How to Afford Your Next Adventure as a Young Adult, with Martin Dasko
Welcome to The MapleMoney Show, the podcast that helps Canadians improve their personal finances to create lasting financial freedom. I’m your host, Tom Drake, the founder of MapleMoney, where I’ve been writing about all things related to personal finance since 2009.
My guest this week is Martin Dasko, from Studenomics. Martin is a personal finance blogger, world traveller, public speaker, and part-time professional wrestler!
Martin explains how his desire to have a fun, adventure filled life, led him to personal finance. He shares stories from some of his first experiences with international travel, including a solo trip to Poland, which he describes as life changing.
His encouragement to young adults who are trying to save money? Find your Cancun.
In other words, figure out the one thing that will motivate you to save money, and make it your goal. For Martin, it was travel, but your “Cancun” may be a hobby, or starting a business.
Whatever it is, set your goal, and start saving for it.
Martin explains that while saving money is important, sometimes you just need to make more of it. Side hustles are a great way to do this, but you may be able to make it happen with your 9-5. In fact, there’s a good chance your company will even pay you to upgrade your skills.
Make YOUR money make more money! Our sponsor, Wealthsimple, will build you an intelligent, personalized portfolio using a Nobel prize winning investment strategy. The best part? MapleMoney listeners get their first $10,000 managed free for one year. Head over to Wealthsimple to sign up today.
- More money = more fun.
- Martin describes how a trip to Poland changed his life.
- How Martin got into professional wrestling.
- “The Cancun Technique”.
- Side hustles are a great way to boost your savings account.
- Sometimes you just need to make more money.
- Why your college years can be a great time to make money.
- $1000 Maple Money Financial Literacy Scholarship.
A young adult wants to be able to travel and have interesting adventures but if you’re in college or just starting a career it seems like you never have the money. Martin Dasko, from Studenomics, shares tips on how he was able to do this and how you can too.
Welcome to the Maple Money Show, the podcast that helps Canadians improve their personal finances to create lasting financial freedom.
Make your money, make more money. Our sponsor, Wealthsimple, will build you an intelligent personalized portfolio using a Nobel Prize winning investment strategy. Maple Money listeners get the first $10,000 managed for free for one year. Head on over to maplemoney.com/wealthsimple today. Now, let’s get to Martin…
Tom: Martin, welcome to the Maple Money Show.
Martin: Thanks for finally having me on, Tom.
Tom: I know even at a young age—younger than you are now, you were always good with money. So I want to talk to you about how that’s lead into some of the adventures you’ve been on whether it’s travel and other things. It seems like you’ve had a good balance of not going crazy with your money but then still being able to spend it when it comes to the things you actually care about and not just wasting it all.
Martin: I’d like to think so.
Tom: Let’s start from the beginning. Can you talk when you were younger, how you were with money and how that allowed you to do things?
Martin: Some people think an emotional story on how they want to be financially free because they have a family or they have kids. I was just a greedy teenager. My parents were immigrants. They did their best to give us whatever we wanted. But I just wanted more. I wanted to have stuff all the time. My mom told me to get a job and I’d be able to buy whatever I wanted. So when I was in grade seven I started selling chocolates door-to-door. It’s very shady, do not trust it at all. These guys would drive us around in a van. Drop us off and we’d sell chocolates. My parents put a stop to that. Fast forward to when I was 17, 18, I was going to college. I’m like, “Man, this stuff’s expensive!” I really wanted to party. I really wanted to do a lot of cool things, like my older friends who were traveling and stuff. And I thought to myself, “I want to have a fun life. How can I make that happen?” That’s when I started reading about how to get rich. I went through all the usual ‘get rich quick’ stuff first. I read all that nonsense. Finally I found personal finance blogs around 2007, 2008 and thought, “Wow, this stuff makes sense!” Put your money away. If you put money away you can do whatever you want. That’s just how I got into personal finance. I wanted more money to have more fun. It was pretty much that simple.
