My name is Casper. Welcome to my personal finance blog!
I started this blog in 2020 in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic. I’ve had the domain name xusd.com since 2005 and always wanted to use it for a personal finance blog. When we went into lockdown, I unexpectedly had more time on my hands than I wanted… It was time to put xusd.com to good use.
I’ve Always Been an Entrepreneur at Heart (My Teens)
I grew up in a very conservative family. My father worked for a government institution. My mother gave up her full-time job as a secretary at a bank to look after me after I was born. We were not rich but my parents did their best to provide for me and take care of my needs.
Looking back, I can see how my mother lit the entrepreneurial flame in me, without intending to do so. To supplement our income she became a part-time, commission-only saleswoman. She used to go out at night to sell products like small appliances and linen. It was hard work but she was very good at it.
As a young child I used to go out looking for glass bottles I could turn in for money. As a teenager I worked at a sports store over weekends and then started working at a racetrack that paid better.
Somewhere I stumbled upon a book about starting your own mail-order business and I was hooked!
I thought I could make a fortune with a mail-order business but I had a couple of challenges.
As a teenager I had very little money to invest. I knew I would have to spend money on ads in magazines or newspapers – this was in the late 1980s before the internet. Buying and selling products would be difficult and too expensive for me to ship.
Then I got an idea…
What if I wrote a short guide where I share tips on how people can make money from horse racing? After all, I was working at a racetrack over weekends and have picked up some tips over the years.
Self-publishing a short book would be too expensive. I decided I would have to type it out on a computer, print and bind it myself. The problem was I didn’t have a computer or a printer.
Fortunately one of my friends had a IBM PS/2 personal computer with a dot-matrix printer (very slow, like watching grass grow!).
I placed a small classified ad in a major Sunday newspaper and advertised my guide for $2.
My guide didn’t sell as well as expected but I had a profitable mail-order business.
Unfortunately, it didn’t last very long…
One of my much older cousin’s saw the ad in the newspaper and thought he recognized the address. He phoned my parents who were mortified when they found out what I had done. No form of gambling was allowed in the church we attended and my parents were very religious.
As quickly as my little business took off, it died. But it planted a seed in my mind. I got a small taste of entrepreneurship and I loved it!
“Study, Get Good Grades, and Find a Real Job!”
Like many people of my parents’ generation, they didn’t believe in entrepreneurship. They saw it as too risky. Instead they encouraged me to study and get a real, safe job.
My dad was born in 1924 and my mother in 1930 (she was 39 years old when they had me). Growing up in the time of the Great Depression, it was normal for them to be risk-averse.
My dad and mom were both born in poor families. My dad was one of five children and my mom was one of eight children. For them finding a good, stable job was the only thing worth pursuing.
Note: My parents were good, honest people who taught me what they believed was in my best interests. My mom passed away in 2006 and my dad in 2010. There’s not a day that goes past that I don’t miss them.
What do I want to be? Decisions… decisions…
I’ve never been a Straight-A Student. I didn’t particularly enjoy studying while I was at school as I knew I would never use most of the subjects later in life.
When it was time to decide what career I wanted, the only one that appealed to me was to become a lawyer. My decision was probably heavily influenced by the hit series L.A. Law – It ran for 8 seasons on NBC from 1986 to 1994.
The series made law seem glamorous and exciting – smart, witty attorneys battling it out in the courtroom, making tons of money.
I made up my mind that I wanted to become a hot-shot lawyer. Halfway through my studies I realized that practicing law is more about paperwork than anything else. I didn’t quit but was no longer passionate about becoming a lawyer.
While at law school I met my first wife. Her family was from Europe and we decided to get married and move to Europe for a couple of years after we graduate. We figured it would be the adventure of a lifetime.
My First Job
My wife and I moved to the beautiful city of Antwerp in Belgium in January 1993, two days after we got married. My law degree didn’t mean anything in Europe. Besides, I didn’t have the language skills to become a lawyer – The two main languages in Belgium are Flemish (Dutch) and French.
Antwerp has the second biggest port in Europe and I decided to look for a job in international trade. I wanted a job where my English language skills could benefit the company. I ended up working for a subsidiary of the largest steel group in Europe at the time.
Despite being an entrepreneur at heart and having a law degree, I entered the corporate world. I didn’t know at the time just how many years I would spend in the corporate world before finding my true north star.
My wife and I left Europe in December 1994, not long after the birth of our first child.
Becoming a Life Insurance Agent
In early 1995, after returning from Europe, I decided I wanted to do something different.
I have long been interested in personal finance. My goal was to become a certified financial planner. You don’t just become a certified financial planner overnight and starting off as a life insurance agent made sense.
I joined a company that specializes in life insurance and endowment life insurance policies. My income was 100% commission based. I liked the idea as I would be rewarded based on the effort I put in. It seemed like the next best thing to working for myself.
Advising and helping clients were very fulfilling. Unfortunately, I spotted red flags.
The company spent a lot of time teaching sales techniques and how to overcome objections. This is normal in most companies. However, what bothered me is that I felt they were more interested in getting sales than they were in helping people.
