Andrew Schrage is co-owner of Money Crashers, a personal finance blog that covers budgeting, money management, debt elimination, and small business operations. Andrew has as an economics degree from Brown University and previously worked as a portfolio analyst at a Chicago-based investment fund.
BusinessInterviews.com: Where does your passion for personal finance and education come from?
Andrew: I’ve always been interested in learning about money and how it works, which is one of the reasons I chose economics as my field of study in college. My father worked in the financial realm as well, so he also played a role.
Many people struggle to manage monthly finances, whether due to inconsistent employment or simply a lack of education, and it feels good to be able to offer a site that helps people through difficult times. Most money issues can be solved with a little common sense, research, and restraint. Many people do not understand the financial power that they can unleash by better managing their money.
BusinessInterviews.com: What advice would you give to someone about to start a job abroad?
Andrew: Make sure your passport is current – renewing one can take up to eight weeks, unless you pay a fee to have it rushed. Also, be certain to obtain the correct visa, if a visa is needed. Accidentally procuring a tourist visa instead of a work visa could create a nightmare.
You should also make – and stick to – a strict personal budget, as traveling abroad can cost a fortune, and salaries abroad are not always equal to what you may make in the U.S. Remain educated on the laws of the country where you’ll be working to avoid legal trouble, and try to learn some basic words and phrases before your move.
Lastly, enjoy every spare minute you have. Spending time in other countries is a great way to meet new people and experience cultures that you otherwise wouldn’t be exposed to.
BusinessInterviews.com: What are the most common mistakes you see entrepreneurs make and how can they be avoided?
Andrew: Some entrepreneurs just don’t save as much money as they can (or should). Revenues may not be consistent, especially early on in the endeavor, so cutting costs is crucial. Use social media for marketing (which is free), buy used office supplies and furniture online or from discount retailers, haggle for lower prices with vendors, and do as much work as possible by yourself before hiring a staff. When you do hire, consider outsourcing work to independent contractors or freelancers, which can be much cheaper than bringing on full-time staff.
When the business begins to see some success, do not expand too rapidly. This can negatively affect customer service by overwhelming your staff and your budget.
BusinessInterviews.com: What advice would you give to someone who is looking to invest in the stock market for the first time but isn’t sure where to start?
Andrew: Keep it simple, especially in the beginning. Start by putting money into your employer’s 401k program. You should look for two main characteristics: long-term performance and expense ratio. Don’t simply consider the six- or twelve-month performance of stocks or funds – instead, look at their five-year history, or see how funds have done over an even longer period of time. Then, choose funds with low expense ratios – less than 0.50% whenever possible.
Remember, index funds and exchange-traded funds usually have lower expense ratios than actively managed funds. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t consider an actively managed fund, but it’s often better to focus on lower cost investments until you’ve got more investing experience under your belt.
BusinessInterviews.com: What inspired your decision to diversify the content on Money Crashers to not only more sophisticated financial topics, but also a wider array of lifestyle categories?
Andrew: We’ve been publishing Money Crashers for years now, and have covered many basic topics. Our decision to diversify content is simply due to the fact that we don’t want to become stagnant and recycle too many old ideas. Also, we like to appeal to our readers, so we listen to comments on articles and via social media, and we do our best to give them what they want.
BusinessInterviews.com: What should businesses be doing now to make the tax season as pain-free and smooth as possible?
Andrew: Organize your documents now. This will prevent a lot of stress once you begin to prepare your taxes. Review all tax deductions your business may qualify for, which will also help you determine which documents you need to have on-hand when filing. If you hired your first employee (or employees) this year, research online or consult your accountant to determine tax consequences. Also, be sure to categorize your employees properly to avoid triggering any penalties and additional taxes due. If you have any questions about small business taxes, contact the IRS directly – those people are there to help.