What Does a Digital Nomad Do With Money?

Written by 
Polina Median
October 7, 2022

Answer: Samsung

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Agueda Digital Nomad Main Image Photo

This interview is from our series of IG live streams about what people of different professions do with money. In this episode, Águeda Gambón, marketing manager at Homestead brands and entrepreneur, talks financial goals, money tips for traveling, investing principles and business ambitions.

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So, since you are a digital nomad, which means that you travel a lot, where are you now? Because last time I heard you were in Mexico, then you were in Spain, where are you now?

I’m in Spain, but in Portugal right now, because the nearest Ikea to my house is in Portugal, so I had to go across the border. But, yeah, it’s pretty nice here. I speak Galician — in Spain, we have different co-official languages, apart from Spanish and Galician is pretty similar to Portuguese, so we don’t have a problem here.

You understand everything that they are talking about?

Yeah. I mean, some things they have an accent and it’s hard — they speak fast. But I can, like, read and understand what’s going on.

Let’s start with this question: how did you come to this life? Firstly, could you introduce a little bit about yourself? I have already mentioned your titles, but if you could just tell a little bit yourself.

Yeah, sure. So, I’m from Spain, I studied economics and for the last 6 years I’ve been traveling a lot: I lived in Germany, in Spain, in Italy and the Netherlands. My love for traveling, meeting people and new cultures only keeps growing. And the fact that I’m a digital nomad is something that I think I’ve always manifested, I never wanted a life where you have to commute every single day, go to the same place, meet the same people — that sounded terrible to me. 

So, somehow, the opportunity came my way, I’ve obviously… I wasn’t really vocational with economics, I was just passionate about mathematics, but mathematics in itself is very theoretical and I wanted to study something practical. So that’s why I did something analytical and practical, but I realised that that’s not really my thing — of, like, politics and that sort of area. So, I started getting more into entrepreneurship, marketing and I did internships at many places. So, with the last one they ended up hiring me through a freelancer platform and I created my profile there. And I was just doing things marketing, it was 2020 it was… the funny thing, right, is that I started posting on Instagram, like, photos of yoga and food, I mean, I stopped doing that now, but… I was like “I could be a social media manager, this seems fun,” so I just literally created a profile saying that I was trying to be a social media manager, although I didn’t have experience. And I had an interview with this company from the U.S. and they just liked my ambition and my willingness and they liked that I was excited. And since 2 years ago I’ve been working with them remotely, like, the company was remote before the pandemic, but I wouldn’t go back to the office right now. 

You’re willing? Why?

No, no, I won’t, I won’t.

Oh, okay. Yeah, that’s actually my craving. Kinda, amidst my colleagues, amidst their working atmosphere, environment. I’ve been a digital nomad for, I dunno, for 5 years, but now I’m in this mood where I really wanna work in the office with my colleagues, but I’m not complaining, everything’s fine.

So, does this mean that the company reached out to you because they saw your profile on Instagram?

Yes, yes, it was magic — they were looking for a social media manager and he was also looking for a virtual assistant and uh... The founder of the company happens to live in Barcelona as an expert and he wanted someone who could also speak Spanish so they could help him with bureaucracy, yeah. So I started as a social media manager and I did a few jobs as a virtual assistant, but, as we grew the company my responsibilities grew with it and I ended up in the position where I am now.

Okay, that sounds amazing, so, umm… The topic of the show is “What does a digital nomad do with money?” So, traveling requires having some kind of cushion or some kind of confidence that you will be able to pay for your expenses. Did you create this financial pillow? How did you approach this traveling thing?

For sure. So, for me there are 2 levels: so the first 2 years or… like, the first time being a digital nomad, I had less savings, but I was just traveling within Europe. So, I knew that if anything happens to me, any sort of emergency, for 100 euros I could just fly back home. But everything changed when I decided to fly to Costa Rica and stay in central America, then I waited until I had a good cushion, in case I had any emergency, which I actually had and I had to spend that money. So, if you wanna go overseas and far from home, you definitely need to have a good amount of savings, so that in case anything happens you can take a flight the day after and come back home.

What happened to you, if it’s not a secret?

It was a medical emergency when I was in Guatemala, so I was, like, “I have to go.”

I’m always afraid of those things: I was lucky when I was staying in Bali for quite a while I also had a medical emergency, but I had insurance and I was almost at the end of it, but then I managed to squeeze in the deadline, so they covered it all. But otherwise, the costs in some countries are crazy, especially probably in the U.S.

To be honest, I’m not too happy with my insurance from Allianz. Like, I send them everything that happened to me, and they give me “healthy” for anything at all. It was also very cheap, though. Next time, I might choose someone else. 

Okay, so tip #1 — choose a good insurance if you’re traveling.

And then after this, you didn’t have or had little savings, how did you come to the idea that you need, or want to, invest?

Investing… So, I started economics and in my family, they have a background of investing in solar panels and the stock market and other things, right? I’ve always been very interested, I’m always… in economics as well — It was very natural for me. I just follow advice from what I learned at school, what other people that I admire are doing… Yeah, I mean, at first, because I was a student, I couldn’t invest absolutely anything, but as soon as I got a full-time job, I decided to allocate 50% for living, 30% to invest, 20% to save for this cushion to travel.

