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. 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 and take care of me.
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. I was intrigued!
I felt confident 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 picked up some tips working at a racetrack over weekends.
Self-publishing a short book would be too expensive. I decided I would have to type it on a computer, print it, and bind it myself. The problem was I didn’t have a computer or a printer.
Fortunately, one of my friends had an 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 cousins saw the ad in the newspaper, thought he recognized the address, and phoned my parents. It mortified them. 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 during the time of the Great Depression, they were risk-averse.
My dad and mom were both born into poor families. My dad was one of five children, and my mom was one of eight. 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, decisions.
I’ve never been a Straight-A Student. I didn’t particularly enjoy studying at school as I knew I would never use most 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 – which ran for eight seasons on NBC from 1986 to 1994.
The series made law seem glamorous and exciting – clever, 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 graduating. 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 started 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 been interested in personal finance for a long time. My goal was to become a certified financial planner. You don’t just become a certified financial planner overnight – starting as a life insurance agent made sense.
I joined a company specializing 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 my effort. It seemed like the next best thing to work 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 – typical in most companies. However, what bothered me was that I felt they were more interested in getting sales than helping people.
The final straw was when my manager complained one month that our region didn’t reach its target. When he told me 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 client needs.
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 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 prominent earthmoving equipment company. My law degree helped me secure the position, but I knew I had to do a business degree.
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 had a huge house, owned several investment properties, had an impressive 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, 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 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.
Being in the corporate world was very rewarding for many years.
It allowed me 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 traveled to many countries and had unforgettable experiences I’ll cherish for years.
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 rewarding but can also prevent you from realizing your dreams.
The Journey Continues
When I look 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.com.
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.
- There’s no such thing as a problem that doesn’t come with a gift.
- We’ve all had challenges to face. But most people 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 separate journeys.
- Don’t care what others think of you. They’re entitled to their thoughts.
- It’s never too late to become financially savvy.
- Always put yourself first. It’s not selfish but SMART.
- It’s okay to take small steps as long as you move 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 receive a challenge that you can’t learn to overcome.
- As long as you don’t quit, 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, family, and your needs.
- Never allow yourself to feel 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 informed financial decisions.
Note that I can only give you information, tips, and suggestions – not financial advice. I am not a financial advisor and do not know your financial circumstances.
To help you, I have designed the below graphic. It illustrates the five personal finance areas you need to focus on – budgeting, making money, saving money, paying off debt, and investing.
I firmly believe that to gain control of your finances and achieve financial freedom, establish a good balance between all five areas.
Click on any of the below icons to learn more about any of the topics.