An Interview with David from Money Under 30

money under 30 interview

I had the opportunity of interviewing one of my favorite personal finance bloggers, David Weliver from Money Under 30.  David’s articles are always jammed packed, full of information and you can tell that he spends numerous articles on his posts.  I’ve always loved his straight forward approach to finances and  encouraging  others to avoid the pitfalls of debt.  I hope you enjoy the interview and can get a glimpse into the life of one of my favorite PF bloggers!

1-     Give us a brief synopsis behind Money Under 30.  What drove the success of the site.

I attribute my success with Money Under 30 to a perfect storm❠of factors. Before I launched the blog, I had experience both as a financial journalist (at SmartMoney magazine) and in SEO (I worked briefly for a major SEO consultancy). Both of those experiences helped me get off the ground. I knew how to write an article and I knew how to get organic traffic to a Website.

Persistence has also played a big role. I’ve been successful because I never quit. As a blogger, there are days when it feels like nobody’s reading and you just want to give up. I still have them. But that’s when you have to hunker down and work even harder.

2-     Do you have a background in finance or have you learned it through the school of hard knocks.

My only background in finance, if you can call it that, was my entry-level job at SmartMoney. I was writing 150 word blurbs about how to save money on your next digital camera purchase, so it’s not like I got a formal education. But that’s where I learned what a mutual fund expense ratio is and the difference between a Roth and traditional IRA. It helped.

Everything else was school of hard knocks. Despite that job, I lived on credit cards for several years during and after college. Between those cards, student loans, and a car loan, I had $80k of debt at 25 and I was earning less than $30k as a journalist.

I was doing everything I could to keep my head above water. I was so stressed that my hair turned white. Literally: I developed vitilago, a permanent condition in which I lose pigment in random spots of skin that can be brought on by chronic stress. On top of that my doctor put me on beta blockers because my heart rate was through the roof. There was no medical reason. It was all stress because of my debt.

Long story short: I righted the ship as quickly as possible. I cut back, worked two jobs, moved to a really cheap rented room, and found higher paying day jobs. And then I started blogging.


3-     What are your favorite personal finance topics to write about?

I’m most interested in the human side of finance. I was a sociology major in college, so I like to explore why we do certain things and why we spend money in certain ways, both as individuals and a society.

These days I’m especially interested in financial prioritization. If you’re trying to get out of debt, pay for a wedding, and save for a house—how do you juggle and prioritize those goals? We all have multiple things we want to spend money on now and save for later, and I think most of us have a hard time making those kind of decisions.


4-     Give us some of your best and worst financial decisions you’ve ever made.

I made so many terrible financial decisions it’s hard to choose. Some big ones include: Getting my first credit card at 17. Getting my second (and third) credit card at 19. Cashing out my $11k 401(k) because my credit cards were maxed out at 23.

Fortunately I haven’t made an epically bad financial decision like that in a long time! Blogging has turned out to be the best financial decision of my life yet for three reasons:

One, it kept me honest and helped me stick to my goals as I paid off my debt.

Now, it’s an incredible third income for my family.

Last but not least, it’s an asset, because if something ever happened to me or I decided I no longer wanted to blog, it could be sold.

On another note, getting married was a really good financial decision too. (Not just because it’s more cost effective to be married, but my wife is less spendy than I am and keeps me in check!)


5-     What are some of your favorite budgeting tools for tracking your spending?

I think Mint is really cool, but at the end of the day I always come back to Excel. I try to pay for almost everything with only two credit cards. One personal, one business. Then I download the transactions to Excel and categories once a month. But I’m a nerd.


6- If you could teach a college course for one week, what would you teach and why?

The psychology of decision making. It fascinates me. I want to understand why we take risks when we do and why we don’t. Did you know, for example, that we get decision fatigueâ? The more decisions we make in a short period of time, the harder it becomes to make difficult decisions. We’re more likely to give into temptations and take the path of least resistance. At the end of along work day, it will be harder NOT to buy the candy bar in the checkout line or to decide, for example, to stand up to an overbearing boss. I could study and talk about this stuff all day.


7-     If you knew one financial tip when you were 18, what would it be?

If I had to pick just one, it would be how dangerous credit cards are. So basic, but it would’ve saved me so much money and, more importantly, allowed me to enjoy several years of my twenties that I feel were wasted working off my debts.


8-     If someone asked you to sum up advice in a paragraph for a successful financial life, what would it be?

Decide what’s most important to you in life, and then figure out what you need to do to make that financially possible. Too often we just start working and making money without asking why. Or we buy all the stuff TV ads tell us to buy without asking: Do I value this?❠Don’t get over your head in debt, keep enough cash in the bank so you can survive a year if you lose your job, and then work towards YOUR dreams. That’s it.


9- Suppose someone is reading this and they are an aspiring blogger, what advice would you give them?

  1. Write. A lot.
  2. Ask your readers what problems they have.
  3. Attempt to solve those problems.
  4. Write some more.


10- Last but not least, what is in your wallet right now?

Two credit cards: Chase Freedom (personal) and American Express Delta SkyMiles (business). Debit card. Free sandwich punch card from my fav local lunch spot. $16 cash.