We’re convinced that when people share their money stories and dive into the emotional side of personal finance that’s a good thing. And that’s why we started our Talking Money series, to make room for others to share their stories. We’re all unique but we can always learn something new about money and life from others!
Everyone, meet Kat and Omar! Kat is a 27 year old entrepreneur and personal finance blogger at Cash for Kat. Kat started blogging at age 21, quit her corporate job at age 23 so she could travel solo around the world and started her own consulting business at age 24. Omar is a 28 year old who has lived in 7 different countries so far and is getting ready to move to his 8th country in a few weeks. Omar is a business development and strategy professional who’s worked in leadership positions in AI, IoT and energy focused tech startups. We’re inspired by Kat and Omar and we know you’ll find something encouraging in their money stories…
1. What were your childhood money experiences? Did you learn useful money lessons from your family?
Kat: My parents had a family business when I was growing up, so I was handling large amounts of money at a young age. My dad also helped me start my first business when I was around 10 years old (a gumball machine!). I also have a lot of memories of him trying to teach me about the stock market… I guess some of it stuck!
Omar: I was largely “sheltered” and never had to worry about money until I was sent off to university. That’s where some life lessons came into play, most importantly when my dad told me “Always save for rainy days” and “Instead of going to bars and parties, spend money on experiences.” That was really it. My father always gave us pocket money and gifts. He was a career diplomat, bureaucrat and retired as Ambassador in 2019 after a long career in the foreign service. Growing up we moved around many countries and I’m grateful for the life of privilege we lived. However, it did come with a skewed vision of how all us “Diplobrats” saw the world and how it distorted our expectations of adult life or living on our own. Other than that, I always had entrepreneurial ambitions, I still do. I was about 17-18 years old in high school when I made a good chunk of money selling fireworks during summer holidays.
2. Have you dealt with financial obstacles or experienced financial discrimination?
Kat: I have faced quite a few of those obstacles and learned that banks are not always your friend. I’ve been denied loans more than once despite maintaining a 750+ credit score for more than 5 years, and I’m only 27. Another experience I had was with my career in sales. While I wouldn’t say I felt anything that was overtly racist or sexist, I did have enough experiences that made me clearly see that my future growth and potential was being stinted by my gender and race. That is what led me to starting my own sales consulting business at the age of 24.
Omar: When I look back, I’ve been very fortunate in my life not to face any financial obstacles. I was never exposed or learnt of the challenges of the BIPOC community at home nor at the many international schools I had attended. We did learn of black history, racial injustices, and women’s rights, but we never touched on the topic of the queer community in American standard international schools, IB schools, or in my Australian university either (probably because I had majors in business subjects).
3. How do you feel about money at this point in your life?
Kat: I firmly believe that money is a tool and it is a choice on how you decide to use it. I would say at this stage, we are very stable and starting to enjoy some of the flexibility that comes with that. I also realize that most people do not find this kind of stability until their mid to late thirties, so I am very grateful for where we are at.
Omar: I’m quite grateful for the level we’ve reached in life in terms of money. I believe it does give us optionality and moreover being content with the threshold we have reached individually and as a couple is most important. Taking a step back at times and practicing gratitude is very healthy and important instead of always comparing oneself to others, especially in this age of social media where we are inundated with unrealistic narratives and images of excesses and curated lifestyles.
4. What kinds of experiences have you had with debt?
Kat: I have/had student loans and credit card card debt. I do not regret either of them! The student loans helped me to obtain high paying jobs at a younger age. The credit card debt is/was mainly related to cost of living and travel, both of which have lead to a higher earning power.
Omar: I was fortunate to never have debt or be in a position where I had to take out loans. The only experiences I have with debt are small sums borrowed during adolescence or in university over trivial matters, where I was the creditor. Overall, I managed my pocket money well and never had to ask for loans or extra cash from my parents.
