what makes you happy

What Makes You Happy Interview No.1 : Finding Happiness at Home

What makes you happy? A new interview series. 

What makes you happy? It’s a good question and one that all of us likely ask ourselves at one point in our lives. It’s an important thing to figure out and that can be a tough task at times. The reason this can be so complicated is that there’s no one size fits all answer to the question. There’s your usual suspects like family, travel, money or power and others but not all of these fill that inner void for everyone.

I’ve always been fascinated by the concept of happiness. It’s an odd little thing; how different all of us are when it comes to finding meaning or happiness in life. I believe that part of life’s journey is finding those things that make us content. Some are lucky and find it early while for others, it takes decades. Many still believe it’s right around the corner and are still in the process of searching. No matter what, we all have an interesting story to tell when it comes to what makes you happy.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about happiness a lot. Perhaps, it’s because it’s something that took me a while to find. I look at the person I am now and look at the person I was a decade ago and see a stark difference in my mindset and approach to life. I’m certainly in an amazing state now and have been for a few years. The funny thing about being happy is that it’s one of those things you want others to experience too. However, I know that what works for me may not work for others so I wanted to get more insight on the topic.

Happiness is something that’s very important in life and yet I rarely see it talked about in detail. What makes a person smile, what makes them content and what makes them happy? What framework do people use to get to a point where they are content?

That’s what spawned the idea for this interview series. When I say happiness. I don’t mean the brief feeling after a dopamine rush due to something cool or new. This is about finding those things that bring serious joy to a life; that long lasting happiness and contentment.

Since starting this blog, I’ve been lucky enough to meet some great people who are sharing their journeys in one form or another. I wanted to get their take on this question and get an outside perspective on the topic. At the end of the day, this process can be one of trial and error and hopefully through this series, you’ll be able to find out what works for others because maybe that’ll work for you too.

That’s enough for introductions. In the future, we’ll get right into the meat of the topic; the interview but I wanted to set the stage for what you can expect.

Now, let’s get to the part that we’ve all been waiting for, the main course and the first interview of hopefully many to come! Who’s the lucky first test subject? It’s my friend Michael Dinich!

What makes you happy with Michael from Your Money Geek

Let’s get started with a softball. Tell us about yourself and your blog. 

Hello, I am Michael Dinich and I blog at Your Money Geek.

My professional background (day Job) is I work in personal finance as an advisor. Since 1999 I have been helping retirees with tax, estate, and retirement income planning. Prior to working in personal finance, I was a Combat Medic in the Army and planned on pursuing a career in medicine.

I was introduced to the personal finance industry by my father who is an industry veteran. He had invited me to a planning conference, and within minutes I knew helping people save money and avoid taxes is what I was supposed to be doing.

The Weirdest quirks about my blog is probably the fact that I stumbled into blogging accidentally. I never read blogs before and was talked into launching a blog by a marketing company.

The company was to run the blog. However, after reading the posts they planned I relieved them of command, wrote a few posts they did poorly from a traffic stand point and set about studying blogging.

I visited a few forums and websites and was immediately smitten with the idea of a blogging side hustle.

I decided I was only going to blog if it was fun and if I could do it “my way.”  On the site I use pop culture to teach financial lessons, I also profile inspiration success stories, and conduct celebrity interviews.

Jokingly, I tell people it’s a personal finance site for people who are not personal finance groupies.

Being so new and unfamiliar with blogging had created some challenges and opportunities.  Having no concept of blogging I was forced network and study the industry much harder than I may have if I wasn’t so green. Networking has created some tremendous opportunities, such as being able to guest post on Millennial Money.

Doing things my own way also led to me inadvertently stepping on a few blogging industry big dogs, and I now have a Kim vs. Kanye feud going on. (As long as in can be Kim, I’am cool with it…Shake, Shake…)

Cool, I want to know more about the Kim vs. Kanye feud but that’s probably a story for another time. This isn’t an interview about feuds after all so let’s get back to the topic at hand. What does happiness mean to you?

Happiness is enjoying time with your family and friends.

One of the interesting things you learn working in EMS, is that in a tragedy or accident no one ever asks you “if I don’t make it, tell my stuff, or my 401k I love them”

I have clients with millions of dollars, and most of them would say they would trade the money for more time with their family. Money solves problems, but you cant solely focus on money.

I know it may be a bit cliche but if you can’t find happiness without money, chances are you won’t be happy with it. Look at all the celebrities that can’t keep a marriage going or turn to drugs and alcohol.

That’s a nice simple way of looking at it and I totally agree. I do sometimes feel like those type of people do exist, the ones that care more about money than anything – maybe I’ll interview one of those types in the future.
I agree that after you have a certain amount, extra money doesn’t matter that much.  There’s a big difference between 0 and some but the difference between some and a lot has a much smaller impact. Since you already made a Kanye reference, I won’t feel tossing in a quote from Mr. West, “havin money’s not everything, not having it is.” Wise words! For you, it sounds like you look at money and what you can buy as a secondary thing after friends and family. Would you say that’s accurate?

