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The Wedding Hacker with Heather Fier

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The Wedding Hacker with Heather Fier

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

What Are We Drinking?

Heather — Bulletproof Coffee (includes butter & coconut oil)

Shannon —  Black Cherry Schweppes

Podcast Notes

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

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

Random Three Questions

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

Connect with Heather

Website: The Wedding Hacker

Instagram: @weddinghackerclub 

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

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

Getting Financially Naked with Rebekkah

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Getting Financially Naked with Rebekkah

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

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

What Are We Drinking?

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

Shannon — Hendrick’s Gin and Tonic

Podcast Notes

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

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

Random Three Questions

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

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

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

The Path to Financial Health with Cherie

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The Path to Financial Health with Cherie

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

What Are We Drinking?

Cherie — Joseph Handler Sweet Red Wine

Shannon —  Grapefruit Schweppes with Vodka

Podcast Notes

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

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

Random Three Questions

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

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

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

Financial Literacy with the Happy Hour Ladies

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Financial Literacy with the Happy Hour Ladies

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

What are we drinking?

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

Tonya from Budget and the Beach — Pinot Grigio

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

Shannon — Grapefruit Schweppes and Vodka

Podcast Notes

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

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

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

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

Student Loan Solution with David Carlson

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Student Loan Solution with David Carlson

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

What Are We Drinking?

David — Rum and Coke

Shannon —  Grapefruit Schweppes with Vodka

Podcast Notes

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

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

Random Three Questions

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

Connect with David

Website: Young Adult Money

Book: Student Loan Solution

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

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

Forward in Heels with Jenny Maenpaa

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Forward in Heels with Jenny Maenpaa

If you’ve listened to the show before, you know that mental health is a topic that is really important to me. I always say that without physical, mental, or financial health, what are we doing this for. I view all three as equally critical to allow us to live our best lives.

Even though May is Mental Health Awareness Month, I wanted to kick off my discussion in April and speak to a mental health practitioner to answer all of the questions I’ve had around my own mental health, like how do I find the right therapist? How much should I pay? Can I negotiate? and more. Joining me to answer my questions, and hopefully yours, is Jenny Maenpaa, Psychotherapist and Women’s Leadership Coach and Founder of Forward in Heels. Jenny is a long-time friend of the Gym and I love her perspective on all things mental health.

What Are We Drinking?

