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To begin, here’s a little bit about me: I’m 27, I graduated from university two  years ago, I’ve been working as an R&D engineer ever since then, moved in with my girlfriend last year, and my blogging adventure started just a few months ago. I joined the Yakezie not long after that.

Hearing all of these thank yous must get tiresome after a while, Sam, but I need to say it: Thanks for starting such a cool community, and thanks, everyone, for making the Yakezie great!

The beginning: My own background

My early childhood was tumultuous, and I never stayed in a single location for more than a couple of years. There were family feuds, bankruptcies, and a divorce + death in the family when I was very young. It wasn’t a great time overall, but we were helped out a lot by my grandmother, and I learned some important things over the years.

The first important lesson I learned is: nobody gets to choose their starting circumstances. It is unfair, but it suffices to say that with six billion people on the planet and the randomness of life, the odds are against being born into bliss.

Nonetheless, I still consider myself extremely lucky to have been born in North America. I consider myself to be very fortunate in terms of the chances, opportunities, and help that I’ve been given, and perhaps these hardships only helped me to appreciate it that much more. The second lesson I learned is: it doesn’t matter who you are, or where you come from: you can make a real difference in this world, and in someone’s life.

I was introduced to the game of poker a few years ago, and I’ve been able to draw a lot of parallels between the game and life. The way I look at it is that everyone is born with a different poker hand. We don’t get to choose the starting hand, but we can choose how we can play it, and we can even influence the outcome of the hand. As my fellow blogger Barbara Friedberg has also said, “there is no point in getting frustrated over the things that you cannot control”.   It’s better to focus on what you can control and change.

My journey

My own interest in personal finance started when I started going to college. I spent my college and university years living on my own and paying the majority of my own expenses. When I started out on my own, I didn’t know much about managing my own money, and I didn’t know anything about finance. I was very lucky to have some help from my grandmother when it came to tuition expenses, but I had to make up the rest myself.

I worked part-time to support myself during these years, but I didn’t practice the best habits: The money went out as fast as it came in. I bought myself a new car after going through a couple of $500 beaters, spent more money on fun and various things, and I often found myself in over my head. I was putting myself into debt when I should have been saving my money and building my future, instead.

I had friends at the time that somehow managed to max out two credit cards, and were in the process of consolidating their debt onto another credit card. I knew people that had made the mistake of taking out 2+ mortgages on their home and then spent all of the money, and were in the process of going bankrupt. By observing and learning from these experiences, I learned valuable life lessons for my own future.

I met my girlfriend in college, and she introduced me to a different set of values on money and life that I had not been highly exposed to before. She personified in her own family just how successful one could be through hard work, dedication, and perseverance. There is a saying that exists in many cultures that if you want to know who someone is, look at who is around them. I believe this works in more ways than one. With a good example to look up to, I was increasingly motivated to start turning my own situation around, and I started to put some money aside as savings. It wasn’t much, but it was a start. Here is the next life lesson I learned: if you want to improve yourself, surround yourself with people better than you; people you can look up to.

I left the country to go on an exchange trip to South Korea in 2007. It was the first time I had left the country since maybe 6 or 7 years old, and it was the first time I had ever been so far away from home. It would be an understatement to say that it was an incredibly eye-opening experience. I discovered just how different cultural values and the way of doing things could be, and found that I could learn a lot from that. The Asians are all very focused on saving and investing, not only in terms of money, but also in terms of investing in your self. I learned to look beyond my own local bubble, and I lost much of my pre-existing bias regarding the superiority of the Western way of life that I had had up till then. The lesson I learned from this is: you can become a broader and deeper thinker by exposing yourself to different cultures and ideas.

Why I started to blog

I became significantly more interested in finance and economics following the meltdown of 2008. I was very curious, and it didn’t make sense to me. I began to do a lot of reading, and through that, I was exposed to many new ideas about money, politics, and the western way of living. Nothing seemed to make sense anymore; it was like I had been living in a cave all of that time, and I finally saw what was outside. I had swallowed the red pill.

