Educounting with Ben Jones

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Educounting with Ben Jones

I created the Financial Gym so everyday Jacks and Jills could get personalized financial planning services just like the wealthy. In the process of working with over 3,000 clients, I’ve realized that, beyond financial planning, what my team and I do everyday is educate our clients on personal finance. At the end of the day, the Financial Gym is a financial literacy hub. So you know I got excited when I heard about Ben Jones, an Entrepreneur and Financial Educator, who is equally passionate about financial literacy. He joins me today to talk about the resources he’s created to help people of all ages, especially children, become financially literate.

What Are We Drinking?

Ben — Cosmopolitan 

Shannon —  Grapefruit Schweppes & Vodka

Podcast Notes

  • Ben grew up with five siblings and his parents and he was the one who tended to hold onto his money. He is an accountant and originally started out at a public accounting firm.
  • Ben always wanted to travel the world, and he got an internal audit position with Tupperware. He was traveling to 20 different companies for his job. 
  • When Ben was in Venezuela and they had hyper inflation, they had to count the Tupperware, because people would steal it and sell it. Since it is a durable good, in a couple of weeks, the item would be worth 40 percent to 60 percent more, because that is how hard goods work when you are in a hyper inflation environment.
  • Ben loves taking tests, because his parents always wanted their kids to be certified in something. His mom was a registered nurse. After Ben got certified as a CPA, the CFP sounded good and so did the CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst). Only 20 percent of people who start the CFA actually finish it.
  • When Shannon was working at an investment bank, before she had a baby, she thought about getting a CFA.
  • There are three levels to this certification and she was busy at her job, so she thought she would take the first level since it is offered twice a year. The other two levels are only offered once a year, so it takes a minimum of three years to complete.
  • Shannon decided not to study much for the first one, because she thought if she didn’t really have it in her to pass, it will be a lot more work. She is thankful she didn’t pass the test.
  • Ben and his wife dated for 13 years before they got married, but it was easy for him to commit for three years to get the CFA certification. 
  • For one of the tests, Ben was in London at Wembley Stadium in a side building and Lionel Ritchie was warming up.
  • Being from a big family, Ben didn’t have a lot of money, so he was working and saving as much as he could. He always knew he was good at money and he wanted to get the certification.
  • By the time Ben moved back to the United States, he fell into a job where he was teaching people about becoming CPAs.
  • He took the CPA exam the November before he graduated college, so he was teaching people that were 3 to 20 years older than him.
  • He had a knack for teaching and he was rated in the top 10 of over 500 instructors in the nation.
  • He was good with money and, growing up with a lot of siblings he learned to speak up and be entertaining. 
  • When he came back to the U.S., he got a job running a CPA review company called Becker CPA Review. It was the number one review company in the country. They reviewed over 50,000 CPAs a year. He really enjoyed his time there.
  • After about ten years there, he decided it was time to help get people involved with their money. 
  • Shannon is always looking for compassion and empathy when she hires financial trainers.
  • When Ben started working with people, it always surprised him how uncomfortable they were with money. 
  • It is such an amazingly emotional thing. You can mention one thing and people get really upset. People are really triggered with money. The emotional side kind of kicks you in the face. Many times people didn’t have someone who was good with money, or they grew up with parents that fought about it, and they don’t think they deserve to have it. 
  • Ben found that the people who were the best financial planners or financial managers were the ones who were the most empathetic, not the ones that were the most educated, because people trusted them and liked them.
  • Parents are more likely to talk to their children about sex than about money. Money is a taboo topic.
  • Financial literacy is like regular literacy — it has to start in the home. 
  • The Gym’s most financially literate clients have parents who had healthy conversations around money with them at an early age. Most people don’t have that. 
  • The Financial Gym exists to change financial literacy and health for this generation and future generations. Once their clients have a more comfortable relationship with money, they start talking to their kids about it.
  • Ben went home one night and created a video. Then he created another video. Before he knew it, he had 220 videos that are helpful, because he boils things down really simply.
  • Ben was setting up a teleprompter in his basement. His daughter was about seven or eight at the time and started reading the teleprompter.  It was this squeaky little voice that was talking about how bond duration was a measure of risk.
  • Ben realized that kids needed to know about finance and managing money. The younger they are the more they will not be afraid of it. He thought that he could do a couple of podcasts and videos and reach out to parents who had kids and make them more comfortable with finance.
  • Everybody needs a doctor and a lawyer, but we aren’t taught that maybe we need a financial advisor to help guide us down the path.
  • Ben has a podcast called Money with Mak and G. Mak is for Makenna and G is for Grant. They started to play around with it and it started gaining traction. Parents wanted their kids to feel comfortable with money, because they weren’t comfortable with it themselves.
  • Mak and G are Ben’s 10 year-old twins that are soon to be 11. When he started the podcast, they were around 8 years old.
  • Ben started talking to his kids about money when they were around four years old, because he didn’t want them to be scared of it.
  • Think about your entire life and the things you learn about. The number one thing you need to know about is money, because it affects everything. 
  • The two words they hear at the Gym are fear and shame around financial situations. Shannon says to think about money as part of your DNA. We need it to exist and to get through life. To think that fear and shame are running though people’s DNA, it motivates Shannon to do what she does every day, because no one should live like that.
  • It never ceases to amaze Ben that when he talks to women about money, in general, they tend to be less secure and more savvy.
  • When you look at the numbers, the best investor in the world is a 42 year old woman. She picks a solid investment and leaves it.
  • The biggest thing about financial advising is getting people comfortable with who they are and what they need to do. Everything is possible, it is all about how much work you are going to put into it.
  • Women have less confidence in their decisions, even though it may be a smart and thought out decision.
  • Have confidence because, a lot of the time, Ben sees women making great decisions.
  • Ben started creating the videos and sharing them with other people to get them comfortable talking about money, to help them understand what is going on, and to give them a couple of tools so they could do what they needed to do on their own in order to give them the confidence they needed.
  • We are in a funny phase right now, because paper money is going out and most people are using electronic money.
  • Ben started with the dollar bill, because he wanted to connect money to something, so his kids could start to understand. He would give one of his kids five dollars and tell them to give it to the person working at the cash register and see what they get back. Then they talked about it.
  • They started having those basic beginning conversations. Ben and his wife do the tooth fairy, the Easter bunny, and other stuff. When his kids get money, they save it and start to relate it to something real.
  • Ben and his wife are completely honest with their kids about money. If they ask how much he makes, he tells them. When they said it was a lot of money, he talked to them about how much their house, car, and other things cost. When they started to lay that out, it put things into perspective and that changed the whole conversation.
  • When you have the conversation and show kids the money by giving them an allowance, they start to realize how it works.
  • You need to start the conversation. The earlier the better. 
  • Even if you don’t think you are great at money, you are making financial decisions every day. You are your own economic system. You should at least explain why you are making the decisions you are making. The older they get, the more involved they should be. 
  • You need to have a numbers conversation with kids. They get it. 
  • Kids are smarter than you think they are and they will understand most of the things you tell them about basic finance. It is just basic math.
  • Do not lie to your kids, tell them the truth. If you are having financial issues, tell them and let them know how you are working on it. Have discussions with them when they ask.
  • Seventy percent of Americans live paycheck to paycheck, and there are all different sized paychecks.
  • Teach your kids that you need to save for the future. You need to get good at saying no and explain why.
  • The best teacher of money is cash. We learn more when we count the dollars and see it move. 
  • Teach your kids about investing by having them choose the companies they want to invest in and have them watch the performance.
  • Create an economic system however you can, where they earn money and spend it too. When you don’t learn about this at home or school, you will not know what to do when you are actually in it as an adult. 
  • Teach your kids that the market goes up and down and that investments are for the long term.
  • You know more than you think you know.
  • If you don’t feel comfortable, listen to the Money with Mak & G podcast with your kids. 

TAKEAWAY: My biggest takeaway is that financial literacy is just as important and regular literacy. We owe it to ourselves and our children, if we have them, to make sure we are all financially literate. With resources like the ones Ben is producing, we have no excuse not to seek it out.

Random Three Questions

  1. What is the big goal that you and your family are saving for right now?
  2. What is a show you like to binge watch?
  3. If this was your last night on earth, what is your last meal?