Jenny — Pinot Grigio

Shannon —  Chardonnay 

Podcast Notes

  • Shannon knows Jenny, because she is a client at the Financial Gym.
  • Jenny’s trainer used to call her the billions woman, because of her job at the time.
  • In college, Jenny was a psychology major, because she thought it was interesting to study how people interact with each other.
  • She wanted to be a criminal profiler in college and she took some forensic psychology classes. 
  • After she graduated, she found out quickly that you cannot really do anything in mental health without a masters degree, so she went back to school and earned her Masters of Social Work (MSW).
  • Jenny always thought she was going to be in social services and work for the government. She realized quickly that she didn’t love criminal profiling, because you have to wait until bad things happen to people before you get information.
  • She worked in victim’s services for a while and didn’t like to feel as though she was a bandaid on the end of it. She decided to go more into prevention.
  • After she finished her masters degree, she worked in juvenile justice in a high school with over-aged/under-credited students. These are 18, 19, and 20 year olds who are not able to graduate because they don’t have enough credits. This happens if they’ve had a lot of interruptions in their schooling due to behavior or instability in their homes.
  • She was really aligned with the mission of the school, but the vision and mission didn’t align with the practices. People had good goals and wanted to do well, but they weren’t trained in leadership. When a bad boss is in physically and emotionally dangerous and taxing circumstances, that burns you out quickly.
  • A lot of the kids hadn’t learned emotional self regulation, so there were a lot of fights and challenges within the community and within the school, and the leadership didn’t know how to work with the mental health professionals to understand that they were also having experiences. 
  • Jenny worked in a lot of circumstances where therapy was forced on people and that is not what works for most people. 
  • In the spring of 2015, near the end of the school year, Jenny was burning out and she didn’t think she could do the job anymore. She was having her own trauma symptoms where she was waking up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat, her physical body would change when she walked into the building, and she didn’t know what to do. She only knew how to do therapy in that type of environment.
  • Jenny’s coworker asked her if she had ever thought about coaching, where you use the same skills you learned as a therapist but work with people who are high functioning, in a job that is high-powered, and they come to you by their own choice.
  • Jenny left the school at the end of the school year in 2015 and she enrolled in a coaching program. She knew how to be a therapist, but she didn’t know how to run a business.
  • Jenny loved the program and she found it added a counterpart to social work, because she found that coaching is rooted in people reaching for their dream lives versus therapy that is fixing a problem and getting to a level of maintenance.
  • So many people could benefit from therapy, even if we think we are okay or good, by having that impartial and unbiased person who is trained. They can add an extra perspective.
  • Jenny liked that she could combine the clinical part of social work with the idea that you can dream a big life for yourself no matter where you are starting.
  • One of the reasons Jenny loves the Financial Gym, is because when she started going there, they made her feel like there is no financial problem that they can’t fix. It is all about getting out of debt and financially preparing for a life that you want to live. 
  • The motto of the Gym is “What are you working for?”
  • Many people have limiting beliefs of what they can do, and it is the financial trainers’ jobs to tell clients new stories. This is similar to what Jenny does. 
  • When asked what type of therapy she does, Jenny says she does a combination of psychodynamic (Freudian stuff, your past, parents, etc.) and cognitive behavioral therapy (rewriting the narrative we’ve come to accept).
  • Shannon finds the second school of thought, cognitive behavioral therapy, to be helpful to her.
  • If you do just the psychodynamic therapy without changing the narrative you’ve come up with, it isn’t that useful. Going back and examining the trauma or pain without any action is just navel gazing. 
  • A financial example would be someone who felt like there was never enough money as a child. Their parents always made it feel like they were pinching pennies to afford to eat and now the person has in their head that there will never be enough, even if they make six figures. You can examine that, but then figure out how to rewrite the idea that there is never enough by looking at the evidence and the facts. Look at the behavior and then the facts – look at the bank account and expenses. That fear is rooted in childhood, but now the person is in charge of changing that story. You can understand where the idea comes from. The pain and the experience is real. 
  • You have to find a therapist or a coach that works with you. If you are someone who wants to understand some of the past traumas, relationships, or patterns, and you do want to spend time on that, you will need to find someone who does more psychodynamic work.
  • Finding a therapist is like dating. You don’t go on one date one time and say dating is not for me because that person is not right for me, but we do it with therapy all the time. Many people go to therapy once and say it isn’t for them, but there are thousands of ways to do therapy. 
  • If you don’t have your physical, financial, or mental health, what are we all doing here?
  • There is such friction to find the right person and the right type of therapy. It is a lot like online dating, because you can filter for the types of things you are looking for.
