On board today is Michelle from Making Sense of Cents. Michelle reached FI through her online businesses and has enjoyed living van life and sailboat life post FI! Michelle paid off nearly $40k of student loans in just 6 months and blogs about personal finance, budgeting and making more money. Her blog has also earned her USD $5 million! Jump in, I learned a lot from Michelle!
Michelle from Making Sense of Cents
On board today is Michelle from Making Sense of Cents. Michelle reached financial independence through her online businesses and has enjoyed living a variety of interesting lifestyles post FI, including, but not limited to van life.
Now, Michelle and her family even live part-time on a sailboat, and get to travel the world via the seven seas, which is pretty bloody cool. Michelle used to work as a financial analyst and documented her journey towards FI through her blog, Making Sense of Cents, which she started in 2011, so her first series of blogs was about paying off nearly $40k worth of student loans in just half a year, which is a pretty mind-boggling accomplishment in itself.
Michelle went on to write tips and insights about personal finance, budgeting, and how she was able to make more money which helped her to pay down these debts so quickly, and then she was able to turn this cash firehose into building her wealth.
Her blog became incredibly popular, and fast forward to today, Michelle’s website has reached over 20 million readers, regularly goes out to over 300, 000 subscribers and has earned her a tidy USD $5 million in revenue!
Michelle has actually meticulously documented this income showing the various income streams through areas such as advertising, sponsored posts, affiliate marketing and selling her own digital products and courses.
It’s pretty awesome. And it’s a transparency that you don’t often see online.
Jump on board, I learned a lot from Michelle!
Episode 61 – Making Sense of Cents – Michelle
- You can visit Michelle’s blog Making Sense of Cents
- You can find Michelle on Instagram HERE
- You can read my review of Michelle’s Making Sense Of Affiliate Marketing course HERE
- Michelle’s recommended reading:
SaleBroke Millennial: Stop Scraping By and Get Your Financial Life Together (Broke Millennial Series)
- Lowry, Erin (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 288 Pages - 05/02/2017 (Publication Date) - TarcherPerigee (Publisher)
SaleWork Optional: Retire Early the Non-Penny-Pinching Way
- Hester, Tanja (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 288 Pages - 02/12/2019 (Publication Date) - Hachette Books (Publisher)
SaleQuit Like a Millionaire: No Gimmicks, Luck, or Trust Fund Required
- Leung, Bryce (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 336 Pages - 09/19/2019 (Publication Date) - Quercus (Publisher)
SaleThe Year of Less: How I Stopped Shopping, Gave Away My Belongings, and Discovered Life is Worth More Than Anything You Can Buy in a Store
- Flanders, Cait (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 216 Pages - 01/15/2019 (Publication Date) - Hay House Inc. (Publisher)
Episode 61 – Making Sense of Cents – Michelle
Making Sense of Cents
Captain Fi: [00:00:00] Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking.
G’day, and welcome to another episode of Captain Fire, the financial independence podcast, where I open the cockpit to some of the best and brightest in personal finance, as well as those who have reached or are on their way to financial independence. Before we get started, remember, nothing said here is financial advice, and you should always do your own independent research before making any financial choices. With that being said, I hope you enjoy the episode and learn something new.[00:01:00]
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G’day, on board today is Michelle from Making Sense of Cents. Michelle reached financial independence through her online businesses and has enjoyed living a variety of interesting lifestyles post FI, including, but not limited to van life.
And now, she and her family even live part time on a sailboat. And get to travel the world via the seven seas, which is pretty bloody cool. Michelle used to work as a financial analyst and documented her journey towards financial independence through her blog, making sense of cents, which she started, over a decade ago in 2011, so her first series of blogs was about paying off nearly 40 grand’s worth of student loans in just half a year, which is pretty mind boggling accomplishment just in itself. Michelle [00:03:00] went on to write tips and insights about personal finance, budgeting, and how she was able to make more money.
Which helped her to pay down these debts so quickly, and then she was able to turn this cash firehose into building her wealth. Her blog became incredibly popular, and fast forward today, as I said, over a decade later, Michelle’s website has reached over 20 million readers. Regularly goes out to over 300, 000 subscribers and has earned her a tidy USD 5 million in revenue.
So that’s seven and a half Australian million. And the thing is Michelle goes one step further. She’s not just throwing out these claims. She’s actually meticulously documented month by month, this income showing the various income streams through areas such as advertising, [00:04:00] sponsored posts.
Affiliate marketing and selling her own digital products and courses. It’s pretty awesome. And it’s a transparency that you don’t often see online. So Michelle, thank you so much for your time and welcome to the show. How are you going now? How’s the sailboat?
Michelle: Thank you so much. That was a great intro. So interesting to hear.
Sailboat life is great. We just put it in storage last month for hurricane season. If you’re in the US or in the Caribbean, it’s hurricane season right now. And we’ll just get back to it sometime in October or November. Sailboat life is great. We have a daughter on our sailboat now, and that’s definitely very interesting, but it’s all really good.
A lot of fun.
Captain Fi: That’s super interesting. So now obviously I’ve read that you had traveled in the RV before, and we were just talking before we started recording that’s actually where your recording from today is your RV. But since the boat is in storage, are you going to be traveling in the RV during the summer?[00:05:00]
Michelle: Our summers we mainly spend like out in Colorado, Utah and stuff like that. We have a small cabin that we bought a few years ago for hurricane season, just because it’s so hot on the boat during hurricane season in the summers in Florida and in the Caribbean, and just because we have a daughter now, so we wanted her to have more space to stretch out her legs.
So we just spend our summers in the mountains now just cause the weather’s a lot nicer, although right now at 10, 000 feet it is still almost 90 degrees, so it is quite hot.
Captain Fi: holy moly, 10, 000 feet. Now, Michelle I used to fly for a living and at 10, 000 feet we’d be donning oxygen. We’d be having supplemental oxygen above 10, 000 feet.
That’s insane that people live at that altitude.
Michelle: Yeah people do get altitude sickness at this elevation, but we’ve been pretty good so far. Wow.
Captain Fi: A bit of a headspin. Yes. Anyway look, I think that’s incredible that you’ve been able to build enough wealth that you can live according to the seasons and you can plan out your life. It’s cool. [00:06:00] So you got a summer in the mountains and winter on the high seas chasing the tropical weather around the Caribbean. Oh, that’s just bloody incredible. I think your daughter’s living a wonderful life. Oh yeah,
Blessed are both worlds.
Captain Fi: Ah, goodness me. So look I guess before we get stuck in, I’ve got a whole bunch of questions I’d love to ask, but before we get started, could you tell us a little bit about yourself and maybe where you’re from?
Michelle: So I am from the Midwest in the United States. I grew up in Chicago and St.
Louis, Missouri. I have a husband, a toddler, and right now my main hobby, I would just say is traveling. I love to travel, whether it’s in the the van, like I am right now. The van right now is my recording studio for the podcast, of course. And yeah, that’s pretty much my whole life. Just grew up in the Midwest.
Captain Fi: That’s really cool. So where abouts did you meet your husband?
Michelle: We went to rival high schools in a suburb of St. Louis, Missouri. We met when we were like 16 years
Captain Fi: old, I think. Oh, [00:07:00] that’s cute. That’s good that you stick together. You hear all these stories about, relationships.
It’s nice to hear when it’s going well. And is Mr. Making sense of cents? Is he on board with the blog?
Michelle: Yeah, he mainly works on our boat and .. takes care of everything outside of like the blogging life. So he keeps everything running smoothly for me so I can work.
Captain Fi: Oh, I tell you what, that’s a good gig. I mean, I personally do have a couple of websites, but I reckon I would like to trade places with my partner. I could get around just maintaining a boat and then she does all the work. It
Michelle: is hard work. I wouldn’t trade that. I don’t know. I like just being on the boat and doing nothing now.
Captain Fi: My partner and I, we recently learned how to scuba dive in the Philippines and it’s a lot of fun. So, I mean, if you want to have us over, we’ll don the scuba gear, we’ll go and scrape the hull of the boat.
Michelle: We’ve actually never scuba dived. I’d like to learn. I just haven’t, Oh my
Captain Fi: goodness.
It’s a lot of fun. I think maybe [00:08:00] something for you to look forward to. When you do your next cruise around the Caribbean, I mean, have you ever considered going over to Asia or Southeast Asia in the boat?
Michelle: Yeah, mainly. I mean, that’s a little far, so we are thinking about doing the Pacific eventually, but it really just depends on how our daughter does on the boat, just cause it’s a lot of work with.
Two people on the boat already. So we’re just taking it slow. We’re thinking about making it down to Grenada or Panama for this season though.
Captain Fi: Yeah, that’s right. I got to remember that you guys obviously are right on the opposite end of the world, but Hey, what an adventure now Michelle, so obviously you started your blog And your financial journey and you smash down, it was about 38, 000 worth of student loans in six months.
That’s incredible. Now, a lot of people carry their student loans, almost their whole career, or they don’t prioritize them. So I want to ask what was the catalyst? For you to switch on about money and learn about personal finance [00:09:00] and pay down those loans.
Michelle: So I paid off my 38, 000 in student loan debt in around half a year.
And that was just because I didn’t want this huge debt hanging over my head for years to come. I can’t remember, this was a while back, but I think my monthly payment was going to be like. 750 or a thousand bucks a month or something for a really long time. So I didn’t want that monthly debt hanging over my head forever, especially when I had other things I wanted to do.
I mean, of course I had a house to pay for, I had monthly bills, I wanted to travel and stuff like that. And at that time I was reading about other personal finance bloggers who are paying off their student loan debt and other debt really quickly. And I was thinking to myself, , Why can’t that be me?
And the rest is just kind of history from there. I decided to side hustle like crazy so that I could pay off my student loans as quickly as possible. I was working anywhere from around a hundred hours a week between my day job and side hustling. And I just, Basically side hustled as much as I could. I did lots of things such as managing [00:10:00] social media for other websites.
I was freelance writing, mystery shopping, selling items online. I had roommates pretty much anything you could think of. I was doing it because I just wanted to pay that off as quickly as I could.
Captain Fi: Yeah it’s pretty impressive. Obviously you really had that goal and you doubled down on it.
I did a similar thing, Michelle. When I was learning to fly it was quite expensive and yeah I adopted a side hustle feeder and I was doing everything from tutoring to picking up rubbish and cleaning graffiti and, oh, selling cars, you name it. But I guess it just goes to show when you have , a goal and you are really passionate about achieving it.
You can move that needle and you can actually achieve some pretty awesome things.
Yeah, it became
Michelle: Like addicting, like watching the debt number go down. And that became like super motivating. So that really
Captain Fi: helped. Now, I wonder whether your previous job as a financial analyst might have stoked the flames and influenced your financial independence journey a little bit.
Is that maybe getting somewhere? [00:11:00]
Michelle: So my job as a financial analyst before I didn’t really have a lot to do with personal finance instead I was valuing businesses and portfolios and assisting with like mergers and acquisitions, but I did meet a lot of really wealthy people, I guess, through that job.
And I guess that kind of really helped because I saw how the other half lived. I saw they were going on vacations. I remember I had one client who I didn’t deal with him directly, of course, because he was so wealthy, but I dealt with his personal assistant’s, personal assistant.
And I remember he hired someone just to pay his utility bills. It’s like . That’s all that person did. They just I just paid his house bills each month and I was like, that is such an interesting way to live. That’s not like what I want to do, but it’s if you could just have so much money that you could just choose what you want to spend it on.
And maybe be able to do your own passions, maybe be able to travel as much as you can. It just opened my eyes as to like how much money you could actually make in the world.
Captain Fi: Wow. A personal assistant for your personal assistant. I think that’s when, you know, you’ve made it.
Oh, [00:12:00] goodness me. It’s interesting that you bring up mergers and acquisitions because the people, Matt and Liz learnt. I guess the website online business strategies from they had a similar career in mergers and acquisitions. And I think maybe that kind of really opened up.
This other world, this other industry. And it’d be really interesting that you’ve done that, because I don’t think a lot of people really get that experience. And yeah, it must have been like a game changer for you to see, people with these multimillion dollar businesses being sold and bought.
Michelle: yeah, definitely. And I guess I was just thinking, it did teach me a lot about running a business. ’cause I learned things not to do. And things to do like how to read legal documents, even from analyzing financial statements. So it really gave me a really good background with starting a business.
Captain Fi: So I guess that’s actually a really good segue. Because Michelle, you have got a pretty epic online business. Now, as far as content sites go, 300, 000 monthly visitors is pretty impressive. [00:13:00] And in, 5 million in revenue to date, and I was looking at your monthly revenue posts and. It’s going up and up.
Right. So, I mean, that’s the dream. People talk about these online businesses as unicorns. I don’t know if it’s something you have ever thought about selling, but certainly having worked in M& A, you probably acutely aware of just how valuable a stream of income like that is. Oh yeah, definitely.
Absolutely. So I’d love to ask how you started Making Sense of Cents and what made it so successful? How did you change it from a blog? In the blogosphere to really what is a multi million dollar company now.
Michelle: Yeah. So I started making sense of Cents really randomly. I had just heard about a personal finance blog in a magazine.
It was cosmopolitan women’s magazine. I didn’t know that blogs or websites existed the way that they do before I read that article,. .
And then after [00:14:00] reading about that blog, I found a ton of other personal finance blogs and I really liked the community that they were building. I love that they were talking about personal finance and how they’re paying off their debt. So I decided to just start my own blog.
I didn’t want to make money or anything like that. I was actually anonymous. I didn’t know that blogs can make money or anything like that. I just wanted to talk about my personal finance situation, like living paycheck to paycheck and stuff like that. I eventually started making money from my blog.
It took me around six months to make the first hundred dollars. And that was from another blogging friend connecting me with an advertiser and it all just quickly grew from there. It was around two years after I started making sense of Cents that I left my day job to blog full time and run making sense of Cents.
Yeah. And it was just the best decision I’ve ever made just to think that something that I randomly started, that I had no idea what I was doing, that I started anonymously and I made so many mistakes in the beginning led to where I am today. It’s definitely really amazing. I’m super happy with it.
Captain Fi: Yeah. Look, I just want to throw out some numbers here. So Michelle has[00:15:00] her blog income reports and look as a yearly summary, so 2013, 116. 519 US dollars. That’s pretty cool. 2014 $163 929.
Then 2015, it nearly doubles or 320, 000 and then it triples in 2016, 979, 000, 2017, 1. 5 million, 2018, 1. 5, like those are some incredible numbers. So, me personally, in Australian dollars, I have a net wealth around, 2 million and that’s taken me like 14 years. To build. So what’s that?
It’s probably like one and a half in us dollars. So what’s taken me my lifetime to achieve by 2017, you were turning that over in a year. That’s just incredible.
Michelle: Your net worth is [00:16:00] amazing. Definitely. So,
Captain Fi: Oh, no I just think that’s something that took 14 years. , I wish I’d learned about online marketing and just did that instead of flying
yeah that’s really cool. I mean, it is worth pointing out though as well, that not everyone that starts a blog or a website is gonna be successful. So why do you think that making sense of Cents. Became so highly successful. What edge did you have? So
Michelle: I think what has helped me over the years is that I always write my content as though I’m like talking to a friend because that’s how it all started.
So it’s all super personable content. I write about things that I’m interested in topics that I come across. And I just always try to make it sound really friendly and just not boring. I know personal finance can be boring if you’re not trying to have fun with it. So I just try to write like I’m having fun and like I’m talking to a friend.
I think that’s really helped.
Captain Fi: Yeah. That personal connection I think is really important. And even obviously my blog is very small in comparison but I find the stuff that . You write [00:17:00] personally and it’s from the heart, that’s the kind of stuff I think that’s done really well for me.
I have got a couple of other websites and a lot of them just, boring robot generic , blog land and then, don’t do nearly as well. So, I think that genuine. Aspect is really important and I think, look, even the transparency you’ve got monthly updates I’m scrolling through here.
It’s just like screens and screens worth there must be hundreds of updates here where you’ve broken down. Everything that you’ve done and achieved and it’s awesome. So, I mean, what was the thought behind doing such detailed monthly reports?
Michelle: So I was reading other monthly income reports.
I mean, back then when I started, I guess there really weren’t that many, but the ones that I did come across, I found super helpful. It was nice just seeing what people are working on, maybe like what I should be working on. And just watching other people’s growth. So I decided to start my own and I received a lot of feedback from other bloggers that it was very helpful.
And I helped a lot of other people start [00:18:00] blogs and stuff like that. So I was really happy to keep it going. I only stopped it, I think in 2019 or 2020, just because they became like super repetitive. So I thought they became boring at that point. Just cause I already had, like you said, like hundreds of them.
But I did really like keeping them going at the time that they were really helpful.
Captain Fi: Yeah, I did a, I guess it’s a similar kind of thing. I tracked my net wealth and my investment s on my journey to fire. And then when I left my full time flying job, yeah I had a similar epiphany that it was a bit repetitive and it wasn’t really achieving anything.
Yeah. And so I still do occasional updates, I’ve always been doing quarterly updates, maybe, biannually or maybe even shift to yearly. Because it is also a lot of work. It’s a lot of work collating these numbers and building these blog
Michelle: posts. It is. Yeah. Trying to track down every cent for everything.
It’s, it was a little. tedious at times.
Captain Fi: Now actually I really like your, basically the last round up you did the 2019 summary. And you’ve got a [00:19:00] cool little pie chart graphic that you’ve made. And I think it’s really interesting for anyone that’s. Thinking about getting involved in the online business space.
So if anyone would jump onto her website, making sense of cents and you can navigate to the 2019 annual income report review and you’ll see the pie chart. Which shows a breakdown of the incomes and it’s really cool. And I would say that my business income would pretty much agree with this breakdown as well in that the majority of the business income comes from affiliate marketing.
So in Michelle’s case over 60%. So the other 40 percent is broken down to courses, sponsored partnerships and display advertising. So 20 percent in courses, 16 percent in sponsored partnership and 2 percent in display advertising. So it’s a really interesting point to note that for a lot of people, when you start out.
With your website, you’ll probably start with the two standard affiliate monetization schemes, which is Google AdSense. [00:20:00] And it’s worth note that, that’s 2 percent of Michelle’s uh, multimillion dollar income. And the other one is the Amazon affiliate program.
Obviously there are more lucrative affiliate programs than the Amazon associates, because it’s the world’s best selling machine. It’s so big, obviously offer such as a low commission rate, but 62 percent of Michelle’s multimillion dollar income comes from affiliate marketing.
So that is probably the area which someone might look to. focus their efforts. If they were going to try and do an online business. Michelle, was that like a deliberate strategy or was that just cause you mentioned you started the website and you didn’t actually start it with the idea to make money.
It was a passion project, which sort of grew and you were able to turn it into a career down the track. But when you looked to start monetizing, did you deliberately turn to affiliate marketing or was it just a nice outcome?
Michelle: It was more of just a nice outcome. I don’t think I made affiliate income for the first few years on my blog, but I was noticing on other people’s income reports that [00:21:00] they’re making really good affiliate income through their blog.
But for some reason it just wasn’t working for me. So I knew I , wasn’t doing it right. If it’s working for everyone else, it’s not working for you. You’re probably doing something wrong. And I can’t remember how I learned. I think I just started analyzing other people’s websites to see what they were doing and I just trialed and errored it on my own website and I quickly started making affiliate marketing income and now it’s definitely my favorite way to make money blogging.
I love that I can refer a product that I personally use or one that I’ve done a lot of research for that I think will be helpful for a reader and I can make money. With it when I’m sleeping, when I’m driving down the road, when I’m sailing and when I’m going on a hike all I gotta do is write a really helpful blog post and it’ll make me money for years down the line.
Yeah, definitely my favorite way to make money blogging.
Captain Fi: Yeah, it’s brilliant. And I think the way I really love affiliate marketing is , it’s so low risk. Now, obviously you can’t promote crap, right? Cause you’ll lose face and it’s like just a bit of a spammy way to be. But like you mentioned, as long as it’s a really good product that [00:22:00] you love and you use I think absolutely it’s a brilliant way to do it.
And I mean, for any of my Australian listeners. Who, are into personal finance. Obviously, you’ll know that I use a portfolio tracker called Sharesight and it’s bloody awesome. And they have an affiliate program. And so I promote that on my website and when some people sign up to it, I get a small commission, it’s fricking cool.
But what I love so much about it is as Michelle, you just said, , you write a post you. Create the review or you create the advertising copy and you put it out there and it’s scalable, which means, potentially millions of people could see that or could use that. And so, it becomes, oh, I’d call it semi passive income and it’s awesome. And as someone who, Michelle has done all of these side hustles, as she mentioned, she’s gone through a myriad of ways to make money to pay off her student loans. And I’ve gone through a myriad of side [00:23:00] hustles to pay for my flight training.
Michelle I just put it out there. I’d say , how does that compare to some of the other? Income streams you’ve got, like how would you rate the affiliate marketing compared to say selling on Etsy or, stuff that requires your time.
Michelle: For me, it’s definitely the best. I know other people would probably say, Oh, selling on Etsy is the best.
But for me, it’s definitely affiliate marketing and blogging combined. I just love being able to help readers. Writing content, finding interesting blog posts research just being active on social media. I just love everything that goes into blogging and affiliate marketing. For me, it’s definitely the best way.
Captain Fi: Yeah. And I guess one of the things that’s so powerful about it compared to even say selling your own digital products or courses like books, that kind of stuff is that with affiliate marketing you pretty much don’t. Have to worry about sales. You don’t have to worry about refunds.
You don’t have to worry about the product. It’s just like a billboard, right? , it’s basically just advertising. And once that client has moved and has started [00:24:00] onboarding It’s the job of the seller, which is the person you were partnering with to convert that client.