Tom: Yeah, you’ve got to admit I’ve always been a little jealous of how you handled money in your 20s because 20 to 30 for me was pretty much wasted going out to party with friends, spending it on car stereo equipment and stuff like that. So I kind of lost that decade.
Martin: I wasn’t smart or anything. I just thought a turning moment for me was when I was working at Canadian Tire. Canadian people obviously (and hopefully) know what that is. I was working there and my neighbour, who was my age, worked there too. And his dad worked there as well. His dad was in his late 60s, maybe even close to 70. I thought that was kind of weird. I didn’t want to be disrespectful but I wondered why his dad was working here with us. Then he told me one day that his dad didn’t plan for retirement. He never saved money and now he’s stuck working after retirement. And I thought, “Man, I do not want that to happen. I want to have the easiest life possible.” That’s why I started reading up about personal finance. I looked into the stuff because I just wanted to have a lot of fun. I didn’t want to work until 60. Maybe I’d work to 30 or 40 but 60 or 70… That sounded crazy to me.
Tom: I think I might know what it is. Let’s see. What was your first big adventure? I know at one point you went on a long trip. I think it was for quite a while but let me know. Was there a certain big first adventure where you took this money and started doing something different with it?
Martin: Actually, not at all. I had a friend who traveled more than me and I thought he was rich. You know when you’re young, you’re kind of immature. You see this guy and think he must be lucky, his parent must have paid for him. But that wasn’t the case. He told me, “Look man, you put aside $20 every week and you can have a $1,000 at the end of the year and you can travel.” But that makes no sense. How could $20 a week lead to anything? It’s like when you first start working out—you don’t think you’re just going to do a couple push-ups. You don’t think you’re going to save $20. But then I tried and realized this actually adds up like. This is crazy. It adds up to a lot of money. So my first adventure wasn’t even much of an adventure. I had just turned 18 and my buddy Vince and I we went to Cuba.
Martin: We thought was the coolest thing ever because up until then you were living at home with your parents, you’re under their roof. When we turned 18 and went alone to Cuba, we thought it was going to be the crazy Spring break ever. When we got there we were at an adults resort so it’s pretty tame. But we still thought, “At least we’re not in Toronto in the winter. At least we can travel. At least we know how now.” It’s pretty cool—you’re 18 and you’re going on a plane by yourself. You’re crossing customs. Plus, we weren’t even old enough to drink back home and we thought it was so cool that we were drinking and hanging out there. We thought, “Wow, we’ve got the life.”
Tom: So you’re able to do that pretty cheaply then?
Martin: Yeah. That’s the crazy thing about adventures is that we think like they cost millions of dollars. If you watch a movie you see they’re staying in what looks like a five star resort and they’re living the life. In reality, you can book a cheap flight and get an airbnb or you can book a cheap resort like we did. We found a resort for $1,000. We did it. We made it happen.
Martin: My first big adventure was when I went on a post-college grad trip. I made the mistake of trying to get all my buddies to come. If you know anything about guys in their 20s, they can’t save any money.
Tom: Yeah, that was me, like I said.
Martin: I was putting away $20, $30, $40. I started blogging so I was making money. I created separate vacation account. I had a sub-savings account. The money was coming in and I had the money ready to go but none of my friends could afford it. Not that they couldn’t afford it. They weren’t trying. They were partying every weekend and blowing all their money. It was driving me nuts because I almost accepted that I’m not going to go on a Europe trip, a grad trip. This is it for me. I’m going to get a job and just never travel. This is it. Then one day I read, I think it was The Four Hour Workweek or something. I start reading all this stuff and then realized I don’t really need anybody. I didn’t tell my parents but I booked a trip to Europe by myself. And that was the scariest thing I’ve ever done. You know when you book something and you’re doing it with your buddies or your wife, your family… it just feels really comfortable.