30% to invest… That’s actually a very large sum. I wonder, have you ever tried to play with this ratio or did you start with this proportion once you began investing? Is this something that you read in books, were told in the university or is this something you felt was very easy to do? Why this ratio?

I think it makes sense — I tried to make sense of how much shall I spend on each thing: how much for groceries, how much going out, how much on beer. And I decided, “okay, this is my margin, I have something to relate to,” because prices are always relative, so a pencil is expensive or cheap… you always compare it to something else, so you need to have a benchmark, you know.

So I just realised that with half of my salary I can spend it on living, including rent, and the other I’ll just save, cuz I knew I wanted to travel. This had changed on my, true because I was saving money for traveling. But to answer your question: I think you should always be thinking about your financial situation and how you should be changing things, especially with how the economy is looking right now… (unintelligible)

You know, as Warren Buffet says, you should invest when it’s the scariest, so I don’t know how much more scared I could be. 

Buy the dip!

Yeah (laughs). I’m still not buying the dip, by the way. But, in terms of your asset allocation, do you mostly invest in the stock market or crypto? What do you invest in?

Okay, so right now I invest in the stock market on FATs, basically, like, S&P 500. I have one of, like, the whole whirl, I bought a stock of Airbnb and I think that’s pretty much it. I really wanna buy Bitcoin, I don’t know if I should wait until it gets to 9000 or buy already, but I’m considering investing, like, a big amount in Bitcoin, not any other cryptocurrencies, not Etherium, just Bitcoin. Because I think it’s the one that’s really gonna stay, and I actually work in the blockchain industry for 2 years. When I was doing all those internships, one of them was for a blockchain that had a crowdfunding to, basically, have a blockchain to rent apartments, so you can rent a small part of an apartment and get the benefit out of that, but just a small part, so you don’t have to go through the whole thing. And I worked for them, I got paid in crypto, which wasn’t the best idea, I learned a lot and I think the technology is gonna stay, especially with the influx that we are seeing. But the governments are not doing the best job, so… yeah… This year I’ll end up buying.

When you say you wanna buy Bitcoin, do you wanna buy it as, like, a full… why don’t you buy a fraction now?

Yeah, I’ll definitely buy a fraction — I wish could buy a whole Bitcoin.

Okay, so you’re just waiting for the right time in the market.

Yeah, I’m just looking at the market right now and seeing, like, what’s going on, I knew this would happen. I’m just unsure if it‘s gonna stay at 20.000 or if it’s gonna keep decreasing until 9000. One way or the other, I think both moments are good to buy because I think it will increase beyond 20.000 in 2-5 years' time. I just don’t have much time, traveling full time and working and social life and everything. I’m really considering — and this is another investment — to hire a virtual assistant, just somebody that helps me, because I spend 10 - 20 hours with personal tasks, like, my email, my bank and all these things, so that’s another area where I want to invest.

Like a business connected to a virtual assistant or hire a virtual assistant?

So, right now I have my own business, I’m self-employed in Spain and I export my services to the U.S., I’m an external contractor, so I could easily hire someone through my company. So it will be inside the same business.

So, what do you do to save?.. Okay no, let’s start with the stock market. 

So, you mentioned that you have S&P 500 and Airbnb. This looks like a very conservative profile. Why this? Why not do some stock-peeking and go risk it, buy Tesla or… Uber.

Yeah… That’s a very good question. I think it’s because I’m just getting started — I started investing in 2021, so literally last year. So I’m going with things just to learn, you know — to buy, to sell, to understand how everything works before I go too crazy. I would love to do some trading someday, I think it’s really fun when people do trading and just like… Looking at the market, being like “this is gonna…”

And lose money.

Not lose money, like. I met somebody in my travels that one night he bought a Bitcoin, the day after he sold it and made $700 and I’m like “God dammit.”

“Why, why wasn’t it me?” Right


So, the knowledge that you have about the stock market, does it mostly come from your background in economics or do you also read some books or follow some financial influencers?

It definitely doesn’t come from school — the only thing that I got from school is, like, analytical thinking and some personal skills, problem-solving, those sorts of things; working under pressure. But then everything that I learned is from my own research, people that I meet and I watch a lot of YouTube — YouTube has a lot of great content and a lot of great people, you can see different opinions and make your own.

Okay, I see. So, no book recommendations… (laughs)

(laughs) Maybe you can give us some.

Well, it depends on the question, if you ask me the question, I would definitely be happy to share this, but… It’s an interview with you, so we are learning wisdom from you. But, of course, if you have any questions, I’d be happy to answer them.

Alright, so what is the most difficult thing in terms of being a digital nomad in terms of saving your money? Do you need to have several bank cards to travel safely? What kind of money management tip could you give as a digital nomad?

Money management… Okay, this is something that I failed at and I learned from, so… Now I know. So… I don’t know any other banks, but my bank for some transactions wanted me to give them a call and when I’m overseas I’m not able to give you a call — it’s extremely complicated to get this thing going, it’s complicated to have international calls. So, you definitely need an online bank: there’s N26, Revolut — there’s plenty out there. Those people help you through a chat and they just make everything easier. 

