From Broke to Financially Woke Interview Series – EAT Money



It’s Friday!  Which means it’s time for another interview in the From Broke to Financially Woke Series.  The purpose of this series it to give hope to those struggling to escape from the not so secret group Broke Phi Broke.  A group whose chant is, “We ain’t got it. Broke, Broke, Phi Broke! We ain’t got it. Broke, Broke, Phi Broke!”

To help me accomplish this goal, I have invited the best and brightest of the financial independence community here to share their stories.  As you read their interviews, pay close attention to the mistakes they made.  Take mental note of the success principles they used to turn things around.

When trying to apply these principles to your own life, realize that success in life is rarely linear.  You will encounter some struggles.  But stay persistent.  Keep moving forward.

Our special guest today is Robbie from EAT Money.  After graduating from college, he was fortunate enough not to live paycheck to paycheck, but him and his wife had a lot of debt.  $70,000 between the two of them.

Let’s see how he turned things around…


Introduce yourself.  Where do you blog? What are some of your interests outside of financial independence?


Hi! I’m Robbie from There I blog about the three tenets I’ve leaned on to make the financial progress I have. I focus on earning, automating and tracking.

Outside of pursuing financial independence I’ve got a ton going on! I’ve got a wife, dog and two kids. I have an engineering degree and finished up my MBA about a year ago. Outside of work, my blog and my family I like to stay physically fit. I’m also an avid learner so consume a ton of books.


Tell us about a time where you were a member of Broke Phi Broke.  How did living paycheck to paycheck make you feel as a person? At your lowest point, how much debt did you have?


Broke to Financially Woke Interview Series
Broke Phi Broke


My wife and I got married the week after I graduated college. Between the two of us we had 70k in debt and next to nothing in savings. The only tool we had was a rather large income between the two of us.

I was 22, $70k in debt and knew I had a huuuge hole to dig my wife and I out of.  Fortunately we weren’t living paycheck to paycheck but man was I paranoid about our debt. I wanted some breathing room and I wanted it fast.

Since that point we’ve had more debt as we took on a mortgage but the gap between our expenses and savings continues to grow. Net worth isn’t the end all be all people think it is. Get a gap between income and expenses and take a breath!

What are some of your biggest financial mistakes?

Fortunately my “big” financial mistakes ended with getting into way too much debt. Sure we’ve had some purchases here and there that weren’t ideal but nothing significant.

As I reflect on that period now I think my biggest regret was getting so paranoid. Having disagreements with my spouse about the tiniest of purchases was a common occurrence. If I knew what I know now I think I’d chill out on the smaller stuff and focus on the big wins.


Describe your upbringing.  Where did you grow up? What did your parents or teachers teach you about money?


I grew up in the Midwest with a father that was the hardest worker I’ve ever known. He worked hard, watched his expenses and it really set a good example for me. While I never learned any financial tips from my dad I learned the two of the most important lessons you can from a role model. Those two are simply to work hard to increase your income and watch expenses.

Not until I was in my upper 20’s did I learn that my parents paid off their house when they were 35. They set that as a goal and did it. Its funny thinking back now and having that information.


How important is becoming financially woke to you?  What steps have you take to increase your financial knowledge?


Becoming financially woke is extremely important for success in life. Not having financial stress on your marriage is huge. It also sets the right example for your children and allows you to enjoy your time with them. I’m taking my family to Disney this year and, while I’m watching what we spend, am not concerned in the least with spending thousands of dollars. I know creating those memories is priceless.

The first step I’d recommend anyone take is to listen to Dave Ramsey. I’ll be the first to admit I don’t agree with all his teachings but his laser focus of pay off debt as fast as you can is a tremendous start. I did that and it has paid off in a big way.

After I moved on from Dave I jumped into the personal finance community with both feet. I read books, blogs and listen to podcasts. I used to consume a ridiculous amount of information about personal finance. That has since slowed but I still do consume quite a bit.


What are some of the key principles you have used to improve your financial life?


Broke to Financially Woke Interview Series
Success Principles

The two biggest ones I learned from my dad and focus my blog on are to earn more and track your expenses. “What gets measured gets managed” is one of my favorite quotes. I think its unbelievably true.

To earn more I work hard, continually improve myself and earned my MBA. I’ve also tracked every expense since January of 2014.


How often do you consume personal finance information?  Name 3-5 of your favorites sources (books, podcasts, blogs, etc.).


I consume personal finance information every day. The types and goals are different now than they used to be but I still consume a ton.

There is so much great content out there I’d recommend signing up for the Rockstar Finance and Camp FIRE Finance email newsletters. You’ll find some great content in those to get you started.

On the book front a few must reads are The Millionaire Next Door, The Bogleheads’ Guide to Investing and Rich Dad Poor Dad.


Where are you on the path to financial freedom now?


Broke to Financially Woke Interview Series


Right now I’m in the same spot I’ll be for quite some time. I’m saving every month trying to build up my investment balances. I have enough to pay off all my debt but have yet to pull the trigger.

While I want financial independence I don’t want to retire early. I enjoy what I do and love my life. I just want to have some breathing room to go to Disney, be able to quit if I don’t like my job and focus on what truly matters in life: loving my family.


Is there any advice/encouraging words you can give those who are struggling to escape Broke Phi Broke?


Two things. First, put a plan together. Some of my plans are going to take the rest of my life. Get an idea of how long its going to take to get where you want to go. I started out $70k in debt and within 7 years had added a quarter of a million dollars to my net worth.

The second thing to do is to make progress every day. Anything worth achieving is going to take a long time. If it didn’t take hard work, discipline and persistence then everyone would do it.

How can the readers contact you?


You can find me at on twitter at @eatmoneyblog or via email at

Thanks for your contribution to the series, Robbie!

Community Feedback

  • How do you handle money disagreements with your significant other?
  • Have you considered going back to school to obtain an MBA to increase your income?
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Author: Jerry

Jerry is a Business Insider Contributing Writer who is obsessed with personal finance. He believes you can improve your financial situation by applying principles taught by the financial independence community to your financial life.

If you are having trouble saving, he recommends that you join the SaverLife Savings program where you can get a $60 reward after six months (no income requirement). All you have to do is put a minimum of $20 a month into a savings account. Easy, right?

For a fun read, check out his article 10 Signs You’re a Personal Finance Addict to see if you are a personal finance nerd.

Before you go, check out the new From Broke to Financially Woke Interview Series.

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