Martin: But this was just me. I booked this trip to Poland and as soon as I did it I thought, “What did I do?” I told my parents and they lost their minds. They said, “You’re going to get robbed. They’re going to kill you.” Everyone was panicking saying, “How could you travel? You’re a loser. Don’t you have any friends?” Everybody gave me grief. But truth be told, that trip changed my life. I realized I could travel alone. I went to Europe all by myself. Luckily I speak Polish and I survived the whole month. A funny thing happened on this trip though. Everyone started telling me what a great idea it was but these were the same people who were making fun saying they wished they could afford it and how they wished they could do this. Now they were saying, “Wow, you’re so smart. I wish I did that.”
Tom: I’ve seen a lot of the ‘solo travel’ nowadays. It seems to be catching on. That was the trip I was thinking of. I remember you had a bunch of pictures of yourself with a backpack going around Europe.
Martin: I’ll tell you this, you really learn to trust people when you give them your phone. Especially on my last trip. I had the iPhone 10 and I was asking random strangers to take photos of me. I wasn’t thinking that this person could just run off with my camera—my phone and I’m screwed. I’m in the middle of Australia or Thailand… this guy could just take my camera and run and I’ll have no camera left. What am I doing?
Tom: Well, no phone either. All your contacts and everything.
Martin: Yeah, and all the pictures would be gone.
Tom: So what other kind of adventures have you been on other than travel? I know one of your hobbies or side-gigs is being a pro wrestler in addition to being a personal finance blogger.
Martin: I think I’m the only personal finance blogger who moonlights as a pro wrestler.
Tom: I’m pretty sure you’re the only one who checks those two boxes.
Martin: Yeah. The best part of saving money is—it’s boring when you’re doing it. When you’re saving up you have to stay in sometimes and you’re always trying to make more money. It gets annoying. My friends get annoyed. They ask me to come out and I tell them no because I’m trying to save up. The whole kind of sucks until you have the money. My whole goal was to buy a condo. So, the first thing I did was buy a condo. I rented it out and then I sold it and made my first ever six-figure payday. All of a sudden I had over $100,000 in the bank for the first time in my life. I was in my early to mid 20s. I thought, “This is amazing. I’m rich! I’m a millionaire” Well, I wasn’t a millionaire but I sure felt like one. Once you’ve accomplished that you think, what’s next? I always watched pro wrestling growing up. It’s almost like my guilty pleasure. Most people won’t admit it but I think everyone grew up watching at least one wrestling match at some point.
Tom: Oh yeah, I sure did.
Martin: When I was 25 I wanted to get super jacked. I said, “Yeah, I’ve been saving money. I know what to do. I’m going to take on a new challenge.” A gym opened up near me. This guy Santino Marella is a famous wrestler—well, he was at the time. He’s semi famous now. So I thought, “Why don’t I just join? Why don’t I try something different?” Because, the way you do anything is the way you do everything. If I could travel alone why can’t I wrestle in my underwear in front of people, right? If I’m publishing content and stuff online why not do this? So I joined a gym just for fun, just to try it out and tell people I tried it. And then something weird happened. I actually got into it. I thought, “This is actually really fun.” You must have had public speaking in college where you slowly tested the water? And you go on dates and that kind of stuff so you slowly get better at speaking. Then I go into pro wrestling and all of a sudden I’m doing public speaking in my underwear in front of a couple of hundred people. It was just the craziest thing because I’d got my finances in order and I had the time and the ability to take on hobbies that are ridiculous. I’ll admit, pro wrestling is the most ridiculous hobby you can have in the world. I’m going around Ontario wrestling in my underwear for fun. And I play a villain so I get to be the antagonist—I get to be a jerk. And it’s like a microcosm of society. Every bad idea you ever have, you can portray it as your character.
Tom: It sounds fun and I really like the idea that you’re able to do that again because of the way you’ve been with money. If you were stuck in a job where you’re working 10 hours a day then that would certainly cut into your ability to do these kinds of things.