I work in personal finance, and recently had a bit of an epiphany. When you die, no one wants your stuff. 90% of the junk people obsess over is just going to get donated to charity or tossed in a dumpster.

Even the items that are ‘collectible” likely will sold for pennies on the dollar.

The most valuable thing you can leave your family is memories…. Oh, and life insurance because the family doesn’t want your crap. 😉

Hey! My collection of beanie babies will fund my retirement, you’ll see! Tell me about your journey up to now? It sounds like you’re not too into possessions. Would you consider yourself a frugal person?

I’m a firm believer that life about balance. You should save some money and spend money. In our household, we don’t practice extreme frugality. Rather, we spend money on things that will value as a family and save money on items where we can.

Example, my wife and I still have the same bedroom set that we purchased at a used shop when we first got married. It cost 150 dollars, is of the 70’s vintage, and suits our needs just fine.

However, my family enjoys movies and entertainment and we recently purchased a 70-inch TV.

Its about balance.

I do agree that balance when it comes to money is important in keeping finances in order. I’m always interested in what people find valuable and what they consider a foolish expense. Tell me about something that you see talked up and thought would bring you great joy but turned out to be a dud. 

Travel, I have been fortunate to go on some nice trips and have not found them to be that much more enjoyable than a stay-cation.

Let’s reverse it now. What about something no one really talks up but you find really valuable?

I think people tend to take their local area for granted. Some foreign location always seems more fun or romantic than your local town. Growing up I couldn’t wait ditch the town I am in, however as an adult I realize it’s a great area to live.

Your approach to money is clearly different from other people. Do you wish you spent a bit more or saved a bit more in the past or are you comfortable with where you are now?

Looking back, you always wish you were a bit more frugal. I don’t think it’s healthy to dwell on what you should have done. Learn from your mistakes and move on, each day strive to be a little bit better.

That’s a good way to look at it. Since we’re on the topic of money. Do you spend more on things or experiences? 

A bit of both, we do not spend on lavish vacations. Rather as a family we have several hobbies we enjoy together. One hobby we have is collecting signatures of Star Wars characters. We travel around to local comic cons and festivals and collect autographs.

We also enjoy tabletop gaming and spend a little bit of money on games. As far as hobbies go tabletop gaming is one of the best values going.  We have a few games that we routinely play.

We love the Star Wars X-Wing miniature game, it’s a great game to introduce people to gaming. May new gamers are intimidated by the complexity of some games and the need to paint the figures. In X- Wing the game pieces are pre-painted and beautifully crafted.

Another game that we enjoy, is Dead of Winter. Some tabletop games require a steep learning curve and are difficult to set up, making it hard to fit in a quick game. Dead of Winter, is a simple game to teach, and set up only takes a few seconds.

The Game moves fast and it is easy to get in a few games will watching some cheesy Sci-fi movies.

Hey, a fellow board game nerd. I’d say video games and board games are some of the best bang for your buck forms of entertainment you can get so I’m totally on board! I’ve never tried miniature based games but I’m on board for game of 7 Wonders anytime! Since, we’re on the nerdy topics, are there any podcasts or books you want to mention that have helped you on your journey?

There a few blogs I really enjoy and visit often;


Scott from Making Momentum is one of the hardest working bloggers I know, he has a great interview series I always learn from and a great weekly roundup post.


The Finance Twins is run by Camilo and his brother. He shares his persona story in a few different posts in a way that is honest and inspiring. They are such talented bloggers, and I have tons of love and respect for them.


Drew runs FI Introvert, a sited dedicated to introverts.  I love reading his post because of his passion for personal finance, and since I always learn something new. His introvert interviews series has helped me working with introverts.

Yea, that’s a great list. I’ve never read too much from the finance twins but love the other two as well. Hopefully, these are new to some of my readers who are looking for something new to peruse while wasting time at work or at home. Well, that’s all the questions I had planned so thanks for the great answer. Before we finish, I’ll throw another one at you if you don’t mind.
What’s some advice you can offer readers who are still searching for something they haven’t found

Don’t put your life on hold waiting to find something or some event to happen. You must find happiness with what you have currently.

That’s totally true and I think it speaks to a lot of what you said. It sounds like you didn’t have to look far to find happiness as it was right there at home with you. If you can be content with the love of your friends and family then you’re off to a great start.
It’s not going to be like that for everyone and that’s why I’m doing these interviews but it sounds like the case for you. Many people spend their whole life looking for something that might be right in front of them. I’m glad you found it early on man!
Mike, thanks for the interview and good luck with everything! 
Everyone, thanks for reading, make sure to check out Mike’s blog let me know your thoughts on the interview. Are there any other questions you’d want answered? If you want to be considered for an interview then just hit the contact button at the top of the page and let me know.

One Comment

  • The Debt Shrink

    As someone who works with people with terminal illnesses, I agree with what Mike said about the importance of family (and that loved ones don’t want their crap when they die). It’s inspiring to hear how his experiences saving lives influenced his approach to helping people with their personal finances. Great interview!

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