10 Questions with Flexo.

Flexo is a 29-year-old musician and thinker behind the Consumerism Commentary website.

[1] Paul: Describe to us Flexo in 5 words.
Paul: Creative, intelligent, emotional, musical, optimistic.

[2] Paul: By the way, what is your real name? Care to share more about yourself with us?
Paul: I would rather not share my real name explicitly, but these days it can be easily found through Consumerism Commentary for those who care to look. I'm a little protective of my identity as I'd rather not have people I know in real life discover the intimate details of my finances, as they are plastered throughout the website.

I'm a single guy almost 30, living in a rented apartment with my cat near Princeton, New Jersey. I enjoy traveling but I often find excuses to stay put; however, some of my family moved out to the west coast, and I try to visit them several times a year.

I've lived in this area of New Jersey for most of my life. Since I was very young I've had an interest in computers. Before the Internet became easily accessible by millions of people, I ran a bulletin board system (BBS) that many people from New Jersey would access by dialing with a modem connected to their own computer. That is when I discovered I enjoyed creating online communities.I shut the BBS down when I left for college, the University of Delaware, to study music education.

[3] Paul: You actually studied music education while an undergraduate in college? For real? What instruments can you really play?
Paul: For real. I play clarinet, saxophones, piano/keyboard, guitar, trumpet, other brass instruments, percussion, and samplers. I teach music and instruct different high school musical groups on occasion.

[4] Paul: Now we are abit confused, where and what do you actually work as in real life?
Paul: My day job is at a large financial company headquartered in Newark, NJ. That should be enough for the most astute readers to determine the company with a little research. I am currently an accounting associate in the corporate division.

[5] Paul: You actually been to Princeton when I was about 12? Tell us more about it.
Paul: My mother was a researcher working for the cognitive psychology department at the time. She got to work with some amazing people, like George A. Miller who is famous for his book, The Magic Number: Seven Plus or Minus Two. When she was assisting PhD students with their dissertation research, they often needed subjects to participate in cognition experiments. They always made a big deal about how I performed better than most of the undergrads they usually used for the experiments. :> Plus, they paid me $10 each time.

[6] Paul: What's with the Balance Sheet and Income Statement?
Paul: Well, simply, the balance sheet and income statement are two tools organizations use to evaluate their financial situation. Every individual needs to be aware of his or her situation as well, and this is a perfect way to do that. By posting my financial information online, I'm holding myself accountable to myself as well as my readers and fans. It's similar to how a public company must file its financial statements – the S.E.C. holds companies accountable.

[7] Paul: You have a long term retirement goal of a whopping $10 million? Why so much?
Paul: Why not? Actually, the $10 million goal was sort of a stab in the dark. But look at it this way: $10 million in future dollars will have the spending power of $2 to $3 million in 2005 dollars, due to expected inflation. If I were retiring right now and planning to live another 25-35 years, I would need that much money in order to maintain a certain (low) level of lifestyle for the remainder of my life. The estimate is probably pretty accurate for the time I'd like to retire.

[8] Paul: You are still abit off from your target of $50k by FY06. Now wat?
Paul: Well, I still have more than a year until the end of 2006. I think $50,000 is a reasonable goal. I may exceed the amount if I'm able to put in place some projects to generate additional passive income.

[9] Paul: Hm... If you are to give 3 advice to other out there on money matters, what would you tell us?
Paul: My first piece of advice is to seek a financial advisor for financial advice and not to trust bloggers - not even me. There are a lot of great blogs on the internet, and some are written by qualified financial planners and advisors, while some or not, though they pretend to be. People everywhere are looking to make money. If you look around the internet room and you don't see the sucker, chances are you're the sucker.

The second piece of advice for those who are serious about getting their personal finances in order is to start tracking all spending with software like Intuit Quicken or Microsoft Money. Both products have their shortcomings, but are still both better than anything else out there. Just getting into the habit of looking at your finances will make you aware of your own situation and you'll start to be able to pick things to improve easily.

Lastly, remember that money isn't the be-all, end-all to life. Rather than worshipping capitalism and materials, worship yourself, your friends and family, and whatever deeper beliefs you might have.

[10] Paul: Last question, any must read websites you can recommend to our readers?
Paul: Besides my own, of course, I would suggest several personal finance related blogs run by some of the great people I have met online, including MyMoneyBlog, Frugal For Life, savvy saver, and Blueprint for Financial Prosperity. There are so many others and I wish I could name them all. Beyond blogs, I suggest CNN/Money and The Kiplinger. Outside the world of personal finance, I would suggest BoingBoing, and MetaFilter.