Interview with a Finance Expert: Mindy Crary

Most of us could use a little expert advice when it comes to our finances. Luckily, Mindy Crary and her blog, CreativeMoney.biz, provides easy-to-understand information on everything from budgeting and investing to starting a business and managing your spending. For some seriously smart words of wisdom, check out our interview with Mindy below!

Your site, CreativeMoney.biz, serves as both a platform for your financial coaching services and a blog chock full of helpful resources. What gave you the inspiration to start the site?

I think of it more as evolution than inspiration. When I left traditional financial services, I had no point of reference other than to my reaction to all of the reasons why I no longer wanted to do things in the traditional way. A big part of that was this idea that financial knowledge and success are inaccessible and that you need someone looking over your shoulder all of the time to make sure you don’t screw up. I think that’s B.S.

Your background includes a Masters in Business and experience building and selling businesses. You even created the first-ever regional online marketing training for new advisors for a national firm. How have these experiences influenced how you coach others on their finances?

I think my experiences in entrepreneurialism have made me realize that we’re all entrepreneurs with our money - even if we happen to work for someone else. There are a lot of comparisons that can be made between good entrepreneurship and good financial stewardship. Therefore, I don’t believe in a victim mentality - I think we’re all the ultimate authority on our own money, even when we make mistakes. That’s how we course-correct and improve.

Some of your experience has included helping entrepreneurs launch successful startups. What is the number one most important piece of advice you would give to someone considering starting their own business?

This may not be that inspirational, but get straight with your business numbers from day one. I can’t tell you how many times I have worked with a new business and shown them why they aren’t charging enough...it’s never a good idea to start a business with simply hanging your shingle and testing what the market will bear. Figure out what you NEED to make, and then map out your offerings to support that.

Are there specific qualities that an entrepreneur needs to succeed? And of the businesses you’ve seen fail, what was the common thread between them?

Fundamentally, an entrepreneur must be client-focused. That means, they understand that they have no business without people, and they subordinate every other activity to the primary ones that achieve more clients and more revenue. Businesses that fail tend to get sidetracked on development and long-term projects or products that might pay off down the road - which might be great, but they can’t forget to go make money now too. You have to keep the doors open.

You coach a variety of clients in different stages of their financial growth. What suggestions do you have for millennials who are looking to start managing their money effectively?

Studies show that millennials are doing a pretty good job of paying down debt, but do less well at investing. I’m always encouraging millennials to save more into 401ks and invest in stock-based mutual funds (they can leave the “income” and “balanced” funds alone, they have the time to weather the volatility).  

As a financial coach, your job is to act as a sounding board for your clients. What piece of money advice do you wish someone had given to you when you were starting out?

In my case, the best advice would have been IGNORE YOUR PARENTS :o) As much as I love them, they are not my financial role models for a variety of reasons. Of course, if your parents have done an awesome job with their finances, then that wouldn’t be good advice for you...I think most of us don’t become mentally independent from our parents soon enough, and linger into our twenties thinking they are still a safety net. It’s great if they are, but start making decisions that help you feel confident standing on your own two feet.

Your advice has been featured on tons of different sites, including CNBC, Forbes, and Intuit. What resources do you rely on to keep up with the latest financial trends?

For the economic data that supports my investment discussions, I basically search out what I want to know over different media channels. For my “pleasure reading,” I like Get Rich Slowly, Afford Anything, and Jean Chatzky’s blog.

You have a great following on Twitter with over 7,000 followers! Do you ever receive financial advice from your readers that you incorporate into your own life?

I’m always getting tons of tweets about using new software and apps, and if it takes me longer than about 20 minutes to set up, I abandon it. I did get a tip about using Credit Karma to check your credit score for free, and I really enjoy that site!

In an article for Lifehack, you wrote about being a fan of the Mint app to help better manage one’s money. Why do you think budgeting is such an important tool?

Budgeting is important because somehow, you need to understand the 360-degree view of your spending before deciding whether or not you need to limit spending. The majority of people I work with still track their fixed expenses in a spreadsheet. This is less than ideal for two reasons: 1) the quality of your data depends on how faithfully you maintain it, and 2) most people don’t bother to capture their variable expenses, which is usually significant, since food is a variable expense and is second only to housing in terms of a household’s largest monthly expense.

You offer your 50-page ebook, “Getting Started with Conscious Spending,” for free on your site. What’s the main principle behind conscious spending?

The main principle behind conscious spending is to reframe the word “budget” for yourself so that it is no longer synonymous with sacrifice.  

Whenever I ask clients if they have “budgets,” many people respond no, saying that they don’t want to limit their lifestyle. Most people equate the word “budget” to crash dieting, where you’re sacrificing your short-term comfort and denying yourself specific pleasures. In both cases, the ultimate goal of financial or physical health might not be enough to sustain the denial cycle. In a healthy diet, you don’t eat everything you want all of the time, but for the most part, you take a balanced approach and allow yourself treats as you go.

Likewise, all that the term “balanced budget” means is that you can reasonably forecast how you spend money from month to month. I find once people understand this, they end up tweaking their spending anyway, because as soon as I take the pressure off frugality, they are more self-motivated.

Thanks so much for taking the time to answer our questions! Any last pieces of advice for our CouponPal readers?

I encourage everyone to not wait for everything to be perfect in their lives before starting to take steps to improve their financial picture. It’s never going to be exactly the way you want it, but it will get closer and closer, the more you take control, and just resolve to start where you’re at.

Like this interview? Check out the rest of our Interview with an Expert series. Have a question for an expert or someone you want to see interviewed? Tweet your suggestions with #Experts to @CouponPal!

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