  • The biggest clearinghouse of therapists is psychologytoday.com. It is where all therapists are listed by their degree and credentials, and you can search by ZIP code and/or specialty. Each therapist has a short bio that they wrote. They should have a website and a free consultation call or visit.
  • For people who think they can’t afford it, this is an investment. It is like brushing your teeth — you want to brush your teeth every day, even when your teeth feel fine, because when you stop brushing, that is when things get bad.
  • We go to the gym and we look at our finances for our physical and financial health, and we need to do the same for our mental health. 
  • If you think you can’t afford it, you may find that you are spending money somewhere else to cover up what you are feeling and not addressing the issue.
  • Jenny has worked with people who have high paying jobs that they hate and, because they are so unhappy, they do a lot of online shopping. When the bill comes at the end of the month, they realize they need the job to pay for their shopping. Once they start to examine why they are unhappy and make a change, they break free of the cycle, and it frees up money to spend on what they actually want. 
  • Other people do this with drugs and alchohol. 
  • Seventy percent of the population live paycheck to paycheck and there are a lot of emotions around money. When you address some of the emotional challenges, it frees up the financial resources.
  • For some Financial Gym clients, they figure out the financial aspects first and then figure out the emotional stuff. It is all entwined. 
  • Many Gym clients say their sacred cows are travel, family, time with friends, and gym memberships, and their top spending categories do not reflect what they are saying they value. It is because of the disconnect. It is easy to spend money.
  • There are plenty of great therapists that take insurance. 
  • Jenny doesn’t take insurance. She has worked for managed care companies and when you sign up for health insurance, you sign away some of your privacy, because you are agreeing a third party can access your records so they can determine if it is medically necessary.
  • Therapists who take insurance get paid a lower rate, which means they may need to stack their schedules to have enough people to see to break even. On the insurance side, they can deny treatment, limit sessions, and see all of your records. The health insurance company’s bottom line is financial, not your mental health.
  • It is important to keep in mind that therapists are required to do continuing education to specialize. Every two to three years, they need to do more and more specialization, because nobody is really great at being a generalist. When you get into more specialized fields, the cost goes up. 
  • If you are going to a therapist for post-partum depression, that is a short-term commitment. That is not someone you will see throughout your lifetime. After 12, 15, 30 sessions, you will feel like you’ve got the tools you need and you won’t need to come back. 
  • There is no set number of appointments that is going to be right for everybody.
  • There is something to be said about the chemical changes in our brains and bodies as we go through life. People may go through therapy, have the toolbox, and think they don’t need therapy anymore. That sets us up for failure, because we get mad at ourselves if we can manage it. You learned the technique, but there is still so much that is not known about the brain. Information is evolving. 
  • There are some therapists that reserve a certain number of slots for a sliding scale fee. Most therapists that Jenny knows who do not take insurance do a sliding scale for the fee. If you have been seeing someone and there is a built in, ongoing relationship, it is Jenny’s ethical obligation not to just say sorry that you can’t afford it. It isn’t just wrong, it is something she could be sanctioned for.
  • Her requirement is to work with the person to see if there is space they can free up in their budget, maybe do a sliding scale, or refer them to somewhere that is a “warm transfer”, where she knows the therapist, it is the right specialty, and she can foster the transition. 
  • Ask about sliding scale and ask about negotiating. There are a lot of regulations in mental health, even more so than financial services.
  • Therapists are not allowed to barter and they can’t charge different rates for different people, because it has to be a standardized set. Sliding scale is allowed, because it is standardized: X number of people can pay Y amount.
  • Mental health professionals are bound by certain rules and most would love to give therapy for free, but it is a service they are providing and they had to get advanced degrees to do the work. It isn’t like law or finance where you expect a return on the investment. Therapists tend to make the same amount of money post-degree as they did pre.
  • It is hard because you do spend time and invest in the relationship, and sometimes people need to stop because of financial reasons.
  • Many people think about therapy only when they are in crisis mode.
  • Last April and May, Shannon had a difficult time where she didn’t want to be the boss anymore. She sought therapy and she was financially strapped at the time, because it was right when she was trying to sell her house. She looked for an online solution, but she prefers to talk through it, not email. Oprah’s supersoul conversations and a gratitude journal got her through that time, and now she feels good, but it is not always a good idea to wait for a crisis.
  • Jenny finds that waiting is the most detrimental with couples. Nobody goes to therapy until it is too late. So many things get in the way and the fixable things become unfixable at that point.
  • Shannon has clients that have been with her for years and it is like their therapy. She has other clients who have been with therapists for years. Having a disinterested/interested third party is critical to invest in the life you are living. 
  • No matter how you feel mentally, you are just one issue away from things falling apart.
  • There seems to be this idea with millennials that nothing is ever good enough. Nobody reaches the pinnacle and says they are satisfied. It is all about the next thing. When there is never an end game, and you will never be happy with whatever you accomplish, you are just constantly on a treadmill going nowhere. 
  • Things change over your lifetime. If you are going to seek help, it is not forever. You don’t have to go to weekly appointments for the next 70 years. Sometimes it is weekly for a while and then it is every two months. It is based on what is going on with your live. It is when you need it, how you need it and you are an active part in deciding what that looks like.
  • After a therapy session there are times when people leave Jenny’s office and feel worse than when they came in. She will often check in with clients before they leave, because she doesn’t want to send them out into the world with an open wound.
  • Is it productive, is it getting you somewhere new or are you raw, sad, hurt and staying there? Therapy is an inherently shaming process, because it requires you to examine things that you don’t want to examine.
  • Your therapist is not judging you. They are not closing the door, calling their friend, and talking about you. There are trained to roll with resistance.
  • It may not be until an hour or a day later, but leave feeling like maybe it got worse but then it got better. Ideally, Jenny wants her clients to leave feeling like they are moving forward every time, but there are going to be days where you feel worse at the end of the hour. As long as that is propelling you forward in the big picture, that is okay. If you are always leaving feeling worse or if you don’t feel like you walk out with any tools or actionable ways to feel better, it wouldn’t be serving you. 
  • Speak up for what you need in the moment. You can say you feel uncomfortable and ask for a different way to talk about the issue. You can only address things if you speak up so you can find a way to make it impactful for you.
  • There is nothing you can say to Jenny that will offend her, and there is no amount of resistance she can’t work with, because of her previous experience with forced therapy in the school. She is not going to fight you and will ask open-ended questions. 
  • Having a mental health person in your life is so important. Physical health, financial health, and mental health are all investments that get returns and reflect in the quality of your life.
  • There are so many things coming at us, it is easy to get lost.
  • There is definitely a difference working with someone virtually versus in person. Jenny wants to have a relationship with somebody first, before anything is done virtually. She wants you to see her body language and she wants to see yours. This way she will know different things that are coming up, if she is on the phone with you.
  • You have to find the preferred mode of communication for you. Some people prefer to have everything written instead of spoken. It is all about creating the system that works for you.
  • Jenny is now fully committed to starting her own practice.
  • While she was putting her business together, she came across a hedge fund that was looking to reduce unconscious bias in their forecasters. She worked with them on a contract, and it was fun, but it was so different than what she was used to. This is why her trainer called her the billions woman.
  • Even in the ideal environment where everything was flexible and there was a lot of trust, she still didn’t want to answer to someone and she wanted to be in charge of how she works, set her own boundaries, and live according to her value system.
  • At this point, she has all of the degrees and has done all the gold star work, but what is it for? Why did she do all of this?
  • Jenny could probably have gotten to where she wants to be by working for someone else, with a lot less debt, but she wants to create a practice where she can decide to take insurance or not, because of what she values in privacy.
  • She wants to hire therapists who represent a wide array of experiences, different races, backgrounds, and religions as well as different practice modalities. Jenny doesn’t want to surround herself only with people who do things and think like her. She wants to create a good structure.
  • Jenny thinks women should be at the forefront of this, and her business name is Forward in Heels. It comes from an old cartoon where Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers are dancing. Someone said that Fred is great, but Ginger had to do everything he did backwards and in high heels.
  • Jenny wants to flip the idea of us trying to mimic male leadership and say women have their own inherent strengths and ways of doing things. We’ve done it the male way for a long, long time, so let’s see if we can design something from the ground up that is different, instead of trying to fill in the gaps where we can be just like men.
  • Jenny wants to be the therapist she wished she had in her twenties and she wants to be the mentor and the leader that she never saw.
  • It is important to stay true to yourself. 
  • Jenny started with coaching in 2015 and she made a lot of mistakes at first. She blew through her savings and she invested in things that paid dividends, but they didn’t pay right away. She did everything wrong with a mindset that it will still work out. 
  • Part of the reason she took the billions job is because if her business doesn’t work out, she can’t just go out and get a six-figure job, because her field is not high paying.
  • She now is seeing the line on the graph go up and she feels that she is on the right track with her business.
  • Jenny found the Gym, because she went to a Ladies Get Paid Breakfast at the Gym’s old location. She has been networking and it has been a very positive experience for her and her business. It all snowballs. 
  • Jenny did a workshop for her school in 2016 and two and a half years later, she got a phone call about coaching from someone who was there. 
  • Things take time. When the student is ready, the teacher will enter.
  • You can’t force people to be ready. When they are ready, it will be more meaningful.