Connect with Ben

Website: www.educounting.com  

Podcast: Money with Mak & G

Instagram: @educounting

Facebook: @educounting

If you’d like to get financially naked with my team and get more financially literate, I hope you’ll reach out to us at the Financial Gym. My trainers have literally seen it all so nothing will surprise us. We don’t care how you got here, we just care about getting you where you want to go.  

The great news is that Martinis and Your Money listeners get 15% off Financial Gym services. So head over to, or send friends to, financialgym.com to get signed up today.

Friends and Money with the Happy Hour Ladies

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Friends and Money with the Happy Hour Ladies

Today is the last Friday of the month and my regular listeners know that on the last Friday of the month, I host the happy hour on the podcast where I gather great friends with me to drink cheap drinks and talk about money topics. Today we’re talking about friends and money. Have you ever tried to talk about personal finance with your friends? Have you ever gotten financially naked with your friends or vice versa? I’m asking my happy hour friends about how they interact with their friends about money, and you’ll be surprised by the responses. As always, we had a great time.

What are we drinking?

Melanie from Dear Debt — Tempranillo Wine

Tonya from Budget and the Beach — Huckleberry Vodka

Liz, Mrs. Frugalwoods, from Frugalwoods.com — Smirnoff Kissed Caramel Vodka

Shannon —  Smirnoff Kissed Caramel Vodka

Podcast Notes

  • A conversation between the happy hour ladies and a conversation later at the Financial Gym inspired this month’s happy hour topic about talking to your friends about money.
  • At the end of the Fireside Chat with Mrs. Frugalwoods, Shannon, and podcast listener Danielle were sitting at the Money Bar at the Gym. Danielle was talking about about how excited she was about the financial changes in her life and how she wanted to talk about it with her friends. She asked for tips about how to talk to friends about money.
  • Money is typically a taboo topic, but not at the Gym, and it is easy to forget that people have a difficult time talking about their situations.
  • Liz, Melanie, and Shannon went out to lunch and Shannon was very open about asking money questions.
  • It doesn’t bother Liz to talk about money, but she is very cognizant that it is not just her financial situation, but her husband’s as well.
  • Liz and her husband agreed a while ago about parameters of what they are comfortable sharing with other people. She knows what she is and is not comfortable sharing.
  • Liz has never had any friends ask her how much she makes a year.
  • Melanie wasn’t surprised that Shannon asked her what she made last year, because it was in typical Shannon fashion.
  • Since it was Shannon, and Melanie is her friend, she didn’t have any issues sharing her yearly salary with her. She didn’t feel weird about it.
  • If a non-finance friend asked Melanie about her annual salary, she would tell them.
  • There is a lot of shame around income. It is easy to equate your self-worth with your net worth.
  • Melanie was recently at a blogging event talking with other money bloggers, and a fellow blogger said when she started making more money, her audience said that she was no longer relatable.
  • This happens in the blogging community with income reports.
  • There are different events at the Gym and one of the activities is to share your annual income with others. The people who make between $40,000 and $100,000 have no qualms about sharing. Women who make more, like $300,000, don’t want to share.
  • Tonya hasn’t had anyone directly ask her how much money she makes a year. For her to share that information, it would depend on who is asking and the context of the conversation.
  • Why are we not having more of these money conversations with friends? How many of us have had sexual conversations with friends?
  • Tonya would not have either of these conversations unless it is with someone who is trusted and will not judge her.
  • Tonya has had money conversations with friends, but she is not open about it with every single person she meets.
  • Be cautious about who you tell your dreams and goals to. It is a trust thing. This includes money, sex, goals, and dreams. Tonya doesn’t want to have these conversations with people she doesn’t trust or have a bond.
  • Liz agrees with Tonya. Context comes up a lot. In what way can we help each other and in what way is the information useful. This goes for any conversation and any topic.
  • Income is such a small piece of the money conversation.
  • Shannon doesn’t want money to have that much power over her life, so talking about it doesn’t bother her. They are just numbers and they don’t define us. Why do we give it that power? If she shares it, nobody has power over.
  • Part of why Shannon is so passionate about this is because she sees how much power it holds over her clients in a negative way.
  • These numbers are not fixed. They are not set in stone, so don’t fix them in your heart and brain.
  • For Tonya, it is nobody’s business until she decides to tell them. It isn’t because she is nervous or feels shame about it.
  • Liz feels the same way about weight. It is personal. She didn’t hesitate to tell the airline her weight when she was boarding a small plane, but she doesn’t feel like it is helpful in most situation. The food she eats and her exercise plan seems more helpful.
  • Years ago, when Tonya worked for a company, they had a girls’ dinner and it turned out to be an awkward, divulging of so much information. Tonya was uncomfortable hearing this stuff from her coworkers. It felt like TMI, because she didn’t want to know this information.
  • Shannon’s life coach said people want to come to you as who they are and they want to be seen without judgement. They want to share what they are.
  • At that time, Shannon felt like she had a lot of secrets and she had this need to share things with others, because she felt like nobody knew her.
  • There is a very strong connection between Financial Trainers and clients, because they share so much together. People want to share things, but they don’t have the right outlet.
  • Liz goes out to dinner with a couple of friends, without their kids, and they talk about money, sex, health issues, parents, etc. There is an understanding that everything shared is confidential within that conversation.
  • Melanie thinks everyone should go to therapy, because you should be able to tell someone everything. You can’t tell all of your friends everything.
  • We can create spaces within close friendships to share these things, but we have to be careful. What if a friend gives you bad advice or if they judge you? It makes it difficult to open up again.
  • There are a lot of people out there who want to talk about money. How do we create these safe spaces and how do we test that?
  • It may not be your closest friend or spouse that you can have that conversation with, but you can find a tribe where you can share.
  • These conversations happen in the Financial Gym Money Tribes.
  • Other than going to Lola Retreat or joining an organized Money Tribe, you can find people in different Facebook groups, like Choose FI and Martinis and Your Money.
  • It doesn’t have to be about the numbers right away, but maybe about the strategy, like how to save money grocery shopping or traveling. As things get more comfortable, you can share numbers if it is helpful.
  • Liz is more of a passive evangelist. People in her real life know she works in personal finance. Sometimes people come to her, but for the most part they don’t.
  • Liz always offers to do a free reader case study for her friends, but they never take her up on it. They know she is there, but she doesn’t push. You cannot force people to be interested in a topic or make good financial decisions.
  • Liz has tried to get her book club to do a money-related book, but they always pass.
  • The Year of Less, by Cait Flanders, or You are a Badass, by Jen Sincero, are good, inconspicuous personal finance books.
  • Before Tonya moved last year, two years in a row she had a goal-setting party in January and money definitely came up. It was a natural space to talk. There were some people who were into it and some who weren’t. It was a good way to find the people who were interested in it and to follow up with them later.
  • Shannon has 20 employees and this is all they talk about at lunch.
  • Guys talk about money, jobs, and income all the time. It helps them collectively as a tribe make better choices, make more money, and invest better.
  • Shannon’s personal friends don’t want to talk to her about money, but she enjoys talking about it in a positive way.
  • Liz always asks people what they wish they were doing with their lives that they aren’t doing now. In her mom groups, money comes up a lot in the context of how much time they want to spend with their kids.
  • People are very open about how much they hate their job. Tonya asks them what is holding them back from leaving.
  • Ask questions about their situation, because people will open up. The worst thing you can do is give your opinion.
  • The best thing to do is reserve judgement and your opinion and give people the space to open up. Being a good friend is about listening to what is going on in your friend’s life.
  • The key to success in any goal-setting situation is having accountability.
  • Shannon wants people to talk more about money. She sees the transformative power of releasing the negative emotions around their financial situations. A safe space is critical. Until Shannon has Gyms around the country, she wants people to find these safe spaces.
  • Start the safe space, be the safe space, create the safe space around financial conversations.
  • Shannon wants a financial version of Cards Against Humanity.
  • Lead by example. Sometimes people are waiting for someone else to break the ice. Melanie has people ask her about paying off her student loans, because she talked about it on her blog.
  • Tonya has had so many people, who she has known for years, send her private messages saying how glad they were that she wrote about a certain topic.
  • Being open and honest without being preachy is important. Be cognizant that people may have different emotions when they are talking about money. Be vulnerable and judgement free. Be the most open counterpart for people to go to.
  • Many people feel like their finances control them. It usually comes down to how you feel about your money.
  • About 70 percent of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck. The monthly membership to the Financial Gym starts around $85 a month. If you don’t feel like you can spare $85, you are not preparing for your future and there are blind spots. No one should live a life like that.
  • The Gym offers a scholarship to college students and people who really need the help. They have a higher dropout rate of people who get the scholarship than people who pay the regular price every month.
  • The advice is only as good as the work you put into it. Ninety percent of Gym clients meet their goals. It is like weight loss — it doesn’t happen overnight. You have to believe you can do it.
  • Get comfortable sharing, because they are just numbers. Talking about money can be fun and empowering, and we all need to help each other out.