And then you just receive a payment, which it sounds too good to be true, right?
Michelle: Exactly. That’s what I love about it. The fact that you just do a little bit of the legwork in the beginning, but after that, the person who’s actually selling the product is the one who takes over and does the rest. So, but that is why, of course, you want to do lots of research ahead of time, make sure that’s actually a person or a product or a company that you want to recommend.
So you definitely want to spend a lot of time doing that to make sure it’s good for your reader.
Captain Fi: Yeah, of course. So I guess just on that, I mean, are there any other aspects that you could talk to you about affiliate marketing and maybe how people could get started learning about it or, any tips and tricks that you’ve picked up along the way?
Michelle: So my top tip, and I always tell everyone this If you already have a blog and you’re interested in affiliate marketing, my top tip is to go to Google analytics, look at your top 10, maybe top five blog posts. And usually [00:25:00] your top five or top 10, they’re always your top five or top 10. Like they will be your most popular blog posts for a year or two or even more.
So definitely take those and see how you can include affiliate links on those. And just like if you’ve written about a blog topic, there’s probably something you can promote. I mean, you’re writing a couple thousand words on something. There’s probably something that you could naturally and organically include.
And I think that’s the best way since those blog posts already get you all your traffic. Just find ways to naturally include links and see where it goes from there. I guess second tip that goes along with that. Don’t just. include a ton of affiliate links in a blog post. You want it to be related and you don’t need to overwhelm your readers.
Just a couple links or even just one in a blog post, depending on like how you’re including it is enough. You don’t need to include a hundred links. Just like naturally include it. Just say click here to learn more about XYZ. And that’s really all you need to do. That’s pretty much all I do.
Captain Fi: Wow. And so would you focus on a couple [00:26:00] of really big ticket affiliate items, or do you prefer to spread it out and have many different affiliate programs that maybe aren’t earning as much? I
Michelle: like many and ones that are like lower cost or even free. So that is one thing to mention just because you’re promoting an affiliate link, doesn’t mean that someone’s necessarily buying something.
They could just be signing up for a free cell phone app, for example. So, I mean, your readers don’t have to spend money in order to earn you affiliate income. For example, one of the products I promote is fetch rewards, which it’s free to sign up, free to use. It’s just a way for readers to make a little bit extra money.
And I make money whenever someone signs up for the app. So it doesn’t have to be hard and it doesn’t earn me a ton. It earns me like a couple bucks per sign up. But you have to think that it’s easier for someone to sign up for a free app. And I know it’s helpful for them. I mean, I use fetch rewards.
pretty much every time I go shopping. So I know it’s helpful and , it’s just a low barrier to entry. Anyone can use it. [00:27:00] Whereas if you’re promoting something that’s like a thousand dollars, of course you’re not going to get as many people to sign up. So it’s going to be harder to promote it and probably harder to make money depending on what your blog topic is.
For me, I do like to promote like side hustles and ways to make extra money. And that’s what I do. So , it varies depending on who you are.
Captain Fi: Yeah, , I think that’s really good feedback. And so when people are getting started I know, cause with the training that I did obviously features pretty much roll straight into the Google AdSense and Amazon Associates.
But when people are, I guess, looking to diversify. Being that, we look at your business case 2019, 62 percent of the revenue from affiliate marketing. I think that’s a strong case study to show that, hey, affiliate marketing is probably where we should be focusing our efforts. Um, But if we want to diversify from Amazon associates, which most people would start with where would you recommend people learn more about different affiliate marketing partnership opportunities?
Michelle: So if you’re [00:28:00] looking for an affiliate product to promote, I always recommend just thinking about maybe what you write about on your blog or products that you personally use and just Google searching to see if they have an affiliate program. I don’t use a lot of Amazon associate links on my blog.
I mainly promote a lot of like smaller companies. That’s just because I don’t. promote a lot of actual physical products on my blog. I mainly promote like financial apps or side hustles and stuff like that. So just Google searching what you want is usually the best bet because there’s probably an affiliate program for whatever you’re thinking of.
There’s an affiliate program for pretty much anything out there.
Captain Fi: Wow. Awesome tips. So, to recap, have a look at what your ranking for, or what your most popular posts are. Look at I guess something that could be a natural fit for that. Area and then just Google search that product plus affiliate and scroll.
That’s awesome advice, Michelle. I think anyone who’s got a blog and wants to really monetize it, those are some steps that I think [00:29:00] you should take. Now, Of course, there’s other avenues to make money. One of them is sponsored partnerships. Would you be able to tell us a little bit about how you’ve used sponsored partnerships to make money online?
Michelle: Yeah, so sponsored partnerships are actually the very first way I made money on Making Sense of Cents. It’s how I earned my first hundred dollars. back when my blog was about six months old. So sponsored partnerships can vary depending on what exactly you’re looking for or what the company’s looking for.
For me on my blog, a sponsored partnership is usually like a review or maybe an article where I talk about a product or something that aligns with a company. So for example, I might talk about grocery savings tips and maybe include a company that helps you save money with groceries like a meal planning company or something like that.
So that’s what a sponsored partnership looks like for me. It’s usually a review for others. It might be on Instagram, you promote a company [00:30:00] on a post. Like maybe you take a picture with a product that a company wants you to review in a quick little paragraph.
Maybe you’re on TikTok and you’re taking a short video of a product. It really depends on the blog. If you’re a fashion blogger, maybe you’re wearing a piece of clothing. So a sponsored partnership can mean many different things. Yeah. It’s definitely one of my favorite ways to make money blogging right after affiliate marketing.
I love how with sponsored partnerships, you can start like pretty much really early with your blog. Whereas with affiliate marketing, in order to make money, you need a lot of readers with sponsored partnerships. You would think that you need a lot of readers, but sometimes you just need a really good sales pitch.
So I know people who have pitched to like big outdoors companies. Like 60 something national parks and I will wear your pair of shoes the entire time and all of my pictures on Instagram. And that can be a way to really persuade them to sponsor you. So it really just depends. And I think it’s just a really great way to get started.
Captain Fi: that’s [00:31:00] really cool. I hadn’t ever considered something like that, but I guess at the end of the day, if they’re happy to pay for the advertising, then. It’s going to work. So, how did you get started? Did they approach you or were you pitching for them?
Or how do you tee it up?
Michelle: So for me, when I first started, when I was six months in I didn’t know that you could make money blogging or anything like that. It was actually a friend, a blogging friend who connected me with someone who placed a sponsored post on their website. So, I mean, I can’t remember
what the sponsored review even was, but it was just like quick hundred bucks. It was a quick post. I just reviewed the product really quickly. It was really easy to get started. Of course. Now, these days I’m charging much more than a hundred dollars. Everyone should, you should charge more than a hundred for a sponsored post.
But yeah, that’s how I started.
Captain Fi: That’s really cool. I actually partnered with an expense tracking app. It’s called WeeMoney. It’s actually a really cool tool. Basically you connect it up to your bank and it’s automates all the hard work of actually I [00:32:00] used to do in Excel.
And they paid me to do a sponsored post a couple of years ago. I think it was about a hundred bucks. And that was on Instagram which was really cool. So did it wrote up a post and did some graphics. And I haven’t done a lot of it, but Hey, listen in. If any big company wants to pay me the big bucks, inbox me on my Insta.