5. What’s your market investing style, and what kinds of accounts do you have?
Kat: I am a pretty stable investor, focusing mainly on ETFs and mutual funds. I am somewhat diversified but keep around 90% of my assets in a more “risky” portfolio, only around 10% of my investments are in bonds and I intend to keep it this way for the next 20-30 years.
Omar: I got into forex trading during my second internship which was in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. I was trading for 4 years, going in circles because I had no solid strategy. I stopped trading when I blew my last account as I was day trading looking for quick wins as a student. After that I kept my head down and focused on my studies. As of now, I’m invested in crypto, luckily only 1% of my net worth is exposed and I stopped DCA’ing after a month because the crypto market wiped out everyone. In crypto terms I’m a “Hodler” and focused on bitcoin amongst other major coins.
6. Are you currently focused on reaching a specific type of FIRE or financial independence?
Kat: I am more focused on Financial Independence (FI). I’ve found that running my business has negated a lot of the reasons I was previously interested in retiring early. Additionally, I have some family members who retired early and they are a bit bored. I personally love being bored, but I don’t think I want to be full-time bored in my 30’s! So for now I intend to run my business until I am financially independent, and then I will decide when/if I will retire early.
Omar: I never knew about the FIRE movement (Shocking right?) until I met my lovely wife who really got me thinking about my financial goals. As always the aim should be high and as I’m focused on working in leadership roles with Tech companies, I’m looking for the “Big exit,” i.e. having equity in a company that gets acquired or IPO’s. In financial terms, I’m looking to achieve a substantial return through such an exit which would allow me to bide my time and scope out the next endeavor or project. I don’t think I’ll retire since I enjoy what I do. 🙂
7. What are your career goals at this point?
Kat: My goal for my consulting business is to grow it to over $70,000 a year. Currently, I’ve been able to net around $10-15,000 per year working less than 10 hours a week. This is in addition to other income streams like occasional freelance work. While this amount is enough for where we currently live in Cambodia, it will not be enough to cover my expenses should we move back to my home state of California. And my plan is to continue growing the blog at Cash for Kat. It has started to finally produce more of an income as of 2022 and is now at the point where it makes money every day (even if it is pennies!). My big plan is to scale this more by investing both time and energy. So I’m actually stepping back from other opportunities so that I can continue to work on the blog!
Omar: I don’t own a business. However, I fully support my wife’s blog and consulting business. I help out wherever my skills are relevant since I have experience with the AI, IoT and energy sector as a business developer and leadership capacities. I’ve done so before with one project and I hope to continue doing so whenever the opportunity arises. To add onto that, as mentioned, we’ll be relocating to Singapore since my skills and career in the field have led me there. Long story short, my goal is to achieve an IPO or at the very least scale the upcoming team i’m about to join in January, to significant growth whereby the startup raises a substantial round of funding or gets a serious acquisition offer. That would be a short-term break for me until I have a polished and well formulated idea which I would go onto launch as my own business. Let’s see!
8. Do you imagine you might own a personal home or rental property in the future? Does real estate fit in your personal finance strategy?
Both: Owning a home is generally on our 5-10 year plan. As of now we think it will likely be a primary residence, though we’ve also discussed maybe investing in property abroad. We see owning a property as a piece of mental security more than an investment, for the first home anyways.
9. You’ve lived in high cost of living areas and much lower cost of living areas. How does location impact your money?
Kat: When it comes to location, I prefer to focus on my saving ability. While living in Cambodia, my salary has been half of what I used to make while living in US. Yet my savings rate has doubled! And I don’t mean that as a percentage. Dollar for dollar, I’m able to save more money here. As we are planning on moving back to HCoL areas in the future, we did the calculations to make sure we are able to keep a similar standard of living and savings rate.
Omar: Location directly affects our money obviously. However, we’ve been fortunate enough that the circumstances have always matched our financial standing. We wouldn’t move to a place if it didn’t make sense financially. I feel we’ve been quite lucky that our finances have always been in the net positive territory based on where we currently are and where we plan to move to in the short and long-term.
