Invested Development with Amanda Holden

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Invested Development with Amanda Holden

I think of financial health as having a number of pieces to the puzzle that all come together to make us financially healthy people. The primary pieces, or the outline of the puzzle, include budgeting, expense management, saving, credit management, debt management, investing, insurance or risk management, and income management.

At the Financial Gym, we help our clients figure out all of these pieces and where they fit into the puzzle, and, while I think they’re all equally important, I think the investing piece is typically the last one people figure out. Either they haven’t gotten to a point where they’re saving enough to make investing a priority, they’re afraid to start, or they don’t know where to go to learn more about it. That’s why I’m excited to have Amanda from the Dumpster Dog Blog and Invested Development, to talk more about investing and the amazing resource she’s created to help you get started, or get more comfortable with, the investing piece of your financial health puzzle.

What Are We Drinking?

Amanda — Spicy Margarita 

Shannon —  Schweppes Grapefruit Sparkling Water with Tito’s Vodka

Podcast Notes

  • When Amanda graduated from college she needed a job, so she started working for an investment management firm in San Francisco. She started there at the beginning of 2008, right at as the financial crash was happening. 
  • She had a front row seat to the rollercoaster, and it was a wild time to be there because the success of the firm was so tied to the stock market in general. About 70 percent of her department was laid off, just a few months after she started working there.
  • Amanda managed to not get laid off, and she made it through the financial crisis with that company. She ended up working as an investment counselor and worked directly with their high net worth clients. She did that for about three or four years.
  • She was the point person working directly with the clients, so she was the one on the phone or meeting with them.
  • Amanda would keep them apprised of portfolio strategy or answer questions about the market, and she would get to know their personal financial situations. It was basically letting old, rich white guys complain about their money to her all day.
  • It was a great job and she learned a lot. The learning curve was very steep. She was thrust into this position.
  • When Amanda was an associate, one of the guys from the investment counselor department came down and told her to work for them. She was the youngest woman in the department.
  • She wouldn’t be able to do what she does now without that experience. It would have been hard to learn what she did without that front line experience, but helping rich men get richer was not going to be it for her.
  • Amanda spent eight months saving up all of her money and that was the genesis of her nickname, Dumpster Dog, which is the name of her blog. She got super scrappy about saving money.
  • She quit that job to travel. While traveling she thought that her work with investments wasn’t done, and she started thinking of ways she could get the information back to the demographic she cares most about, which is young women, or anybody who has felt left out of these conversations. 
  • These conversations are typically reserved for people who are already wealthy.
  • Amanda ended up back in her hometown, Portland, Oregon, and that is where she has been for the last couple of years, getting her business off the ground.
  • Her business, Invested Development, is essentially investment seminars, writing, and an online course.
  • Amanda said that wealthy people do not necessarily know more than those without money.
  • In the aftermath of 2008, Amanda’s job was to assure her clients that the situation was bad, but it is just a normal part of the cycle. She was mostly begging them not to do something that would ultimately hurt them in the long run, like go to cash or sell their investments at a loss. 
  • The amount of reminders it took was unbelievable. Most of the people Amanda worked with did not acquire their money through investing, it was mostly through their family or through a business.
  • It is an advantage to smaller investors to just jump in and get your feet wet with small amounts. It would feel crushing to do something wrong with $100, but it would feel worse to do that with $10 million. 
  • Shannon also had that misconception that people with wealth had more investment knowledge. Part of her training as a financial advisor was to do role playing. In one of those sessions, she had to explain an investment portfolio that she was trying to sell. Shannon started talking about asset allocation the way she does now, with a pie analogy. 
  • Shannon’s mentor told her that the pie analogy might work with a small mom and pop investor, but when you are working with a sophisticated investor she needed up her game. 
  • After talking to clients, they actually did appreciate the analogy, because they never understood what their advisor was talking about.
  • Amanda does her investment seminars for universities, sororities, in corporate settings, and for women’s groups.
  • One of the hardest seminars she did was at a high powered law firm where the women in the room had these incredible jobs, but she got the sense that they were almost competitive with one other and nobody was vulnerable enough to ask a question or show that they didn’t understand something.
  • Amanda loves going into the sororities, because they don’t think they should already know this stuff, so they are laughing, asking questions, and not caring about looking dumb. 
  • Shannon did an Investment 101 seminar at the Financial Gym one night, and there was a woman who raised her hand and asked Shannon to explain what the markets are. Everyone kept telling this woman she needed to invest in the markets and she didn’t know what that meant. 
  • You cannot just assume that people know what it means to invest in the market. If you’ve never taken a financial class, how should you know what that means.
  • The things you take for granted for knowing are the things that tons of people don’t know. 
  • These are not naturally occurring things that we have intuition around, this is not something that is imbedded into us. We’ve created this crazy system and it really takes sitting down and familiarizing yourself with it if you want to learn about it.
  • It is a whole new language and there is no reason why anyone should know it. It is just like any language, there are degrees of how much you should immerse yourself in it. 
  • At the end of the day, there is not a lot that you need to know about it. There are some high-level things you should get comfortable with. On the other end, you could get into the weeds, but the general population doesn’t need more than the high level ideas and concepts. 
  • A lot of people don’t invest because they don’t understand it, and they are missing out. 
  • If you are scared of investing because you are scared of losing money and your money is sitting in a bank account, your worst fears are happening, because you are losing money every day.
  • One of the greatest things about investing, at least from what we’ve seen historically, is that taking these extremely simple strategy steps and doing a very set it and forget it and not getting in there and trying to get cute and have this complicated portfolio is actually the best way to invest. 
  • Doing something that is completely automated, where you think about it maybe an hour a year, has actually performed the best historically. 
  • When picking stocks, it is all over the place and you cannot predict what is going to happen. A simple strategy is best. 
  • Stock picking can be such a fool’s errand for so many reasons. Shannon has recommended picking two ETFs and calling it a day.
  • Stock prices aren’t moving on fundamentals, they are moving on sentiment. They are moving on buyers and sellers buying and selling.
  • It can take years or decades for stocks to balance out. 
  • There are different types of markets: stock market (also called equities), bond market (fixed income), cryptocurrency market, real estate market, commodities market (oil, gas, gold, silver).
  • There are different types of markets that represent different types of assets. When you hear asset allocation, it is about having different types of those things and representation of different markets.
  • The boring, plain vanilla markets you need to worry about are stocks and bonds. 
  • If you turn on any minute-by-minute financial news programming, they will lead you to believe the most important decision is should you own Apple stock or should you own Microsoft stock.
  • In reality, the most important decision you are going to make is should you be invested in stocks, bonds, or cash. The big overarching asset allocation is the most important decision you need to make. What stock should you invest in should fall to the very bottom of an inverted pyramid of important decisions. 
  • If you are making a decision about how to invest your portfolio, start with the big picture decision first: should I invest in stocks, bonds, and what combination of the two. Take a step back and set your goal. When do you need this money and why are you investing at all. 
  • First you need to set your goal. What is the money for? What do you have coming up in your life journey? You need to know what is already in movement and where you want to go. 
  • If someone has an idea of what you should do with your money, without knowing your financial situation or your goals, they are probably going to get paid if you do what they say.
  • You can really only invest with a goal in mind and with an understanding of the different asset allocation classes, and then you need to puzzle piece together what makes the most sense, given what we know about these different asset classes. 
  • One of Amanda’s pet peeves is when people work with a financial advisor, or a robo advisor, and the first question they ask is what is your risk tolerance. This is a good question and we need to talk about it, but it means nothing.
  • Robo advisors are only as good as the information they receive.
  • Bridget was Shannon’s first employee and she started as a client. In her first session, Shannon learned that Bridget had an investment portfolio at Betterment in a Traditional IRA. She also had a 401(k) at her current company, so she wasn’t going to get the tax benefit of the Traditional IRA. Her money should have been in a Roth IRA. Luckily, she hadn’t filed her taxes, so she could change it to a Roth IRA. 
  • Bridget had a house goal that was five years away and her asset allocation for that was the same as her retirement asset allocation (90% stocks/10% bonds). They ended up starting a new portfolio that was more conservative to balance out the aggressive house fund. They shouldn’t be the same. A house goal in five years should be different than retirement in 50 years. The robo advisor applied the same allocation to all of her life goals. 
  • If you are feeling a little bit clueless about how to put information into one of these sites, you need to take a step back and understand some of the basics of investing. 
  • One of the biggest things Amanda does is help people understand their options between robo advisor, DIY, and picking individual stocks. If you  go with a robo advisor, fingers crossed, it is going to be fine, but you should also know exactly what service they are providing you.
  • Be wary of some of the robo advisors, because there are so many of them.
  • Shannon liked Swell Investing because they do more socially conscious investing. She heard them present and thought they were great, and she just heard last week that they are shutting down. When that happens, you need to sell your portfolio and you need to deal with tax issues. Look at some of the bigger firms. 
  • If you are going to work with someone who is going to give you financial advice, they should absolutely be a fiduciary. A fiduciary is somebody that is required to work in your best interest and make recommendations in your best interest. 
  • The conversation of fiduciaries comes in when somebody is actually going to invest your money on your behalf. The Financial Gym is not a fiduciary, because they are not actually going to invest your money.
  • A large majority of investors do not need to follow this standard. Not everybody is a fiduciary.
  • You should want to know and understand everything yourself. Be empowered in what you are investing in. Even if they are a fiduciary, you should be very knowledgeable about what is happening. It is your wealth and your life.
  • Amanda doesn’t make recommendations on investing. The whole point of her business is to get you in a position where you can confidently make decisions on your own. If that means you go with some sort of a wealth advisor, so be it, but she finds that most people who come through her course are not going to go that path.
  • Investing is something that is within our capacity to learn. It is not rocket science, but it does take someone sitting you down and explaining things you should know in a way that makes sense. 
  • In Amanda’s course, she compares everything to dating, which makes it interesting and fun and totally relatable. The idea is to get you in a place where you walk away feeling like this is something you can do on your own, at least as a beginner.
  • What does that mean? Open up a Roth IRA or start contributing to your 401(k). Buy one, two, or three index funds, which is essentially a mutual fund or exchange traded fund (a big basket of some other type of investment).
  • The most popular index fund in the world is the S&P 500 Index Fund. This essentially invests you in the 500 leading companies in the United States. Within your Roth IRA or 401(k), which is just the account, buy a low cost, diversified index fund and call it a day.
  • The words sound very overwhelming if you are not familiar with them, but anybody can learn this information. 
  • You can stay really high level and still feel in control of your situation. You don’t need to get into the weeds and know everything. 
  • When you have someone managing your account, it can cost at least one percent. Over time, you want to earn six to eight percent on your account. Do you really want to give over 20 percent of your investment to fees?
  • If Amanda was going to recommend that someone use a financial advisor, it would be for accountability. This would be to get everything set up and to start contributing to your account, and hopefully for some education. 
  • When you relate one percent with shopping, it isn’t a big deal. If you went to happy hour and your spicy margarita is one percent off, that is an insult.
  • In the world of investing, one percent is so much. The stock market will only give us what it gives us and maybe that is six percent or eight percent a year, which is an average. If one percent is paid in fees, that is 20 percent of your returns right now. With compounding, this ends up being an even higher percent of your potential returns over time. 
  • If a financial advisor is just managing your portfolio, and not doing any other financial planning, you are overpaying. 
  • Invested Development is the name of Amanda’s business. It started out with Amanda just doing live seminars, and she still does those.
  • She loves going into corporations and businesses that have some sort of women’s leadership channel or inclusivity group and doing a happy hour or lunch and learn where she does a really fast Investing 101 that is one to two hours, just to get everybody up to speed. 
  • For companies that don’t offer a retirement fund yet, she educates employees how to do that on their own. 
  • She also does independent seminars and she offers a virtual course. The virtual course is live and is taught by Amanda. She usually does two months on and one month off. She just finished a course in July and she is taking August off. She will have a course in September and October. They are four classes long, each class is an hour and a half, plus as much Q&A until everyone has their questions answered. It is six hours of instruction and her goal is to get everyone confident in their investing knowledge, so they can turn around and make decisions about opening accounts and investing within those accounts on their own.
  • In the course, she covers the account types, all the different ways to invest, asset classes, socially responsible investing, etc. 
  • Amanda has been doing this for about a year now and she has had almost 200 people come through her class. 
  • This type of financial education product is needed in the world today. The course costs $249. 
  • If you are not investing, because you don’t feel confident, you are going to make more than that in your investment returns and saving on fees. 
  • People should be investing in their financial health in different ways, whether it is investment knowledge or budgeting knowledge.
  • Seventy six percent of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck. We have big financial health issues in this country, and there is no formal financial health education. 
  • You need to invest in it. The mistakes you avoid will be more than the investment in the course. You are likely spending $250 in other ways. 
  • Shannon put $11,000 into Betterment a year ago and there were times where it was $10,500, but now it is $11,609. She hasn’t done anything with it and it is up $600 in a year. 
  • It is like taking your money off the sofa and putting it on the treadmill. We work so hard for our money and we should want to maximize it. For each dollar we make it is one less dollar we need to earn.
  • There are two ways to make money, (1) exchange your time for money, or (2) have your money make you money.
  • If you just invest money over a period of time, that could equal a year you don’t need to work.
  • There are so many fundamentals of the stock market that still make it a good time to invest. There are so many companies that have a ton of cash and are still going to grow.
  • Earlier this year Uber, Pinterest, and Lyft were not public companies. There are always new entrants to the market that will help it grow and give you growth too.
  • We are due for some sort of significant correction, which is greater than 20 percent. Until that happens, there are still a lot of positive things to say about investing. 
  • You cannot time the market and when the next bear market will occur, which is a dip that is 20 percent or more, so what is the point of trying.
  • If we go through a dip, it is not that big of a deal. That is a normal and natural part of investing. If you have a long time to make your money grow, a dip in the market doesn’t really matter. If you are savvy about it, a dip is a good time to buy.
  • Remove all emotion from your decisions about investing in the market and invest every month, no matter what is going on. We all wish we were investing in March 2009.