TAKEAWAY: My biggest takeaway is to remember that just because you may be comfortable talking about money, not everyone else is. If your regular friends don’t want to be your money friends, there are plenty of people out there who would. Making new friends is always a good thing!

If you want to work with my team at the Financial Gym and let my trainers become your new BFF, best financial friend, remember that Martinis and Your Money Listeners get 15% off Financial Gym services. My financial trainers have seen it all. No matter where you’re starting, we have the tools and resources to get you where you want to go. So head over to, or send friends to, financialgym.com.

If you have any topics you would like for us to talk about during happy hour, please feel free to email me at shannon@finblonde.com or tweet to me at blonde_finance or join the private martinis and your money Facebook group and let us know. Until next time, take care!!

Getting Financially Naked with Kayla

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Getting Financially Naked with Kayla

At the Financial Gym, we call the first meeting you have with a trainer the “financially naked session.” In this meeting, you share everything about yourself financially so the trainer knows where you’re starting and so he or she can make the plan for how you can get where you want to go. Above all other meetings, this one scares clients the most because they are afraid or ashamed of their financial situation.

A few months back on this podcast, I shared my financially naked session and it led to a request for more. Getting in the hot seat today is our client Kayla. She started her journey with us to getting financially healthy only to take a huge step in another direction, which was certainly not part of the original plan. She joins me today to share her story and how that impacted her finances.

What Are We Drinking?

Kayla — Opolo Rosé

Shannon — Grapefruit Schweppes and Vodka

Podcast Notes

  • Shannon met Kayla at Lola Retreat and at the Money Tribe Meeting in L.A.
  • Over the last three months, Shannon has visited the top four Money Tribe locations and San Francisco.
  • The L.A. group has been meeting up every month and they went on a Saturday hike recently. Kayla likes the accountability of the group and Crystal, her Financial Trainer. 
  • Another New York Financial Gym is needed, because they are outgrowing that space. That will happen alongside the D.C. Gym. D.C. will be the first non-New York Gym and they have narrowed down two spots for two more physical locations. Once the D.C. location build is finalized, the L.A. location will be next.
  • Shannon set a goal to go to all of the tribes during the first quarter of the year. Being with everyone and asking where they should put the new Gyms has motivated Shannon to raise the money she needs to get them up and running.
  • In January 2018, Kayla was reading an article in the New York Times about upleveling your finances and getting your finances on track. This led her to the book Your Money or Your Life, which completely upended everything she had learned about finances and saving up to that point.
  • In a small workshop in college, she learned that if you are saving five to ten percent of your income, you are doing great. After reading the book, she learned that she could save 30% or more of her income.
  • Kayla then started listening to podcasts including Martinis and Your Money, which she leaned about by hearing Shannon on another podcast.
  • One year ago, Kayla decided to sign up as a client of the Gym. She benefits from external motivation and having someone help her lay out a plan was critical. The time has gone so quickly and she has changed and her goals have shifted. She now feels more ownership over her finances.
  • It is the little changes you make that add up over time.
  • Sometimes it is difficult to stay motivated and focus when the changes aren’t massive, but it is worth it.
  • Kayla veered off the road a few times, but Crystal helped get her back on track. The important thing is for clients to feel good about their decisions and not have any regrets.
  • Wherever you are is exactly where you need to be. If you are listening to this podcast, you are already miles ahead on educating yourself on your finances.
  • Don’t feel guilty or regretful of the past, just continue to look forward. Small steps really do add up.
  • When Kayla started at the Gym, she was in a different job. She recently changed jobs. She worked in the higher education field for most of her career and moved from a traditional campus role to working for an ed tech startup.
  • When she joined the Gym, she wasn’t planning on looking for a new job. Career change was a goal that she outlined with Crystal, but she was originally focused on saving toward a skills training course. 
  • Kayla reached a point in her previous job where she felt better walking the path of risk taking and challenging herself to get the new role than she did suffering day after day in her position.
  • She considered the financial impact of the job change and intentionally saved to have a cushion.
  • The Gym is obsessive about clients saving for the emergency fund/larger life fund. It is freeing to have it there. It gives you more choice and freedom to dictate where you want your life to go versus having to be somewhere. There is nothing worse than having to be someplace, especially if it is to stay in a place of unhappiness.
  • After six months of joining the Gym, Kayla established her emergency fund. She went from someone who was just marginally spending more than she was making for a long time to the emergency fund being her biggest focus. It saved her a lot down the road when things went crazy.
  • If you are thinking of changing jobs, find out what your company’s policy is on paying unused vacation time. It may be the deciding factor. 
  • Unused vacation payouts are different based on what state you live in and the company. The payout could really add up.
  • Questions from the financially naked discovery questionnaire:
    • Birthday: 12/21/86
    • Job: Works at an ed tech company
    • Salary: $70,000 
    • Kayla’s Net Pay: $1,900/bi-weekly
    • USAA Checking Account: $1,656
    • Discover Emergency Savings Account: $8,402
    • Betterment Account IRA: $70,049
    • Roth IRA: $6,197
    • Transamerica Retirement through work: $355
    • Chase Sapphire Reserve Credit Card: $234
    • Alaska Airlines Credit Card: $41
    • USAA Credit Card: $0
    • Car Loan: Paid off in January (was $3,830 when she started) 
    • Net Worth Increase: $24,000 (Goal: $100,000 by Dec 31)
    • Credit Score: was 790 in January; a couple weeks ago it was at 756
    • Rent/Utilities: $1,500/month (split evenly between her and her boyfriend)
    • Auto Insurance: $90/month
    • Health Insurance: Yes
    • Life Insurance: through work
    • Long-Term Disability: through work
    • Will: Yes
    • Children: No
    • Average Monthly Expenses: $1,820
    • Goals 1-3 years: get net worth over $100,000; save $10,000 to $20,000 for continuing education; continue saving and investing
    • Goals 3-5 years: Increase income
    • Goals long-term: Saving for financial independence 
    • What’s important to you (sacred cows): traveling to see family and health
  • Kayla took a substantial pay cut ($16,000 – a 28% reduction) to take her new job. She was willing to take the pay cut, because it still put her in a comfortable place and she was gaining a lot of other things. She now works fully remotely, and she doesn’t spend and hour plus in her car getting to work every day.
  • When she tallied up the pros and cons it was things like this that she couldn’t put a monetary value on but she knew it would have lots of effects on her overall happiness and satisfaction.
  • Research consistently shows that we undervalue time and overvalue money.
  • The Gym has a lot of clients on an exercise now of how do they lower their cost of living so they can have more flexibility in their job.
  • Before Shannon started the Gym, she was living a lifestyle where she had to make $200,000.
  • When Kayla was in transition to her new job, she picked up a side hustle, freelance writing, that earned about $200 – $250 per month, depending on how many hours she worked. 
  • Kayla was unemployed for about four months before she started working at her current job six weeks ago.
  • Her assets have increased by $21,000 in the last year, even with taking a job cut and being unemployed for four months. 
  • Shannon really focuses on clients’ cash, and Kayla’s cash is up by $3,000.

Takeaway: My biggest takeaway is the value that financial health can give you when making life changes, especially around jobs. The more healthy you are financially, the more options you have for making changes when you need to.

Random Three Questions

  1. Do you have an interest in traveling, and if so, other than traveling to visit family, where would you like to go?
  2. What are some of the other podcasts you listen to?
  3. If this was your last night on earth, what would be your last meal?

If you’d like to get financially naked with my team, and drop any fear or shame you have around money, I hope you’ll reach out to us at the Financial Gym. My trainers have literally seen it all, so nothing will surprise us. We don’t care how you got here, we just care about getting you where you want to go. 