The final straw was when my manager complained one month that our region didn’t reach its target. When he said “it’s the high commission sales that pay the bills” I knew it was time to leave. I couldn’t work for a company where I felt pushed to sell a policy based on the rate of commission it pays rather than the needs of the client.
My experience as a life insurance agent at the company I worked for left a very sour taste in my mouth. I decided to go back into the corporate world but promised myself I would one day get back into personal finance and do my best to really help people.
A word of advice, stay away from endowment life insurance policies. They’re not worth it.
My Corporate Journey - High Highs & Low Lows
Soon after I left the life insurance industry I landed the job of Commercial Manager for a large earthmoving equipment company. My law degree helped me secure the position but I knew I had to do a business degree as well.
I decided to do a Master’s degree in Business Management and obtained my MCom degree in 2000. By then I was doing exceptionally well in the corporate world.
By the time I was in my early 30s I lived in a huge house, owned several investment properties, had a large wine collection, drove a new BMW, wore brand clothes, had an Omega watch, and loved buying antiques.
I’m not saying this to boast but rather to illustrate how stupid and naive I was as you’ll see in a moment… Today I would never spend more than $50 on a watch and I only care about the quality of clothes and not the brand.
I appeared to be very successful but had no savings and was deep in debt. It didn’t bother me. I had a high-paying corporate job and believed things could only get better. Besides, I was young and thought I had time on my side.
I was wrong. I should have known better.
In 2006 I lost my job when the company I worked for merged with a rival. I went from hero to zero nearly overnight. A friend and I started a business that provided free products to college students that huge brands paid for to create brand awareness. Unfortunately he was not the partner I had hoped for and the business failed.
My children were all in expensive private schools and I had to sell my investment properties. I got a short-term agency agreement to represent a French company in the railway industry that kept some cash coming in.
In 2010 my first wife and I got divorced. I took a huge hit financially but the worst part was the emotional turmoil I went through. It took me until 2012 to get back on my feet.
I got married again in 2014.
Being in the corporate world was very rewarding for many years. It gave me the opportunity to eat in some of the best restaurants in the world. I took customers to the Rio Carnival and piranha fishing in the Amazon. I travelled to many countries all over the world and had unforgettable experiences I’ll cherish for years to come.
It also taught me there’s no such thing as a safe, secure job and you can never afford to become complacent.
I often compare the corporate world to golden handcuffs – it can be highly rewarding but it can also prevent you from realizing your dreams.
The Journey Continues
Looking back over my life, it’s been one helluva ride! It sometimes feels like I have lived several lifetimes in one. I have made good decisions and I have made bad decisions. But, most importantly, I have learned so much – that is what I want to share with you on xUSD.
If I can start my life over, I won’t change anything. I am who I am today because of all the experiences that shaped me. I won’t change it for the world.
I look forward to the next 50 years! 🙂
Here are some of the lessons I have learned:
- Never become complacent. Things can change in an instant.
- We’re all human. We make mistakes. Get over it!
- The best time to start saving was yesterday, the next best time is today.
- Don’t live above your means.
- Never stop learning!
- Job security doesn’t exist. Create multiple income streams.
- Do something for yourself today that your future self will thank you for.
- There’s no such thing as a problem that doesn’t come with a gift.
- We’ve all had challenges to face. Most people just don’t talk about it.
- Most successful entrepreneurs have failed multiple times.
- The path to success is very seldom a straight line.
- Never compare yourself with others. We’re all on our own journey.
- Don’t care what others think of you. They’re entitled to their thoughts.
- It’s never too late to become finance savvy.
- Always put yourself first. It’s not selfish, it’s SMART.
- It’s okay to take small steps, as long as you’re moving forward.
- Only surround yourself with positive people who will support your dreams.
- You’re capable of so much more than you think. Believe in yourself!
- You’ll never be given a challenge that you can’t learn to overcome.
- As long as you don’t quit on yourself you can never fail.
- Nobody is perfect. Don’t be so hard on yourself.
- You always have a choice. Don’t be afraid to say NO when you need to.
- Time goes past very quickly. Make the most of every day.
- Maintain a healthy balance between your job, your family, and your needs.
- Never allow yourself to be pressured into doing something.
- If you don’t understand something, ask. Never make assumptions.
More About xUSD
My goal with xUSD is to make personal finance easy to understand, and help you make good financial decisions.
Note that I can only give you generic advice, tips, or suggestions. It should not be construed as financial advice – I am not a financial advisor, and have no knowledge of your personal financial circumstances.
To help you, I have designed the 5 Star xUSD diagram to illustrate the 5 personal finance areas you need to focus on, namely budgeting, making money, saving money, paying off debt, and investing.
I strongly believe that in order to be in control of your finances and achieve financial freedom, you need to establish a good balance between all 5 areas.
Click on any of the below icons to learn more about any of the topics.
Let me know in the comments where you’re from and tell me a little bit about yourself.
Wishing you all of the very best, always!
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Welcome to My Blog!
I’m Casper du Toit, founder of xUSD.com.
Are you worried you may not be able to retire comfortably one day and might outlive your savings? It’s never too late to get financially savvy. My mission is to help you take control of your finances, even if you think you’ve left it too late.