TAKEAWAY: My biggest takeaway is that there are so many resources available to help you get more comfortable with investing. If you haven’t found the right one yet, don’t be afraid to invest in one. Better investing practices truly pay dividends over time.

Random Three Questions

  1. What’s the best investment advice you’ve ever received?
  2. What is a show you like to binge watch?
  3. If this was your last night on earth, what is your final meal?

Connect with Amanda

Blog: Dumpster Dog 

Instagram: @dumpster.doggy

If you’d like to talk to my team at the Financial Gym to help you put together the pieces of your financial health puzzle, I hope you’ll reach out to us at the Financial Gym. My trainers love helping clients put together the puzzle, especially when it seems like the pieces don’t fit. 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.

Financial Anxiety with Amanda Clayman

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Financial Anxiety with Amanda Clayman

In my seven years of helping people get financially healthy, a common emotion I’ve seen from clients is anxiety. We have clients avoid their first sessions with us, avoid quarterly reviews, or avoid their trainers totally, because of the anxiety their financial situation brings up in them. In fact, this episode was inspired by a long-term client of the Gym, who asked her trainer if I could do a show around financial anxiety. Despite the fact she is experiencing great success around her money, she can’t kick the anxiety it brings her. 

Today I invited my friend, Amanda Clayman, Financial Therapist and Financial Wellness Advocate for Prudential, to discuss the topic of financial anxiety, including how common it is and how we can manage it in our lives. This is a really important topic for everyone and I hope it helps a lot of people out there. 

What Are We Drinking?

Amanda — LaCroix with Bitters

Shannon —  Black Cherry Schweppes

Podcast Notes

  • There are a number of Financial Gym clients, and non-Financial Gym clients, who have reached out because they have anxiety around their financial situation.
  • There is a long-term client and podcast listener, who requested a show about dealing with financial anxiety. 
  • Amanda went into the mental health field originally, and she had a career change to be a financial therapist around age 30. It was part of her own personal journey of coming to terms with experiencing a lot of suffering around money.
  • These weren’t things that were happening to her, they were things she was creating with her own behavior.
  • As she started getting more insight around those things, it became a curious awakening. 
  • She started to notice how other people had these very tumultuous relationships with money. She started to ask herself why financial therapy wasn’t a job. 
  • She explains it as one day she woke up like Neo in The Matrix and she could see lines of code behind people’s financial behavior, her own included. 
  • Amanda did some exploration and decided that social work was a really good fit for the kind of work she wanted to do, which was helping people address the role of money in their lives, how they think about it, and how they use it.
  • It isn’t a financial planning route, she is helping people address the underlying processes so they can be more purposeful.
  • Amanda went to social work school, earned her Masters, became a clinical social worker, ran a financial wellness program for a non-profit for a long time, and now she is in private practice and does a lot of teaching and speaking. She has been doing this now for 15 years.
  • Everyone experiences financial anxiety in one form or another. Our anxiety takes a number of forms and has a variety of severity.
  • There are things that most of us worry about when it comes to money, even if we are doing everything “right”. We worry that we have too much of it or too little of it, that we are not putting toward the things that we should, or we are not teaching our children the right things.
  • There are an infinite number of things we can worry about, when it comes to money.
  • Anxiety is our signal to come out of our automatic processing. Our brains are wired to be hyper efficient, in order to handle the volume of things we need to think about and decide in the course of our day.
  • Our brains rely on patterns of understanding, perception, and behavior. These we can knock out with actual attention.
  • The classic example is you are driving in your car or taking the subway and you don’t even notice how you got from Point A to Point B, because it is so rote.
  • Anxiety is our signal to come out of automatic thinking and pay closer attention to something. It is ingenious, because the signal is really unpleasant. It is not something that feels good. It puts an effective pause into our experience, because we have an immediate motivation to stop and figure it out so we can make the feeling go away.
  • When it comes to money and lots of things in our lives, it is not as simple as stopping, assessing for danger, deciding there is a threat or not, and going on with our day. 
  • Many times, we get caught in a pattern of being stuck in our anxiety, because the thing we are trying to solve for is more complicated. Either there is not a change that is immediately available or we have conflicting feelings about the change.
  • There may not even be any danger, but we are wired to look for danger all the time. We end up feeling like we are stuck in the noise and we can’t figure out what we need to do to get that feeling to go away.
  • If you are in the moment thinking, “I feel bad”, you have two options: (1) look at the feeling and potentially feel worse, or (2) don’t look at it and try to forget about it. In that moment, a lot of us choose to watch Netflix and try to forget about it and deal with it tomorrow. 
  • The financial trainers at the Gym see a lot of anger, rejection, and other feelings. It is hard to experience someone else’s anxiety coming at you, because you don’t know why it was tripped.
  • In clinical practice, you are taught not to get caught in the trap of being a vending machine of suggestions for your patients or clients, because that can put you in the position of the person saying this is why it won’t work. 
  • Amanda finds that clients really want someone to tell them what to do, but because the change is complex, or they are ambivalent about it, you end up being the one who gets pushed away.
  • Those feelings are real and they need to be processed, but it is tough when you are not a clinician, but you are still a helping professional. 
  • Amanda works with a lot of wealth managers and financial advisors who go the field because they want to help people, but in their training around the financial part, they are not given a lot of education into the client experience and where they are going to run into people’s deep feelings of inadequacy or shame.
  • Whenever we try to change money we are always going to be put in touch with that layer underneath that need to be part of the behavior change solution we are looking at. 
  • Avoidance is a solution that can only last so long. We avoid until something happens externally that bumps up our need to look at it, or the active avoidance creates so much stress that it actually paces and outweighs the relief that we would get from avoiding it in the short term.
  • Amanda wrote a post about her origin story on her website called The $19,000 haircut
  • She had all of her bills in a gift bag that she got at some party in her 20s. She would pick up the gift bag and bring it to work with her, thinking she would have time to sort through it, but never found time and would bring the gift bag back home. Back and forth it went.
  • During the period of about a decade, her credit card debt kept increasing and she had her electricity turned off at some point. Sometimes she had the money to pay her bills, sometimes she didn’t.
  • It wasn’t a matter of poverty so much as a gross mismanagement of money.
  • One day, her mother gave her a bad haircut, because she came over and Amanda asked her to cut her hair. Amanda freaked out and her mom said not to worry because they would just call her hairstylist to fix it. 
  • Amanda had written her hairstylist a check the last time she was there and the check bounced, so she couldn’t go back there. Bad hair was the final straw.
  • It all came tumbling out and she confessed to her mom.
  • Amanda was going to avoid that lesson as long as she could. Even though she knew there were problems, she didn’t know how to use that information to do anything differently in her life. 
  • Shame is an inhibitor of us learning to connect. Connection and telling the truth is the antidote to our shame.
  • Anxiety can produce a tremendous amount of shame. It can produce behaviors like avoidance.
  • If we look at our money situation and everything seems to be fine, that can be a source of shame.
  • We end up getting stuck. It is hard to define places where you can have supportive and healing conversations. 
  • A lot of people are limited on who they can have a conversation with that will be productive, instead of saying you are bad or overloading you with advice. 
  • Amanda didn’t feel like anyone understood what was happening to her.
  • All financial behavior has meaning, even choosing not to look at something is still behavior. 
  • People are experts on their own experience, and what happens is our needs are always competing with each other. We try to manage our feelings in the moment so we don’t feel emotionally overwhelmed by our anxiety and it ends up competing with our need to have financial security. 
  • Men and women feel shame about money. It is so much easier to tie shame around finances, because of the numbers. We give the numbers way to much power over our lives. They don’t define us, even though it is easy to define and quantify.
  • Ada Lovelace was a person in Victorian England, daughter of Lord Byron, who is often credited with describing Charles Babbage’s analytical engine, which was the first computer, and creating the concept of a programming language. 
  • We can’t understand someone’s scientific developments outside of the context of who they are as a person and the time they lived in. We often look at the numbers of our lives and strip them from how those reflect our lived experience. 
  • A lot of exercises that help people connect their numbers to how they use their time are useful. It goes from, “I spend too much money eating out”, to “I am tired, because I have given everything I had at work” or “This is how I socialize with friends and I need that support”. 
  • Our social need is one of our basic survival needs and we want to be able to meet those needs safely and make sure it doesn’t create other problems. There is further thought that still validates the right to have that need and to make a life that is about need satisfaction instead of need denial.
  • Women are more self aware of financial anxiety as a stand alone concept. Men tend to view it as a result of something concrete and externally “validatable”. If x circumstance changes, I will not be anxious. Amanda finds that the reason men come to her, is because that pattern never ends. It just jumps to the next thing.
  • Not enough people are addressing the anxiety. They may be feeling it, but talking about money is so taboo.
  • Shannon sees it a lot where people will justify a level of financial pain that is normal, because of where they live, and they will just let that pain keep going. 
  • We can start to think about where anxiety is just the cost of doing business, and it is a normal thing. It comes up, we respond appropriately, and move out of it so we don’t stay anxious.
  • The signs of anxiety include when we find ourselves chronically anxious about money and not able to make changes, or when we are chronically anxious and make a bunch of changes and nothing internally changes, or when we see our own level of functioning being affected.
  • People seek out Amanda if they are avoidant and are starting to see negative consequences in their lives, and they see the pattern having a more destructive effect.
  • Others seek her out when anxiety is creating conflict in a relationship. Amanda works with a lot of couples, and this is true for couples that she personally knows in the world, and she sees the truth that our subconscious picks our partner.
  • We tend to be really surprised by the person we seek to be partnered with. On some level, we look for someone who is going to be a complement to ourselves, our point of view, and our normal view of doing things. 
  • One person is probably going to be a planner and the other person may bring more spontaneity, more optimism, and put more value on experiencing pleasure in the here and now. This is not true for every couple, but Amanda sees this pattern in the majority of couples. It can vary across the dimensions of the relationship as well.
  • Anxiety typically drives the person who is more future oriented. That anxiety can be very valuable and can help you do a lot of good things that are necessary in your financial life. But it can also be that the anxiety never allows that person to feel safe. No matter what you say to that person, they still think that something could happen.
  • Something probably happened in their past that came out of the blue or there was a sense of chaos, but this person has learned that safety depends on them being constantly vigilant. This can be exhausting for their partner. The partner feels like no matter what they do, the other person sees the worst in their lives and it can be really tough on the relationship.
  • On the flip side, the planner can view the other person as not being serious and not validating their need to hyper plan. Each person on either side of this argument can come with a lot of facts.
  • We get stuck trying to prove that our position is correct, instead of seeing that there needs to be a balance. Either one of those, working independently, would go to an extreme that is not a stable life or a life well lived.
  • Great improvement can be made in whatever stage a person, or a couple, is in. There are times where it is clearly necessary that it is a couple issue. It may live in the system of the relationship as opposed to just one individual. 
  • Amanda works with the person who is ready to change. Sometimes the timing isn’t right for a person.
  • The level of success of overcoming anxiety varies. There is no magical trick that make it go away. Success can look different for different people.
  • Sometimes it is responding differently to anxiety. Instead of reacting or squashing it down, we acknowledge it hold it and look at our options and process through it. 
  • We can decouple the feeling of anxiety with the actions we take. We may still grumble our way through our half hour weekly check in with money, but we know all we need to do is a half hour and once the tasks are done we can reset emotionally.
  • Amanda does a lot of cognitive behavioral therapy with clients where they train themselves to stay in a functional zone and structure tasks in a way to be effective. The goal is to get out of it without feeling any differently, and not let that feeling run the show.
  • There is a place for financial anxiety in our lives. Being on autopilot isn’t a success. It is having good coping mechanisms, and that can be different for everyone. 
  • Anxiety about her Amazon charges led Amanda to check into her feeling. It was paying attention to that cue and knocking on her brain a few times before she tuned into it. 
  • There have been a ton of changes in Amanda’s life recently and the autopilot she was on shifted.
  • Nobody has a perfect financial spending track record. We all have a financial past. It is a waste of time beating yourself up about past mistakes. Address the period of time and when and why those mistakes happened.
  • We take for granted the learning process. We do not spring into this world fully informed, functional, financial, and emotional beings. There is a learning process and a lot of us learn by making mistakes. Our developmental needs shift so much over the course of our lives. Things that are important to us at one stage shift. We can’t wish we had our 35 year-old maturity when we were 25.
  • Financial health is for all ages. You are never too old and it is never too late. Every stage is different. 
  • The things you do in your 20s are different than what you do in your 40s. It is a point in time. There are no mistakes, just lessons. Everything you do financially is fixable.
  • Sometimes you just need to be sad and not be afraid of the negative emotions, which are a vital part of the full spectrum of our human experience. 
  • How do we not get stuck in the negative emotions? Avoiding those emotions is not a good strategy. Our bodies are designed to go through an experiential arc when it comes to emotional processing. It is possible to get stuck, due to an underlying mood disorder, like depression, or it could be due to deferring so much processing that all of the grief that hasn’t been dealt with comes up. 
  • You need to address the degree of anxiety to determine when it is a normal part of life and when it is more serious.
  • Sometimes it takes a financial trainer and a therapist to work through the situation to get to a good place financially and emotionally.
  • We are not all required to be standalone containers. It is unrealistic and inhumane. This is why we live in communities and why we want to have a support network. Not everyone is a DIY person. There are apps available but people are still living paycheck to paycheck.
  • You don’t need to do it on your own. Invest in your health and mental health.
  • Our bodies and our moods are interrelated. Once we are aware of the feeling, the emotional response, our bodies can be a really good partner.
  • There are times to binge watch TV and eat ice cream, but, specifically with anxiety, we can do things we know are going to meet our human needs, like exercising and talking to another person. The fundamental human needs can help reduce the noise so we can be more targeted and efficient in responding to the signal.
  • You need to start working on these things, because they won’t fix themselves. There is no quick fix.
  • Self awareness is the first step. As long as you are bringing it into your awareness and you are heeding those feelings that are telling you something is out of balance, you can keep yourself in a state of moving toward readiness to get there. 