So, tip number 1 would be, to be honest, to have like 3 credit cards — as many as you can have and have pocket money on all of them, because (unintelligible) fail. And the second tip would be to figure out… get some currency before you get to the country. I don’t know how you can do that, but I think there’s an option that I wanna dig into. Because, you know, you’re gonna see fees when you arrive.

And one super interesting thing, because I’ve been to Jamaica, to Mexico, to Costa Rica and… well, and the U.S., but… All these places had different currencies and very different exchange rates to the dollar and very different ways to handle the money. Like, for instance, in Jamaica I had to negotiate for absolutely everything — they will start with a price like (holds up a bottle of something) “this is $100” and then they will sell it to me for 5. You know, they just look at you and see money. So, the first day they take a lot of money from you and every day that passes you learn, like, at some point, I had the exchange rates on my hand and I was looking at them and negotiating. So, just be extremely careful when you arrive in a country and learn the exchange rates, so when they say “$1000” you know what it actually means. Yeah, that’s like, very, very important. And then I use Apple Pay when I do something amazing. 

Oh, and this is very important you can do as well in countries where they negotiate a lot: I have my money spread across my pockets, so when I open my wallet they see that I only have $100, but if they see you have a lot of money, they’re gonna try to upsell you or sell you more thing and they can, yeah tagging. So, that’s something really important I learned.

This is such great advice. I mean, the first one, of course, about the banking system, that, yeah, sometimes you need to have a call to do some transactions. And it’s so inconvenient to solve those problems.

Yeah, Revolut I’ve heard many good reviews about it recently and I think it’s really on the rise now. I wonder if they’re… Are they a public company, do you know, by chance?

I dunno.

Would be really interesting to look at their stock performance — I think they must be doing well.

But anyway, so — Jamaica. Is the tip to look as poor as possible so they don’t start with $100 and be like “oh, she looks poor.”

Ah, no, no, it’s impossible to hide that you’re not from there. They have this energy and this vibe where you know they’re Jamaican, so… They will know for sure. Don’t try, if you wanna wear your jewelry, go ahead and do it. And as for advice on the safety side of things… I think you should just walk with a lot of confidence and just do you.

I see. Probably one of the last questions that I have is: do you have any money goals? Do you have any financial goals? For example, like, “in 5 years I wanna own like a million dollars and live on dividends” or something like that?

I do. So, by the end of the year or, like, next year I would love to get to 60K or 100K a year and… That’s pretty much it — I never think about the money in my bank account — I think about things that I wanna do. So, as of this year, I wanna buy a property in Mexico and create, like, my home and also a home for people to come from Airbnb, from Couchsurfing, from Workaway — everywhere, and have, like, a healing place where you can relax. So, if you wanna do that and have mango trees and avocados and a farm and animals you need money, right? So, that’s how I think, that’s my main way of thinking.

The reason I’m asking is that now there are so many… There’s this movement called “FIRE,” it’s like financial independence retire early. So, basically what people are doing is they’re saving most of their money and investing, so that, like, at the age of 30 they stop working and start living off dividends or this investing income that they have. So, you don’t have this kind of goal where you are striving to not work, you just wanna keep doing what you love, you are passionate about and have money to save?

Exactly. Yeah, I always wanna work. Work is something that you can always get back to. Y’know, if you’re having a bad day you can get into your work, get flowing, listen to your music, so, I always wanna work. But what I want is to always work on anything I want, whenever I want, right? So, yes. Actually, in 2 - 3 years I just wanna have my own businesses, so no other people are depending on me because that puts a lot of pressure on me and I want to be, like “okay, if I don’t work today, then it’s just my fault” and, y’know, nobody can blame me. So, I definitely wanna reach there in the next 2 years and I have many business ideas that I need to get rolling.

That’s amazing. Okay, this is probably the last question and it’s a little bit of a motivational one: where do you get these business ideas? What inspires you in life?

I think what inspires me the most is meeting incredible people, like, meeting proactive people with very creative ideas or very strong that are just very intelligent as well. And also just the fact of traveling, seeing different realities and seeing how many things are possible around me. Like, yeah, when I’m stuck at home I might get ideas from a video or something like that. But when I’m out there, in the world, I’m like “wow, there’s so much that we can do,” because any business idea that you see in a country you can replicate in your own market, back home, so that’s just a lot of business ideas. And then you meet these people that are doing all of these jokes and you’re like “wow, I could do that too.”

Wow. So, from what I see now is that you have 2 very important traits of character. The first one is that you’re open-minded, so you’re very open to ideas, right? So, it’s a no-brainer that there are a lot of opportunities that some people are closed to and some people are open and just soak in everything. And the second trait of character that I see is that you are also proactive in the sense that you are doing it, not just dreaming or something, so you open your business, setting goals and going for them.

That’s amazing and I think that’s something a lot of digital nomads have, because if you don’t have this kind of proactive… you don’t get integrated that well into other countries, you don’t feel record or safe or something. And, yeah, I would say that that’s important.

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