The great news is that Martinis and Your Money listeners get 15% off Financial Gym services. So if you’re ready to manifest your dreams, like Kayla in 2019, head over to or send friends to, financialgym.com to get signed up today.

The Wedding Hacker with Heather Fier

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The Wedding Hacker with Heather Fier

As some of you know, I have a gripe against weddings. I don’t love watching clients go into credit card debt planning or participating in weddings. So you can imagine how excited I was to hear about Heather Fier aka the Wedding Hacker. She created her business to literally help couples plan the weddings of their dreams in the most cost-effective way. Heather joins me to share why she decided to start this business and share some really great ideas for how couples can save on their wedding.

What Are We Drinking?

Heather — Bulletproof Coffee (includes butter & coconut oil)

Shannon —  Black Cherry Schweppes

Podcast Notes

  • Shannon met Heather through Stacey, who is a listener and former guest on the podcast.
  • Heather started doing event planning when she was in middle school, and she was on every dance committee. She loved organizing and putting together events.
  • This continued through college with planning huge fundraisers and events at UCLA that provided funds for pediatric AIDS research and other things.
  • This fed in naturally to a company Heather’s mom started locally in San Diego that did event marketing in natural food stores. 
  • After Heather graduated from college, she came back to San Diego to help her mom grow the company.
  • Over 15 years, they took this event marketing company, working with Whole Foods, Jimbo’s, and other big chains that were just starting to bud at that time, and they grew national.
  • They ended up with 3,000 field reps across the country doing in-store events for store launches, grand openings, and themed special events.
  • Heather was coordinating building up the team, training everyone, and learning how to put on events on a scaled model.
  • When Heather’s mom was ready to retire, the business was acquired by a competitor and it left Heather wondering where she should go next. It was exciting and terrifying all at the same time.
  • Heather was deciding where to go next when she looked back and realized she had helped about 20 friends with their weddings. Her friends were referring their friends to her and it was becoming a small side business.
  • Heather’s friend group were all middle class and they were comfortable talking to her about their budgets and what they could spend.
  • Heather was good at guiding them with budgets of $10,000 and $15,000 price points. These were the only weddings she was planning. 
  • Over time, she started getting referrals for friends who were UCLA based and they were spending significantly more. Their parents had more to spend, and she started planning weddings that were around $30,000 and $40,000. 
  • It seemed easy to plan a wedding with a higher budget, because they could go anywhere and it would fit in their budget.
  • Heather really liked the challenge of planning weddings on a lower budget. She started thinking about how she could do this and make money. When you work for people on those budgets, there is no room to pay a wedding planner. 
  • This opened her eyes to how the wedding industry worked. The wedding industrial complex has a lot of dark undertones, where there are kickbacks and wedding planners have preferred lists of vendors they refer you to.
  • Heather wanted to build something that was a different model, so she started writing a book. She pulled together all of resources she knew of, talked to other people, and came up with a model of doing a virtual wedding planning company. This way she can help many people in a group setting and offer the little one-on-one support you need, like reviewing contracts and coaching clients through the family drama that comes up.
  • This is the same guidance she would give everyone, like how to locate a venue that is off the radar of the wedding industry. She figured if she could do this on scale, she could make it affordable and approachable.
  • Since she has the experience of building a company to a national level, Heather is building out a network of regional coordinators. Once she does the online planning with people, she can hand them off to someone locally who can oversee the day.
  • Where money and emotion come together, it is difficult to be rational in our financial choices. The two most emotional times in our lives are usually getting married and having children.
  • Shannon has had six clients who have been with her from the engagement to the wedding. They have all gone over budget, but none have gotten financially crazy. 
  • Shannon makes sure there is money available and that her clients don’t go into credit card debt for their weddings. 
  • When there are so many emotional decisions, you tend to make the easiest decision possible.
  • One of the first things Heather tells couples is to not look at their wedding budget as monopoly money. If someone else is contributing to the budget, it is easy to think that contribution doesn’t count. 
  • Heather recommends putting the money in a bank account so they are looking at it. This way they can realize that if they stay under budget, they get to put that money into their savings account and invest it in something that is valuable to them long term.
  • It is important to make it a tangible thing.
  • There are so many decisions around the wedding, and every line item has a financial impact. It is easy to get lost in those decisions.
  • Be careful of what wedding sites you are looking at. Most vendors want to do a good job for the couple, but they are not marketers. They don’t have a full team of people in their office helping them run ads themselves, so they turn to the big giants to find their clients and they pay too much. That cost is passed on to the customers.
  • If you look on those sites and choose all of the one dollar sign options, which are the cheapest options available, it will still push you over $20,000. 
  • Venues charge different prices for weddings than they do for other events. It is about 50 percent less to hold a graduation party or anniversary party at the same place. 
  • There is a wedding tax that is applied, because it comes from the marketing expense vendors need to pay. 
  • Walk around the neighborhood that you think is cute and look at the restaurants, parks, and community center. Explore those things and consider the places that aren’t advertising for weddings. 
  • Don’t look for the people who are looking for you. 
  • Cover bands that play in bars are usually good at playing the top 40 songs and they are usually much cheaper than wedding bands. Since they play Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, they don’t need to make all of their money on one night. 
  • Don’t be afraid to hire older, more experienced bands. If you look up wedding bands, it could be $5,000 and more.
  • Sometimes DJs do a little better job at being the Master of Ceremony (MC).
  • If you hire a bar band and are concerned about them not being a good MC, have an outgoing family member do it. Schedule all of the MC duties at the beginning of the night (introductions, cake cutting, special dances, etc.), so when you are two hours in, you don’t have a drunk uncle still talking in the microphone.
  • Having the day flow well helps guests enjoy the day more.
  • Think about the weddings you’ve been to and what is the most memorable thing? Is it the food or music or is it the flowers and little place cards?
  • There is crazy pressure to have the perfect wedding. The wedding website pictures are all staged. They aren’t real. It is impossible, because there are people at real weddings and people are messy.
  • If you are looking to have a highly styled wedding like the pictures you see online, consider eloping. If you are looking for gorgeous photography, go have that done and then come back and throw a party a month later. You don’t need to do it all in one day. 
  • If you are the bride and you are concerned about the look and feel of the room, you aren’t going to see any of it. The most styling you want to pay attention to is your outfit and your spouse’s outfit, because that is what you are going to see the most, other than your guests.
  • Give yourself space and room to enjoy all of the special people who came to celebrate you.
  • Book your photographer for minimal hours on your wedding day, so they can get your ceremony pictures and the main highlights of your reception, and then have them leave. Do all of the portraits of you and your spouse another day. The cost of redoing your hair and makeup again and doing a couples photo shoot is going to be significantly less than paying the premium of a wedding day photography rate. You will save money and you will be less stressed and more natural.
  • You don’t need photography quality shots at the end of the night. Your friends will be taking those with their phones. 
  • For the super low budget couples, consider only having a photographer at the ceremony and have the reception be crowd sourced. You can set up different tech now where people at the wedding can post pictures from different perspectives. They will be doing this anyway.
  • Look at who is giving you advice when you are spending. It is probably someone who will benefit from you spending more.
  • You don’t need to tip everyone. Most vendors, like your florist or photographer, are not expecting anything other than what you agree to pay them. If you want to do something to thank them, consider a nicely written thank you note or a bottle of wine. If you hated working with them, don’t give them anything extra. 
  • The one group you should tip is the servers. Give them cash tips directly or have someone in your staff do that. If you have a fully stocked bar, make sure your guests are still throwing some tips toward the bartender. The workers on the ground are going to be the most appreciative of getting a tip.
  • Most catering companies or venues are going to charge a service fee and they tell you that in the fine print. In your contract it may say it will be $59 per head for the meal “plus plus”. This means you are going to add a lot more money to it. That $59 may turn into $120 per person.
  • Often in the fine print it will say it is $59 plus plus, but there is a minimum of $20,000 you need to spend. If you only have $100 people, you are almost forced to spring for the open bar and extra appetizers, just to hit the minimum.
  • Budget Busters:
    • Venue: If you choose the wrong one, it can lead you down a more expensive path. Every venue has a preferred list of vendors, and those vendors are not dedicated to you, they are dedicated to the venue. If you look up reviews of those preferred vendors, a lot of times they are not even that good, because they don’t need to be. Avoid venues that have preferred lists and have minimum spends in the fine print.
    • Wedding parties: It is a tradition that you don’t really need to do. You can have all of these friends at your wedding and not pay the money to transport them across town, for proposal gifts to propose to all of the women in your bridal party, or the forced moments. It will be a relief to them and to you to not have those required gifts or expenses. Let your friends come to your wedding as your guests. You can find ways to involve your friends in your day.
    • Wedding Sites: Avoid the major websites to find your vendors. There are some really great resources that are a little off brand from weddings, like Thumbtack, GigMasters, and WedBrilliant. These are all sites where you can define what you need for how long on what date and location and put in the price you will pay. If a vendor can do it, they will reach out to you. You can find vendors who are suited to your needs. 
  • At the end of the day, your wedding is the most special to you and your spouse. 
  • There is an episode of Adam Ruins Everything, and it cuts straight to the bone about weddings. Let the traditions go that you don’t like.
  • Heather did a webinar at the Financial Gym in March about weddings.
  • Own your money and do not feel obligated to do anything you don’t want to do.
  • It will be a special day, no matter your budget. It is only one day, this is just the beginning, and there will be so much more you will want to accomplish with this person. 