TAKEAWAY: My biggest takeaway is that financial anxiety is not only normal and common, it is actually a positive alert in your life. My hope is that you can channel the positivity of anxiety and let it help you make better and smarter financial decisions. If it is too overwhelming, I hope you seek out the help you need to find better coping mechanisms when it arises so it doesn’t prevent you from making smart money decisions over time.

Random Three Questions

  1. If you were not a financial therapist, what would you be doing?
  2. What is a book that changed your life?
  3. What food did you hate as a child, and do you still hate it?

Connect with Amanda

Website: amandaclayman.com

Instagram: @amandaclayman

Twitter: @amandaclay

If you’d like to talk to my team at the Financial Gym to help you manage your finances, so you feel less anxiety around your money, I hope you’ll reach out to us at the Financial Gym. My trainers have literally seen it all, and they have definitely worked with clients who have had high levels of anxiety around money, so nothing will surprise them. 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.

Headlines with the Happy Hour Ladies

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Headlines 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 reviewing two recent personal finance related articles, one claiming that the personal finance industry sucks and another about a woman out earning her significant other. Lots of food for thought and, as you can imagine, we had lots of thought around these topics.

What are we drinking?

Melanie from Dear Debt — Rosé

Tonya from Budget and the Beach — Kendall Jackson Pinot Grigio

Liz, Mrs. Frugalwoods, from Frugalwoods.com — Bota Box Merlot

Shannon —  Cavit Pinot Grigio (mini)

