January Peer Profile: "Make Changes That Don't Impact Your Happiness...Honesty Is Key."
Last year, we started a feature on Hello HENRYs called Peer Profiles - a series in which we interviewed millennials about their approach to money + what has influenced the way they manage it. We think there is so much value in having conversations with friends about money! It shouldn’t be taboo + we guarantee that you can learn something new, even from your most financially clueless friends.
For our latest Peer Profile, we interviewed Marc Gaan, a 27-year old Global Accounts Manager from Issaquah, Washington. Marc recently purchased a home + we wanted to sit down with him to learn a little bit more about how he achieved this at such a young age and what his biggest pieces of advice for his peers are.
Hello HENRYs: We’ll start off with something easy! Money, along with most sensitive subjects in life, is always easier to discuss over a few drinks. To help our readers get to know you a bit better, what’s your go-to drink order?
Marc Gaan: Always go for a Red Bull Vodka!
HH: Wow! Definitely can’t say we are on the same page there, but interesting choice! Getting into the topic of finances, we feel like most people’s attitudes are at least, partially, shaped by their childhood + how their parents managed money. Can you speak to that?
MG: I definitely saw, firsthand, the hard work that my parents had to put in to provide my siblings + I with the lifestyle we had. Now that I have joined our family business + have a few years under my belt, I can really see what went into providing that lifestyle + I really appreciate the value of a dollar. This has created a sense of frugality - something I have learned from my father. Some might describe me as cheap, but I am always thinking about a rainy day or the future + want to prepare for that. As a result, I don’t always live in the moment.
HH: We love that! As a culture, we are so consumed with instant gratification + what’s happening in the here and now. So many young people that we meet with have a hard time imagining themselves in retirement or anything beyond the next few months, but there is no more important time to think about those things than in your 20’s. How did your parents help you learn how to manage money?
MG: I remember my parents talking to me a little bit about money, but I also learned just from watching them + observing our life. I think as a kid you see waves of success as well as waves of spending + managing money differently to fit your needs at that time. I think my childhood helped me learn there are times you need to cut back + what the smart way to spend your money is. I don’t treat myself very often, but I think it’s something that you should try to do - otherwise life becomes mundane. I spend my money on what makes me happy which is really being with people I love. More often than not, being with friends + family has to involve spending money.
HH: We couldn’t agree more! We always stress the importance of cutting costs on things you don’t care about, so that you can spend freely on things that bring you happiness. It sounds like you do just that! Growing up, were there things you remember your parents splurging on, as well as areas where they cut back?
MG: Definitely remember travel being a big part of my childhood, so clearly something that my parents valued. I feel very fortunate to have seen so much of the world, as not many people have that opportunity. I have fond memories of getting to visit the village in China where my grandmother immigrated from, as well as our annual vacation to Hawaii. Definitely makes me want to work harder to provide that for myself + my family down the road.
HH: So nice that you have those memories to look back on! Travel is of the utmost importance to us as well + something that we strive to always make a priority in our lives, even if it means missing out on other things at times. Moving on from your childhood, what would you say is the smartest financial move you have made in your adulthood?
MG: I don’t think I can pinpoint just one move that I am proud of. I think it’s a culmination of small things. I think building a foundation early + staying true to what I believed in financially. This helped me from straying off the beaten path. I think handling money is something you need to develop a lifelong approach to, not just making a smart decision in one pivotal moment. All of these small decisions came together to allow me to be able to purchase a home. As you grow up, I definitely see the goal as working to gain assets + taking these steps as early as possible. For me, my new home is also much closer to work, so while I’m acquiring assets, it’s also a great way for me to cut back on some expenses. Namely transportation.
HH: Congratulations on becoming a homeowner! We know it feels really good to set a goal for yourself + accomplish it, especially one that takes some sacrifice like this. It seems like you have a really good handle on your money, but is there anything that you would say is a pitfall for you? Any money mistakes that you have made?
MG: I would say trying not be an innovator all the time. I shouldn’t need to be the first one to have something. I think there are good times to buy products + it can be helpful to wait. Don’t be impulsive when it comes to big purchases. In addition to that, use your network. If you have a friend that can help you with a discount or a service, don’t be afraid to ask. In the same way, if you’re that friend + you’re in a position to help, you should give back to our friends. My inner circle isn’t super large + I care more about building relationships + trust with the people closest to me.
HH: For many young people, their biggest mistakes are around debt or mismanagement of credit cards. Do you have any thoughts on that or any experiences with that?
MG: Debt is something that definitely hangs over my head. Even when I purchased my car, the debt was a constant in my mind. I adjusted my spending habits + made sure that I paid it off within 2 years. I am fortunate to not have any college debt. I think the student loans numbers are so big + daunting. I would probably feel pretty pessimistic about getting out of debt + I think that kind of confirms the idea that money can bring you happiness. Or at least not having to worry about money. I think money is the biggest stressor in many people’s lives + to get to a place where I don't have to stress about it is my goal.
HH: With that, it sounds like you don’t have any credit card debt. Do you have a credit card? If so, how many + what do you use it for?
MG: I have one credit card + I charge absolutely every purchase I make to it. Of course, I carry a little cash in case I run into something where it’s needed, but I think using a credit card is the best way to reward yourself for money that you are already spending. For me, a card that gives air miles is the best thing. I would much rather have travel rewards than cash back. I think, in general, I prevent myself from overextending myself with a credit card by just having a good sense of my spending. I know myself pretty well + can immediately recognize when I’m starting to spend more than I should. I got my credit card in college + for me, building a financial foundation early has been key.
HH: What is your biggest splurge category, as well as area where you try to cut back?
MG: My biggest splurge category would be electronics. TVs, phones, tech accessories, all of that stuff. When the next iPhone comes out, I’ll probably be getting that pretty quickly. Technology these days just gets better + better so quickly. As far as areas where I cut back, I think limiting your passions. Many of my friends will play golf twice in one weekend. To save money, every other weekend is plenty for me. I also think packing a lunch, as well as finding hobbies that distract you from spending money. You can spend $50 a month for a gym membership which can take up a lot of your time in a more positive way + prevent you from spending.
HH: Along those lines, to close, what advice would you give to your peers to help them get a better handle on managing their money?
MG: I don’t think there is one specific way out there that will work for everyone. I think it’s really about breaking down what you spend on a daily basis + analyzing it. Get to a point where you’re comfortable with what you’re spending your money on. Take a look at edits that you can make that don’t impact your daily happiness, but will help you save money. Lastly, honesty is key with your friends + family. You want the best for your friends + want to help them in whatever way you can. Those relationships last a lifetime. There has to be a sense of generosity there.
HH: We love that! It sounds like your friends + family are pretty important to you and, especially when it comes to setting financial goals, it helps to be honest + to have people in your corner backing you up. We really appreciate all that you shared with us + know that it will help others to look at their finances differently too. Thanks so much, Marc!
If you, or someone you know, would be a good fit for a future Peer Profile, email us + tell us your story at firstname.lastname@example.org !