Martin: That’s the whole reason I got into personal finance was because I wanted to have a fun life. I get this to this very day, someone was telling me how budgeting was so boring, money management was boring. That part of it is. Looking at your bank account, it’s not exciting. I don’t care who says it is. The exciting part is knowing you can do whatever you want. Because life’s a lot better when you don’t have the stress about paying your mortgage or how you’re going to eat your next meal.
Tom: Yeah, it makes sense. You’re focused on the result and not the boring part of it.
Martin: Yeah, it’s all I think about, the result. One hundred percent, the result.
Tom: Are there any other interesting adventures you’ve been able to do? Whether it’s something off the cuff like pro wrestling or other trips or anything?
Martin: Oh yeah, I’ve got many stories. Where do I start? Last weekend—I’ve been seeing a young lady. Things are going well. The beauty about having money saved is you can go on last minute trips. So I messaged her and we just treated ourselves to the Bahamas at the last minute. Ever since I was 20 years old this is what I wanted to do; I wanted to be 30 and be able to travel. It felt so cool to spend your long weekend in the Bahamas with someone you’re dating and it’s just awesome to get away like that.
Tom: Yeah. Yeah, that sounds great.
Martin: My brothers both moved to Australia and when I was young I dreamed of like going to Australia. But it’s like when you watch the Simpsons—it sounds cool, but that’s never actually going to happen to me. Something funny happened. We have Canadian Savings Bonds in Canada and for some reason when I was 17 I decided to buy into this plan. I don’t know why, it’s not the best investment ever. I decided to put in $50 every two weeks. It came right out of my bank account. I kept getting a letter every year telling me my account was at this (amount) and I thought that was kind of cool. Finally my account hit about $14,000 or something like that so I called them up and asked if I could cash the thing in? Could I get this in real money? And they told me, “Yeah, it’s your money.” So I took the money and went to visit my brothers in Australia.
Martin: I hate long distance flights but I bit the bullet and I went to Abu Dhabi, Thailand and Australia by myself. While I was there I did something I’ve always really wanted to do but was too afraid of, I went skydiving.
Tom: Oh, yeah?
Martin: I had to do it. I had to go skydiving. I signed up on myself. There was a pretty girl selling the packages so I was enticed a little bit. So I signed up and I was like, “Screw it, I’m going skydiving!” Somehow I pulled it off. I was pretty nervous but it happened.
Tom: Okay, if someone is enticed by this… Say they’re in their early 20s and they really want to change the way they’re dealing with their money, what advice would you give them?
Martin: The first thing is always to get into the habit of saving money. I know it’s boring and all but even if you start saving $20 a week or $15 or $50—whatever you can afford, try to get into the habit of saving money because, without money in the bank you can’t do anything. And if you need a reason to save money. I called the “Cancun” technique. I was in Cancun six years ago. And, given it is Cancun it’s all just clubs, so I’m talking to a guy who’s there’s at the nightclub and I ask how much the tickets are. He told me it was $60 US to get in. I told him, “Dude, nobody’s going to pay $60 US to get into a club.” The guy looks to me and says, “Young people will always find a way to get into a club. Don’t worry about it.” So, of course, I paid my $60. I get into the club—first of all it was an hour lineup to get in. There’s a line of people paying $60 US to get in and when you finally get in there’s 3,000 or 4,000 people that paid $60 US just to be there. So I call it the “Cancun” technique because young people will always find a way to get money for what they want. So find your “Cancun.”
Martin: What’s your thing going to be? You have to pick one thing. That’s the thing that you can do. So for me it’s travel. It doesn’t have to be travel. I’m not one of those people that is going to tell you that you have to travel, you have to see the world… blah, blah, blah. That’s not true. No everyone likes to travel. You’ve got to pick your thing. It can be cars. It could be buying real estate, buying a rental, buying a condo. Pick that thing then focus on making it happen. Start saving up and then just research. We have internet available to us. It’s ridiculous. I’ve been able to research everything, but when I bought my rental property I was clueless. I didn’t know anything. I Googled tenant applications and the first thing I found was a tenant application. I literally just printed it out and brought it to the tenant. He filled it out and I thought, “Okay, what do I do now?” Now, I needed to call the places so I did that. I eventually found a tenant for my rental property. So you’ve got to pick your thing and do lots of research and just start saving up. Make it happen. And if you’re not saving up enough maybe it’s because you’re not making enough money. Maybe you can get a side-hustle. I could do freelance writing, I’ve driven for Uber. I’ve tried every side-hustle just to increase that savings account.
