Talking Money with Mateusz

We love talking about money with other people. We’ve learned from our money conversations that no matter how unique we are, we can always learn something new about money and about life from other people. And just listening to others tell their money stories helps to support them in reaching their personal finance goals.

We’ve gotten so much out of our money conversations that we decided to start an interview series with our personal finance community. Rather than focusing only on income and investing we’re very interested in the emotional side of personal finance. And we’re thrilled to share stories from some of our friends.

Everyone, meet Matt! He’s a 27 year old from Poland and he’s the creator of the Journey to Freedom Podcast. We started getting to know Matt when he asked us to be on his podcast and we’ve really enjoyed our conversation about money, travel, and life. We’re inspired by Matt and we know you’ll find something encouraging in his money story…

1. What were your childhood money experiences?

When I was young I never saw my parents struggling with money. We never really talked about it, but there was no issue if I wanted to get good quality food or when we booked an international trip a few times in a year. By no means were we considered a wealthy family, but more a middle class family of three. For as long as I can remember we lived 30 minutes away from Warsaw – the capital of Poland. My parents built a house in a small town with an easy connection to the city. When I was young, I never learned anything about making, saving, or investing money. That happened at the age of 19 when I became fully independent.

2. What kinds of experiences have you had with debt?

Thankfully I have never had any debt – credit, school loans, or personal debt. This is mainly due to choices I made over my nine years living in the US, but it all started with my parents fully paying for my first two years of college in Southern California. After those two years my parents struggled financially and gave me a choice of either moving back to Poland or moving to Canada where I could make some money at their friend’s coffee shop. I was very driven and wanted to make sure I finished my education in the US, so I decided to move to Canada for a year to make money, save, and then fly back to California. That was the time of my life when I became fully independent. I started paying for rent, bought my first car, and also applied for multiple scholarships and financial aid. I remember applying for over 40 different scholarships, filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) every single semester, and getting involved in school money management classes. Thanks to all of this I received over $18,000 in scholarships and financial aid and graduated debt-free!

When it comes to credit cards I can talk about them for hours! To make it short, I started with only one Bank of America credit card back in 2014. Ever since then I have learned a lot about sign-up bonuses, credit card scores, rewards, and using all of them to your advantage. I always pay my credit card balances in full, and I make sure not to use more than 10% of my credit usage. Currently, I hold seven credit cards, and my score is getting closer to 800. If I could give one tip to someone it would be to focus on sign-up bonuses – you would be surprised how much you can get from them! Thanks to getting my Chase Sapphire Preferred card I was able to earn $1,200 and use it for hotels and airfare in Europe.

3. What’s your investing style?

I am a true believer in long term investing. My investing journey started back in 2019 after I graduated from university. I did not want to just save my money I also wanted to invest for the future, which would allow me to have enough passive income when I am older. I opened my first savings account with AMEX back in 2019, where I still contribute $200-300 per month. Besides AMEX, I also have a Roth IRA account with Vanguard and an account with Robinhood (both opened in 2019). Within Vanguard I invest in index funds, where I max out yearly contributions (currently $6,000/year). With Robinhood I invest in blue chip stocks that pay above average dividends. I reinvest all of my dividends automatically so the compound interest can work its magic.

4. Do FIRE and financial independence concepts appeal to you?

It definitely does! I discovered the FIRE movement at the age of 25 and got hooked right away. I have always been a big saver but never knew about investing. One day I started learning about the basics of investing from YouTube and podcasts and took a lot of notes. After a few months, I was more confident and became more aware of the principles of financial independence and the FIRE movement. I would describe my path to FIRE as a CoastFI with an approach to invest aggressively right now, so that I can reach FI by the age of 35-37.

As a few months ago, I was an assistant restaurant manager at the JW Marriott brand. After receiving my hospitality management degree from Cal Poly Pomona, I worked as a manager in training at the Ritz-Carlton brand for almost a year. I have always been passionate about luxury hospitality and traveling the world. Although after facing work related burnout I am currently taking a break from the industry and spending much needed quality time with my family and friends. I am also looking into various hospitality/photography jobs in London, UK. If all works out I will move there within the next few months and go back to my FIRE strategy. Once I become financially independent, I want to focus more on my other passions and hobbies which are travel, photography, and tennis.

