This is a guest post from Ryan at Planting Dollars.com, a personal finance blog. Ryan is a recent college graduate living in Hawaii and pursuing his dream to become financially free.

1. There is an image of a shark on your “8 Random Things About Me” post. Since you are really into underwater diving and photography, did you take all the photos of sharks on your blog? Have you thought about getting involved with Discovery Channel’s Shark Week?

That is an image of a Tiger shark, which I have yet to dive with :(. Unfortunately I haven’t taken all the pictures on my site. As a recent college grad I’m still too poor to afford the right equipment to take it to a professional level. This is another reason why I live frugal and is something I’m saving up for. I would absolutely love to rub shoulders with professional shark photographers and make it on shark week, but that is several years out and requires considerable amount of funding.

2. How are you supporting yourself in Hawaii?

Before I moved to Hawaii I saved up about 10k from bartending and living below my means back in Wisconsin. This allowed me, and still does to live in Hawaii until I get on my feet here. After about 3 weeks of being here I picked up a job as a project manager with an underwater camera company, but recently quit because there wasn’t much cohesion or purpose to the organization. I value working with a purpose and feeling like you’ve made a change in the world more than gaining a hefty paycheck to buy a sports car. At the moment I’m developing my blog, a travel niche website, working on a book project, and am hunting for a bartending job. It helps that I live on only 1000 a month and ride my bike everywhere. Honestly, it’s kind of fun to live below your means because I see it as a challenge and life experiment. Anything can be fun, it’s all about perspective.

3. Where would you like to travel to next?

I would love to go to Baja Mexico to see the gathering of hammerhead sharks or Thailand to dive with whale sharks.

4. You mention that you have student loans to pay off. How are you tackling those payments, or do you have a plan to pay them off?

I lucked out and have parents that are fairly well off, but at the same point that meant I didn’t get any FAFSA help at all. My parents agreed to pay half my college expenses and I pay the other half. Before I took a semester in Australia my junior year of college I was able to pay down $15,000 a year in expenses by working up to 3 jobs in the summer. However, after Australia and my senior year I racked up about $37k in debt. I paid down about $7500 since I graduated in May of 2008 and any extra money I have goes to paying them. I would like to be debt free within the next two years and don’t like owing them money at all. For a while I was paying down $500 a month, but have stopped until I get a steady stream of income established here in Hawaii.

5. Where do you see yourself when you’re 30? Do you still want to open that piano bar?

I think if you’re willing to try new things you’ll change so much that it’s hard to tell where exactly you’ll be. I like new challenges but at the rate of change I’ve been experiencing in my life I’m not sure who I’ll be at 30. That’s 7 years from now and 7 years ago I was 16 just getting my drivers license. All I hope is that by the time I’m 30 I have a successful online presence with a full time income stream, am working towards things I’m passionate about such as ocean conservation, and am able to help change the lives of others for the better. But yes, I would still at some point in my life like to perform piano consistently and open a piano bar, if you come drinks are on me!

6. What or who encouraged you to begin blogging?

After college I realized the only way I could see the world and work at the same time would be by doing web development. So in winter of 2008 I purchased a subscription to Site Build It and began teaching myself web development from the ground up. It’s been a great experience and I eventually learned that you could write about anything you wanted while making money, just so long as you help people. I love talking about personal finance, personal development, and real estate so I just started writing. Now that I’ve started blogging I absolutely love meeting new bloggers, helping others, and the process of building a business with “online equity.”

7. You mention wanting to prepare kids to be financially savvy. What kinds of programs do you think school children need to manage their finances later in life?

I think kids need to be inspired more than anything. They can fulfill their dreams and they can make change in the world. A lot of people (and kids) see money as boring, but money is simply the tool you can use to fulfill your purpose and dreams. When parents teach kids that money is something you use to go shopping and buy a big house with, then that’s what the kid will associate with money. However, if you teach a kid that money can help them change the world and reach their goals, it’s a whole paradigm shift. Get a kid excited about his dreams and show him it is possible using the principles of personal finance.

8. As a financially savvy 23-year-old, do you think you are an exception to young people today in the way you approach finances and life in general?

Yes, most of my friends call me crazy and most adults I talk to think I’m not normal for my age. Who likes being normal anyways? Like I mentioned in my previous answer I’m only motivated to achieve my dreams in life so in order to do that I have to learn about money management. From that angle I think most 20 somethings don’t know what their dreams are or don’t have the confidence to pursue them. It’s hard and being different than most everyone your own age can get lonely. Most 20 somethings are either in grad school or hanging out at the bars. Having the ability to say no to those things when you’re at an age where you still desire acceptance the most, requires a deep rooted purpose.

9. Your parent’s have built a successful real estate business. Has there been any talk of you taking over their business or following their footsteps?

There used to be more so and more than likely one day we’ll have that discussion, but probably not for another 10-20 years. The most valuable things they gave me were the education that comes with seeing how the business is run, how to evaluate real estate, and making me work for a buck. I’m grateful that they started making me work at an early age to pay my own way because otherwise I would’ve probably turned into a spoiled brat. I don’t really expect to be handed a business and would much rather prefer the satisfaction of making my own way.

10. How can people help with shark conservation?

They can start by changing their perceptions about how they view sharks. Sharks have a horrible reputation thanks to the media and the ever popular movie Jaws. In an average year only 5 people die of shark attacks. To put that in perspective 100 people die of elephant caused deaths. More people die because of soda pop vending machines than shark attacks!

If you’re visiting China, please do not each Shark Fin Soup. Each year over 90,000,000 sharks are killed by finning which is where sharks are caught, their fins are cut off and they’re thrown back in the water while still alive. By eating shark fin soup you’re creating more demand for these types of unsustainable operations.

If you’re honestly interested in making the world a better place realize that killing sharks is killing the whole ocean ecosystem. Yes, that includes Nemo and the ever popular sea turtles. Awareness is the greatest tool so next time you hear someone talk about how bad sharks are, take the time to correct them.

Be sure to check out Planting Dollars for my reciprocal Q & A as well on February 23rd. Thanks again Ryan!

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