Interview with a Savings Expert: Hank Coleman

Hank Coleman has become one of the leading voices in personal finance due to his vast experience and his website, Money Q&A. His expertise in topics ranging from investing and stocks to insurance policies and budgeting has helped many readers get a handle on their finances. People who are clueless about money or just have general questions can all find solutions to their problems by following Coleman’s stellar advice.

If you’re in need of some guidance from a finance wizard (and who isn’t?), read on for CouponPal’s exclusive interview with Coleman.

You have an extensive background, including a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration, a Master’s Degree in Finance, and a Graduate Certificate in Personal Financial Planning. What first inspired you to go into the field of personal finance?

I’ve always loved personal finance, corporate finance, stocks, and investing. I thought for the longest time growing up that I wanted to be an investment banker and work on Wall Street. When I was in middle school, I fell in love with the Michael J. Fox movie, The Secret of My Success. And, believe it or not, it had a profound affect on me. I wanted to do something with business, money, and investing ever since. It wasn’t until after graduating from college with my Bachelor’s degree that I realized I loved personal finance and wanted to help people.

You’ve received recognition as having one of the “Top Personal Finance Blogs of 2012,” and you’re one of the “Top 100 Personal Finance Experts to Follow on Twitter.” Congratulations on all these well-deserved accolades! What other bloggers or experts do you look to for advice and inspiration?

When I first started blogging in 2007, Ryan Guina from Cash Money Life helped get me started and mentored me. He’s been a great friend and mentor since day one. Another person that I find so inspiring that I look up to is Gary Vaynerchuk. I actually got to interview him for my podcast a few months ago. It was incredible. He’s such an inspiration. We had about a 15 minute conversation about hitting the wall and how to break through after having setbacks. I’m always inspired by the stuff he does and the books he writes. He’s amazing!

Over the years, you’ve worked as an entrepreneur and freelance writer. You’ve been featured on websites like The Motley Fool and GoBankingRates.com. In 2010, you started Money Q&A. What did you hope to accomplish by starting the site?

I always joke with people that I’ve lived the blogger’s dream. I built another blog in 2007 and actually sold it in 2010. I had a little bit of seller’s remorse and missed owning a small corner of the internet and having my own megaphone. So, I started Money Q&A and built it from scratch. It was tough starting all over again, but I wanted a platform to provide great, authoritative personal finance advice to people and answer their questions. That’s the real purpose behind Money Q&A. I wanted to help answer people’s finance, investing, retirement, and money questions. I’m passionate about helping people, and that’s what I wanted to accomplish with Money Q&A.

Readers who visit your website can ask you their most pressing money questions on issues ranging from how to obtain life insurance to how to pay off a mortgage. What have been some of the most off-the-wall questions you’ve ever received?

Wow, that’s a great question. I hadn’t really thought about it. Typically, I only choose the most relevant and straightforward questions (“normal”) to be featured on Money Q&A. I typically handle the less than interesting, off the wall, and wild questions one on one through email.

Lately, I’ve been getting some questions from my co-workers that are always interesting. One wanted to know what to do with over $100,000 sitting in cash. Another asked me how to handle an old friend who has turned into a whole life insurance salesman that keeps bothering him. I manage to get some very interesting and unique questions, and I love that. So many people have such great questions, but a lot of times are nervous about asking them or do not know where to turn for good advice. That’s why I want to help people and answer questions when I can.

Figuring out what insurance policy to purchase can be confusing. There are so many steps to take, and you want to make sure you’re choosing the right coverage for yourself and your family. Your Questions and Answers About Insurance Policies section breaks down the process of buying homeowners, car, and health insurance policies. What is one thing people should keep in mind when trying to save money on insurance that most people neglect?

Insurance is a really tricky subject, and it is one that a lot of people don’t want to think about. Most people simply do not have enough insurance coverage whether it is the liability coverage on their home or car insurance or the coverage from their life insurance policy. And then there is a fine line of people who almost err on the side of too much caution and have too much insurance. Believe it or not, you can also have too much insurance coverage. We live in such a litigious society. We are scared and want to be covered if something should happen or if we were to get sued. I’m not sure if that really gets at your question though, but it is something to consider. It’s a fine balancing act.

There are a lot of ways that you can save money on your insurance policies though if you’re just looking for a few simple tips. Bundle your insurance policies together with the same company, shop around for rates, keep your deductibles high and have an emergency fund to pay them, and don’t make a bunch of claims especially for small losses. Think of your emergency fund as your own little self-insured insurance policy.

You decided to complete the challenge to name “100 Goals To Do In My Lifetime Before I Die.” You mentioned that it helped create a focus for what your passions are. Do you think it’s essential for people to create a list like this one? What are the benefits to fleshing out a list of goals?

No, I don’t think that creating a list of 100, 10, or even a few life goals before you die is essential. But, it is definitely something that I do recommend. You don’t have to come up with 100 like I did, but 10 goals would be an awesome start. It keeps you focused on doing things that you’ve always wanted to do.

For example, I want to visit every Hard Rock Cafe in America and also every MLB baseball stadium. It helps me to keep focused on goals and keep track of where I stand completing them. One thing that is great about many of my goals is that they are about experiences. They aren’t about buying things. Of course I want to own a Porsche and eventually a Gibson Les Paul guitar, but a vast majority of the things on my list are actually experiences. I want to spend my money experiencing something. That’s the secret I think. We spend our entire lives collecting possessions. We’re a society of collectors. But actually doing things and gaining experiences is what life is all about.

You’re currently studying to become a Certified Financial Planner (CFP). What do you think are the biggest mistakes individuals make when planning for their future?

I think that one of the biggest mistakes that people make is to try and do it alone. For a host of reasons, we balk at the idea of seeking out financial help. We think that we can’t afford the help of a financial advisor or a Certified Financial Planner (CFP). Or, we think that we do not have enough assets that warrant quality help. There was even a recent TIAA-CREF survey that found that one third of Americans said they simply didn’t have the time to seek out financial advice. This is a big mistake. There are great financial advisors out there for all types of individuals. You shouldn’t wait for help if you need it. There are many great advisors and resources available even if you do not have a lot of assets, investments, real estate, etc.

There are many people out there struggling to make ends meet or just eking by on a tight budget. For individuals working to support a household, what is the single most important thing they should be doing to work towards financial security?

The most important thing for those who are struggling is to ensure that they are spending less than they earn. Spending less than you earn is the single most important thing we can do with our finances. It is a great starting place to help us be secure with our future. Spending less than you earn each month allows you the flexibility to save, build an emergency fund, take vacations, invest for retirement, send your children to college, and a host of other financial goals that families have. While this concept seems like a “no brainer,” it winds up being very difficult for most of us. Just look at the rising credit card debt in America. We spend more than we bring in every month. Many Americans do not even realize how much they are spending week in and week out. Far too many people do not have a written monthly budget. Understanding your situation and where your money is going is critical to taking control of it.

Thanks for being a part of this CouponPal interview. You’ve helped answer so many questions for people over the years. Any final bits of advice for our readers?

I appreciate you giving me the chance to be in this interview series. It’s a great honor. The last thing that I will leave your readers with is that there are a lot of great places on the Internet and in your hometown to get financial help. If you are struggling with your finances or simply want to know where to go next to reach your financial goals, I want people to know that there is a wealth of knowledge out there for them. You shouldn’t balk at seeking advice.

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!

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