TAKEAWAY: I hope you enjoyed my conversation with Heather today. My biggest takeaway is that your wedding day is an important official kickoff to your relationship; however, it’s just one day in what will hopefully be thousands of days spent with your significant other. If you can make this day as cost-effective as possible, it will be the best kickoff to your relationship.

Random Three Questions

  1. Do you have a favorite wedding movie?
  2. What is your favorite food option to serve at a wedding?
  3. What is your favorite place to recommend for honeymoons?

Connect with Heather

Website: The Wedding Hacker

Instagram: @weddinghackerclub 

If you’d like to get financially naked with my team, and budget for a wedding or combine finances with your significant other, I hope you’ll reach out to us at the Financial Gym. We’ve helped hundreds of clients plan amazing weddings without going into debt.

The great news is that Martinis and Your Money listeners get 15% off Financial Gym services. So if you’re ready to manifest your dreams of budgeting for the perfect wedding, head over to financialgym.com to get signed up today.

Getting Financially Naked with Rebekkah

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Getting Financially Naked with Rebekkah

At the Financial Gym, we call the first meeting you have with a trainer the “financially naked session.” In this meeting, you share everything about yourself financially so the trainer knows where you’re starting and so he or she can make the plan for how you can get where you want to go. Above all other meetings, this one scares clients the most because they are afraid or ashamed of their financial situation.

A few months back on this podcast, I shared my financially naked session and it led to a request for more. Getting in the hot seat today is our client Rebekkah who is coming up on one year at the Gym. When she started with us, she had $767 in the bank and wondered if it made financial sense to join. She’s going to share her journey and where she is today.  

What Are We Drinking?

Rebekkah — Ketel One Botanical Vodka Cucumber and Mint, Water, and Lemon Essential Oil

Shannon — Hendrick’s Gin and Tonic

Podcast Notes

  • Rebekkah is coming up on her one-year review at the Financial Gym. She cannot believe how much she has accomplished.
  • Rebekkah tried everything before joining the Gym — podcasts, books, Dave Ramsey approach, etc. It kept leading to results like yo-yo dieting. She would work really hard to pay something off and then something would happen, or she would stop buying things and going out and she wasn’t able to maintain it.
  • She wasn’t getting results and then she found this podcast. Shannon spoke about finances in a way that she understood.
  • Rebekkah had her warmup call and didn’t know how she was going to afford the Gym membership. The next day she got an extra check from work that was the exact amount she needed to pay the Gym.
  • If you can’t find the money to afford the Gym, you really need to join the Gym. Something needs to change if you can’t afford $85 a month.
  • If you are really committed to working on your finances, it will work out. If not, there is a six-month, money-back guarantee.
  • Rebekkah’s budget was really tight and Joy found about $1,200 to set aside for savings and debt payoff. 
  • Rebekkah had never been able to do lump sum savings or payments without bonuses. Now she sees her savings account balance going up and her credit card debt going down. It makes a difference having a trainer.
  • The average Gym client stays about six months, but there are others that stay for years. The bulk of clients who leave are hitting their goals and they are more of DIY people. The clients who stay like to have someone on retainer to give them a quick response or perspective about a decision.
  • Getting physically and financially healthy takes work. It isn’t going to happen overnight, but if you put work into it you will get results.
  • The Gym offers clients a side hustle opportunity to take warm-up calls on nights and weekends. Rebekkah started doing this in November and it has helped her save for travel.
  • All trainers need to believe in magic to work at the Gym.
  • Gym trainers are cult-like about saving for emergencies and they prioritize that over debt repayment and all of the other goals. You just feel better when you have money in the bank. It is motivating to see your balance go up.
  • Questions from the financially naked discovery questionnaire:
    • Birthday: 7/3/91
    • Job: Lead Program Coordinator (helping individuals with disabilities)
    • City: Flagstaff, Arizona
    • Salary: $46,000
    • Rebekkah’s Net Pay: $1,500/two times a month
    • Husband’s Net Pay: $954/bi-weekly
    • Side Hustle: $600/month
    • Future Car Fund: $315
    • Emergency Savings: $15,222
    • Travel Account: $4,200
    • Emergency Savings for Brother: $2,000 (brother has autism)
    • Life Purchase Account: $500
    • Brokerage Fund Account: $410
    • Total of all Savings Accounts: $22,647 (from $767 one year ago)
    • Retirement Account: None yet, spouse has pension
    • Car Loan: Paid off; had $5,000 balance one year ago
    • Credit Card: Paid off; was $5,600 on hers and $10,000 on her husband’s one year ago
    • Net Worth Increase: $45,000
    • Student Loans: $32,000 (four years left)
    • Credit Score: 727 (was 662); husband’s increased by 20 points
    • Rent: $1,175
    • Car Insurance: $45/month (recently lowered from $165/month); once your car is paid off, you can look at lowering coverage and divert the savings and the amount of your previous car payment into the car fund
    • Will/Trust: Not Yet
    • Life Insurance: Yes 
    • Long-Term Disability: Yes
    • Average Monthly Expenses: $2,000
    • Children: No
    • Goals 1-3 years: Quit current position, start investing, move to a bigger home, trip to Europe in October
    • Goals 3-5 years: one larger trip a year 
    • Goals long-term: Financial independence, travel, live in different places 
    • What’s important to you (sacred cows): Subscriptions (HBO, Hulu, Netflix, audiobooks) and expensive vodka

Takeaway: My biggest takeaway is to not be afraid to invest in yourself, especially where your financial health is concerned. We see transformations like Rebekkah’s every single day at the Gym. The hardest part, like any journey, is just getting started.

Random Three Questions

  1. What is the next big trip you would like to take?
  2. What do you like to binge watch?
  3. If you won a million dollars, what would you do with it?

If you’d like to get financially naked with my team, and drop any fear or shame you have around money, I hope you’ll reach out to us at the Financial Gym. My trainers have literally seen it all, so nothing will surprise us. We don’t care how you got here, we just care about getting you where you want to go. 

The great news is that Martinis and Your Money listeners get 15% off Financial Gym services. So if you’re ready to manifest your dreams, like Rebekkah in 2019, head over to or send friends to, financialgym.com to get signed up today.

The Path to Financial Health with Cherie

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The Path to Financial Health with Cherie

Over the last six years of helping people get financially fit, the one thing I can say is the path to financial fitness is not the same for everyone. It’s just like the path to physical fitness. Some people like the keto diet, a vegan diet, Weight Watchers, SoulCycle, Zumba, CrossFit, and so much more. Getting financially fit is the same — what works for some people may not work for you. Today I’m talking to Financial Gym client, Cherie, who reached out to the Gym over a year ago, because she knew she needed to find a better way to get financially healthy. She’s going to share her story, what worked and didn’t work for her, and how she’s dropping the shame she feels around her path to financial fitness.

What Are We Drinking?