TAKEAWAY: My biggest takeaway is that physical, mental, and financial health all require some sort of financial investment, but when you invest in these things, you’re truly investing in the greatest possible investment you can make — you! Why would you want to short-change you on living the best life possible?

Random Three Questions

  1. What is a food you hated as a kid and do you hate it now?
  2. What is a show you like to binge watch?
  3. How do you take care of yourself mentally?

Connect with Jenny

Website: www.forwardinheels.com

Instagram/Twitter/Facebook: Forward In Heels

Workshop: Aligning Your Values with Your Actions (May 1, 2019 at the Financial Gym)

Book: Forward in Heels

Email: jenny@forwardinheels.com

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

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

Privilege with the Happy Hour Ladies

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Privilege with the Happy Hour Ladies

Today is the last Friday of the month and my regular listeners know that on the last Friday of the month, I host the happy hour on the podcast where I gather great friends with me to drink cheap drinks and talk about money topics. Today we’re talking about what has been a hot topic lately, especially in the personal finance writing space, and that is privilege. At least we started with privilege, and then the conversation progressed to the ups and downs of being a public voice in the very sensitive days we are living in. I hope you enjoy this conversation and, as always, receive it in the positive manner in which we intend to communicate.

What are we drinking?

Melanie from Dear Debt — Malbec

Tonya from Budget and the Beach — Huckleberry Vodka

Liz, Mrs. Frugalwoods, from Frugalwoods.com — Bota Box Night Hawk Black Red Wine Blend