Tom: Yeah, I like the side-hustles you’ve done. Does pro wrestling count as that? Do you get paid for that?
Martin: I do but it’s like trying to be an actor. You don’t make any money until you hit it big.
Tom: That means you have to be a financial blogger on the side.
Martin: Yeah, exactly. It’s one of those things… when you get signed (fingers crossed) then you become a millionaire. I’ll probably never talk to you again, Tom. Sorry—
Tom: Yeah, exactly. I’m going to hold onto this episode. Like the time I got to talk to the— what is it, the Latin Lover?
Martin: Oh, you know what I think about that (laughter).
Tom: Any other good tips for someone looking to get going on this?
Martin: I think the most important thing is to make more money. This is where a lot of us get stuck because chances are you’re just not making enough money. I’ve talked to friends who have laid out their finances to me and I tell them they’re just not making enough. Simple things like even trying to better your job can go a long way. This is what I told my buddy and he said he just doesn’t have any time for a side-hustle. I told him that was cool because not everyone has to have a side-hustle. I asked him if he could take any courses or anything. So he went to the HR department and asked about courses. Then he took a course. Most jobs will pay for you upgrade your skills. You can upgrade your skills in your current job and make more money. I’m not going to give the traditional tip. People will say to start a blog, but that’s not the answer.
Tom: Yeah, that’s the slow build.
Martin: A lot of people say to go to yard sales and sell stuff but I think that’s really annoying. I think that one’s played out.
Tom: What are some good ways to make extra money if you’re in college? I know when I was in college I was working part-time at Subway. I think it was at minimum wage and there really wasn’t enough money. Of course, a lot of the options online didn’t exist—
Martin: Yeah, like filling out surveys.
Tom: Yeah. There was only so much you could do back then. But now there’s a lot more options. If you were as far back as college, what would you do?
Martin: If you’re a college student, I am jealous of you. College is the best time to start a business because you could start a business that’s fun. I’m 30 years old. I can’t be hanging around college students. My buddy made money by throwing parties where he lived. You could throw parties. You could become a DJ. You can learn a skill. You can learn to play the guitar. My cousin picked up the guitar because he wanted to meet girls. He picked up the guitar and he picked up the accordion and those two skills have led to so much money. As a student you have all the time in the world. I don’t care how busy you think you are, you’re not. Chances are you wake up at noon which is fine—I’m not judging. I’ve done the same thing and still do sometimes. But you have all the time in the world so pick up some skills. Try to play the guitar. Try to learn how to be a DJ. Learn how to throw events. Learn how to do something and just do it. You have your weekends free of no kids. You have no job that makes you tired. You have some class on Thursday and by Saturday you’ve forgot about it. My cousin made a killing in college playing guitar and accordion at weddings. You said you were DJ, right?
Tom: Yeah, I was. Soon after my career at Subway I was DJing but I never even thought of it as a great way to make money. I might make $50. But to me it was because I also got into the club instead of paying to get in.
Martin: That’s what I mean. When you’re young you have energy, you want to party but the things that are party can also make you money which is just mind boggling to think about.
Tom: Exactly. Like I said, I barely even thought of it that way. It was extra money but at least it was money coming in instead of money going out just to get into the same building.
Martin: Here’s another thing. Let’s say you want to keep your partying separate, apply for jobs on campus. I was a student and I didn’t realize how much work there was on campus. The college campus can be the size of a town sometimes. I didn’t learn this until my last year but I started applying for random jobs and I got an exam invigilator job. I would just go to the job board. I thought most of the jobs would be taken but it turns out all students are lazy and nobody applies for anything. So I would apply for these ridiculous jobs I had no business doing. I applied for exam invigilator and I was the guy that watched you write exams. I got paid $20 some odd an hour to watch people write exams. It isn’t like crazy?