6. Do you rent or own? Do you have any plans to change your housing situation in the future?

When I was younger my parents built a house only 30 min away from Warsaw. We have been living here for the past 25 years, and as of three years ago my parents added my name as an official owner. I am definitely not planning on selling or renting it, as this is our family home with some of the best memories I have ever had. Every single time I come back to Poland I stay here for a short period of time. Once I move out to a new country, I will be renting a room or a studio. Hopefully, in the future, I will have enough income to start investing in real estate, but that’s something I need to learn more about.

7. Does your location have an impact on your money?

It definitely does! I have already moved over 10 times to multiple places around the US and Canada. My first big move was back in 2012 from Warsaw, Poland to Orange County in Southern California. About two years later I moved to Calgary, Canada in order to make money and move back to the US. Over the next few years I lived in a few cities in Southern California and after graduating from university in 2019 I moved to Southern Florida. During my time there I lived in Miami and Marco Island. As of July 2021 I moved out of the US and traveled back to Poland.

I definitely do not see myself living here full time, despite Poland being a very affordable place compared to the US. Currently, I am looking for a job in London, UK as that’s where I would like to live for the next few years. Later down the road I would like to move to Southeast Asia and experience the culture over there.

8. How does being single impact your money?

Being single makes it easy to manage money wisely. I can save a portion of my earnings and spend on things that I truly love. I also do not have to worry about spending money on restaurants, clothes, or fancy travels for my other half. Currently, I am not dating anyone but when I was in a relationship I would think about finances very often. Being on the same page when it comes to spending and saving money is very important for me.

9. Do you have people you can talk openly with about money (not including us)? How does talking about money impact your confidence and progress?

Unfortunately, both my parents and my closest friends aren’t as financially educated as I am. People in Poland tend to have a paycheck to paycheck mentality, and money is usually a taboo subject. As much as saving is a bit more common, investing is a topic that not a lot of people are aware of. Whenever I get the chance I spread awareness of savings and the importance of investing. It definitely makes me more confident and also excited about the knowledge that I have gained over the past few years.

10. What are your personal money goals at this point in your life?

My goal is to have a minimum of six months of expenses in my savings account, max out my Roth IRA every single year, and to continue investing consistently. I would like to have at least $750,000 in investments, including individual stocks and index funds, by the age of 36. As of 2021, I am a dual Polish-American citizen. I definitely want to continue investing despite living outside of the US, although I need to learn more about taxes, investing accounts, and other aspects of finances when living abroad.

11. How do you feel about money at this point in your life?

I am getting more confident about my knowledge of saving and investing. Despite earning only five figures per year, I am doing my best to save and invest a large portion of it. I am at the beginning stages of financial freedom with a clear goal and ideas for the years to come.

12. What kinds of activities do you love? How do your favorite activities impact your spending?

Traveling, photography, podcasting, and tennis – I love all of them. Thankfully my mom is a flight attendant, so I have been able to travel the world for a fraction of the cost. I also worked at Marriott International, which got me some massive savings from hotels. With photography, I am trying my best to promote my drone business and make some extra money out of that. It’s definitely a side hustle of mine, but I love doing it.

Additionally, I have started my own podcast called Journey to Freedom where I talk about travel, finance, and success stories. It’s another passion of mine, where I connect with many people around the world.

When living in California I was playing tennis always for free! Once you find a public tennis court you can play for as long as you want to. Here in Poland tennis courts cost $10-15/hour, so if I split the cost with a friend it works out perfectly.

I am also very (and I mean very) frugal with spending money in restaurants and coffee shops. I do not eat out a lot since I cook at home at least 3-4 times a week.

13. Last question – what are you most excited about right now?

I would say that right now I am excited, but also nervous and anxious, about my next move. I used to live in the US for nine years and currently I am not sure where I will next be in the world. The current pandemic situation does not look promising in Asia, so I am looking for a job somewhere in Europe. I am hoping to find a job in London, but since I am just 27 years old I am ready for new challenges!

That’s it for now from Matt! Thank you for reading his story here, we are looking forward to your comments! And we encourage you to check out his podcast as well!

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