Subscriber Swap Saturday: Weakonomics

by Kevin on June 13, 2009

This is the twenty-sixh edition of Subscriber Swap Saturday.

For the uninitiated, every Saturday I do an interview with another blogger. That blogger also interviews me and posts that interview on their website.We then tell our readers — hey, I think this guy is interesting, you should subscribe to his blog for a week.

This week I’m interviewing Weakonomics. I highly encourage all of my readers to subscribe to his blog and see if you like what you find! Read more about Subscriber Swap Saturday at the link above. His questions for me will be up on his blog shortly.

Philip, better known as “The Weakonomist” in the personal finance blogosphere, is the one to blame for everything you read at  Though he’s full of himself and a little bit too close to his dog, he offers insider commentary in an outsider’s language.  Being an employee at one of the big banks, he’s watched this recession from the inside of the black hole.  You can usually find him at the corner of Wall Street and Main Street throwing rocks at traffic.

You can subscribe to Weakonomics via RSS or e-mail.

Question (No Debt Plan): So you’re a banker by day, blogger by night kind of guy. What’s that like?

Answer (Weakonomics): It’s really easy to get content that’s for sure.  We’re constantly reading the news to see what condition our bank is in this week vs the next.  No one wants to be surprised if they get laid off so we’re always trying to prepare ourselves in case it happens.  All that reading usually leads to finding other stories about banking, the economy, or finance in general.  I’ve never really had a time when I couldn’t find anything to talk about.  Usually, I don’t have enough to time to talk about everything on my mind.

Q: You’re engaged to be married this fall. Are you running a small, frugal wedding, or despite your best personal finance intentions have things gotten out of control and we should all expect U2 to be playing at your reception?

A: We couldn’t get U2, I think Bono will be in Africa that weekend.  We’d rather have Jack Johnson performing anyway.  We are not having a frugal wedding by any stretch of the term.  It’s easy to compare because one of my fiance’s bridesmaids is also planning a wedding and hoping to spend less than $10,000.  We’re looking at around 150 guests or so and will have a traditional reception.  We’re saving money where we can, cutting back on flowers, coupons for the tuxes, negotiating with vendors etc however the final cost will be closer to the average wedding cost.  We’ve splurged on a few things, most notably a band and a fantastic photographer.  Even with the photographer we’ve managed to save 40% over his current pricing.

Q: How long have you been blogging and what inspired you to start?

A: I wrote my first blog posts in December of 2007 and by February of 2008 I was researching everything I needed to set up a blog.  We launched in March of last year.  The inspiration came from two sources.  In college I worked 20 hours a week and was a full-time student.  When I got out of school and started working 40 hours a week, I found I had a lot more free time on my hands.  I wanted a productive hobby that would actually improve the person I am.  I’m not a good writer, writing 500 words or more every day is changing that.  The topic I wanted to blog about was an extension my schooling.  I work at a bank but I’m not studying finance and economics anymore.  These topics were of high interest to me back in school and I wanted to stay on top of them.  The only way to do that was to make myself accountable for continuing my education.  Blogging about money just seemed to be the perfect fit.

Q: Is blogging a profitable venture for you? Would you want to ever blog full-time?

A: Ha, compared to what I make as “Clark Kent,” blogging as The Weakonomist makes me nothing.  In the strictest accounting terms Weakonomics is profitable.  However this is only because I pay myself out of profits, and not an hourly or salary rate.  Were I to even pay myself minimum wage Weakonomics would be in the red.  I have ads on the site to cover the cost of keeping the blog running, though I would never complain about an increase revenue.

There is something intensely desirable about blogging for a living.  I make my own hours, don’t ever have to wear a shirt with a collar, and am basically paid to talk.  That all sounds like a lot of fun.  However I thrive on the personal interaction I get with working at a bank.  I would be terribly lonely sitting at home all day pounding out words and keeping a Tweetdeck window open.  I need to produce results, and I need to fix problems, these aren’t things that can be done blogging.  I would however enjoy running a money blog where I have 4 writers, 2 researchers, 2 web developers and an intern.  This would give me the challenges I need and still allow me to focus my life around the conversation of money.

Q: You majored in finance. How do you think this sets you apart from me and every other blogger out there?

A: This is actually my favorite topic to discuss.  I try to explain finance as learning it in two ways.  There’s bottom-up and top-down.  A bottom-up financial expert is likely the type of person that accumulated a lot of debt and decided to get their financial house in order.  Paying down debt led to other interests like frugality, investments, and budgeting.  These bloggers are more personable, easy to relate to, and attract a following of like-minded people.  Most of the top personal finance blogs are written by bottom-up bloggers.

I am a top-down.  At the age of 20 I was valuing stocks on fundamental, technical, and quantitative measures will exploring potential option strategies to exploit a market inefficiency for school.  I was learning the Capital Asset Pricing Model and determining an appropriate risk free rate based on the yield curve.  I was debating expansionary and contractionary fiscal and monetary policy with PhDs and a former fed governor.  I received a formal education in finance which then led to an interest in personal finance. I don’t argue that top-down is better than bottom-up, either way you can meet in the middle and both be just as knowledgeable.  What it has done is give me a unique perspective.  The fact that I work for one of the companies responsible for the credit issues that led to this recession doesn’t hurt either.

Q: You mention in your about section that, much like me, you don’t have a “stupid-with-money to not-stupid-with-money” type of story. Nonetheless we’re not perfect — what’s the greatest financial mistake you’ve made?

A: To be perfectly frank, you could say the biggest mistake I’ve made was losing $200 on a penny stock, or not starting my Roth IRA at age 18 when I should have (I did at 20).  But these are so minor it’s almost insulting to people with financial hardship.  Instead I’ll talk about the opportunity cost of not going to one of the best universities in the country.  My dad is a professor at a school that offers a great discount to students of faculty.  This university has a fantastic business school (top 50 undergrad).  I could have gone to this school for pennies on the dollar and probably graduated into a better paying job than I have today (though my current job is no slouch) with a stronger alumni network.  At 17 I had no interest in going to this school.  I wanted to be on my own, meet new people, and leave my hometown behind.  Potentially I’ve thrown away thousands of dollars already and perhaps millions in my lifetime.

However my life experiences gained from going to the school I did go to are invaluable.  I might not have developed an interest in finance if it weren’t for a bad computer science professor I had as a freshman.  It’s possible, however highly unlikely that I would have ever met my dear sweet Sheconomist had I not gone to my school.  We were from the same hometown but did not know each other.  We met through a mutual friend I met at school that lived in my dorm.  So it was hardly a mistake to going to my dad’s school, and potentially the best decision I ever made for my finances and my life.

Q: What are your thoughts on marriage finance? Will you budget together or have separate accounts?

A: We learn a lot about money from our parents.  I grew up watching my parents share a savings account and a checking account.  They both worked hard and saved their money.  I figured EVERYONE’s parents did this in the same way, share all expenses.  The Sheconomist’s family works a little differently.  Her dad is fortunate enough to work in a position where her mom can be a stay-at-home mom.  The finances are a little different in this environment but for the most part it is similar.  I learned recently my happily married aunt and uncle have always had separate accounts. I thought this to be impossible for a functional and happy marriage but in a post a few months ago I conceded that I was being ignorant to the possibilities of a separate system.

I still think the future wife and I will have joint finances.  We both know the system well.  I do however like the idea of paying ourselves allowances, and this may be something we play around with a bit.  I fully expect our methods will be an evolution of what our parents do, but now freely admit that a fully separate system can work.

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Thanks for the interview!

Hey bloggers, are you interested in being interviewed for Subscriber Swap Saturday? Check out the schedule and get in touch with me! I need more folks for June and July.

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