Q&A with Julie Mayfield of The Family CEO

Julie Mayfield, of The Family CEO, started writing about 9 years ago. Based out of the Kansas City area, this CEO really knows her stuff when it comes to finances, and saving money.

What is your professional background? Do you make blogging a full-time career?

Julie Mayfield smiles at the camera

I have a degree in Business Administration and have held a variety of business and finance related positions, from commercial credit analyst to employee benefits specialist and business manager for a small consulting company. I also keep the books for two small family businesses, as well as blog about money. Blogging is a part-time gig for me.

Why did you start TheFamilyCEOBlog.com?

I was reading a lot of personal finance blogs at the time and I wanted to add my voice to the conversation. It seemed like it would be something fun to do.

What is the area of finance that your blog is particularly strong on (a particular demographic you focus on, etc) and how does your personal finance blog differ from others in the space?

My daughter graduated from college last spring and my son started college in the fall, so I blog a lot about the cost of college. For instance, I wrote a series of posts that walked readers through exactly what college cost us for all four years. We’ve also paid off a lot of debt and are increasing our retirement savings and emergency fund, so those are topics that pop up a lot too. For one, I’m older than a lot of personal finance bloggers, or bloggers in general really. I blog about what money at midlife looks like and you don’t see a lot of that in the blogosphere.

How do you generate ideas and choose what you want to write about on a daily basis/what helps you generate materials on a consistent basis?

I blog about what’s going on in my life as a Family CEO. Sometimes that’s paying down debt, sometimes it’s figuring out what college will cost, and other times it’s how I’m finding ways to simplify our lives, both financially and otherwise. I take my cue from what I’m focused on offline.

I’m also not much of a frugality blog. I think frugality has its place but it looks different for everyone. I’m more about being intentional with what we spend on than I am pinching every penny.

In your blog you talk a lot about "found money". What is the best strategy for someone to effectively put into use that is unfamiliar with this technique?

The strategy is simple:

  • Look for money that comes into your life from anywhere other than your main income source (your full-time job or business). These will be things like rebates, gifts, tax refunds, cash back from credit cards, etc.
  • Give that money a particular job to do. In the beginning we had ours make extra payments on our debt. Now we put them into our emergency fund.

The amounts don’t have to be big -- many will be very small -- but you’ll be amazed at how they add up. Last month a reader emailed me to say that she and her husband were able to pay off $10,000 of debt in 7 months using this strategy.

What are the biggest struggles you have and what is your personal financial goal (both short term and long term)?

Our biggest challenge right now is to do two big things at once: pay for our son’s college and save for retirement. Those are also our biggest goals. We’re also working to bulk up our emergency fund and pay cash for some improvements to our home.

What do you see as the biggest impediment to most people achieving their personal finance goals?

Probably the idea that there’s plenty of time. The best time to start paying down debt, saving for retirement, or saving for your kids’ college is today. Time is so powerful when it’s on your side.

What are some steps that readers can take tomorrow to begin improving their financial situation?

I wrote a post on this topic just last month. Some of the things I suggested were:

  • Open an online savings account and begin contributing regularly to it.
  • Find something around the house you are no longer using, sell it on eBay or Craigslist, and put the money toward your debt or into your savings
  • Gather up a bag of unwanted clothing and drop it off at a favorite charity
  • Cancel an unused subscription or membership
  • And check MissingMoney.com to see if you’re owed anything. We were and so were some of The Family CEO readers

What tools or resources do you rely on to keep your own personal finances in order?

I’ve been using Quicken to track our spending for years. I’m addicted to information so I like to know what we’ve spent on any one thing for any given amount of time.

I also use an online bank for our savings accounts and I rely heavily on its app, and I use ItsDeductible to track our charitable donations every year. When we were aggressively paying off debt, though, a simple spreadsheet worked best for me.

Do you think there is an area of personal finance that there aren't enough resources on?

From where I sit it’s pretty well covered. The challenge is to cut through the noise and find the information that’s relevant to you. I do think there should be more personal finance education in schools, high school in particular.

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