No, just kidding. I think, yeah, it’s a cool way of monetizing your digital asset. And I’ve actually, oh, we did a case study. When I was doing the champions course. About it and there are people that make full time incomes out of this, like huge incomes. Oh yeah, definitely.
Yeah. You really can take it to the next level. Okay. So just thinking, so we’ve talked about affiliate marketing, talked about sponsored partnerships. I guess a low hanging fruit is obviously display advertising. Now it’s not a a huge source of income. For you, but you still have it.
I did notice Michelle, whenever I’m reading through your site, [00:33:00] I’m not getting bombarded with ads, which is good because I don’t really like ads and I think maybe they alienate people, but either way, it’s still a valid way of monetizing. Your website and I’m just trying to look through I’m not sure.
Do you use like an aggregator, like a advertising partner. Yeah. So
Michelle: I use it used to be called Adthrive. Now it’s called Raptive. Yes. So the reason why you don’t see a lot of ads is because, so one tip, one thing that I do that some people don’t agree with is if there is a blog post, I have that I am aiming to make affiliate income from, I will turn off display advertising on it, and that’s why you don’t see display ads on it.
Cause I don’t want that to compete for people’s attention or just get in the way. I’m thinking like user friendliness, if I want someone to. Read a review about a product. They probably don’t want to be bombarded with display ads about something that’s not related. So that’s the reason why you don’t see a lot on my website.
Captain Fi: Oh, that’s clever. [00:34:00] So you’re putting yourself inside . The reader or the customer avatar and you’re basically like gaming out what they’re gonna do on your site. That’s pretty cool. And that makes a lot of sense. Now, I just didn’t put a lot of ads on my blog because I thought it was a bit spammy, but that is a very clever way of prioritizing.
And. Remember guys, Michelle’s doing 62 percent of revenue on affiliate marketing. So probably listen to what she says. Yeah, nice.
We will get back to the show in a moment, but for now, I wanna ask you a question. Do you have a side hustle? And if you do, is it scalable? My side hustle is building and running websites a form of digital real estate. Now, it might sound tricky to make money online, but really they’re just small online businesses that have low overheads, high margins, and which you can easily scale by outsourcing.
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Then it can be viewed potentially millions of times and easily updated by my editors over the years to remain relevant. If you want to learn more about this lucrative side hustle and retraining for the Digital Workforce revolution, then check out my article about making money online and read my review of the E-Business Institute and their online self-paced courses, or you could also check out my Ebusiness vs TASS by authority Hacker review..
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Okay. So the last wedge of your pie is courses. And actually I think this is really good to mention. Just wrapping up the business stuff because you obviously have put all of your knowledge together on affiliate marketing and online business, and you actually You offer that as a course that people can take.
Michelle: Yeah, I do. So I started making sense of affiliate marketing back in 2016. I want to say it was around like 2015. I had bloggers emailing me, asking me for affiliate marketing coaching on their blog. And I was doing that a little bit. But it was just like really time consuming. I could only help like one to two people at a time, realistically.
And people were [00:37:00] telling me , why don’t you just start a course and you can help thousands of people all at once. It’s like much more passive. You don’t have to keep regurgitating the same information over and over. Instead, you can just get it all out there and it’s out there for everyone to learn from.
So at first I was like, Oh, I can’t make a course. I don’t know the first step. Do I really know that much about affiliate marketing? Making a course just seems so unattainable and . Just out of reach but I just started writing a course and it just went from there.
I had a lot of fun putting it all together, just like the things that I’d want to learn if I was starting a blog and I was interested in affiliate marketing. And I launched that course in April. I want to say it was like May or June of 2016. And that’s why my income jumped so much from 2015 to 2016.
I actually fired all of my freelance clients. So I gave them notice, of course, but I quit freelancing so that I could focus on making sense of cents and my course full time and that I think all that. Extra time I had helped me to explode that course and grow my blog as much as I could.
Captain Fi: Whoa, that’s pretty impressive.
Now I should [00:38:00] probably be signing up for this cause maybe I can use some of the tools in there to boost my revenue. I would love to get to 900, 000 income. That’s just incredible. What kind of things are in the course? So you said you, you started it out a bit small and now
you’ve been adding to it. So it sounds like it’s probably a lot bigger now.
Michelle: So I’m always updating the course. That’s actually a top question I get, like, how often do you update the course? Do you started it? What is that seven years ago? I do update it like at least once a month. I’m in there either adding to a course or completely revamping a course or a lesson in the course.
So the course goes over pretty much anything about affiliate marketing for a blog. So thinking . from the basics, why you want to start affiliate marketing, what exactly an affiliate link is, how you find affiliate marketing programs, stuff like that, all the way to like the exact strategies I use such as I’m a big believer in interviewing like the side hustle companies that I promote.
So if I’m promoting a bookkeeping course, I will interview them. [00:39:00] So interviewing the company is a big strategy of mine. And also just how exactly to place the affiliate links. I talk about that in the course, how to keep and gain your reader’s trust. Of course, there’s a right way and a wrong way for affiliate marketing.
And I talk about that in the course as well. All the way to like my favorite tool for affiliate marketing. And then there’s a bunch of bonuses in there, such as how to grow your blog on Pinterest, how to handle the legal side of your blog. Oh, and there’s a lesson where I talk about legal disclosures for affiliate marketing and stuff like that.
So I pretty much talk about everything from A to Z with affiliate marketing. I think there’s 30 lessons. It’s all text based though. Because that is how I like to learn. I like to read. And I like to really just like pull the tips out instead of watching a video, which I know people love videos, but for me, I really just love to find the tips that I want and just apply it.
Captain Fi: Cool. I managed to navigate myself to your sales page and what do you reckon? Should I sign up? All right. Surely you’ve got to give me a discount code. [00:40:00]
Michelle: I’ll give that to you after.
Captain Fi: Oh, awesome. No, I’m kidding. I’m happy to pay. Actually, that’s really cool. So it only wants to charge me 200 bucks.
Now, most courses, when I have a look, they’re like 997 or like 5, 000. So I like that it’s actually affordable.
Michelle: My class has been 197 since 2016. I didn’t really think about that until just now. Oh my goodness,
Captain Fi: inflation. No, it’s eroding your margins, Michelle. Oh, goodness me. All right.
So. I think that’s a pretty good wrap up of your business. How do you run a large company now? Do you have staff? Do you have a team? How does it work?
Michelle: So I know a lot of people will probably think this is crazy, but it’s mainly still just me. And I have a virtual assistant who’s part time and I have a part time editor.
But yeah, that’s pretty much it. I do pretty much everything myself. I like to make everything pretty semi passive. On Making Sense of Cents just because I know a lot of people dream of running like a huge business and stuff like that. But for me, I just [00:41:00] don’t really think that’s for me.
I like to focus more of my time on traveling and just doing what I want to do. So just mainly me. Wow.
Captain Fi: That is really cool. So 20 million views, 300k subscribers. Over 5 million in revenue. That’s from 2019 when you stopped tracking it. So it’s gonna be more than that now. And three staff, so yourself and part-time editor and a va.
That’s awesome. Yeah. I guess it shows like you don’t need to go crazy. I think I have a couple of writers, a va, an editor. And a techie and they’re like all part time contractors. So, obviously I’m not quite where you are yet, but it gives me hope that I maybe don’t need a huge team. Yeah, definitely.
So Michelle, you mentioned that one of the reasons why you wanted to keep this semi passive was pretty much. From the outset, it wasn’t, about this huge business. It wasn’t about making all the money in the world. Really, it was a lifestyle business. And you’ve blogged a little bit about your adventures traveling [00:42:00] around the United States in an RV.
So, can you tell us a bit about your van life adventures?
Michelle: Yeah. So we sold our house back in around 2014, early 2015 and started RVing shortly after. We’ve had a variety of RVs over the years. We started in a class B plus, and then we got a gas class a, then we went to a diesel pusher and then we bought the boat.
And now we just have a van for like shorter trips. I’m in the van right now, like we said, and we. You have the van when we’re not on the boat and we use it to go to national parks. Travel to family a lot. It’s just really nimble. You can pretty much get anywhere with it. We’ll drive to the grocery store with it, for example.
Yeah, so we just love to explore by RV in the U. S. Maybe one day we’ll go to Mexico or Canada in it as well. We just love to be in the RV.
Captain Fi: That’s really cool. So you’re able to run your business remotely whilst traveling in the van.
Michelle: [00:43:00] Yeah, no problem. Internet’s definitely gotten a lot better.
Since when we first started in 2015, there’s definitely a lot more options. I haven’t gotten startlink yet, but I think I definitely will
Captain Fi: soon. Yeah, that was going to be my next question because you can get in Australia now and it’s like a game changer for a remote communities and like outback travel and I know a lot of friends of mine that are into van life and digital nomad style work
they swear by it. And look, I almost couldn’t believe when I read about you getting a sailboat and I know we briefly talked about it. You mentioned that it’s in the harbor or it’s in storage for hurricane season. But geez, traveling full time and switching between land and sea.
What’s it like to live and raise a family on a sailboat?
Michelle: So we’re still fairly new. My daughter’s only 18 months, but we’ve had our sailboat for over five years now, and it’s been a lot of fun. She’s super entertaining on the boat. It’s actually a lot safer than people probably [00:44:00] think. You can make it safe having a child on a boat.
And it’s just nice. watching her see dolphins or watch the ocean. She sleeps great on the boat because it rocks her to sleep. The boat just brings us to such amazing places and has taught us so much. It’s definitely a more difficult way to live than, for example, an RV or a house, but it’s also super rewarding and you get to learn so much and it’s just a fun skill to have.
Captain Fi: That’s incredible. Rocking her to sleep. I’m sure as a sleep fatigued parent, that’s probably a huge benefit. Yeah, definitely. So, how old is your daughter?
Michelle: She’s 18 months. She’ll be 19 months in just a few days
Captain Fi: though. Wow. Okay. So she’s going to grow up loving the ocean. Oh
Michelle: yeah, definitely.
We’re excited to really show her, of course, she’s still really young and she won’t really remember anything right now, but we’ll just foster the love of the ocean in her right now.
Captain Fi: Look, I tell you what, unfortunately I get motion sick on boats, which people are shocked when they hear on a pilot gets [00:45:00] sick on a boat.
But last time I went out with a friend, I was chewing . the travel calms like they were candy.
Michelle: Yeah. That’s interesting. I’ve met so many sailors and captains who have their pilots license. So that’s really
Captain Fi: interesting. Yeah. Oh, it just sounds like maybe I need to get out there more and desensitize myself.
Look, before we switch into some more finance questions, I guess, when we talk about you hear about van life and. All these interesting things like living on a sailboat. We often hear the highlight reel. So I’d be interested to hear like whether there’s been any aspects that it’s been like challenging for you, or stuff that people really don’t talk about that maybe they should.
Michelle: Oh yeah, of course. There’s always hard parts when it comes to traveling a lot, or living in an RV or a boat. One of the things that probably the… be the fact that you’re constantly planning where you’re going to live. So like when you’re in a house, you don’t have to really think about that.
But when you’re traveling full time, you have to think Oh, where am I going to be tonight? Where am I going to be [00:46:00] tomorrow? Like I need a backup plan as well, just in case that doesn’t work out. Especially when you’re on a boat, because your first plan sometimes doesn’t work. There might be bad weather.
Someone might be in your spot. It might be too crowded. Especially nowadays with RVing and boating being like super popular that makes it really hard to plan where you’re going to be that night or where you’re going to be that summer. Right now on a Cadmuran, it’s really hard to think about.
Like you have to think about where you’re going to be the next hurricane season. So right now soon I’m going to start booking for next hurricane season, which is crazy to think about. That’s one year away, but it’s what you have to do because it’s so busy. But other negatives or I guess hard parts of traveling full time would also be like the community aspect.
If you’re constantly moving, it’s hard to make long term friends. Like you’ll make really good friends for that moment of time. But of course everyone eventually has to part to their own way and move on. Not everyone’s going in the same direction. So building a community is hard.
And then another [00:47:00] hard part would probably be just like maintaining everything. On a boat or in an RV, things are constantly broken. The other day I read this quote on Facebook about, Boating that said, everything on your boat is broken. You just don’t know it yet. And I was like, that is so true. Everything is definitely broken.
So I mean, that’s just like the perfect quote to describe living on a boat.
Captain Fi: Okay. So lots of planning and effort goes into living a lifestyle like that. Okay. That makes a lot of sense. Yeah. Man, I really appreciate it. This has been a great interview so far.
So look I’d love to shift gears a little bit and maybe start asking you a bit more about your personal finances. Yeah. Yeah. Cool. So obviously if there’s anything too nosy, feel free to skim over. But again, I’ve , just got this list of questions that I love to ask everyone. It’s really cool.
Cause we can see what people are doing with their money and it might give people a bit of food for thought as to what they should do with theirs. All right. So kicking it off obviously the website is a huge [00:48:00] one, but would you be able to tell us your sources of income?
Michelle: So my main source of income is definitely my blog, Making Sense of Cents.
But other than that, I don’t really have a lot of other sources other than dividend income. Yeah, that’s pretty much it. I’m trying to think mainly just my blog and dividend income.
Captain Fi: Yeah, nice. Yep. Dividends are always good and blog income is delicious. So what about expenses? What do your current expenses look like?
I mean, I dare say with a boat that isn’t cheap.
Michelle: No So because I have a boat, my expenses are not low. They say that BOAT stands for breakout another thousand. And then I just told you that other quote, that everything’s always broken. So boating is I mean, it’s expensive. It can be cheaper.
But things are always having to be replaced. So it all adds up. We don’t have a loan on our boat, thankfully. So that does help. But there are a lot of expenses to keep it well maintained. And of course we have other expenses in life. We have. Food, just the normal expenses. So [00:49:00] our monthly bills are probably higher than the average person, but that’s probably just because we have so much going on between van life and moving back and forth all the time.
Captain Fi: Yeah. What would a typical month look like in terms of the expense?
Michelle: I would say over 10, 000 a month. But that’s like a combination of personal and business. My business expenses really aren’t too much. I maybe have 5, 000 a month in business expenses. Yeah.
Captain Fi: Look, you might think that’s really high.
And, some people in the fire community might be like, Oh, 10, 000 is a lot. My goal for family fire is is 7, 000 after tax. So that’s, around 9, 000, I believe that I need to earn. So, it’s not a crazy expense. But I think when you compare it to the amount of income that you’re earning, then it’s incredible.
Because, as we talked about earlier with a blog, that’s really making it over a million dollars in income. . And expenses of say 10, 000 a month spending what’s just back of the envelope [00:50:00] maths, spending 10 percent of what you earn. That is a brilliant recipe for building wealth and probably look like your dividend income should increase exponentially over time.
Michelle: Yeah. My expenses are low compared to my income, which is. really nice and helpful.
Captain Fi: Yeah. And so I think that’s like the big metric that sometimes when we talk about income, we talk about spending. Sometimes you just got to connect the dots a little bit and that the savings rate that’s, wow, that’s such a powerful metric.
I guess, talking about investments do you keep an emergency fund? So obviously the boat’s not cheap. You mentioned you don’t have a loan. So how much cash do you choose to keep? Is it like a, Okay. A round number or is like a multiple of yearly expenses or how do you do it in your family?
Michelle: ,so we definitely have an emergency fund.
I like to keep at least a years of expenses in there. That’s definitely helpful now because interest rates are so high in online banks. But yeah, so I like to keep at least a year. I know that’s probably more than what people [00:51:00] like, but. When something breaks on a boat, it is really expensive. So, you do need to have some money just on hand.
Captain Fi: I think that’s a very wise. I self insure as well a lot of what I can. And I actually fluctuate at the moment. I’ve almost got two years worth of cash. And that’s like a sleep at night thing. Yeah, I guess. Talking about like personal insurances. So, what kind of insurances do you use?
So for the RV, houseboat, like income protection, that kind of stuff. What ones do you use?
Michelle: So I have lots of insurance. I really like insurance cause I’m a worrier and I like to sleep at night. Like you said. So I have car insurance, RV insurance, boat insurance. Health insurance, umbrella insurance.
I think that’s all the insurance I have, but yeah, so I have all those.
Captain Fi: Yeah. Interesting. So forgive my ignorance. Maybe it’s an American thing, but I haven’t heard the term umbrella insurance before.
Michelle: So I’m definitely not an expert with umbrella insurance. And I actually just got it about two years ago.
Usually they don’t like to insure you [00:52:00] if you have just an RV or. You just travel full time. And I actually just found a policy recently that would cover me, even though I have a boat and an RV and I’m traveling most of the year. But basically umbrella insurance covers you. If someone got hurt at your house and they want to sue you for more money than your insurance will cover.
So it just protects you in that case. And it’s pretty affordable. It’s less than a thousand bucks a year. I know that if you have a house that you live in full time, I think you can get umbrella insurance for a couple hundred dollars a year. So it’s basically just another way to protect you, especially if you have a high net worth.
So for me, like we have a cabin in Colorado that we bought and that’s why we looked into umbrella insurance and we have a trail back there that. It’s a public trail that anyone can access. So that’s why we wanted umbrella insurance to just safeguard us with that one.
Captain Fi: Oh, wow. So, I guess the closest thing I can think of here is like maybe personal liability insurance.
That makes a lot of sense. Actually, I did an interview with some. Awesome [00:53:00] ladies, the money madams and Catherine Hayes is a insurance expert. So anyone who’s listening and then wants to learn a little bit more about insurance check her out. Because I’m pretty sure she does it as a job.
She’s like an insurance broker. So. Yeah. Insurance. Super important. I probably didn’t give it as much attention in my life as it was worth. Maybe I took too many risks, but I certainly use insurance now. I think it’s a crucial step in your financial education is making sure that your ass is covered because what’s the point of building wealth if it can just be taken away.
In a freak event, exactly. Yeah. Okay. So savings rate. So we just back of the envelope math worked out that you actually have a really high savings rate. But has savings rate, has that ever been a focus for you or have you ever had a target savings rate?
Michelle: Not really. I don’t really have a target savings rate. Like you said, I do earn a high income and I already have enough saved to retire whenever [00:54:00] I want. So it’s not a focus of mine. Back when I hadn’t reached FI and I was working on paying off my student loans. I still didn’t really have a target savings right then.
It was pretty much just save as much as you can.
Captain Fi: Yeah. I love it. Okay, cool. So the juicy one, what do you invest in and why? Yeah.
Michelle: So I know everyone will love this, but Vanguard funds, I’m super boring. I like to keep my investing strategy, super easy and diversified. So Vanguard total stock market index fund is pretty much where a lot of it is.
Of course I dabble in some little things, but nothing as big as. Vanguard funds.
Captain Fi: Yeah. Awesome. Now I have a couple of ETFs that I use, which are all just in stocks. So some people talk about target asset allocations and I think if you’re using the all in one fund, pretty much does it for you.
But do you own bonds or do you have a target asset allocation that you want to try and achieve?
Michelle: So I do have bonds and stuff like that, but I don’t have a target asset [00:55:00] allocation. I’m just easy strategy. That’s pretty much it for now. I’m still young, so I don’t plan on withdrawing from it anytime soon.
And I still do earn income every day and Yeah. So no target asset allocation right now.
Captain Fi: Okay, cool. so predominantly stock, so leaning towards mostly stocks, but you do just have a small amount of bonds. Yep. Yeah. Yeah. Okay. Awesome. And I’m pretty sure I know the answer to this one. Do you use leverage?
No. No guess because you mentioned you’ve paid off the boat as well and you don’t have a mortgage. So that’s really impressive. Okay. So do you have a FI number or a passive income figure that you’re aiming for?
Michelle: So I do have a number in my head. I don’t share that number publicly just because I’ve shared so much with numbers in the past.
And that’s just like my one private number. I always keep my net worth and stuff like that. My goal is always to have my passive income cover my expenses. That’s like my FI number, like passive [00:56:00] income, cover my expenses. Maybe save a little bit more just as a little buffer, but that’s pretty much all I’m aiming for.
Captain Fi: Yeah. Okay. And , have you planned out like a safe withdrawal rate? And it’s funny asking these questions because they’re so geared towards a conventional. P A Y G whiskey to person like building and then retiring. But it’s so different with online business cause it’s pretty much like the semi passive income stream.
And it’s hard to think about selling it because the multiples are so good. So I feel awkward asking you these questions, but yeah. I mean, have you looked into withdrawal rates for your shares?
Michelle: So I have thought about or looked into it. Of course, I’ve already saved enough for FIRE
like I’ve said, but I don’t actually plan on retiring anytime soon. So I don’t have a set withdrawal rate. I do hope to just continue to earn enough passive income for as long as I can. So I don’t actually have to touch anything or withdraw for as long as I can. Maybe when the time comes, I’ll think about that a little bit more, but I do [00:57:00] have a really high savings rate.
So I don’t think I’ll really ever spend or have to withdraw more than I have saved, so I think I’m pretty set. I am very lucky and grateful in that sense. So yeah, I feel funny saying that.
Captain Fi: No, it’s awesome. You’ve actually achieved a pretty awesome goal with your business.
Like I’m still smiling ear to ear. It’s shocking how well you’ve done. It’s bloody awesome. Inspirational. Again, another question, which I don’t know if this even suits this interview, you say, what does early retirement look like for you? But I mean, you’ve answered it, right? You love traveling, spending time family.
Do you have any other goals or things you’re looking forward to doing?
Michelle: So it pretty much looks like what I’m doing right now. I work a lot less now at around 10 hours or less a week. I spend my days with my family. I explore new places. I spend a lot of time relaxing. Like this week, I looked forward to going to the play group this morning.