Shannon — Black Box Malbec

Podcast Notes

  • Tonya requested to talk about privilege, because it is such a hot topic.
  • There was a post on the Freedom is Groovy blog called The Alt-FI Manifesto, and it caused a firestorm on Twitter, which led to a lot of discussion on privilege, race, and other topics.
  • Aside from the article, Tonya’s question is if there is an obligation for personal finance bloggers to disclose that they came from a background of privilege, where does it come into play, and how do people feel about it.
  • There is a lot of back and forth about this topic in the personal finance world.
  • Do you feel like you are a woman of privilege writing about money?
    • Melanie feels like she is a woman of privilege, being born in the USA, not having any credit card debt, coming from a two-parent household, and having two parents that went to college. She had a lot of student loan debt that set her back, but she feels privileged.
    • Tonya feels the same way. She came from a solidly middle-class background and she had her college paid for, which she didn’t realize how big of a deal that was at the time. Being born in the USA is a huge privilege already, and there are a million versions of that alone. She considers herself to be very fotunate.
    • Liz absolutely feels privileged. She has devoted a lot of time in her book and on her blog talking about it. In her book, she wrote something about how on the day she left the hospital after being born, she had these built in privileges like having two parents who have been married for a long time, who had advanced degrees, and who were a supportive and loving family. She started from a very fortunate place and it has carried forth, because a lot of these things compound. If you live a fortunate childhood, it is likely that you will leverage that into a successful college career and then a successful job. Liz sees privilege layered through everything she has done.
    • Shannon has an interesting relationship with the word privilege. She never thought about using the word privilege until recent years and in the personal finance space. She feels like people use the word to say they are sorry. She feels like her journey is her journey. Shannon grew up in a HUD home, because her mother and stepfather couldn’t afford a home on their own. Shannon didn’t know this growing up, because she didn’t know about her family’s financial situation. She grew up in a very blue collar neighborhood and both of her parents grew up below blue collar. Her grandfather was a postal worker and her grandmother worked briefly for the military. Shannon’s dad grew up in a two-bedroom apartment with five people. Her mom grew up in Jamaica, Queens, and her mom’s father was a southern baptist minister. Her mom’s house was broken into on a regular basis and she thought she was giving Shannon a good life. Shannon’s dad went to the Airforce Academy and then ended up becoming a doctor. By the time Shannon went to school, he was able to pay for her room, board, and books. She felt very fortunate. Shannon has been working since she was 14 and has never given much thought to privilege, because she just had the life she had. She does feel like was better than her parents’ lives were growing up. She doesn’t know when privilege came into the picture.
  • What does it matter, if you are privileged or not?
    • Melanie thinks it matters, because it is not an apples to apples comparison. It is the thinking of “I paid off all of my debt, and so can you”, and “I retired early and so can you”. It can get really problematic, because sometimes writers don’t disclose that they are married and their spouse is helping them pay off debt. Or, they don’t disclose that they had a huge windfall of cash or they inherited a house that helped them get set up. These details are important to share for context. It all comes back to context for Melanie. In personal finance, the juicy headlines are really sexy. Everybody wants to know how Melanie paid off debt or how Liz retired early, and Melanie wants to inspire people, but it is important to know your situation may not be the same. Melanie didn’t live in L.A. when she was paying off debt and she shared an apartment with her then-partner, so she could cut her living expenses in half. Melanie feels her privilege has increased since starting her blog in 2013, since she started out making $12 an hour and living on food stamps.
    • Tonya agrees with Melanie. She sees both sides, because the titles like “How I retired at 22” are sexy, but there are all of those details that are left out and they could make a person feel bad about their own situation. It is tough, because we are all just writers writing our own thing and there are no rules about what you need to disclose. You are allowed to write whatever you want, and if you don’t like what someone wrote, don’t read, don’t follow, and don’t promote. It is as simple as turning it off. She does see where people want to have the discussion, but feels like she is on the fence about the whole thing because you are allowed to write whatever you feel like writing, but there are consequences. Freedom is Groovy now has a lot of haters. He wrote the blog post and he needs to own what comes out of it. It’s hard, because the people who are making the most money and are having the most success are the people who had the success in the first place. Tonya needs to be empowered to follow her own path and read what she feels supports her own life and interests and not get too caught up in the drama of everyone else’s lives and what they write.
    • Liz has been attacked by not disclosing enough information. It comes down to this: it is difficult to figure out what you want to share and what you don’t want to share when you write about your life and your family. Early on, Liz and her husband decided they wouldn’t be sharing specific numbers on their blog, because they aren’t comfortable with it. There are people who are angry about it. People think if you put some of your life out there that you should be transparent about every single thing. Liz tries to contexualize things as much as she can and acknowledge their privilege. The first chapter of her book is devoted to privilege. Their privilege allows them to give back by supporting their community, by volunteering, and by doing work they feel good about. Liz also gets criticized a lot about acknowledging her privilege too much. The more she writes the more she receives criticism of equal amounts from each side — you don’t acknowledge privilege enough or all you do is acknowlege privilege. The internet is a devicive place. A lot of people go there to vent or to be cruel. She fosters a positive, supportive environment on her blog, because she sees that she has an opportunity to help people. Liz acknowledges in the book that not everyone can reach financial independence by working hard and being frugal. Every journey and relationship with money is unique.
    • Shannon: When you start writing anything online, whether a tweet,  a blog, or an Instagram post, you become a public figure and put yourself on a public stage. As your voice gets to more of the public, it gets interpreted in different ways. Shannon recently watched Sex and the City 2 and wrote an email on International Women’s Day about the scene in the movie where the women sang “I am woman”, because it hit her that women in particular don’t do enough to change their own situation and help other women. There are so many more oppressed parties than women in the USA. There is so much more we can do, and we need to change our thoughts about being dissatisfied and turn them into actions. After she sent the email, she immediately received a few complaints from Financial Gym clients, saying she shouldn’t be writing about how women only have themselves and other women to blame about deep-rooted issues. Shannon was accused of being aggressive and victim blaming. Shannon wrote back that we all need to be empathetic to each other and try to understand why someone wrote what they wrote and where they are coming from. All you can speak is your truth and you don’t need to agree.
  • What about people who write their truth and it is really negative? Is it okay?