Podcast Notes

  • Shannon wanted to talk to the ladies about two recent headlines:
  • Shannon saw the first article, because somebody posted it in a FinCon Facebook group. The poster was offended by it.
  • The title is The Personal Finance Industry is a Scam. It goes on to talk about how Suze Orman was recently on CNBC and she said “…if you waste money on coffee it’s ‘like peeing one million dollars down the drain’”.
  • She also said, “…if someone invests $100 each month in a Roth IRA for 40 years, they’d end up with a million dollars.”
  • Shannon wanted to get the Happy Hour ladies’ opinions on this article. It was posted in the FinCon group because people were upset that it was saying the personal finance industry is a scam, and how it is not about avocado toast and coffee, and that getting ahead is only for the wealthy.
  • Melanie thinks the crux of the article is that personal finance cannot solve everything. It reminds her of a tweet she sent a month or two ago: “When is the personal finance industry going to solve the stagnant wage problem?”. She posted it because personal finance can help you save money and cut back, but there are bigger issues we are experiencing that we have no control over, like stagnant wages, inflation, and unemployment. Personal finance can only take us so far.
  • Media personalities say controversial things that stand out and make the news, because they get people up in arms.
  • Tonya agrees with Melanie that there are bigger, systemic issues. The point she can agree with is that you won’t solve all of your financial problems by not buying coffee or avocado toast. There are little habits that roll into bigger habits, meaning there is a level of personal responsibility when it comes to personal finance, and developing frugal habits along the way will snowball into a lifestyle that will lead you to bigger wealth.
  • Liz agrees with both Melanie and Tonya. The point Suze is making is that you can save a fair amount of money on little things, and it is not just the coffee. If you really needed to save money or pay down debt and really went through every line item of discretionary spending, there is an element of personal responsibility.
  • You may not be able to save a million dollars in a year or forty years, but there are a lot of incremental changes you can make. A lot of us focus on the spending because it is the easiest thing to change, and you can change it right now.
  • The author of the article has $220,000 of student loan debt.
  • In seven years, Shannon has never had a client who was focused on the small details make really big mistakes. If you are mindful of the small things it adds up and you will be more conscious of your spending across the board.
  • Getting upset about these articles is like getting upset about people who are on the keto diet. It is a healthy lifestyle choice, why would you bash it?
  • Melanie thinks the author feels like personal finance advice is generally geared toward the middle class and wealthy people. There are some people who exist that cannot cut out anything.
  • There are people out there where traditional personal finance does not.
  • Getting physically and financially healthy takes two things. To get physically healthy, you need to eat less and work out more. To get financially healthy, you need to make more and spend less. It sounds really easy, but where are all of the skinny millionaires?
  • Shannon doesn’t like the attitude of “I can’t cut anything” when they haven’t tried. There are some people that are in really hard situations, but the majority of people can stand to cut something.
  • If you can’t cut, make more money. It isn’t easy, but you can get creative.
  • The headlines we read are the most sensational. We aren’t going to read articles with sensible titles. The media takes very polarizing articles that get people talking.
  • The thing that bothers Shannon the most are the “I can’t” people who haven’t tried. From the time her son was born until he was five years old, she ranged from 200 to 210 pounds. She would get to a point where she told herself she couldn’t lose weight when she actually just didn’t try.
  • At the Financial Gym they call it Gym magic, because when people start trying they accomplish things they didn’t think they could do.
  • It takes time and you need to have patience. Little things add up over time.
  • A pet peeve of Tonya’s is the victim mentality. She recently posted a TED Talk of the youngest person to travel to every country, because she found it inspiring. Someone commented that it must be nice to have rich parents. The person never said that her parents were rich and even if they are, should we fault her for it? It is insinuating that they can’t do what she did because they aren’t lucky enough.
  • You need to work and sacrifice. You will not see results overnight.
  • Liz thinks the personal finance industry can be a scam, depending who you are listening to. There are bad actors in every single industry, including doctors, attorneys, and accountants. It is okay to say this person’s advice isn’t going to work for me and I need to find someone’s advice who does work for me.
  • It is recognizing that people who are at the poverty line are in a desperate situation and they may not be able to work more, because they may already be working two or three jobs and managing childcare on top of that. But for a lot of people, there is room to cut and make changes.
  • There are a lot of free resources available, and, in New York, there are non-profits that can help. If you really are struggling, there are resources you should take advantage of. There is always an answer.
  • You have two options:
    • (1) do the best to find a way to help yourself and see if there are resources along the way, or
    • (2) not do anything at all and things will get worse
  • Personal finance is personal and not every person’s advice will apply to the masses. There are so many voices out there talking about different things, and there are a lot of free blogs and podcasts. Keep looking. You will find the right voice for you.
  • Time is going to pass and it is going to be five years from now. Do I want to have done these things I am interested in doing, or do I want to still be thinking about them. The time is passing no matter what.
  • Go in some direction instead of standing still.
  • Shannon saw the second article in New York Magazine’s Instagram feed. It is an advice column and the question is “Can I still charge my boyfriend rent once we are married?”.
  • Her boyfriend currently pays her $500 a month. He thinks that when they get married he shouldn’t have to pay rent and they should split the bills evenly. He is stressed because he has accrued about $15,000 in credit card debt since they have been together and that is why he thinks he should pay less.
  • She worked hard to pay off her house early, and she thinks he is taking advantage of that. He has made less income than her the entire seven years they have been together.
  • Melanie thinks the couple should not get married and she thinks the woman is wrong. If he has made less money consistently, it should be a percentage basis. Sometimes fair does not mean equal.
  • Melanie was in this situation and had to redistribute the bills, because she was making a lot of money and he was not. It should be based on income.
  • The woman in the article said she thinks the man should pay more than the woman. She needs to either accept that he makes less and figure it out, or if that is really important to her, she needs to find a new man.
  • It sounds like he wants to split things in a way that makes sense and it sounds like she thinks he wants to come after everything she has worked for.
  • Shannon wonders what the $15,000 debt came from. Did it come from their lifestyle?
  • When Shannon and Bill were first separated, she kind of felt the same way as the woman in the article, because she made more money than him.
  • A counselor recommended the book Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus. The book says that women naturally want to be taken care of and men naturally want to be the provider. It is part of our DNA.
  • Melanie said her counselor told her she has never seen a couple come into her office that has lasted, where the woman made more money. She said it never works, because women feel like they are taking care of a child.
  • Liz wonders, is it DNA or socialization? Is this what society is teaching us? There are societies where women are the primary breadwinners and decision makers and they have harmonious relationships because they are socialized in different ways.
  • Shannon was taught that gender roles didn’t matter and she was taught to be an achiever, but she does like to have someone take her out to dinner.
  • Tonya does expect a guy to pay on the first date, but it doesn’t have to be extravagant. She didn’t grow up with any strong messages either way, but it just feels natural. As you continue to date you would then each switch off paying.
  • Melanie lifted her “man ban” about a month ago and has been dating. She was on a ban for a year and decided to give dating another try. She has been on a lot of dates and some second, third, and fourth dates.
  • Melanie feels like she is a financial feminist, but since she didn’t get it in her last relationship, she does want to be taken care of. She has been paying her half, because it feels fair, but one guy did pay because he was insistent. Part of her wants to pay her half so they don’t expect anything.
  • Keeping score is bad, but it kind of depends on the guy’s personality and level of responsibility. He could be working hard on a passion project or he could be lazy and laying around all day. It is a totally different story for each situation and there is a lot we aren’t seeing.
  • Marriage relationships are all about partnerships and we don’t know what is happening behind the scenes.
  • The couple should seek counseling, because it sounds like there are deeper issues.
  • Anything is possible, but it is really hard to change seven years into a relationship. It is best to seek mental help before you are in crisis mode. It is the same thing with marriage counseling. Prevention is best.
  • In the article, she owns the house, and he pays $500 rent. It all goes back to the partnership. If this is a challenge now, it will be more so after they get married.
  • Shannon said when you get engaged, that is the happiest you will be in your relationship. You can have moments of that happiness, but it doesn’t ever get back to that level.
  • Liz doesn’t agree, because everything was up in the air when they got married. She finds a lot of enjoyment the further they get into their marriage, because it is more predictable.
  • If you’ve got some really big issues before you get married, they are not going to get better. You can move people a little bit along the continuum, but you cannot change another person.
  • It’s like going to Home Depot for bread. It is not Home Depot’s fault they don’t have bread, they have other things that make them a good store. You need to get comfortable with that and get your bread somewhere else, so you can enjoy what Home Depot has to offer.
  • There are certain things about people that you can’t get mad about, because it is who they are. You either need to get onboard with who they are or find somebody else.
  • Facebook group:
    • Men: Do you feel an innate sense that you need to care for the person you are with?
    • Women: Do you feel like you need to be cared for?
    • Different Gender Identifying: Do you identify with this type of feeling in any way, shape, or form?
  • Liz likes it when she and her husband both have a very well-defined division of labor. It is not necessarily financially based.
  • Melanie doesn’t need to be taken care of, but it would be nice once in a while. It comes down to having the same values around money.
  • Shannon doesn’t need to be taken care of, but she is in a relationship with someone who likes to take care of her.
  • The Happy Hour ladies are taking questions for a listener questions happy hour! If you want to ask questions, you can go to the Martinis and Your Money Facebook group, or you can email them to Shannon at shannon@fingyms.com.

TAKEAWAY: My biggest takeaway is around the article about the woman out earning her significant other. I think it’s really important in any relationship for both partners to feel that responsibilities and finances are equitably shared no matter what role people play. People’s jobs and incomes can change, and constant communication between significant others will prevent resentments from building up down the road.

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!!

Client Happy Hour with Kelly, Maria, and Jen

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Client Happy Hour with Kelly, Maria, and Jen

Two years ago, when we first started to raise money for Financial Gym and we were working on growing our client numbers, we decided to record a podcast episode with current clients so that potential new clients knew what the experience was like. So Kelly, Maria, and Jen all joined me to share their experience as Financial Gym clients.

Last year, Jen reminded me that we were coming up on the one-year anniversary of recording that episode, so we checked back in with this FinGym threesome. Well, my friends, another year has passed and these three women are still Financial Gym clients and join me today to share what’s happened with them over this past year.

If you haven’t heard the first or second episode, I encourage you to listen to them first. Now, for their third episode together are Kelly, Maria, and Jen.

What are we drinking?

Kelly — Josh Cellars Rosé

Jen — Plum Loco Red from St. Clair Winery

Maria — Water

Shannon —  Boxed Rosé

Podcast Notes

  • This is the third annual recording with Kelly, Maria, and Jen and they are all still clients.
  • Kelly was the first to join the Gym. Shannon did the financial plan for Kelly and her husband, Carl, on August 29, 2015. Jen’s plan was done on October 17, 2016. Maria’s plan was done on November 17, 2016.
  • When Maria joined, she didn’t think she would be a client this long. She figured she would get some information and move along. Kelly thought it would be a pretty long journey. Jen is big into commitment and she hoped she would stay for the long term.
  • They all started when the Gym had fewer than 100 clients, and Kelly and her husband are in the top 10.
  • When Shannon started building the Financial Gym, she figured it would be a one-year plan for clients. Now she wants clients to be in it for the long haul. So many things happen from quarter to quarter.
  • Clients two and three are now married and are coming up on six years at the Gym this fall.
  • When Kelly and her husband started, they had $2,000 in the bank and their mortgage was about $2,500 a month. When Shannon did their plan, she didn’t know how they were going to pay their mortgage. They had significant credit card debt, student loan debt, and Kelly was staying home, because it was cheaper than paying daycare.
  • In the last episode, Kelly’s third child was six months old. She was a surprise baby. They were just moving into their new house and they had about $30,000 cash in the bank.
  • They’ve now been in the house for almost a year. After they moved in, their oldest son was having difficulty at his new school. He was in first grade and they had to have him assessed. He was diagnosed with autism and ADHD.
  • They have been really focused on that all year and Kelly realized she was suffering from post-partum depression. She started going to therapy and went on medication. Mrs. Frugalwoods talked about her post-partum depression about a week after Kelly started therapy. She had the same symptoms and their babies are only about a month apart.
  • Kelly suffered from it with the last two babies, but this time it seemed worse. They are still working through all of that as well as helping their oldest son.
  • Their middle child is suffering, because there is a lot of focus on the oldest child and the baby. It has been a long year!
  • Kelly, Carl, and Shannon recently had a financial review and they went from $30,000 in cash to $24,000 in cash. On paper they have less money, but they have been dealing with so much emotionally. It was expensive to get the testing for her son and therapy for herself.
  • It is challenging for Kelly to work, with all of this stuff happening. It is not always a win on paper, but the win for them is that they don’t have credit card debt like they did before.
  • Being financially healthy allowed them to take care of their family. Kelly cannot imagine going through all of this without being financially healthy. So much is automated now that they can focus on other things. It took four years to get to this point.
  • It is not perfect and Kelly feels like she is slipping. She is an interior designer and IKEA is her happy place. Groceries have gotten higher, because they are not being mindful and food prepping. She also has a picky eater. Right now it is just survival, but Kelly knows they will right the ship eventually.
  • They keep showing up for their quarterly reviews and do the work they can. That is all you can do sometimes. Shannon is so proud that they are doing so well, knowing where they came from.
  • Work is now picking up for Kelly and she has two new clients. She also helped design Shannon’s new place.
  • Jen is living in the San Francisco Bay Area during the school year, which is the most expensive place in the country. She also lives in Tucson, Arizona, which is her home base.
  • She moved to San Francisco in August and they looked for an apartment for weeks. They finally found an apartment, but there was a one-month wait. They lived with a friend (three of them) in one bedroom, before they moved in.
  • At this time, she was still traveling to Ohio for her PhD. When she first moved to San Francisco, she got a position as an assistant kindergarten teacher at a private school, because her PhD is in education policy. She felt that it was really important to have classroom experience and she needed money to live, so she took that job.
  • Every Tuesday, Jen would get on a plane at about 5:00am, fly to Ohio, go to class from 6:00 to 9:00, then get on a plane in Ohio at 6:00 and make it back to work on Wednesday at 10:30am. This was every week for the whole semester. She finally finished her course work and didn’t have to travel during the Spring semester. It was very expensive and taxing.
  • It took her three months to schedule a call with Bridget, her Financial Trainer. In the meantime, she was able to get her student loan paid off.
  • Jen was able to apply for a student loan forgiveness, because she is a veteran. She was able to get about $80,000 paid off. She applied for the disabled service member benefit.
  • Another client of the Gym was recently able to get about $100,000 of student loan debt paid off under the student loan forgiveness program.
  • If you have Federal student loans, don’t always be in a hurry to refinance them. When you do, you refinance into a private loan and then you lose out on all of the repayment options. One of those is disability forgiveness.
  • Jen was expecting the worst about the loan forgiveness, but she feels like for veterans they streamlined the process. She is happy to give advice to people about the student loan forgiveness program or navigating the VA process. Keep going until they say yes.
  • Jen saw Shannon in San Francisco when she attended the Bay Area Money Tribe meeting.
  • Now Jen is back in Arizona and she has a job, but she may be leaving it. She was just appointed as the Director of Education and Programs at the Modern Military Association of America, doing LGBTQ work for service members, veterans, and their families.
  • It is full time and she is just waiting to get her contract. Jen has been doing advocacy of military service members for years now.
  • Jen got a call a couple of days ago from a presidential candidate’s policy staff asking for advice.
  • Her finances have only gotten better, since she has joined the Gym. This new job is $10,000 more than she was making at her previous job.
  • The rent in San Francisco is crazy. Jen just moved into a new apartment. The previous rent was $3,200 a month and now it is $2,200. There is a lot of good stuff happening.
  • Jen has always been a huge supporter of the Gym. They are getting close to about 2,500 clients now, but Jen was highly anxious when she started with them. She was Bridget’s second client and she was emailing and texting Bridget a lot. It was new to her and she was getting her feet wet. Jen was so anxious about her money, she went to therapy about it. Now, it takes her three months to schedule a review with her trainer and she is not stressed out about it.
  • For people who feel anxious about joining the Gym, it is normal. You are going to go through a lot of emotions during your financial health journey. The more you work on it and the more you work through the challenges with your trainer, the less anxious you will get. Things will become easier and, once you can automate things, it will feel like you aren’t doing any work.
  • Shannon did Jen’s warmup call. They use Jen as an example for new trainers if they have highly anxious clients. The Gym has now done over 3,000 plans and they have seen a lot of different client types.
  • Early on, you are bringing up all these new things compounded with old emotions. It does get easier with time. Now Jen can talk to anyone about money.
  • It is not just about money, it is about everything. Jen was taking a diversity and inclusion certificate program this summer from Cornell, and she had to write about a good customer service experience. She wrote about the Financial Gym and how they made it okay to be vulnerable.
  • Jen feels like she is more compassionate and generous with her money because she can be. Jen has given to the Gym Magic Fund and has sponsored scholarships for Lola Retreat.
  • The Gym now has 2,500 clients and 16 Financial Trainers. A large portion of the training program is the collective knowledge of understanding the emotional aspect of money and where the client is coming from.
  • The Gym has five core values and one of them is empathy and understanding they don’t truly know someone until they have walked in their shoes. That is core to everything. This is a huge part of the training program.
  • Maria’s journey has been amazing, but she didn’t want to get financially naked. She was 52 years old when she had her first meeting. She came to an event at the old Gym and did an in-person warm-up call with Shannon.
  • Shannon didn’t think she was coming back. When Maria came in for her first session, it was the first time she shared her finances with anyone.
  • Maria feels like she is in a really great place, but there is a lot she still wants to do. She gave up her car over a year ago and she isn’t missing it too much. She has been riding the train. It has helped her save more money and focus on other things.
  • Maria needed to get some electrical stuff done to her house and she needed to buy a washer and dryer and she is happy to say those things have been done.
  • Shannon gave Maria the go ahead to have a vacation the last time they spoke.
  • Maria has had a very emotional year with her family. Her parents live in Puerto Rico and were affected by Hurricane Maria. On top of that, her mom has health issues and Maria is living in Brooklyn and has children and grandchildren, a job, a boyfriend, and a very active social life.
  • Financially, Maria has been on a set it and forget it plan for the last year. She saved $600 a month by getting rid of her car. Her finances have been doing great. Maria had debt and credit card problems for most of her adult life and hasn’t had that since she started working with Shannon.
  • Maria is going to need to make some trips to Puerto Rico in the future, which will impact her budget.
  • Before she started at the Gym, Maria didn’t know what she was doing and what direction to take. Now she is able to get that guidance and make choices.
  • Financial Trainers get a front row seat to clients’ stories. It is very rewarding.
  • Initially it was awkward for all three of them to talk about money, and now they are all completely comfortable talking about it with everyone. Money touches everything in your life.
  • Maria’s brother just joined the Gym and he never wanted to talk about money. Now he wants to talk about it with her and her dad. It helps alleviate the stress.
  • Don’t wait – join the Gym now! Everybody should come and try it. It has changed Jen’s life, and she wants everyone to know how life changing it is.
  • It has also been life-changing for Maria. She is looking to retire in a few years and she is in a good spot. This is because of the Financial Gym. Everyone should have the Financial Gym in their lives.
  • The youngest Gym client is 17.
  • The Gym instituted a money-back guarantee last July, and they have never needed to use it, because they get results. Some people will not get results in the first 90 days, but give the trainer six months. It compounds over time as long as you are willing to put in the work.