As time went by, I realized just how little I actually knew about the world, and I realized how much there is to learn out there. Once again, I went back to the idea that if you surround yourself with people better than yourself, you can become better, too. I met new friends over the years that were examples I could learn from and look up to. One of these friends, Mich, would often have interesting commentary on the markets and on his trades. We would talk almost every day, and I thought that it would be great if he started publishing his thoughts to the world at large, to share them and validate them with others. I encouraged him to start his own blog, Beating the Index, and while I was helping him get started, my own interest in blogging grew. I decided to start my own blog, and that’s how Invest It Wisely was born.

Where I’m at today

I finally graduated university in 2008, and with a full-time job, I’ve been able to focus more on saving for the future. One of my dreams is to get out of the rat race, but like Jesse from PFfirewall, retirement doesn’t necessarily mean I want to sit on my ass and do nothing. Instead, it means that I’ll have the freedom to work on my own terms, without worrying about whether I’ll make enough money to pay off the bills.

Me and my girlfriend recently bought a place together; I’m not completely sure it’s well-advised given the continued potential for economic storms, but there needs to be a balance to life: we can’t spend all of our time wondering if the sky’s going to fall! I know that as far as we go, we made the right choice together.

Blogging has been a really great experience for me. I have learned from so many different perspectives, and my eyes have been opened even more. Having access to people from so many different cultures and backgrounds really shows how situations are different, and also how you can learn from the wisdom of each fellow blogger and reader. If you want to improve your own understanding of something, start writing about it and share it with others.

Why I joined the Yakezie

During my blogging adventures, I kept seeing this golden flower on different sites with the words “Proud member of the Yakezie challenge.” I kept wondering what this was, and I eventually clicked on one of the badges to find out more. I read the entire post, read the comments, then I read the one month update, and I liked what I had read so far. It seemed like a pretty cool community, and it felt like something I would also be proud to be a part of, so I put up the badge and the joining post, and a new adventure started!

As it has turned out, the Yakezie happens to be a very wise and generous community of fellow bloggers, and I have really enjoyed the interactions that we’ve had along the way. I know that I’ve said it before, Sam, but you really started something cool with the Yakezie.

The future

One of the themes I’ve touched on in my blog is the theme of “life expectation”. “Expectation” and “expected value” are terms that I’ve borrowed from poker, and the meaning behind this is that everything we do in life should make our lives better, not worse. Everything that we do today has an impact on the future, and affects how much value we get out of our lives.

In my personal life, I will be continuing Mandarin Chinese courses in the fall, and I am taking a more proactive approach when it comes to my own physical and mental health. Graduate school will come sometime in the not too far future, as well. I am always a little envious when I read about fellow bloggers with children; it would be a lot of work to raise kids with everything else going on, but I think we would both be loving parents and the rewards would be worth it. This will be something else to consider more seriously as time goes on, along with officially tying the knot and all of those other things that are a part of growing up and starting a life together.

My plans for Invest It Wisely are to continue improving my writing skills and the quality of my content, and also work on improving my marketing skills. My goals are to continue increasing my visitors and reach, and I eventually want to start looking at monetization. I have already had a few offers, but I don’t want my income to come from less than legit sources. I don’t want to nip my site in the bud in exchange for a few quick bucks!

I have read from those of you who give to charity, and I don’t think I am doing enough there. Giving money away is an important part of charity, but I am more of a doer, and I would like to go back overseas someday and get involved in some hands-on work, perhaps as part of an organization that helps to build homes or delivers help and capital where it is most needed. Giving money away helps, but it’s also impersonal. My life has already been changed by seeing in person what true poverty is like, and seeing as how I have it so good in comparison, I feel that I need to do more. I look up highly to those among us that are doing more, around the world.

One of the great things about the Internet and about blogging is that it’s very easy for information to flow both ways. I have learned a lot from you guys, and I’ve benefited from the many discussions that we’ve had with each other. You guys inspire me.

I look forward to the growth of the Yakezie, because I believe that we can all learn something from each other, and that we can all grow as a result. I know that we can do great things together, and that we can also share these great things with others. It’s a win-win situation, and I can honestly say that I’m proud to join company with you guys. I’m looking forward to meeting everyone else, and here’s to the Yakezie’s continued success!

You can also build your own fund by yourself for only $9.95 with Motif Investing. They are the most innovative financial tech company in 2015 according to Fast company!

-Kevin @ InvestItWisely

P.S. If you would like to read more, here are a couplemost popular articles of all-time, as voted by you, the reader: