Serial entrepreneur. Financial analyst. Freelance writer. DJ. All these titles and more can be accurately applied to the Denver native and multi-talented Eric Rosenberg, the founder of the site Narrow Bridge Finance. Eric has spent time in every corner of the financial world, from investing to banking to treasury management and more, and with his vast experience has advised countless readers on their credit, loans, interest, travel, and financial situations.
We were lucky enough to catch Eric while on a split-second break from one of his many ventures to ask for his expert opinion on a number of financial topics. Check it out.
Hi, Eric, it’s great to have you with us today. I’d like to start off with a question about the name of your financial planning blog, Narrow Bridge Finance. Could you tell us the significance behind the name?
Great question! The name comes from a Jewish song written by a famous Rabbi, who happens to be a distant relative of mine. The translation is “The whole world is a very narrow bridge, and the most important thing is to not be afraid.” A lot of people are afraid of dealing with their money, so this name came to my mind right away.
If you want to hear the song, here is a folk song version with translation.
You started Narrow Bridge Finance in 2008. What were you doing at the time you launched, and what inspired you to create a personal finance website?
I had just left my job at a bank and was preparing to get started with my MBA program. I had learned so much about dealing with money and finance in my undergraduate finance program and then working in a bank, I wanted to find a place to share the information. This was my second blog I started, so I already had an idea of how to get going quickly.
You wrote on your site that you had received a free-ride for your undergraduate degree, and that you then went on to pay for your MBA at the University of Denver. That’s very impressive on both scores, considering how much work business school demands, and how expensive college is these days. Could you give us your secret on just how you managed to get a free-ride, and also how you found the time to support yourself through the MBA?
There is no secret to how I got a free ride at CU. I received a scholarship from the local Boy Scouts of America tied to my working at the camp as a manager and meeting other requirements such as community service and minimum grade point average. It was a competitive scholarship, so I also had to beat out other qualified applicants. The scholarship was matched by both a private company donor and the CU Foundation.
In high school when friends were giving me a hard time for still being a Boy Scout, I brushed it off. When they started paying for student loans four years later, I was the one laughing.
Paying for the MBA wasn’t so simple. And to say it took hard work is a huge understatement. While going to school full time (I actually graduated early), I was also working full time as a financial analyst. I had a flexible manager who was willing to let my hours move around as long as I got the work done. Evenings and weekends were spent in class and studying.
I lived on a college kid’s budget even though I had a grown up job and put every dollar I could toward my tuition and student loans while in school. I kept that up after graduating and two years later made my last payment.
One of your articles focuses on the importance of paying yourself first, whether that’s into a retirement plan, an emergency fund, or an account dedicated to fun. How do you go about deciding how much you need to save for retirement, for emergencies, and for recreation? Do you have a strict ratio to divide your income?
I have a savings goal and it’s independent of my income. Most people need about 80% of their income replaced in retirement, but I looked at my average expenses, not income, and did the numbers on 80% of that. I am saving to reach that income replacement goal from my investments when I retire. I am currently saving about 15-20% of my monthly income in tax advantaged retirement accounts, plus I put money into other savings and investments as well.
You started your own small business with The Narrow Bridge, and naturally you’re a big proponent of the entrepreneurship lifestyle in general. However, you recognize some of the difficulties and obstacles in starting a new company. Could you tell us about two or three of the toughest challenges you faced in making your small business idea a reality, and how you overcame them?
I am actually a serial entrepreneur. I have an online media business, which includes several blogs, freelance writing, web design, and a flash mob planning business. I am also a DJ for hire on the side. I have learned countless lessons in these businesses.
The toughest challenge with the online business was making my first dollar. Once I figured out I could really make money and be paid for my blogging skills, I just kept pushing forward to try to do more.
I also learned something important about working with other business owners. Get everything in writing. Always. Before you start working together. Contracts and written agreements are imperative to avoiding stress and keeping your sanity, and money.
You’ve been able to travel the world a couple times over rather frugally, I must say. One of your tricks is making the most of credit card churn. Could you explain, for those that don’t know, what credit card churn is, how to make the most of it when preparing for a trip, and if there any drawbacks to it?
A credit card churn is when you sign up for a bunch of credit cards on the same day to get the big signup bonuses those cards have to offer. It takes a lot of planning each time to make sure you get the best points for the best flight and hotel options you may need in the future.
Credit card churning is great if you have excellent credit and don’t have any plans to apply for any new loans, including a car loan or a mortgage, in the near future. Overall, my credit score has gone up while churning cards, but banks look down on people who get lots of new credit, and may not give you a loan if you do so, so beware when you look this direction for travel hacking.
If you do pull it off, it is amazing. I just took my fiance to Israel and back from Denver for about $140 each roundtrip!
You mentioned in an interview with CareOne that your number one piece of financial advice is to “make everything simple.” What are the first steps our readers should take in simplifying their financial lifestyles?
The best way to start simplifying your finances is to eliminate extra accounts and track everything in one place. I use free online tools to take care of the hard part so I don’t have to worry. Once you have everything in one place, try to automate as much of your financial system as possible so you don’t have to think about it.
You’re recently engaged. First: congratulations. Second, how do you and your fiancee discuss the topic of money? Can you give us one or two examples of the money-related conversations you’ve had?
We’ve discussed both outstanding debts and our long-term financial plan together. The most important parts of money and relationships are trust and honesty. If we can openly discuss our plans, we know we will have great success together.
In college you started a Jewish rap band named the Heebs with Chutspah with a friend. What happened to the band? Are you still producing music on the side?
Ha ha, you found that? I had a lot of fun in my rap days, but the payoff wasn’t as great as I would have hoped for the time invested, so I moved on to other endeavors. I do still enjoy music. I just played a DJ gig this past weekend!
Thanks again for taking the time to talk with us today, Eric. Just before you go: if our readers take away one thing from today about managing their financials, what should it be?
My biggest and best tip is that you should always try to make things easy. Finances shouldn’t be scary or complicated. If you plan it all out and set your goals ahead of time, you can save time, money, and headache.
Like this interview? Check out the rest of our Interview with a Savings Expert series. Have a question for an expert or someone you want to see interviewed? Tweet your suggestions with #SavingsExperts to @CouponPal!