10. Congrats on your recent wedding! What are your money plans as a couple, which assets or accounts will you combine or keep separate?
Kat: Thank you! We’ve maintained separate bank accounts since we met but now that we are married we will likely open a joint bank account and deposit a mutual amount each month. This would be used for shared expenses like rent, groceries, etc., since we split almost everything 50/50 (mainly because our incomes are similar). When we move to the US, we will likely do the same but add on individual 401k’s.
Omar: Thank you very much! We are very much aligned on our financial goals and plans. We’ve discussed at length on how we will diversify our investments and also keep for example a joint bank account to manage monthly living expenses such as rent, groceries, and other costs as a household. Kathryn is definitely the right person to ask as she’s more knowledgeable than me in this regard.
11. Is money a regular conversation topic in your personal life? How often do you talk money with your partner, friends, or family?
Kat: As a personal finance blogger at Cash for Kat I talk about money with everyone! My husband and I talk about money almost daily, even if it is little things like splitting the dinner bill. For friends, I try not to be too preachy but a lot of them do come to me for investing or saving tips, I would say I discuss money 2-3 times a month with friends. With my family, it is usually a monthly conversation but I find that it is a bit less now that I am married so who knows how that will evolve.
Omar: Kathryn and I do discuss money almost daily or every other day. We’re both ambitious about our careers and goals in life so naturally this is a topic of much discussion in our household. I discuss money once in a while with my family and my mom as they’re happy with the fact that I’m able to support myself well but I never discuss my financials with my friends. They might ask or indicate towards it but I always play it down as it’s a very private topic for me. I also don’t care to ask my friends for those details.
12. What are your personal money goals at this point? What do you want to achieve with your money in the short term or in the long term?
Kat: I was working towards paying off my student loan debt early, but it looks like Biden might be helping me out with that one! My primary goal besides paying off debt is to invest my first $100k. I am about 25% of the way there, but have been on hold due to living abroad.
Omar: My goals at the moment are to ride out the impending recession by maintaining and growing my USD cash position. Till that’s over, I plan to invest a little bit into stable cryptos again to take advantage of the next bull market cycle in the DeFi space.
13. What activities or hobbies do you love? How do your favorite activities impact your spending?
Kat: A lot of my favorite activities are pretty low cost. I am a bit of a homebody so I love a good book, running my blog, enjoying our rooftop, etc. Since I live in Cambodia, it is actually a bit harder to fall prey to my old spending habits. For example, I was starting to develop a bit of a shopping habit after college but since I’m almost 6 ft tall it is hard to find clothes that fit out here! I think my biggest expense is probably fine dinning. I kind of have a daily food budget in my head and this is the one I probably go over on the most.
Omar: I believe my biggest expenses are to do with fashionable clothing and tech products. Food comes in last but relative to other countries and my income, we are able to dine fairly daily at above par establishments or order in every night. Apart from that I play football 2-3 times a week and have spent on boxing memberships. That’s something I stopped due to illness and travel but I plan to resume it again soon.
14. Last question – what are you most excited about right now?
Kat: I’m most excited about starting a new chapter in a new country with my new husband! This year has been the cumulation of a lot of hard work and we’ve both been putting in a lot of extra hours outside of our main jobs/projects. In 2023, we are looking forward to enjoying some of the results of that hard work and narrowing down our focus to the things that worked best for us in 2022.
Omar: I’m most excited to build a a beautiful, happy, healthy and wealthy life with my wife. That’s the long term perspective. In the short term I’m most excited about our next chapter which involves a move to another country within the next 2 months or so! More to be announced shortly! Stay tuned! 😄
That’s it for now! We’re excited to include Kat and Omar in our Talking Money series. Thank you for reading their stories, we’re all looking forward to your comments!