Financial Interviews

#34: Interview With Mr. Ten Factorial Rocks – A Personal Finance Blogger & Much More

Please tell us a little bit about yourself.

I am a mid-40’s senior manager in a consumer products company. In my younger days, I earned a Ph.D. in engineering and an MBA as well from some well-known US universities. Before my geek credentials are firmly established, I must say that I spent much of my engineering days writing poetry to survive the boring engineering lectures! I will soon publish a poem on my website just to prove my site is way broader than finance-related geekery 🙂

I have worked in almost all continents of the world, except maybe Africa and Antarctica so I feel like a ‘global citizen’. I am currently shuttling between the land of ‘abundance’ and the land of ‘karma’! I will let your readers figure that out 🙂

My career, thankfully, has allowed my wanderlust spirit to explore the world and experience many of the world’s great cultures, cuisines and people.

Financial Interview, personal finance hacks and tips, money and investment tips

Early in my profession, I learned that you cannot teach engineering to a marketer, but you can certainly teach marketing to an engineer. My continuous pursuit of breadth of skills allowed me to move up my career and this also pushed me towards self-directed investing. Married with a child (10 year old son), my son helped me name my blog and also inspires me to re-discover the world through his eyes.

Now that was a fascinating introduction!How did you get into blogging? What’s the central aim of your blog?

By accident. The idea came to me one morning during a long walk. There is so much of misinformation about career and investing in the world with people jumping between two extremes – of doom/gloom on one side and extreme greed on the other – so I thought why not be an anchor of balance in this crazy world? At the very least, I wanted my son to understand his old man a little better when he grows up. He loves math, so my blog ended up having a ‘mathy’ name. My father and grand fathers were journalists and educators, so you can also say there is a bit of ‘gene effect’ in sharing. 

Ten Factorial Rocks(TFR) was created to chronicle my journey towards retirement while sharing my views on the learnings, absurdities and pitfalls along the way towards my search for a more meaningful life.

Wall Street finance and stock option riches have one thing in common – they never passed through my life! TFR is not just about financial independence. TFR is also about self- empowerment while getting to financial independence, and our search for a better, meaningful life (of which early retirement is just one milestone).

My website is aimed at working professionals anywhere in the world, looking for ways to reach financial independence (FI) and then use that to find meaning in their lives (including retiring early, but not necessarily).

I have based my website on 4 simple maxims that have helped me and hopefully, many other seekers out there. They are:

  • Save Money
  • Avoid Traps
  • Invest Well, and,
  • Find Meaning (of life, spirit, work, relationships, people…whatever appeals to you).

These are captured in my Ten Factors that outline what my website is all about. As you can see, it goes far beyond money.

I also write about other topics of life experience that may amuse, educate, or if nothing else, make you wonder about some aspect of the world we live in and how we react to it.

What has worked for you, in the world of blgging, so far and what hasn’t?

Being authentic has always worked for me. It is the source of everything I do, both in the virtual and physical world. What has worked so far is having good content based on real insights. Good content cannot be created without authenticity and a deep passion to share real insights without any hidden motive or bias.

Speaking of bias, all of us suffer from many (often hidden) cognitive biases, and I have paid a steep price for them in my 20’s and 30’s. So, my struggle in identifying and removing cognitive bias is also an important part of my life journey. I have some articles on my website on this very topic.

What hasn’t worked for me in blogging so far is marketing, as in ‘not doing it’! Though the visitors love all the content I share, I haven’t been able to reach more people as I thought I could when I started the blog. Maybe your readers can help me out here.

Is blogging it part of your financial independence plan?

No. However, it would be nice if it generated some income to explore some of my other interests.

What is your money philosophy?

Simple rule: You have to earn it and save it, before you spend it. Having been raised in a modest middle class family, I have had this drilled into me from a young age. Since this question is about money ‘philosophy’, I will add this:

I believe financial independence is not about your net worth, it is about the cash flow needed to finance your lifestyle. If you have adequate passive cash flow to cover all your expenses, then you are financially independent in my book, regardless of your net worth.

What financial goals have you set in life?

They are outlined here, but frankly, with each passing day, the process is what I am focusing on more than the goal. Something about ‘smell the roses along the way’, right? It doesn’t matter whether I reach the $10! goal or not, it is more about the people my writing may have helped and the many like-minded people I have had the pleasure to e-meet, after I started my website.

Finances are an important part of life, but once you are on a firm footing, finance fades into the background. And other factors like family, health, interests and purpose/meaning become more prominent.

What are your top 3 financial tips/hacks that you’d like to share with our readers?

  1. Prepare for Emergencies – Almost all emergencies leave a financial impact. Emergencies can strike when you are least prepared, so before you even think about investing, build a fund to take care of at least 6 months of your life. Put this in the best-interest bearing money market account you can find (make sure it is FDIC-insured in US or enjoys equivalent regulatory protection in other countries). After you build an investment portfolio of decent size, a separate emergency fund may not be required but it is absolutely essential to start your financial journey with one.
  2. Live two ‘notches’ below your income level. By a ‘notch’, I mean 10%. So, if you are earning $60,000/year, live the lifestyle of a person earning 20% less, that is, $48,000/year. You can easily find such a person in your workplace or neighbourhood and observe their lifestyle choices. Even if they are barely squeaking by, you are going to automatically save 20% of your income by doing this
  3. Invest efficiently – Too much of your hard-earned money ends up in the hands of the unscrupulous financial industry filled with charlatans and pseudo-experts who talk a good game, but almost never walk the talk. Cost matters enormously in investing, so invest in either low cost equity index funds or a diverse portfolio of high quality dividend-paying companies if you have the interest to build a passive income stream for the future.

Anyfinancial mistakes you’d like to share?

Too many to list them all. In the early part of my career, I thought my ticket to riches was investing in a hot internet stock that defied gravity or sometimes, even a commodity that ought to go up just because, you know, it didn’t rain that hard last season (as if that or some other stupid variable that I could observe was the only one that mattered in the vast commodity markets…duh!). I was caught wrong-footed and wiped out my invested capital more than once. Thankfully, the losses were not huge. Moreover, my debt-free philosophy and strong savings discipline helped me recover quickly. More than a decade later, I still make mistakes in dividend investing by getting tempted towards higher yields occasionally but have learned to control risks.

Everybody, including Warren Buffett, makes financial mistakes. Making mistakes is part of learning this investing ‘game’ that we must master in our journey towards financial independence. It is important to ‘fail fast and cheap’, as the saying goes. I have learned to apply the lessons and have largely won the bigger game.

Thanks​ for sharing your insights with us today. I’m sure our readers will head over to your blog to learn from your experiences.

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