Random Three Questions

  1. If this was your last night on earth, what would be your last meal?
  2. What do you do to relax?
  3. If you had an extra $500, what would you do with it?

TAKEAWAY: I hope you enjoyed my conversation with Kelly, Maria and Jen today. Can we just give a big round of applause to these women for making such an amazing commitment to their financial health? My biggest takeaway, and I hope it comes out in these episodes, is that our lives are not set in stone. No matter what plans you may make, you never know where life is going to take you. The best way to enjoy the ups and downs of life’s journey is to be financially healthy and have flexibility to tackle the curveballs that are thrown your way.

If you’d like some company and accountability on your life journey, I hope you’ll reach out to my team at the Financial Gym. The minimum time commitment we require is three months, but as you can see from this episode, we also love a long-term relationship with our clients. My trainers have literally seen it all and helped advise clients through it all. 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.

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!!

Journey to Launch with Jamila Souffrant

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Journey to Launch with Jamila Souffrant

Our clients at the Financial Gym have a variety of life goals, but the number one goal we give all of our clients is the goal of financial independence, and that’s the ability to work because you want to work not because you have to work. I’ve coached numerous clients on the path to financial independence and have seen a number of my family and friends achieve it, and let me say, it’s something we should all want for ourselves. I think it’s really important, though, to remember that FI and the path to FI will look different for everyone, and I try to highlight that on this show. This is why I’m excited to have on Jamila Suffrant, Founder of the Journey to Launch Podcast, talk about her path to financial Independence and where it led her.

What Are We Drinking?

Jamila — Mojito (Two shots Bacardi Limon, one shot simple syrup, mint, ice, and lime, blend)

Shannon —  Grapefruit Schweppes & Vodka

Podcast Notes

  • Jamila recently spoke at the Financial Gym. Shannon couldn’t make it, because she was on mom duty. Her whole team said Jamila was amazing.
  • When Jamila was in college, she got an internship through INROADS, which helps minority students get into Fortune 500 companies.
  • Jamila started working from the age of 14. Her mom always told her to save, so she was a good saver and put away most of her money.
  • When she was an intern in college, she was making a lot of money in the summer. If she received a check for $1,500, she would save $1,200. Other interns spent all of their money.
  • She wasn’t always perfect. When she graduated college, she thought that by the age of 30 she would quit her job and do her own thing. She always felt like she wanted to do more in life and she didn’t want a boss. Jamila didn’t want to be tied down.
  • After college, she got a good job and started working and earning money. She couldn’t figure out how she would not be able to work for her company. 
  • Jamila tried different things in her 20s. She started some businesses here and there, she started an online magazine and she got into the vending machine business, but none of those things worked out or she lost interest in them.
  • Jamila put up the money for the vending machine business, but her husband helped her run it for two years. They actually got their machine placed in the largest hotel in Brooklyn and it did really well. However, they couldn’t place the other two machines and they paid too much money for them. 
  • She bought her first property at age 22 right after college, because she was able to save up a down payment and her mom also helped. It was located in DUMBO, before it was DUMBO.
  • Jamila’s grandma bought a property in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, before it was desirable. By the time Jamila came of age, the property was worth so much more and it left an impression. That’s what got her wheels turning. She started looking for a property her senior year in college and she saw an advertisement for a new development in DUMBO for a condo starting at $300,000.
  • She bought a condo and it is now valued at more than double what she paid. The condo took two years to complete, so after she graduated she stayed home and saved some money. She moved in once it was finished. 
  • Financial literacy starts in the home and Jamila’s story shows it. She has really smart, strong women that showed her the way. She had great examples from an early age. 
  • Jamila didn’t know the technical aspects, like investing, but she knew how to save. 
  • Understanding the balance between FOMO and your future is a big thing. The hardest part for most people is delaying gratification and saving. 
  • Jamila and her husband met in college when they were both 19 and broke. Even as they graduated and started making money, they knew each other, and their habits, really well.
  • When they got married, they were 29 and they combined their finances. It didn’t make sense for them to keep their finances separate.
  • They figured that they could reach their goals quicker if they joined forces.
  • Jamila was raised by a single mom and reliability was a big trait she wanted in a husband. She didn’t want to go down the route that she saw others go down.
  • Her husband is not as on top of things as her, but he also isn’t dragging her down. He allows her to lead the way and he is a great partner.
  • The financial independence seed was planted when she had the idea that she didn’t want to work for somebody else. She then got onto the treadmill of making more money and she didn’t know what to do to make that a reality.
  • When she was 31 and pregnant with her first son, she had a commute from Brooklyn to New Jersey, which took about an hour or hour and a half. She was used to the commute, because she had done it for so long, and it was fine when it was just her, but being pregnant and getting home at 7:00pm every night she knew something had to change.
  • She got home one night and started googling “how to quit my job”, “how to retire”, and she came across blogs and podcasts about financial independence and  how people were retiring early. Jamila got really interested and went down a rabbit hole to figure out how she could do it too. That was five years ago.
  • Jamila started to read and listen to podcasts and that started the journey itself.
  • About two years later she started a blog that chronicled her journey to financial independence. When she heard that average people could do this, she wanted to figure out how she could do it too.
  • When Jamila ran the numbers, she realized they would be able to do this down the road and have the life they’d been dreaming about.
  • Jamila created a spreadsheet that showed how much money they would have, if they were able to save and invest and max out their retirement accounts for the next 10, 15, or 20 years.
  • She started playing around with the numbers and thinking about how they could go from not investing much to maxing their savings. She created a spending plan and sat down with her husband.
  • One of the turning points was getting her husband on board. It took several conversations. Her husband is a teacher in New York City and has access to two pre-tax retirement accounts that he can max out: a 403(b) and a 457 plan. For them to reach their goals, he would need to save half of his paycheck. Jamila didn’t want to force him to do this.
  • It took her husband looking at his goals and those conversations got him comfortable with the idea. After a couple of months he was ready to go all in. 
  • Don’t give up on your significant other. Eventually they can get there as well, just in their own way. Sit down with them and talk about their goals. 
  • Jamila’s husband wanted to know how this would affect their lives. They like going out to eat, so they made sure it was included in their budget. 
  • Some people go hard core and everything gets cut. That works for some people, but others burn out. 
  • You need to cut expenses, but income is also important. The more income you have, the more you can save and invest. They earned a good income and they were out of consumer debt.
  • If you have a lot of debt, that journey is going to look different, because you can’t just max out your retirement savings. Be real about where you are and what you like to do. You will need to make sacrifices but they won’t last forever. 
  • When Jamila started to run the numbers, she just had their second child. Jamila and her husband always wanted three kids.
  • Jamila started the Journey to Launch blog and set her goal as quitting her job by age 40, by reaching a level of financial independence. At that point their mortgage would be paid off and they would reach a certain number that was invested. Her husband still wanted to work, so they would live off of his income and some investments or she would do something. She didn’t think that her blog would be that something.
  • Her blog quickly turned in to the reason why her path is so much different. She was able to quit her job last year after her third child was born. Once she got pregnant, she realized she couldn’t do the commute, the full-time job, and the blog. Something had to go.
  • Starting her journey to financial independence and finding something she loved and her passion – Journey to Launch – allowed her to find freedom today. 
  • They are not financially independent right now, but working toward it allowed her to quit her job and set up a way to try this out. She has flexibility and she is enjoying her freedom today.
  • Clients at the Financial Gym that have goals do much better than those who don’t have goals. It is really hard to stay focused without goals, because there are so many distractions. Goals motivate clients to stay on track.
  • You never know when your goals for the future will reveal themselves, and money should never be what gets in the way for you to say yes. Money gives you the flexibility when it comes up.
  • Money didn’t stop Jamila from pursuing her goals, it helped her accomplish them earlier than expected. 
  • Everyone should be on the path to financial independence. Everyone’s journey is unique. The end goal isn’t just to save a set amount of money. As you start you move from living paycheck to paycheck, to debt payoff, to saving and investing, it unlocks levels of freedom for you and gives you more options. Why not start? What is the worst that is going to happen?
  • You change your whole trajectory when you focus on becoming financially independent.  
  • It isn’t just one thing. There is a work flexibility stage that most people can get to, where you can choose what you do.
  • Your journey is uniquely yours and this will allow you to live the life you want. It will take some time, but you can do it if you create a plan and put some work in to get there.
  • There is not one path, there are so many choices. No matter the income level, it is the steps you take to get to your goal.
  • The people who advocate for themselves, negotiate their salary, start and side hustles, are the people who reach their goals. 
  • Most people focus on expenses, because that is the quick win. It is about being intentional and stopping mindless spending and becoming the commander of your money. 
  • It is hard work and tough decisions, but it doesn’t matter where you start. Everyone can achieve it if they make an active commitment to it. 
  • Jamila and her husband saved and invested $169,000 in two years. You don’t need to do this, you just need to do better than you are doing right now. 
  • If you are not afraid of hard work, you are going to be fine.
  • Entrepreneurship and the flexibility of her lifestyle now have opened a new world for Jamila. The money might not be in the bank yet, but the lifestyle is. The best part so far is unlocking this level of freedom she now has.
  • A lot of people fixate on the end. Jamila is right in the middle. 
  • It doesn’t have to be extreme frugality and the end goal doesn’t have to be the same, but more the focus on making smart financial decisions that add up to the freedom of choice.