    • Tonya thinks it is okay, as long as you own what you write. The basis is the intent of the article. Tonya has been following Freedom is Groovy and they have been very supportive of her life and they tend to write about very lighthearted topics. She doesn’t feel like they are malicious people, but she feels like he is misguided in what he wrote. Unless you are writing things that could potentially endanger another human being, or spreading hate, it is freedom of speech. You need to know that people may not support you anymore, like clients who were considering leaving the Gym after reading Shannon’s email. Take a moment before you enter the battle to decide if you need to expend energy on that battle. The answer is usually no.
    • Liz likes to be supportive and kind. It is important to remember that people get in touch with you when they are upset. Think about all of the reviews on Amazon. You tend to write a review when you are unhappy about something. Negativity can be a stronger emotion for people and it isn’t necessarily representative of how everyone feels. Shannon received three emails back and the email was sent out to 20,000 people. It is important to stay focused on what you think is important.
    • Shannon has always fixated on losses. In her career, less than 10 percent of clients left, but she would always fixate on that instead of her 90 percent success rate. Whenever you feel like there is a lot of negativity coming at you, her solution is to focus on gratitude and external positivity. Shannon likes to send positive emails to people. We need to do more of this in life. Pause and take a deep breath before you are going to write something negative. It is so easy to put something negative out there. Why is something bothering you so much? What is it triggering? What response are you hoping to get?
    • Melanie quoted Lady Gaga who said “Social media is the toilet of the internet”. People spend an immense amount of time and energy fighting every single battle on the internet, but that is their gig. There are plenty of positive things to spend your energy on. If you are feeling super strongly about one or two things, go for it. There are some people who just want to stir the pot on everything. It is easy to put that out there.
  • At the end of the day, what was the Twitter storm leaning toward?
    • Tonya: There were so many directions it took, it was probably leaning toward a couple of instigators. Racism, privilege, and political leanings were among the popular topics. Brene Brown wrote Braving the Wilderness right around the time Trump was elected president. She brought up a good point that we’ve become a country where if you aren’t with me, you are against me. There is no middle ground anymore. If you don’t agree one way or the other, you are the enemy.
    • Shannon: Once a topic gets public, there is no gray. It becomes a black or white thing. Red Table Top is on Facebook with Jada Pinkett Smith, her mom, and her daughter. Recently they had on Jordan Woods, the person at the center of the Kardashian drama. It all becomes one sided. Nobody’s human existence story is one sided. There are a lot of nuances. You can no longer just defend somebody. Nobody needs to have a public stoning.
    • Tonya: If we don’t experience empathy, it is not simply that the writer is a horrible, evil human being. Tonya isn’t just going to write someone off. Maybe have a discussion with the person to see where they are coming from and see them face to face. Everyone is so critical and harsh. If you are getting angry, just turn it off. You don’t need to make an announcement that you are no longer following someone, just move on.
  • Have you ever been involved in a public rant?
    • Liz has not. She is a lover and she doesn’t like to attract negativity into her life. Negativity is a product of the internet. You reach a certain threshold of people reading what you write and it is a product, in some ways, of success. It is inherent to having a lot of people reading your stuff and it is part and parcel of doing business.
    • Melanie had negative comments on her article that was picked up on Business Insider. In regards to the Freedom is Groovy article, she didn’t agree with the post, she couldn’t finish it, and she is not going to read anyone’s 8,000 word manifesto. Anyone who is going to write that big of a manifesto should be questioned anyway. She didn’t enjoy it or agree with it, but she doesn’t feel like she needs to say something publicly or have a stance on it. She would rather not spend her energy on things she doesn’t agree with.
    • Shannon believes in the freedom of speech. The ultimate privilege is that we live in the USA and we can say these things. Some of the things we say and write can’t be said in other parts of the world and we need to respect everyone’s voice. It is not her purpose on earth to go around and try to change people, and attacking someone isn’t going to change them anyway. Pray that these people get common sense or that you won’t be stuck in an elevator with them. Move about your business and do the right thing.
    • Tonya: People always want the last Tweet or comment on Facebook and they have to be right. Just let it go.
  • So much of this comes from contexualizing your statements. It depends on how you state your truth.
  • Not everybody can be financially independent by 33, because not everybody is 33.
  • Anybody can do anything they put their minds to — not defying the laws of physics like flying. That’s not the point.
  • Anything is possible. Don’t get fixated on context, focus on making it a reality for yourself, if it is something you want to do.
  • You are born into what you are born into and you cannot change the laws of physics or the time-space continuum — you are given what you are given and sometimes that sucks. You might be privileged in the sense of money, but you might be hit by an illness.
  • You never know what is going on in someone’s life, so don’t bother trying to figure out someone else’s life, figure out your own life. Figure out what you have and where you are starting from and work with that, because you cannot just will or wish something were different. It sucks if you are given a tough hand, but that is the hand and life you were given and you need to work with it.
  • Tonya’s blog was linked in the Alt-FI article and she doesn’t care, because that isn’t her voice. Several bloggers were mad that they were linked.
  • Sometimes we are tested to access our empathetic selves and try to understand someone else’s point of view and their right to that point of view.
  • Shannon doesn’t follow Freedom is Groovy and she doesn’t really understand where he stands after reading the article, but that is how he feels.
  • There are a lot of feelings being felt out there. Daniel Tiger knows all about that.
  • Shannon has been on a lot of flights lately and the Fred Rogers documentary is shown on most of them. His whole message is all about kids just feeling their feelings. His job was to help people feel things and express their feelings. That is all this is about at the end of the day — people expressing their feelings. If we all find a better way to do this, we will all be in a better place.
  • Listen more!
  • Watch Mr. Rogers and Daniel Tiger.
  • Feel the feelings in a healthy way and it will get better.
  • It is important to recognize where you come from and that maybe there are some things that get you further ahead of other people. It is still your story and you can own that as well.
  • Own your truth, own your story. We are living our story and that is our purpose. Don’t let others change your story and don’t try to change other peoples’ stories. Try a little tenderness.
  • Whenever you have an instinct to write something negative, take some advice from Daniel Tiger and take a deep breath. Do you need to do that? If you really feel like you need to do that, take a minute and write five nice emails to other people to balance it out. Receiving a nice email is delightful.
  • Before you are ready to criticize and pounce on someone for what they wrote and who they are, are you perfect? Do you do nothing wrong? Have you ever wrote something that was controversial? Have you made mistakes? Think about that first.