Just spending time together. That’s pretty much it. And just doing new things and [00:58:00] exploring new places.
Captain Fi: I love it. Yeah, I’m adjusting to new life as well. Sometimes it can feel a bit weird not having a job to go to and being self directed. So it’s nice to get a little bit of structure, like you mentioned with the play group and building your day around activities.
And it’s lovely to hear. One of my goals to even reach financial independence was to start a family and hopefully that’s something look at doing in the next couple of years. Yeah, that’s a good goal. So, Michelle, obviously you’re a wealth of knowledge and information. But you had to start somewhere and you talked about how you particularly gravitated towards online blogs.
And there’s some awesome bloggers that are from your neck of the woods around when you mentioned your cabin in Colorado, Mr. Money Moustache to start with. He’s Bloody awesome. And he’s been a huge source of inspiration for me as well. And I think it’s really good to look at people who are either on the journey to fire or people who have reached the goals that we wanting to reach basically.
So we can [00:59:00] copy them. And I guess with that in mind, did you have any favorite, resources whether that be books, blogs, podcasts, documentaries that you found to be especially helpful on your journey to fire?
Michelle: I’ve read a ton of blogs that have really helped me over the years.
Like you said, Mr. Money Mustache Afford Anything, Our Next Life. And probably thousands of others. So a lot of blogs over the years, one book that I recommend to everyone and anyone in my family who graduates from high school or college, I get them two books broke millennial and work optional from our next life.
So I always get them those two books. Those are my two highly recommended books. They teach you just the basics of personal finance all the way to everything you need to know about retiring early. And then other books I do love that I think are super helpful for people are Quit Like a Millionaire and The Year of Less.
So those four books are what I highly recommend. And then just finding blogs that are [01:00:00] just people who are in your… financial situation. So maybe you’ll find a blog where someone’s paying off all their dental student loans or something could be as specific as you want. There’s probably a personal finance blog for it.
Captain Fi: I love it. So it’s about finding your community, finding your people yeah. Cause there’s there’s no need to reinvent the wheel, right? You’ll find someone out there. That’s awesome. Love. Those blogs, by the way, they’re awesome. And the books are really cool. Now I haven’t read broke millennial but I have read the other three.
So it’s funny. I do in these interviews, , if someone brings up a book and I haven’t read it, that’s like my excuse to buy that book, because normally I wouldn’t just go out and buy a book. So I’m like, Ooh, it’s for work.
Michelle: Everyone that I’ve given that to has. said that it’s really helped them.
It’s a really great book. If you’re fresh out of high school or fresh out of college, or just basically just learning how to manage your financial life on your own. Just cause there’s so many questions that come along with [01:01:00] that. Yeah. It’s a really helpful book.
Captain Fi: All right. So I’ve just Googled it and it’s broke millennial by Aaron Lowery.
Stop scraping by and get your life together. Awesome. That sounds like it’s perfect for young people, like young graduates. Michelle, now comes the horrible question that everyone hates. Last question. No, it’s not that bad. If we had to distill all of your knowledge about online business, financial independence and personal finance, and distill them down into three nuggets, what would be your top three pieces of advice?
Michelle: Okay, so one would be if you want to reach financial independence or early retirement, my top tip would be to create a plan. So think about how much money you need to save how much you want to invest so that you can reach your goals. I think that this really helps to keep someone motivated. Maybe you’ll even create like a vision board of what Early retirement looks like for you and you can look at it every single day.
So just make a [01:02:00] plan and just really think about why. What’s your why? So two would be to find ways to make extra money. Making extra money as we talked about in the very beginning helped me pay off my nearly 40, 000 in student loans as quickly as possible. So Making extra money earning multiple streams of income, making passive income.
Those are all things that I am a huge believer in. This can help you reach early retirement sooner. FI sooner diversifying your income is great so that you’re not relying on one source of income and making passive income is great so that you’re covering your monthly expenses. There’s just so many reasons for why making more money is just my favorite thing ever.
And then number. three. I think I talked about this earlier, but just think about why, what’s your why? So when that comes to paying off your student loans, for example, think about why you want to pay it off. This can help you stay motivated when times get tough because things will get tough.
Cause you’ll probably want to quit. Even though I was only paying off my student loans for six or seven months, it did get [01:03:00] hard at times, of course, when you’re working 100 hours a week, so definitely think about why you want to do whatever your financial goal is. Maybe it’s traveling full time starting a family or something like that.
Just make a vision board and just really drill in why you want to do it so that you can see it all the time.
Captain Fi: I think those are bloody wonderful. I was just typing down as you were speaking because I wanted to write them down. I actually have a blank pin up board behind me now, and I have been wanting to start my vision board for so long, and it’s ironic that it’s only now that I, even after reaching FI, that I’m setting it up.
But I want to set up the vision board because the why is so important. If you don’t know why you’re doing something, you may become unstuck when it gets hard. Exactly. I’d love to know, Michelle, what’s on your vision board?
Michelle: So I don’t have a vision board currently, but in my mind it would probably just be being able to travel, maybe a sailboat, an [01:04:00] ocean, and some mountains, and some hiking.
Just basically the outdoors. Just, that’s what I want to do. Of course with family as well. Maybe my husband and my baby. On a hiking trail.
Captain Fi: Wow, that’s gorgeous. Look, Michelle, thank you so much for coming on today. I’ve had an absolute blast chatting. Before we finish up though is there anything you’d like to mention today that, we might’ve missed or glossed over?
Michelle: Think we covered everything really good. I don’t think there’s anything.
Captain Fi: Yeah. Awesome. So, where can listeners find out more about you or contact you?
Michelle: So the top place would definitely be MakingSenseofCents.Com. If you’re interested in the travel side of my life, I would go to my Instagram, which is Instagram.
com slash Michelle Shro. And that’s pretty much those top two places where you’ll find me.
Captain Fi: Okay. Awesome. If you’re listening in and you want to check out Michelle’s blogs or the socials jump on to CaptainFi. com onto the blog podcast show notes. I’m going to have links to where you can find [01:05:00] Michelle online.
Again, it’s been an absolute blast chatting to you Michelle, you are an Absolute inspiration. In this area, like not only the goals you’ve achieved financially and in your business, but also in your lifestyle. And I look to what you’ve achieved and that’s certainly something that I would hope to be able to achieve in the not too distant future.
So thank you so much for your time coming on today and having an awesome interview.
Michelle: Yeah. Thank you so much for having me. It was a great interview.
Captain Fi: Yeah, , my pleasure. I hope you have an awesome rest of the day. I think you were saying it’s pretty warm where you are, so hopefully you can find somewhere to stay cool and maybe have a nice refreshing drink.
Yeah, definitely. Thank you. Alrighty. See you, Michelle. We’ll talk soon. Thanks Bye
thanks for listening to another episode of the Captain FY Financial Independence Podcast. To read the transcript or check out the show notes, head over to [01:06:00] www.captainfy.com for all the details. If you have a question for the captain, make sure to get in touch. You might even make it on the airwaves. You can reach me online through the Captain Fire contact form or get in touch through the socials.
I’m active on Facebook and Instagram, as well as a number of online finance and investing forums. And finally, remember the information presented on the show and the links provided are for general information purposes only. They should not be taken as constituting professional financial advice. You should always do your own research when making any financial decisions and make sure it’s appropriate for your personal circumstance.[01:07:00]