TAKEAWAY: My biggest takeaway is that the path to financial independence doesn’t always lead directly to financial independence; however, the pursuit of it will give you flexibility to enjoy the numerous roads that may open up to you because you headed in that direction. 

Random Three Questions

  1. What is the first thing you will do when you officially make it to financial independence?
  2. What is a book that has inspired you?
  3. What do you do to relax?

Connect with Jamila

Website: Journey to Launch

Podcast: Journey to Launch

Instagram, Twitter, Facebook: @journeytolaunch

If you’d like to talk to my team at the Financial Gym to help get you on the path to financial independence, I hope you’ll reach out to us at the Financial Gym. My trainers have literally seen it all, so nothing will surprise them. 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.

Getting Financially Naked with Tai and Jordan

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Getting Financially Naked with Tai and Jordan

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, almost a year ago, I shared my financially naked session, and now it is a regular series on the podcast.

Today’s naked session is a super special one for me. Not only is the person in the hot seat one of my trainers, but she also brought her husband along for the ride. This is actually our first couples’ naked session with both partners present and fully financially naked. My trainer Tai is a financial work in progress, like many of us, and I give her mad props and respect for sharing her numbers, even though she is relatively early on in her own financial wellness journey. She did this because she wants to help others and I know this will. 

What Are We Drinking?

Tai — Rosé

Jordan — Old Fashioned

Shannon — Simply Grapefruit, Vodka, and Schweppes Club Soda

Podcast Notes

  • Tai is a trainer at the Financial Gym. She interviewed and was in the T2 training class in September 2017 and everybody fell in love with her. 
  • Everyone was excited, but when they gave her an offer letter, Tai turned it down because she wasn’t ready to move forward. She needed more time.
  • After that, she and Jordan joined the Gym. 
  • When the next trainer class started, Tai was ready for it. On her first day, Shannon was waiting at the front door and Tai was crying happy tears. She was unhappy at her job because of changes that were being made and she kept seeing all of the great things the Gym was doing on Instagram.
  • Knowing that it was finally a reality, and they wanted her to work at the Gym even though she turned them down, it was a huge sigh of relief. 
  • Tai and Jordan went to high school together 19 years ago. They met in their freshman year, but they didn’t date.
  • After high school they kept in touch through social media and about eight years ago, they talked back and forth because of a status Tai posted. They moved to messaging each other and then to talking on the phone. 
  • From there they started dating, they got engaged after a year, and they got married a year later. They have been married for five years now.
  • They both went to Brooklyn Tech, which has about 4,000 students. Tai thought he was cute, but she doesn’t remember much else, because she only saw him about four times the entire time they went to school there. They didn’t have any classes together, but they played spades together and she thought he was funny. It was always easy to be around him.
  • When they reconnected, they started cracking jokes and they haven’t stopped. 
  • Before they got married, they did premarital counseling with their pastor and there was a lot of talk about communication, but only 10 minutes about money.
  • Neither of them had a strong background with money growing up. It wasn’t really talked about.
  • Tai’s grandma and her dad were good with money, but they didn’t teach her anything. Her parents have been separated for most of her life and didn’t get married until about four or five years ago. 
  • Tai has a vivid memory of a day when the cable or lights were cut off and her mom was hysterical and upset about it, because she wasn’t expecting that to happen. Tai learned that money was stressful.
  • On the flip side, Tai’s grandma was paying bills and she had a credit card limit of $20,000. 
  • Jordan’s mom was a single parent with two kids — a younger brother and himself. She never showed that she was stressed out about money. Now he realizes how much she did for them.
  • Jordan’s mom used to have a big jar of coins and it was filled to the brim. One day they started counting the coins. His mom made a game of who could wrap the most coins. Jordan was about 10 and his brother was around 5 years old. The total was somewhere over $300, and he didn’t realize they were doing it because she had to make rent that month and she didn’t have enough money. 
  • Jordan learned to rob Peter to pay Paul to make things work financially. 
  • Financial literacy needs to start in the home and most people are just stressed out about it.
  • The best lesson Shannon learned from her mom was the value of hard work. Her mom had five kids at home and always had three jobs.
  • The month before they got married, Tai opened up a bunch of credit cards to cover incidentals for the wedding.
  • They were 28 when they got married and both went from living with their parents to living together. They never lived together or on their own before they were married.
  • They each paid a few bills for their parents, but they never paid rent or all of the bills.
  • About six months after they were married, they had a late payment notice on their door. Tai missed a rent payment, because she didn’t have enough money. She swore that it would never happen again, because it was scary. 
  • About two years after they were married, Tai discovered Dave Ramsey. She didn’t realize people talked about money and that there were ways to get out of debt. She went full steam ahead, dragging Jordan along with her kicking and screaming. 
  • They listened to the podcast, they taught Financial Peace University at their church two times, and she got a better job.
  • When they were first married, Tai was working as an assistant. Then she changed companies and was promoted to a sales rep. She got used to commission checks on top of her base pay.
  • Tai makes less at her job now than she did at her previous company, and she has more money saved here than she did before. It isn’t all about income, it is all about managing it and your savings and lifestyle.
  • They never had talked about money before. Jordan was uncomfortable talking about it. He was hesitant, because of the fear of confronting his failures.
  • About five years ago, Jordan was almost 400 pounds and it happened quick. One day he just noticed that he was overweight and he wondered what happened. It was the same with money for him. 
  • He was carefree and he didn’t want to stop enjoying himself. He didn’t want to face his own mess.
  • The shame around money is unnecessary, because there was no way you could have known. For most of Americans, there is no reason you should be good with money. You didn’t talk about it and you didn’t learn about it. Since money is such a big part of our lives we assume that we should just be good with it.
  • About 95 percent of people who do a warm-up call are women. Many times they get push back from a spouse.
  • Tai and Jordan’s financially naked session with their trainer last October was terrifying. Tai understands why clients are so anxious about it. She was the one who had all of the numbers, but relinquishing that information makes it known to another person.
  • Having someone else look at every single thing you do and ask you questions about it is awkward in the beginning. Crystal was able to bring them into a place of comfort and made it a very open and honest place that was safe and non judgmental. 
  • When you talk about money, someone else is going to want to have an opinion. Whether you agree with it or not, you are going to feel defensive about it, because it is not their money. 
  • People think that when they come to the Gym the trainer is going to be very judgmental. There is so much emotion that is being brought into the room and that first session can be intense. 
  • You not looking at your numbers is like you eating a bunch of stuff around the holidays and not stepping on a scale. When you step on the scale, that makes it real. When Tai and Jordan got their plan, it felt like they stepped on the scale and realized that things were not where she thought they were. Tai felt like they had been doing it all wrong.
  • You make decisions that seem like the best one at the time and then they all add up. 
  • You need to make conscious decisions and when you stop doing that it starts to add up.
  • Tai and Jordan had a setback during their second quarter and Tai tried to get out of doing this podcast because of the shame she was feeling. 
  • Shannon doesn’t want perfect financially naked episodes, because most stories are imperfect. They are about progress not perfection. Just like getting physically healthy, it is a lifelong journey. It is not always going to be all A’s. Even the A students have setbacks.
  • If you need accountability, the Financial Gym wants to be on the journey with you. The quarterly review is the weigh in.
  • It typically takes about a year for clients to hit their emergency savings goal. Most people don’t have emergency funds. If it takes you a year instead of nine months, you are still ahead of the game.
  • If you have setback, it’s okay. Things happen. Get it out of your system and then focus.
  • Questions from the financially naked discovery questionnaire:
    • Birthday: Tai 6/5/86; Jordan 3/18/86
    • Job: Tai – Financial Gym; Jordan – NYPD
    • Salary: Tai $60,000; Jordan $51,000
    • Net Pay: Tai $1,900/twice a month; Jordan $2,500/month
    • Checking account: Tai $200; Jordan $20
    • Checking account (joint): $0.90 (rent was just paid)
    • Ally Savings: $7,848 (up from $1,200 in Oct 2018); goal is $10,000
    • Retirement: Tai $5,500 (rollover IRA); Jordan $40,000 (pension)
    • Mortgage: Not yet
    • Student Loan: Tai $34,270; Jordan $0
    • AmEx: Tai $1,000; Jordan $0
    • Personal Loan: $26,595 (transferred from credit cards); $622/month; Previously the minimum monthly payment on the credit cards was $686.
    • Personal Loan: $156/month; $10,000 for the car
    • Pension Loan: $160/month pre-tax; $14,869 for the car
    • Auto Insurance: $128/month
    • Net Worth Increase: $15,000 in six months
    • Credit Score: Tai 802; Jordan 723
    • Rent/Utilities: $1,058/month 
    • Renters Insurance: $13/month
    • Health Insurance: Yes, through Jordan’s job
    • Will: No
    • Children: No
    • Tithe: Tai 10% gross; Jordan 10% net
    • Average Monthly Expenses: $3,000
    • Goals 1-5 years: Tai – buying a house, traveling more, knocking out debt; Jordan – kids, house, knocking out debt, financial security
    • Goals long-term: Tai – purchasing multiple properties, ability to help parents financially, saving for kids’ education; Jordan – helping his mom financially, traveling with their kids, providing for his children
    • What’s important to you (sacred cows): Tai – tithing and travel; Jordan – tithing and entertainment (including wrestling, games, and movies)
  • The setback during the second quarter is that they got sloppy with their credit cards. They were supposed to be on a credit card fast, but they don’t always do what Crystal tells them to do. Things got tight and they charged their credit card and didn’t talk about it.
  • They had to take about $1,200 out of the emergency fund to clear Jordan’s credit card. A year ago, she wouldn’t have had the money to cover it.
  • Clients forget where they were a year ago. Trainers need to keep that memory alive to show clients how far they have come. 
  • Personal loans are like lapband surgery. Either you are going to clean up the debt and have better behaviors going forward, or you are going to take the weight off and gain it back, because of credit card availability.
  • Tai has always been good about always paying at least the minimum on things and not being late, but not good about having a cushion.

Takeaway: My biggest takeaway is that the path to financial wellness is not linear and is not direct. You will have ups and downs, you will move backward and forward, and all sorts of directions. This is why it is important to remember that it is progress over perfection. Trust the journey no matter how difficult it gets for you. I promise that you will get results.

Random Three Questions

  1. What is a move you can watch over and over again and not get sick of?
  2. What is your favorite meal?
  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, and Tai is a great example that they’ve lived 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 Tai and Jordan in 2019, head over to or send friends to, financialgym.com to get signed up today.

Investing Revisited with the Happy Hour Ladies

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Investing Revisited 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. We’ve been doing these weekly happy hours for quite some time, and we’re always cognizant to try to pick fresh topics that we’ve never addressed before on the show.

I knew that we spoke about investing in the past during a happy hour, but a few tidbits from a conversation with Mrs. Frugalwoods made me think that we should revisit this topic having a gut feeling that the conversation would be fresh. Well, as you’ll hear in this show, we were all shocked to find out that it’s been over four years since we talked about investing on the happy hour and you better believe the conversation was fresh. I hope you enjoy hearing our investing experiences.

What are we drinking?

Melanie from Dear Debt — Coffee Martini (Cold brew, kahlua, and vodka)

Tonya from Budget and the Beach — Merlot

Liz, Mrs. Frugalwoods, from Frugalwoods.com — Caramel Vodka and Seltzer

Shannon —  Boxed Rosé

Podcast Notes

  • The last time the Happy Hour ladies talked about investing was April 24, 2015 (Ladies Talk Investing – Happy Hour 4).
  • At the time, Liz had her husband handle all of the investing, Melanie wasn’t debt free and wasn’t able to invest yet, and Shannon had all of her money invested in the Financial Gym.
  • All of the ladies are in different places now.
  • Shannon was disappointed when, before, Liz said she wasn’t really involved in their investments.
  • Liz’s introduction to money management was debt aversion, being frugal, and saving money, which doesn’t lead well into investing.
  • The thought of investing was very scary to Liz, because the market goes up and down, and it was difficult for her. She originally started investing by contributing to her employer’s 403(b) and maxing it out.
  • Liz does total market index fund investing and it is not complicated. You own a little piece of everything in the market and it is a good aspect of diversification.
  • If you have your debt paid off, if you have an emergency fund, if you have retirement savings, the next step is investing. That could be through the stock market or real estate. This is where you grow wealth.
  • The Financial Gym has a webinar available on-demand called Investing 101. In this webinar, Shannon goes through the reasons why you should invest.
  • Liz started getting more involved in investing within the last four years, because of her blog. She has pretty straightforward investments. Usually the best things to invest in are the simplest – buy and hold.
  • It is hard for people to accept that the most boring answer is the best answer.
  • Fidelity did a study that showed dead investors performed the best. They literally set it and forget it. The only caveat is to rebalance as you go along.
  • Think of wealth as a tree. When you start investing, the trunk is your core portfolio, whether in a brokerage account or a retirement account or both. You want to create a really strong foundation for your tree. It is going to be boring, but sturdy and supportive. Once it it starts to grow and take root, then you have the tree branches which include cryptocurrency, individual stocks, and commodities.
  • Liz has four different index funds through Fidelity. She likes them because their fees are low.
  • Pick a site that is the easiest to figure out. You want it to be easy when you go to their website.
  • The website Acorns invests your change. If you use a service like this, ask about their fees and their returns. They invest in low-cost ETFs.
  • If you are not going to feel comfortable picking two or three funds or rebalancing, it is worth it to go through a roboadvisor to do it for you.
  • Ninety percent of your returns are based on your asset allocation. The other 10 percent is based on the actual fund and the fees. The best thing to do is to do it yourself. The next best thing is to use a roboadvisor, because it is better than not investing.
  • The fees are taken out of your investment returns. You don’t actually have to send them a check. If you make a 6 percent return and your fee is .50, you actually make 5.5 percent.
  • If you do a lot of trading and individual stock picking, some of the sites have trading fees and that is where you are actually paying money.
  • As Liz got more engaged with her community, she got more engaged with her own investing.
  • Liz looks at her investment account very infrequently. Her husband looks at them more than her. It is helpful to insulate yourself, especially if you are pretty far from using those funds. Make sure your portfolio matches where you are in life. If you are retiring next year, you need to be in a less aggressive position.
  • For Liz, this is more of a long-term thing and her portfolio is aggressive and weighted for growth. It is set to automatically invest a set amount every month. It insures they are buying consistently and it spreads out the risk, because they are buying at different times throughout the year.
  • The last time they did the investing conversation, Shannon had $50,000 of credit card debt from the Financial Gym and her personal finances were a mess. Since then she straightened out her finances and opened a Betterment account.
  • Shannon started the account with $11,000. In the last year, it was as high as $11,800 and now it is $10,878. In October it was down to $10,200. Sometimes the best way to invest is to just do it.
  • Shannon wants her clients to consistently contribute. Set it and forget it if you don’t need the money anytime soon.
  • When investments are down, it is called unrealized losses, because the losses haven’t really happened. It becomes a realized loss if you sell your investments.
  • If you are really anxious when the market goes down and it is a non-retirement account, when that account does come back to a higher point, you need to consider selling and being more conservative with that money. You don’t want to put yourself into a mental warfare. You don’t want investing to cause more stress in your life.
  • Don’t invest your rent money or grocery money. If you are going to be buying a house in a couple of years, it is probably not a good idea to invest the money. Investing is a long-term proposition.
  • The market has about a two-year cycle. Every two years it will go back to where it was.
  • It took about four years to recover from the 2008/2009 downturn.
  • What is happening this year in the market is a great example to expect the market overall to grow, because there are always new entrants. Uber, Lyft, and Pinterest weren’t listed before and now they are going to contribute to the market. There are always new things happening. It is always evolving.
  • In April 2015, Melanie was still in debt and she got out of debt in December 2015. She was so excited to start investing, but then life happened.
  • In March 2016, she moved back to California, which was expensive, and three months later she had a huge tax bill that wiped out her emergency fund. She was back to ground zero.
  • Her partner at the time wasn’t bringing in any income, so Melanie was taking care of all of the bills.
  • In 2017, it was a similar story and it was the collapse of that relationship. She was a mess and could hardly work and her income went down $20,000. All of the money she thought she was going to be saving and investing didn’t happen as much as she wanted.
  • During this time, Melanie opened a SEP IRA, which is for self-employed people. She also opened a Vanguard account with index funds. Two months after she started investing in Vanguard, she didn’t understand why she wasn’t making any money. She didn’t realize that she had to do another step to purchase the investments.
  • Melanie used to write for Robert at the College Investor, and when she started investing, she emailed him and asked him what to do. He walked her through step by step so she could get started.
  • Roboadvisors invest your money for you. Investing is not easy for everyone. If it is going to cause friction, take away the friction and just choose a roboadvisor. You need to know what is going to work for you and the worst thing to do is to not get invested.
  • Looking at compound interest, you really need as long as you can possibly give yourself in terms of your age versus when you are going to retire.
  • About every seven years, you can expect your portfolio to double, but you need to have your money in there.
  • At the time of the last recording, Tonya had her money invested with an active advisor at Raymond James. In December 2015, she worked with Shannon to move her money. Since it has been moved, there is very little she has done with it, other than adding to it or taking money out of her brokerage account.
  • When Tonya was working full time, she was adding quite a bit of money to a 401(k). Since she has not been working full time, she has not been adding to it and has been taking money out of her brokerage account more than she likes.
  • She checks her Personal Capital account once a month, because she does a tracking spreadsheet. The last month Tonya did her net worth spreadsheet, it was up the highest it had been even when she had a full-time job, which was more than a year ago. Now it is $10,000 less. Most of that is not something she can control, but seeing it keeps her accountable and more in tune with her money.
  • If you are in your mid-60s and are going to retire from your full-time job, on average, you are going to be living to 85 (for women it is 87), according to Social Security. You have another 20 plus years that you need your retirement portfolio to work for you.
  • Many Baby Boomers have been too conservative with their investments and they don’t have enough saved.
  • If you are near retirement, you still need a portion of your portfolio to be aggressive.
  • If you do a rollover of your 401(k) into an IRA, the money gets put into a cash account and you need to invest it from there.
  • Tonya had a financial advisor and now she handles her investments herself. She had never met the advisor in person. Her dad set her up with him, because he is an advisor in her hometown.
  • Tonya understood nothing, when he did her annual review. She had very little interest in learning, because it wasn’t very fun. After she met with her accountant, she was told about the fees she was being charged.
  • When Tonya told her dad that she left Raymond James and invested in Vanguard funds, he said that he did that years ago.
  • Tonya hasn’t done much with her investments. She has let it sit and grow. It makes her feel good that it is there. Tonya is happy she got rid of her advisor. It gives her piece of mind, because she likes to know where her money is and that she has control over it. It is better for her to simplify.
  • The number one challenge with investing is confusion and jargon. There are roboadvisors that you can use to keep it simple and so you don’t have to get in the weeds on it.
  • The number two challenge is to have the money to invest. If you don’t have it, you need to work on budgeting expense management to get to that point.
  • The number three challenge is knowing your different goals. There are different roller coasters for different life goals. Your retirement roller coaster is very extreme. Saving and investing for five to ten year goals is a moderate roller coaster. Investing for two to five years is the kiddie coaster. It is all about knowing what buckets you have.
  • In 2008, some people who were close to retirement were freaking out, because the market went down. The problem wasn’t the market, the problem was that they had the wrong asset allocation. They were on an extreme roller coaster when they had a different goal.
  • If you feel like you don’t know how to open the account or if you have questions, call the 800 number at Fidelity, Vanguard, or your 401(k) provider. It is their job to help you and make sure you are comfortable. If they are not, you need to think about moving your account to somewhere that is helpful.
  • Liz has a 529 plan for each of her kids. She goes back and forth on whether or not they are a good idea. It all depends on your state and your tax situation. It is something to explore and think about it. The other side of it is that you can take out loans for college but not for retirement.
  • You can go on the Social Security website and find out what you can expect to earn.
  • Investor.gov is another good website to use.
  • If you haven’t started investing, or if you feel like you are behind, remember that investing is just one component of your retirement/financial independence. A very large component of it is your lifestyle and the expense choices that you make. Take a deep breath. What you can control is your lifestyle.
  • Your portfolio only needs to be as big as your lifestyle in retirement. If you can start working on a healthier, lower-cost lifestyle, then you do not need as much money. Your lifestyle is totally within your control.
  • Make the effort to be consistent. Even if that means contributing only $50 a month. Keep track of it, but don’t go crazy over it.