TAKEAWAY: My biggest takeaway is the importance of empathy in this day and age. I think there are so many intense emotions being felt right now that are compounded by social media, and I truly feel that the antidote to all of this is empathy. We don’t all have to get along and we don’t all have the have the exact same opinions and beliefs. That is not what the human experience is all about, but I do think we should always try to walk in someone else’s shoes, no matter how crazy those shoes look.

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

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

Getting Financially Naked with Anna

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Getting Financially Naked with Anna

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

A few months back on this podcast, I shared my financially naked session and it led to a request for more. Getting in the hot seat today is Anna. And I want to say that if you have any emotional triggers around abuse, this will not be the episode for you. Anna joins me today to share how she survived her abusive relationship and how she’s putting together the pieces of her financial life in a very non-conventional way.  

What Are We Drinking?

Anna — Coffee with cream

Shannon — Black Berry Schweppes

Podcast Notes

  • Anna started listening to the podcast in the summer of 2016, when she started her new job in Connecticut.
  • She started listening to personal finance podcasts, because she is an accountant and the subject interests her. Also, she has always been a saver, and didn’t have any financial problems until she got married.
  • Last summer, when Anna joined the Financial Gym, she was getting out of her five-year marriage. Her ex-husband was abusive and had bipolar disorder. Not everyone who is diagnosed with bipolar is abusive.
  • A typical symptom of bipolar disorder in a manic state is overspending.  Her ex had a lot of spending problems, but they didn’t appear until after they were married.
  • Anna didn’t know he had bipolar disorder, before they were married, but there were red flags when they were dating. Her ex was only 24 years old when they started dating, and mental illness tends to evolve over time.
  • Her ex would have occasional bouts of depression, but there weren’t any signs of rage until right before they got married. She didn’t really understand it or know what it was. She knew something was wrong, but didn’t know if she should cancel the wedding. After he calmed down, he said he was just stressed out and after they were married, he wouldn’t have the stress of the wedding. 
  • At first it wasn’t abusive, it was anger. After they were married, there were still only isolated incidents. The day after their wedding, her ex got really angry while he was driving, and he started driving really fast. It was in the middle of a snowstorm and he went off the road.
  • Afterward these episodes, he would say it was just a mistake. Then he would have long periods of time where he was fine.
  • After her daughter was born, her ex was a great dad and was very supportive. Last January, after her son was born, it got really bad. He went into a really severe episode and refused to get help. 
  • Her ex’s financial situation was always unstable. He would work and make money, then quit and do something else. He was always jumping from one thing to the next.
  • Anna decided to join the Gym after Shannon shared her financially naked session on the podcast. Shannon had talked about life choices she made and why it made sense to her at the time. Anna related to that, because she didn’t know she was in a bad situation until it all blew up.
  • When Anna moved to Connecticut, they bought a fixer-upper house. Her husband decided he hated the house and wanted to open a business. The house was really close to Anna’s work, and, after they did a few fixes, they were able to rent it out for $1,000 more than the mortgage.
  • Anna’s job was stable and she made a good income, so buying another house didn’t seem like a risky position, even though they were doing renovations and didn’t have a lot to put down on another house.
  • They bought another house that was a mixed-use residential/commercial. Her husband was going to run a store in part of it, there was an apartment they were going to AirBNB, and they were going to live in the other part of it. Again, this didn’t seem risky, even though the mortgage was expensive. 
  • A lot of things ended up going wrong with the house. It was difficult to heat and they couldn’t do the AirBNB after all. At the time, Anna had a newborn and a two-year old, and she realized she had to pay for the house and all of the expenses by herself. 
  • They didn’t have any savings and her ex ran up a bunch of credit card debt. Anna realized her husband wasn’t going to get better and he wasn’t going to get help.
  • Anna was far away from her family and decided to move closer to her parents in upstate New York, so she could have help with her kids. She left to keep herself and her kids safe.
  • The best decision she made was pursuing her career, because it is flexible and she was able to find a job in New York that paid well.
  • Shannon remembers reviewing Anna’s plan a year ago, because Anna had so much stuff going on in her life. 
  • Many clients join the Gym when their life is like a tornado, because they need help seeing clearly. The stories may start sad, but they don’t end sad.
  • Joy helped Anna negotiate her salary and signing bonus with her new job in New York and helped her reset her expectations.
  • Anna’s new job starts in July 2019, but Anna moved early, because she doesn’t teach in the spring, she only does research. She can do that remotely and goes back to Connecticut twice a month. She moved one month ago.
  • The tenants moved out of their first house and her ex-husband moved in. His dad is paying for him to stay there, but she wants him to sell it, because her name is still on the mortgage. In order to get her name off of the mortgage, her ex will need to refinance and he will not qualify. They will hopefully either sell it or his parents will buy it. There is probably $60,000 in equity in that house.
  • For the other house, she had to pay someone a small fortune to finish painting it, because her ex started painting but didn’t finish. They listed the house for sale in August, but it is a big house in a rural area, and it is not selling.
  • The house was so expensive to maintain that she stopped paying the mortgage in November 2018, and she is working with the bank on either a short sale or a deed in lieu of forclosure. It cost over $1,200 a month to heat the home and it was still cold.
  • The next step is to get the house appraised. They first had to supply a lot of information to prove they couldn’t afford it. It should appraise for more than what they paid, but there aren’t any buyers. 
  • Anna will have about a month of overlap of pay, as she will still be employed by her current job through either July or August. 
  • Questions from the financially naked discovery questionnaire:
    • Birthday: May 17,1983
    • Job: Professor of Accounting (PhD in accounting); teaching and researching 
    • Salary: $201,000 current; $145,000 new job (more teaching than research)
    • Net Pay: $4,536 biweekly ($9,000/month now; $7,500 estimated for new job)
    • Checking Account: $4,890
    • Checking/Savings Account: $2,516
    • Discover Savings #1: $2,127
    • Discover Savings #2: $1,166
    • Investment Account – Son: $700
    • 529 Plan – Son: $3,157
    • Investment Account – Daughter: $225
    • 529 Plan – Daughter: $13,132
    • Prudential Retirement (defined contribution & 457): $85,509 (after she gave $65,000 in the divorce)
    • 1st House: $60,000 in equity; mortgage $2,350/month
    • 2nd House: $540,000 original appraisal; should appraise for $550,000 or $560,000, they owe $482,000, but going through foreclosure; $3,893/month, utilities $1,200/month
    • Student Loan (Federal): $89,071; $1,125/month; 5.5 years left on public service loan forgiveness; Approx $40,000 should be forgiven
    • Student Loans (Private): $14,829 at 6% interest and $17,610; $247/month
    • Payment to Ex: $66/month 
    • JetBlue Barclays Credit Card: $4,122 (waiting for reimbursements from work)
    • Credit Score: 660
    • Car Loan: $513/month
    • Rent: $850/month
    • Daycare: $1,600/month
    • Renter’s Insurance: Yes
    • Will/Trust: No
    • Life Insurance: $900,000 ($350/year)
    • Disability Insurance: Not yet
    • Average Monthly Expenses: $6,500
    • Children: Son, 13 months old; Daughter, 3 years old
    • Goals 1-3 years: Save $20,000 emergency fund, increase retirement saving to lower tax bracket, travel, pay off car in 2019
    • Goals 3-5 years: Pay off student loans, own a rental house
    • Goals long-term: Retire or be financially independent by 55
    • What’s important to you (sacred cows): Family, kids, and self care

Takeaway: My biggest takeaway is that sometimes the solution to your financial problems is not the best looking on paper, but, when it comes to protecting your family and your livelihood, you may sometimes be forced to take an unconventional approach to financial stability. 

Random Three Questions

  1. What other podcasts do you like listening to?
  2. What is a food you hated as a child and do you like it as an adult?
  3. If you won a million dollars, what would you do with it?

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

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