Cherie — Joseph Handler Sweet Red Wine

Shannon —  Grapefruit Schweppes with Vodka

Podcast Notes

  • Cherie is a Financial Gym client who initially called the Gym because she was about to pay off her debt and she felt herself getting back into the habit again.
  • Prior to that Cherie followed Dave Ramsey’s plan for 29 months and paid off over $100,000 of debt.
  • Cherie was getting a tax refund check of about $10,000 in May 2015. She got into her car and heard Dave Ramsey on the radio and his accent made her feel at home. He started talking in a counter-cultural way and it got her attention.
  • Cherie lives in Southern California and she is a high income earner, but she didn’t know what her debt was at the time. She made enough money to pay everything, but when she totaled up her debt it was $113,476. She had no idea.
  • Her debt included everything but student loans. She was delusional about credit cards, because she didn’t have credit card debt, but at one point, she had four 401(k) loans, three personal loans from her bank and credit union, and a $47,000 car loan (she traded in her BMW for a minivan, because she had a child).
  • Cherie loves the podcast, because she picks up cues here and there.
  • Cherie is an extremist and she took a hard left when she finished reading Dave Ramsey’s book. She had a plan to take her mom and grandma on a cruise and she called them and cancelled the trip. She was planning to pay for the cruise with her tax refund.
  • Although she was a high income earner, she had low income earner mentality. Having a big tax return was a sense of pride. Cherie was spending so much and she knew if she got a tax bill she wouldn’t be able to pay it. She claimed 0 for her tax withholding and opted to set aside an extra $100 every paycheck. 
  • Cherie went all in and sold her car, sold her expensive handbags, and started paying off her debt.
  • She worked her first job at age 14 to buy a Coach bag. She had an aunt that she looked up to and she was the only aunt that was working. The other women in her family were homemakers. Her aunt was young and fashionable, and at one point her aunt flew to NYC to buy a bag from the Coach flagship store. After that, Cherie couldn’t wait to buy a Coach bag.
  • Cherie never had a financial conversation with her aunt until recently, and she found out that her aunt is financially savvy and lives within her means. She pays cash for her bags.
  • Cherie had to figure out financial stuff on her own. She learned from a young age that if you work hard enough, you will have enough money. She has a scavenger mentality when it comes to money — there will never be enough. There is a competing mentality that she can always make enough.
  • She has a masters degree and a lot of technical skill sets. If she needs to, she can always go and do hair.
  • When Cherie called the Gym, she had maybe $13,000 or $14,000 of debt left and she was running out of gas. She couldn’t maintain it. 
  • It was like Cherie was on a cleanse and all she wanted to do was eat pizza. There is a correlation between finances and food, because we need both and we need a healthy relationship with each. You need to do what is right for you, for your situation and circumstances.
  • The experience at the Financial Gym is unique to each individual person. A financial plan is a template, but the application of the plan is totally different for everyone.
  • Cherie struggles to find a balance between being extreme and doing what is right for her. 
  • Dave Ramsey has a formula that works for a lot of people who are looking for a way out, but at some point, you need to tailor it to fit what works for you.
  • Alicia, Cherie’s financial trainer, has helped tailor a plan to fit what Cherie needs.
  • Having gone through a divorce, Cherie is not the person she was before then. Before she got married, debt wasn’t a big deal to her. She would have $10,000 in debt, pay it off, and repeat. After the divorce debt became emotional to her. 
  • Financial health is not a one-size-fits-all solution for everyone. When you fall short of established rules, there is a lot of shame that comes with that. You need to find a something that works for you and your lifestyle.
  • Following the Dave Ramsey plan allowed Cherie to fast track her debt payment, but after paying off $100,000, all she wanted to do was buy a pair of Gucci pumps.
  • There are different ways to get financially healthy. Like getting physically healthy, you could choose the keto diet, working out, and other diets. You need to choose the one that works best for you. It doesn’t matter what path you choose if it works for you.
  • If you live the standard American dream, you won’t have any money left over. The new dream hasn’t been defined yet. The number one dream for Gym clients is travel, the number two dream is pets, and the number three dream is family and/or friends, and number four is flexibility.
  • Shannon lived the American dream. She went to a good school, got a business degree, got an investment banking job, made a bunch of money, got married, had a baby, and owned a home all before she turned 30. At 30.5, she was miserable and was getting a life coach. 
  • Sign up for your own life story, not somebody else’s life story.
  • If you set goals that don’t resonate with you, then you will not be as motivated to accomplish them. You need to set financial goals that you have an emotional connection to.
  • There is a lot of emotion around money, but fear and shame should not be part of it. 
  • Cherie felt a lot of shame because she wanted to buy bags and shoes. 
  • When Hilary Hendershott was on the podcast, she talked about the emotional attachment to finances and where it all comes from and your emotional operating system. 
  • Cherie got the scholarship to go to Lola Retreat in NYC and it was a breath of fresh air for her to be around such a positive group of women. She can now start to define what that path looks like for her.
  • The right financial path is like buying a pair of black pumps. There are thousands of styles of black pumps and there isn’t just one that will be right for everyone.
  • Cherie has been a client of the Financial Gym for over a year now.
  • Financial health is a journey and figuring out the right thing for you. That doesn’t happen overnight, it is a constant evolution.
  • Cherie has been working with Alicia to find the right balance.
  • Cherie took her daughter on a cruise immediately after she got her financial plan from the Gym.
  • The three biggest spending areas for Gym clients are Amazon, Seamless/food delivery/Uber, and drugstore/personal care items.
  • You need to define what you are working for and what you value.
  • Cherie has a high-stress job that she loves. She needs to take time to detox from her job. She needs to take time to detox from being a single parent in a big city.
  • If you are not getting financial success, try a lot of different ways. Sometimes it takes a year to find what works.
  • When you are committed to your plan, you will always get results.
  • If whatever you are doing financially is making you feel shame, it is probably the wrong thing. Don’t shame yourself — life is too short!
  • You are on your own unique journey. Don’t shame yourself based on someone else’s journey.
  • The beauty of the Financial Gym is having someone else looking at your finances and giving you a formula that is specific to you.

TAKEAWAY: My biggest takeaway, other than the fact that I want to drink more sweet wine with Cherie, is that Dave Ramsey or other financial paths are not always best for everyone. You have to use the approach that not only works but feels like a sustainable path to financial wellness. There are plenty of paths so if one doesn’t work for you, don’t stop looking.

Random Three Questions

  1. Where is somewhere you would like to travel?
  2. What is something you do to relax?
  3. If you were to win one million dollars, what would you do with it?

If you’ve tried a number of ways to get financially healthy and none of them are sustainable or working for you, I hope you’ll reach out to us at the Financial Gym. My trainers have literally seen it all so nothing will surprise us. We don’t care how you got here, we just care about getting you where you want to go.

The great news is that Martinis and Your Money listeners get 15% off Financial Gym services. If you’re ready to manifest your dreams of getting and staying financially healthy, head over to, or send friends to, financialgym.com to get signed up today.

Financial Literacy with the Happy Hour Ladies

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Financial Literacy with the Happy Hour Ladies

Today is the last Friday of the month and my regular listeners know that on the last Friday of the month, I host the happy hour on the podcast where I gather great friends with me to drink cheap drinks and talk about money topics. Since this is the last Friday of April, and April is Financial Literacy month, the Happy Hour ladies and I are talking about financial literacy — when we gained it, the reason it’s a problem in our country, and ways we can get more comfortable with it. As always, this was a fun and informative conversation that I hope you enjoy.

What are we drinking?

