of “hey, look at me.”
If you want to accomplish something worthwhile, it says you’re going to have to grind it out, and you will repeatedly be humbled by how terrible you are at it.
Character growth doesn’t come from easy wins. An easy win is expected, and if you can’t take care of those as a matter of habit, you’re not going to hit those more ambitious goals.
I’d rather fail trying to take down an ambitious goal than collect a bunch of insignificant successes that never challenged me or forced me to learn something.
See my above responses about meeting challenges and reaching goals. Moose is a warrior, that’s clear from the attitude he models as he faces challenges. It’s this attitude that allowed him to get into West Point, made him an excellent soldier, and have made him a successful businessman, husband, and father.
What is one thing you have an abundance of and one thing you’re working on building an abundance of?
I don’t see myself as having an abundance of anything. I used to be cocky as heck and still can be, but I’ve been humbled enough to know better now. Twenty-two year-old Moose would annoy the crap out of me right now.
Relative to most of my life, maybe time?
I’ve kept busy during my mini-retirement though, so it’s not that. What I need to build an abundance of is patience.
I don’t have much of that. If I do X, Y, and Z, I expect to get 1, 2, and 3. Usually, you need to throw some time into that equation, and it’s doesn’t typically come through when you expect it. You have to let things marinate. I still struggle with that.
I hear ya Moose, buddy. Patience is something that I REALLY struggle with.
Take this blog for example.
I thought for sure that after a year I would have some real, tangible results to show for all of my hard work.
And I have. I’ve grown my audience, built some KILLER relationships with great bloggers, had my work featured in some awesome magazines and on some amazing sites, and even made a few bucks.
But I thought I was going to see bigger results way faster than I have. I’d hoped I’d be making a consistent side-income at this point. But I’m still chipping away.
When I’m tempted to get discouraged I think of the story of the stonecutter that Bobby from Millennial Money Man told me. You never know which swing of the hammer is going to be the breakthrough blow.
It’s my job to keep swinging away!
Tell us about a time when you were REALLY scared to do something. How did you handle it?
I’ve got some doozies. I’ve seen the hideous, evil side of humanity as well as those qualities that ennoble us. Oddly enough, the latter typically follows the former.
My next-door neighbor was a crack dealer, I was around abusive adults, and I’ve seen death up close as a soldier.
Without going into detail (because it doesn’t add much anyway), let’s say that I handled it by taking it a step at a time and pushing forward. Don’t stop and think about how messed up the situation is or pity yourself. Just drive on and accomplish the objective. You need to have a good support network to blow off steam with after that objective is over, or you can spiral down a rabbit hole that is VERY hard to get out of. You’ve got to remember to take care of yourself too; I wasn’t always great at that.
I sense a real “embrace the suck” mentality from Moose!
Embrace the suck but be sure that you do it in community. When we embrace the suck solo, it can get very lonely and as Moose said, that can lead you to a very dark place that can be difficult to escape from on your own. Be sure to surround yourself with people who care and can walk with you through difficult times.
That’s one of the reasons why I think so many bloggers quit. Blogging is hard and it’s easy to get discouraged. If you’re all alone, you’re for sure going to throw in the towel.
But, if you’re surrounded by a great group of people, whether on Twitter or Rockstar Finance or on some great Facebook groups, it can mean the difference between giving up and sucking it up!
How has generosity been a part of your life (someone generous to you or vice versa). What impact did it make?
I’ve been lucky at every step in life. People took gambles on me, and I worked hard to live up to that responsibility. Without the generosity of others who bet on me or who advised me in life, I’d be a different person.
I wasn’t handed anything, I still had to work for it, but people said “let’s give this kid a chance,” and I’m always grateful for that. The right things happened at the right times. I remember that when I have the opportunity to reciprocate.
This is awesome to hear. Living a life of gratitude is a critical piece to finding fulfillment and contentment. And few things feel better than being able to pay forward a break or opportunity that we were given.
I think that’s one of the reasons that I have such a soft spot for first-year teachers. I remember my first principal taking a chance on me and giving me a job and me working my can off to be the best teacher I could be for my students. And I often see that same look in some young teacher’s eyes. When I do, it’s hard for me not to want to extend the same opportunity to them that I got so many years before.
What are the top 3 most common money problems you’ve seen people consistently fighting to overcome?
Overspending, under-earning, and not investing due to fear.
Reign your impulses in and save for a rainy day. Also, consider if you’re overspending because of where you live.
If you have spare time, you can make more money.
Invest that excess money you bring in. That 1.6% checking account is losing you money, bucko. You can’t have all your cash in a savings account; you’ll get nowhere with that. Inflation is robbing your purchasing power.
Yup, people don’t get this last point. They think that if their money is in a savings account, it’s safe.
It’s like there’s a parasite eating away at the ability of your money to buy things. That parasite? Inflation.
It’s one of the reasons I’m completely invested in stocks. Yes, I could be more conservative, but with my long time horizon (20+ years or so) and the fact that I have a pension through work, I’m invested all in stocks to try to maximize my returns when I’m younger and can afford to be more aggressive.
MSoLife Band of Bloggers – Bringing It All Together
I’d like to thank Moose for being a part of Band of Bloggers this week. He truly brings a unique perspective that I don’t think we’ve had in the feature yet.
His blend of Army “embrace the suck” attitude, coupled with his West Point pedigree and the wealth of knowledge he has when it comes to finances, make him an incredibly wise voice to pay attention to.
Through his responses, he models that life really is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond to it. If we respond with grit and determination, taking the time to develop our patience and putting in the hard work, we can all expect to achieve the type of success both in life and in his career that Moose has.
Moose is a father, husband, Army Veteran, investment analyst, and blogger at MSoLife.com. He has lived in several countries and the longest amount of time he has spent in one location as an adult is four years. One time he hung out in a favela in Rio de Janeiro, which was stupid. He writes primarily about personal finance but his interests also include weightlifting and philosophy (especially Stoicism). In 2017, his net worth increased by $950k.
Do you want help passing on winning money values to your kids? Sign up below for my FREE course How To Teach Your Kids About Money! And share in the comments what you’re doing to improve the health of your life and money. You can also join the conversation on Twitter @method_money or on my Facebook page Method To Your Money. You can also find me on Pinterest.