Tom: Yes. I never thought of that. I never once looked at a job board while I was in college.
Martin: Well, that’s like me. I thought this job would be taken. How could it not be taken, right? I applied and they asked me if I could come in that Monday. I said, “Isn’t there an interview?” They told me there wasn’t and just to come in Monday.
Tom: Well, all they need you to do is walk up and down the aisles—
Martin: Hey, I took pride in my walking up and down that aisle. Also, another way to make ridiculous money in college… Let’s say you don’t want to be a DJ or learn any skills, throw parties. You don’t want to do anything fun. Apply for free money. I remember I was walking around my campus and I ran to a buddy. We had a 4-hour spare so that meant we just sat around and talked about girls or whatever. I don’t know if they have this in America but there are bursaries and scholarships and grants. Most of these scholarships only requires an essay. They might be on why they should give you this money. My buddy showed me this and I checked into it. Every college has it. Go to the financing page or the funding page and look up bursaries, grants, scholarships. Look up whatever your school offers and apply for it. Some of them you just tell the truth; you need extra money. These companies have money to give away. I got a check for $300 just because I said I wanted extra money.
Tom: Well, just as I didn’t look at job boards back then, I didn’t look at scholarships either.
Martin: It’s ridiculous. I had a girlfriend in college that had a Native American Indian background and she applied for some Aboriginal people’s scholarship and it turns out nobody else applied for it and she got $4,000 or something ridiculous. I was shocked, “Wow! You’re getting a check for $4,000?” That would be a lot of subs you would have to make, right?
Tom: (Laughs). Yeah, right. This is a good time to plug too… there’s actually a Maple Money Scholarship at maplemoney.com/scholarship. The amount of people that apply is really low.
Martin: Really? What’s the scholarship for?
Tom: Writing a personal finance essay.
Martin: I did the math on this. You can sit down and write a Reddit essay for about an hour and get anywhere from $200 to $2,000.
Tom: This one is $1,000 Canadian and it’s based around the financial literacy month. Every year they have a set topic for it. We just piggyback off that and use that topic as the scholarship topic.
Martin: Isn’t that crazy?
Tom: And the hope there is that it’s getting people young people to think about personal finance. Maybe they haven’t even thought about personal finance, their money and all of that. And when they sit down to come up with an essay around this, hopefully it’s going to help them whether or not they get the $1,000 or whether they’re the one selected. Anyways, we’re running out of time here. Thanks for being on. I just wanted you to let everybody know what you’ve been up to and where they can find you.
Martin: I’ll keep it simple. It’s Studenomics on everything except Tinder at the moment. I’m on pause there. But I’m on Instagram, Twitter, , YouTube, Blog. You can search for me on Amazon. Everywhere you want to go, I’m there. Studenomics. I post good stuff. Don’t worry, I’m not boring. I don’t lecture you. I won’t tell you to stay in 24/7. I try to make this stuff fun.
Tom: You also have a podcast. Do you want to plug that?
Martin: Why not if you’re feeling generous. Do You Even Hustle Podcast. We interview people with cool stories. We’re just showing you guys this stuff can be done. I mean, if I can do it, Tom, anybody can do it.
Tom: Great, thanks for being on.
Martin: Thanks for having me.
Thanks for listening. And thanks to Martin Dasko for taking me back to my college days and showing people a better way to enjoy your 20s. You can find your notes for this episode at maplemoney.com/martindasko. Scholarships came up on this show and I mentioned the $1,000 Maple Money Financial Literacy Scholarship. The deadline for this scholarship is October 1st 2018. We’ll reboot with a new essay topic in November as part of Financial Literacy Month. If you’re in a college or university this year or know someone who is, please check out maplemoney.com/scholarship for all the details.