Melanie from Dear Debt — Aviation (Gin, Crème de violette, Maraschino liqueur, and Lemon Juice)

Tonya from Budget and the Beach — Pinot Grigio

Liz, Mrs. Frugalwoods, from Frugalwoods.com — Caramel Vodka Martini (Smirnoff Kissed Caramel Vodka)

Shannon — Grapefruit Schweppes and Vodka

Podcast Notes

  • Liz will be at the Financial Gym on Thursday, May 2, from 6:00pm to 8:00pm, to do a fireside chat.
  • April is Financial Literacy Month. Shannon’s first side hustle was writing for the Young Adult Money blog five years ago.
  • When did you start thinking about the term financial literacy? Did you think you were financially literate?
    • Liz didn’t think about the term financial literacy until after she started her blog. She started Frugalwoods as a personal journey documentation and went backwards and realized she was a personal finance/FIRE writer. Liz’s early experience with managing her own money was from a place of fear: she was afraid to spend it and was afraid of debt. That is almost as unhealthy as overspending, because she felt paralyzed. She was scared every time she spent money. She didn’t receive any financial education, but when she got to graduate school, she had the thought that she shouldn’t pay for that degree, so she worked at the university and got her degree for free. Liz is surprised that she made it as far as she did with as little as she knew. She still learns every day, even over the course of writing on her blog and being on the podcast. It is a blind spot for a lot of people and they shouldn’t feel embarrassed. People don’t have access to Personal Finance 101. It is important to start at the beginning. There is no shame or embarrassment.
    • Melanie learned the idea of financial literacy after she graduated with her bachelor’s degree. She thought she took out $18,000 in student loans, and it ended up being $23,000 because of interest. She didn’t realize the balance was growing while she was in school. She didn’t know the concepts around interest, student loans, capitalization, filling out taxes, etc., and she had to learn it as she went. She didn’t think about the term financial literacy until she started writing about personal finance. There are so many terms we are not taught, especially around investing and credit, it keeps us in the dark and increases our shame and anxiety around money.
    • Tonya always had financial literacy in the back of her mind, because her old journals reference her worry about not having enough money or spending too much. It was really around the time she started her blog, in 2012. She became more financially aware at that time, because she started reading books and other blogs. It has been a slow progression. Even though you can be aware of what you need to do for good financial health, it doesn’t mean you are going to do it. It is similar to losing weight. Most people know what they need to do, but it doesn’t make it easier because there is so much emotion around it.
    • Shannon didn’t think about financial literacy, but she thought she was good at finances and she had a finance degree. Shannon knew she wasn’t good at the day-to-day stuff, but she thought because she didn’t have credit card debt, had a 401(k), made a bunch of money, bought at house, and had a good credit score that her finances were good. When she became a financial advisor and started working with people, she realized how little people knew about basic investment terms. Shannon saw so many people who didn’t know what equities and stocks were. She then realized that she wasn’t as far as she should be.
  • If you don’t know it, there is no reason that you should know it. Don’t shame yourself. Unless you were talking about finances growing up at home or at school, which most of us weren’t, you didn’t get an education on it. Billions of dollars a year are spent on advertising and marketing to get us all to spend money. The odds are stacked against us.
  • A big problem in the financial services community is the assumption that people are further along in their financial literacy knowledge then they actually are.
  • Financial literacy is just like regular literacy: it has to start at home. It has nothing to do with intelligence. The Gym’s most financially literate clients had someone at home that talked about it when they were growing up.
  • You can make financial conversations age-appropriate. Liz talks to her three year-old daughter about it in simple terms.
  • Shannon started the concept of the Financial Gym when her son was five and she has been talking to him about it ever since.
  • Financial literacy is critical, just like reading.
  • If you don’t know how to read, someone will take advantage of you. It is the same thing with financial literacy.
  • The Gym is producing videos for Financial Literacy Month and Tonya is editing them. Tonya didn’t know the differences between an ETF and a mutual fund until she edited the video.
  • If you are feeling some sort of shame because you are financially illiterate, remember that most of the country is in the same place. It is not like it was taught, but don’t stay that way! Commit to knowing.
  • What are things that people should absolutely know to get financially literate?
    • Tonya: People profit off of people not knowing. Most people jump to a financial planner without knowing about the fees and what a fiduciary is and they become frustrated and don’t know where their money is going. Don’t assume you need a financial planner. There are other routes to go. Investing is more accessible than ever to do on your own. The barrier to entry is much lower than it used to be.
    • Shannon: The other extreme issue is there is so much information to sort through. Investing, credit, debt, insurance, budgeting, and retirement are categories that people need to learn more about.
    • Liz: If you hear a term you don’t know, just Google it. Don’t feel like you should already know everything. Other than the blogs of the Happy Hour ladies and the Financial Gym, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has a program called Money as you Grow, which is intended for kids and teenagers, but it is a good primer. Liz recommends the book The Simple Path to Wealth, by J L Collins. Another good book is Personal Finance for Dummies. Most of us fall into pretty general categories of what we need to do with our money. It is not going to be that complicated.
    • Melanie: People need to know about credit utilization and what they can do to improve their credit score. Knowing about interest rates is important, especially with student loans, because interest accrues daily and that is different than other types of loans. It is important to know the basics of investing and the difference between stocks and bonds and the difference between retirement vehicles. Don’t get overwhelmed if you don’t know all of this stuff. Nobody knows about it until they start looking into it. Not everyone’s parents talk about this and it isn’t taught in school. Even if you learned it from your parents, you may need to re-evaluate the information because mindsets change.
  • Understand what all of the words mean and then you can apply them to your situation. Step 1 is to get an emergency fund and pay off your debt.
  • You need to start with the basics. How do you know if it makes sense to pay off your debt or invest if you don’t know what your interest rates are and how they impact you? It is all about the building blocks and it isn’t rocket science.
  • Shannon wasn’t interested in her own personal finances, she was interested in making money. She didn’t get interested in it until she started helping people with money and realized there were people who were nowhere close to where she was.
  • The Financial Gym exists to improve financial literacy for this and future generations. If you are not financially literate now, you owe it to yourself to learn more. You will be more calm and collected in your decision making. If you have children, are thinking about having children, or if you have nieces or nephews, you owe it to the next generation. We can’t keep letting this go on. We know better, so let’s do better.
  • One of Tonya’s favorite resources is Your Money or Your Life. One of the first books Tonya read on personal finance was You Don’t Have to be Rich, by Jean Chatzky. Jean writes in a very user-friendly way that made sense to Tonya. Now Tonya stays accountable by just staying engaged in the personal finance community. If she needs specific information, she will just look it up online, but she feels comfortable about the day-to-day things.
  • The Financial Gym offers a lot of free resources. There is a free, weekly webinar every Wednesday. There is the newsletter and a blog, and they are committed to financial literacy.
  • Shannon is a big fan of podcasts. Financial literacy is like learning a new language and sometimes it is difficult to read the information.
  • There are so many free podcast now. Be Wealthy and Smart, with Linda P. Jones, is one of Shannon’s favorite podcasts. Listen to podcasters that make sense to you. Radical Personal Finance, with Joshua Sheats, is another one Shannon recommends.
  • This will not all apply to everyone. You don’t need to consume everything all at once. Look into one topic at a time and only those that apply to you. Don’t fall into paralysis by analysis. Focus on a topic you want to learn more about. When you first start reading, you don’t start with Moby Dick.
  • There is so much information out there. What are the specific areas you feel most insecure about? Look into those first. Just start!
  • Don’t be intimidated by all of the information. Michael Kitces wrote an article called Backdoor Roth IRA Contributions that is complicated and Shannon has joked that it has taken her a few times reading it before she understood what he was saying. There are some things out there that are next level and you don’t necessarily need to know about them. It probably doesn’t apply to you, so don’t worry.
  • There is a lot you can do with what you already know. You can track your spending and know your take-home pay. You can know what your gross and net pay is. Write out every debt you have and look at your statements to figure out your interest rate. This will give you a picture of where you stand and will help you identify what you need to work on.
  • Tonya likes using the app Personal Capital, so she can see what is coming in and what is going out. It gives you a better appreciation of what you have. It is reassuring to have it all at your fingertips.
  • Don’t be afraid to consolidate into one bank or one checking account. You don’t need to have bits of money in various checking accounts.
  • You don’t need be a Wall Street guru to invest.
  • Fidelity did a study of the best performing accounts and found that the investors were dead. They weren’t actively managing or doing anything special with their accounts.
  • The scariest thing is not being literate. You owe it to yourself to know what is happening in your financial life and knowing what you have.
  • Even if you are scared, open your statements. If you don’t know what it is, call the 800 number and have them explain to you what it is that you have.
  • If you have an employer-sponsored account, go to the 401(k) provider. Never feel like you have a dumb question. It is their job to explain it to you.
  • The Federal Student Aid website is boring but has a lot of good information.
  • The IRS.gov website is a great resource for tax information.
  • Investor.govInvestor.gov has good basics of investments.
  • Just start. Know where you are at right now. You cannot move forward unless you know where you are starting from.
  • The Happy Hour ladies are all proof that you can start and learn this information later in life.
  • Learn more in order to give yourself peace of mind and so nobody takes advantage of you. Take some time and invest in your financial literacy. You deserve it!

TAKEAWAY: My biggest takeaway is for you to make a commitment to your financial literacy and seek out every resource you need so you are empowered by your finances rather than afraid or confused by them.