TAKEAWAY:My biggest takeaway is that investing is personal and can be personalized. Find the best approach that works for you and stick with it.

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!!

Mom and Dad, We Need to Talk with Cameron Huddleston

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Mom and Dad, We Need to Talk with Cameron Huddleston

I get requests almost daily for people to come on my show, specifically to talk about books they’ve written. Most of the time I say no, because I’ve checked out the book and wouldn’t recommend it to my worst enemy, or the topic is not something that I believe all of you would want to hear about.

When my friend Cameron Huddleston reached out to me to tell me she wrote a book, I knew right away I wanted to have her on the show, because this is a book and topic we all need to know about. Cameron is a financial journalist and author of the book Mom and Dad, We Need to Talk: How to Have Essential Conversations with Your Parents About Their Finances. This is a topic that not only hit me personally, as you’ll hear, but also I deal with this a lot in helping my clients plan for their future. If you’re parents are still alive and in your life, this is a podcast you won’t want to miss.

What Are We Drinking?

Cameron — Bourbon on the rocks

Shannon —  Grapefruit Schweppes & Vodka

Podcast Notes

  • Cameron has been a personal finance journalist for 17 years. She has been a journalist for even longer and she never thought she would write a book. 
  • Cameron writes articles that are typically around 1,000 words and writing a book with 50,000 or 60,000 words seemed like so much. Even though she could have written 100 books with all of the articles she has written in her life, the idea of a book just seemed overwhelming. 
  • Cameron went through something in her life and she realized there were a lot of people that were going through something similar, or would be going through something similar, and she could help them by sharing her experience. 
  • It doesn’t matter how old you are, talking to your parents about money is challenging. Money is a taboo topic and people are afraid to have these conversations or they don’t realize they need to have these conversations. 
  • Cameron was 35 when her mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and one of her big regrets was that she had not talked to her about her finances. 
  • At the time, she was writing for Kiplinger’s Personal Finance and she had moved from Washington D.C. to her home state of Kentucky.
  • Cameron was living across the street from her mom and said that she should look into long-term care insurance. Her mom met with an insurance agent and unfortunately, she had another pre-existing health condition that made her too much of a risk.
  • Cameron feels like she should have talked to her mom then about the assets she had to cover long-term care if she needed it.
  • Shannon talks about money all day long and she finds it difficult to talk to her parents about money too. Shannon did talk to her mom about money when her mom moved in with her a few years ago.
  • It is one thing if your parents won’t open up about it, but somebody needs to take care of things if something happens to them. 
  • Shannon has a stepfather who will not talk to her about money. It is her job and she is an expert, but it is still challenging talking to parents about money.
  • It’s not so much about getting the details, it is talking about those financial issues. The Power of Attorney (POA) is really the biggest one, because you need to be mentally competent to sign it.
  • When Cameron saw her mother losing her memory, she told her they needed to go in and update her legal documents. She was competent enough to name Cameron and her sister as her POA and update her will.
  • Meeting with the attorney opened the door to having those conversations, because she gave them suggestions about what they should be doing going forward with her mother and her finances. 
  • Without that POA, Cameron would not have been able to do anything for her mother. 
  • There are different types of POAs, but you want the most robust, where you can open and close accounts. You don’t want a limited one.
  • If you have not talked to your parents about money, you need to start. It doesn’t matter if you are 18 or 60. You need to start having a conversation, because at some point you may need to be involved in what is happening in your parents’ financial life, whether providing financial support or if they become incapacitated.
  • The likelihood of you becoming involved as a child in your parents’ finances is pretty high.
  • If you are not involved in their finances when they are alive, you will probably get involved when they die, because you have to deal with everything they left behind. 
  • When your parents are in good health, have these conversations. You don’t want to have these conversations when there is a crisis because you have fewer options to deal with the crisis. If they have not named you or a sibling or someone else as POA, nobody will be able to step in and help them with their finances or make healthcare decisions without going to court.
  • The cost of the legal documents now is much less than the court costs later.
  • Cameron lists 10 different ways in her book to talk to your parents about money. 
  • If you are in your 20s and just starting out, the best way to do this is to ask your parents for advice. Even if you are in a situation where you are financially savvy and your parents are not, it’s okay. Just pretend. Should I get life insurance? Should I get a will? Should I save for retirement? This will open the door for them to share what they have or haven’t done.
  • You want to be very tactful and respectful in these conversations and you don’t want to push too soon or too hard for details. It isn’t about how much they have in their bank account it’s about where they are banking. You need to know if their bills are paid automatically or if you need to write a check. If something happens to them, you need to make sure those bills get paid.
  • It isn’t “How much have you saved for retirement?” it is “What does retirement look like for you?”
  • If you are in your 30s, you can use a story. By that time you have a story you can share about a friend whose parent died without a will, or a colleague who had to stop working to care for an aging parent.
  • There is a good chance you have a story, or you can borrow one: My friend Shannon’s mother lost her job and couldn’t financially support herself and at 63 she had to move in with Shannon. I want to make sure our family does not end up in a similar situation.
  • Seventy percent of Americans live paycheck to paycheck. Your parents could likely be in this boat and what happens if it is before the ability to collect Social Security? How are they going to support themselves if something happened? You might need to get involved before Social Security. 
  • You don’t want to scare them, but you want them to realize that bad things can happen if you don’t have these conversations. 
  • The first time you bring it up they may not be eager to talk about it, but that doesn’t mean you should give it up. Find a different approach, use a story, use what-if scenarios, or use an event. 
  • If your parents are a lot older and you are already in your 50s, you can send them an invitation to have a conversation with you. It is a polite and respectful way to do it and it is better than putting them on the spot. You are laying out the reasons why you want to have the conversation in the invitation and giving them time to think about it. They may be more willing to open up and have that conversation with you.
  • Nearly half of adults between 50 and 64 don’t have a will. Another good conversation is if they have a will. You may not need to be involved now, but you want to make sure they have a plan if something happens. 
  • When you bring up the topic of a will make sure it is framed in a way that talks about their wishes, not because you want to know what you are getting. Make it clear that you want to make sure they have something in writing that spells out their wishes, because if they don’t have one, the state will decide for you.
  • It is so stressful to bury anybody, and it is added stress if you don’t know their wishes. Have the conversation with the people closest to you. 
  • Never assume that your parents are on top of everything. Cameron’s father was an attorney and he didn’t have a will. As difficult as it is to talk about death, asking about your parents’ wishes is certainly a way to start the conversation.
  • If you think at some point you will need to get involved, you need to be having these conversations. You have enough stress in life. You can have these conversations now.
  • Your finances could be involved, especially when it comes to long-term care. Most people do not have long-term care insurance and Medicare doesn’t pay for long-term care.
  • There are so many things that are known that you can plan for, but long-term care is the biggest unknown and if someone will need it.
  • The national average of monthly cost for long-term care is $5,000 for assisted living or in-home care. Nursing home care is about $80,000 to $90,000 a year.
  • If you say you cannot afford long-term care insurance that costs $200 or $300 a month, depending on coverage and your health, how are you going to afford $5,000 a month for assisted living?
  • There are other options. You can get life insurance with a long-term care benefit. You either use it for yourself for long-term care or your kids get the death benefit.
  • You can get an annuity that is geared toward long-term care coverage or you can save the money on your own.
  • Most people don’t do any of these things and their kids are their long-term care plan. You need to know if your mom and dad have resources to pay for long-term care, because if not, that will affect you financially.
  • Being a caregiver is a full-time job. 
  • The long-term backup is Medicaid that would provide the assistance, but there are so many parameters with it. Medicaid will take your parents’ Social Security and they will have access to their assets. There is a clawback provision where if your parents pass away and you sell their house, Medicaid can take the money back after the fact.
  • Even if your parents saved for long-term care, you need to know what they have done. They may have the assets, but the assets you choose to liquidate for their long-term care, there are tax implications. There is a certain order that you should follow to draw down the money. You need to be strategic.
  • If you don’t talk to your parents, you may have less money for their care because you are losing a lot of it to taxes if you are not withdrawing it properly.
  • What happens if you need to use their assets to support your parents’ needs and you don’t have access to them because you don’t have POA? You need to go to court and spend thousands of dollars putting your parent on trial proving they are no longer competent.
  • If you are named conservator, you need to file a report with the court every single year, spelling out how you spent your parents’ money. As a POA, you don’t need to do that. 
  • The importance of a POA was the biggest lesson for Shannon, when she was at Merrill Lynch. 
  • The consequences of not having the conversation with your parents are so much scarier than the conversation. If you have a good relationship with your parents, what are you afraid of? They aren’t going to fly off the handle or get angry and disown you. They might be reluctant and it may take awhile for them to be comfortable. Sometimes it can take years. Take those steps and slowly open the door.
  • If you are a parent, please talk to your kids about your financial situation so you can help them in reverse. 
  • One of the easiest ways to approach this conversation is by talking about scams.
  • The one thing you don’t want to do is let your parents think scammers are targeting them just because they are old. You want to frame it that scammers target people their age because they are retired and have a large source of money and they see them as a cash cow. Scammers are counting on them to stay on the phone because they were raised to be polite.
  • Red flags: getting a call from the government (IRS or Social Security), getting a call telling you that you won a prize and you need to wire money, getting a call that your child or grandchild is in prison, etc. If your parents are single, talk to them about sweetheart scams. Go over the red flags with them. 
  • If your parents don’t talk to you about sex, you will figure it out. If your parents don’t talk to you about their finances, you will not figure it out on your own. You need to get the information from your parents.
  • If your parents are reluctant to give you the information, ask them to write it down. Make a list of the accounts and passwords and keep it someplace safe where you will be able to find it.

TAKEAWAY: My biggest takeaway is to take a moment and think about whether or not your parents’ financial future will impact your own. If you know that you will have to get involved in some way, shape, or form, then you need to start finding ways to talk to your parents about their finances sooner than later and Cameron’s book is an amazing resource for this.

Random Three Questions

  1. What is the one thing you wish you could have done differently and you wish everyone would know?
  2. What is a show that you like to binge watch?
  3. What do you do to relax?

Connect with Cameron

Website: cameronhuddleston.com

Book: Mom and Dad, We Need to Talk

If you’d like to talk to my team at the Financial Gym to help you financially prepare to help your parents out, I hope you’ll reach out to us at the Financial Gym. 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.