If you want to work with my team at the Financial Gym to help you become more financially literate, remember that Martinis and Your Money Listeners get 15% off Financial Gym services, and my financial trainers have seen it all. No matter where you are starting, we have the tools and resources to get you where you want to go. So head over to, or send friends to, financialgym.com.

If you have any topics you would like for us to talk about during happy hour, please feel free to email me at shannon@finblonde.com or tweet to me at blonde_finance or join the private martinis and your money Facebook group and let us know. Until next time, take care!!

Student Loan Solution with David Carlson

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Student Loan Solution with David Carlson

I was fortunate and privileged to have my college education funded by my parents and, 23 years ago when I started college, I knew that was a big thing. I remember watching my college roommate go off to work-study and feeling thankful that wasn’t me. Then we graduated, got similar jobs at Bank of America, and shared an apartment, and she had an extra $500 a month in student loan payments that I didn’t have. Fast forward to me starting the Financial Gym and I feel like all we see, day in and day out, are people trying to figure out student loans and live their best lives possible while doing so. I’m thankful to have my friend David Carlson back on the show to chat more about student loans and the book he’s written to help with them, Student Loan Solution: 5 Steps to Take Control of Your Student Loans and Financial Life.

What Are We Drinking?

David — Rum and Coke

Shannon —  Grapefruit Schweppes with Vodka

Podcast Notes

  • David was on the podcast three years ago, when he wrote his first book Hustle Away Debt. This is one of Shannon’s favorite books and it is in the Financial Gym library. In this book, he list pages and pages of ways to make extra money.
  • Shannon’s first side hustle was writing for David’s blog, Young Adult Money, and she made $25 a post.
  • David recently wrote a new book called Student Loan Solution: 5 Steps to Take Control of your Student Loans and Financial Life.
  • David was pretty sure he wasn’t going to write a second book, because of the sacrifice and time commitment. It becomes all consuming.
  • He wrote the first book, started his blog, and became obsessed about side hustles, because of his and his wife’s student loans. The minimum payment on their 10-year loans was $1,000 a month combined.
  • Approximately 60 percent of college students don’t know what types of loans they are getting and how interest accrues.
  • David and his wife started dating in college and they didn’t know what they had – out of sight, out of mind. At that point they were still in the mindset of anything is possible and they expected they would get jobs making more than enough money to cover the expense. 
  • David’s wife is a therapist and she had to go back to school to get a masters degree. She just finished last May and started working full time.
  • David considered going back and getting an MBA and decided against it because of the cost.
  • The most shocking statistic is the number of people in student loan default. There are eight million borrowers who are in default, and about a quarter million new borrowers every three months go in default.
  • There is no way to discharge these loans in bankruptcy and there is no statute of limitations on when the federal government can collect on these loans. 
  • It felt like the right topic for David to focus on for a second book, since paying off student loans has been a big focus in his life.
  • The first issue is the government has $1.5 trillion in outstanding student loan debt that has been incurred and the second is, long term, what do you do to actually affect the amount of debt being taken out. 
  • David hasn’t seen much action being taken to lower tuition and the amount of debt being taken out. It probably will not change any time soon.
  • The price keeps going up, because colleges can keep raising their tuition and because the supply of student loan debt keeps matching the increased prices. Every time colleges raise their tuition, lenders keep stepping in. Shannon had this conversation with Andy from Student Loan Hero on the podcast in 2015. This will stop when companies stop requiring four-year degrees and instead accept certificates or courses on certain subjects and recognize the potential of the people that apply.
  • Other than a handful of degrees with specific requirements, like medicine and law, you learn the skills on the job. You need basic writing, communication, and technology skills. Some degrees don’t keep up with trends and the skills are learned outside of classrooms. 
  • Shannon didn’t have student loan debt, but her ex-husband was still paying off his student loans in his 30’s when they got married.
  • Some of these student loans last 20 or 30 years and at that point you aren’t even using the information you learned.
  • David was motivated to offset the $1,000 payment by making that amount outside of his job, so he could be more on par with his peers.
  • One of the bigger issues is there are some families can pay the full amount of college and others that can’t and it causes a big divide in society. The cycle continues when those students have kids that go to college.
  • About 65% of students graduate with student loan debt.
  • One of Shannon’s first pro bono clients had $250,000 in student loan debt and made $50,000 a year as an attorney. She said she felt unlovable and unmarriable because of all of the debt.
  • In the book, David talks about student loans, money mindset, relationships, and mental health. 
  • Mental health is becoming a bigger issue with the student loan problem. 
  • Not only do Shannon’s clients worry about their student loans, they worry about their childrens’ student loans. You can finance college, but you cannot finance your retirement.
  • Many parents who pay for their kids’ college are the least able to. Many of the parent plus student loans have the least number of benefits.
  • Shannon interviewed a financial planner a few years ago who said paying for college 20 years ago was like buying your kids a car, and now it is like buying your kids a house. 
  • For parents, paying for college is not something you need to succumb to. Have your kids take out the loans themselves. You can always help them pay for those loans later, if you are able to. There are other ways to help your kids after the fact, but it doesn’t have to be prioritized up front.
  • Average student loan debt is $50,000 and it keeps going up. Most people won’t pay that off in 10 to 15 years. A lot can happen in retirement, because people are living longer and medical costs are outpacing inflation.
  • Shannon doesn’t advise paying for kids college expenses, unless parents can pay cash. She had to tell a couple to stop putting money in a 529 plan, because they had credit card debt and hadn’t been able to put money away for their retirement.
  • There is a lot of negative press around public service loan forgiveness. A single person who makes $40,000 a year and goes into $125,000 debt needs to understand the benefit of the loan forgiveness program and how to navigate it. 
  • Student loan refinancing makes sense for some people, as it will save thousands of dollars in some cases, but as soon as you refinance the debt, you lose all of those other federal benefits like public service loan forgiveness. Pause before you refinance and investigate your options before refinancing, because the loan will be a private loan and you will have less flexibility.
  • Federal loans go with you to the grave, but private loans are due upon death.
  • An extra percent or two of interest may be worth it for the flexibility. 
  • Murder, treason, environmental crimes, and student loan debt default are the only crimes that don’t have a statute of limitation.
  • It is about 16 or 17 percent to finance getting out of default on top of your private loans. 
  • If you are not paying your federal loans, the rehab process is pretty flexible. Contact your student loan servicer and work out what you can pay. You have options. 
  • If you already have private student loan debt, if you can get a lower rate, keep refinancing to get the percentage as low as possible. 
  • At the Financial Gym, trainers promote a balanced financial life. What happens often is clients have an emotional tie to their student loans and want to pay them off as fast as possible and don’t save up an emergency fund. 
  • A $1,000 emergency should not be a surprise. The only surprise should be what the emergency is. 
  • You need to build an emergency fund to avoid going into credit card debt when an emergency happens. 
  • David recommends at least three to six months of expenses, because you never know what is going to happen. You need that flexibility. 
  • David has seen recently that without an emergency fund, you may not be willing to take the same career risks if you did have that cash on hand. You may end up stagnating in your career and not speaking. 
  • Having the cash in your bank account gives you more confidence to be yourself and changes how you approach your life decisions.
  • Student loans are a part of your financial life but they shouldn’t consume your life. 
  • You need to understand what type of loans you have, your repayment options, and the pros and cons of refinancing. Understand your debt, and the implications of it, and build a plan.

TAKEAWAY: My biggest takeaway is to remember that student loans are debt but not a death sentence. Paying them off is more like a marathon than a sprint and you will have a much more fulfilling and balanced lifestyle if you proactively manage your debt while working toward other important life goals.

Random Three Questions

  1. What is a show you like to binge watch?
  2. What is a food you did not like as a child and do you like it as an adult?
  3. If you were a professional wrestler, what would be your entrance theme song?

Connect with David

Website: Young Adult Money

Book: Student Loan Solution

If you’d like to get financially naked with my team, and work through your student loan situation, I hope you’ll reach out to us at the Financial Gym. My trainers have literally seen it all so nothing will surprise us. We don’t care how you got here, we just care about getting you where you want to go.

The great news is that Martinis and Your Money listeners get 15% off Financial Gym services. So if you’re ready to manifest your dreams of tackling your student loans while also managing your mental health, head over to financialgym.com to get signed up today.