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The Art of Becoming a PITA with Shanah Bell

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The Art of Becoming a PITA with Shanah Bell

I always love talking to guests about how we can live a better life. After all, it is part of the slogan on my podcast. Today I am excited to have back on the show Shanah Bell, founder of Adaptive Nourishment and author of the book The Art of Being a PITA, to discuss how her career of working over 50 jobs informed how she can help other people navigate the ins and outs of getting what they want and living the life they want.

What Are We Drinking?

Shanah — Citrus Gin Fizz:

1-2 shot of gin, ice, 10 drops Crude Rizzo Bitters, 2 shots organic lemonade, 2 shots grapefruit Italian soda, 1 shot lime seltzer water, stir, top with candied lemon wedge and two candied mandarin oranges (16 oz)

Shannon —  Gin and Tonic

Podcast Notes

  • The first time Shanah was on the podcast, in March 2017, she talked about being on food stamps. Listen to that episode here.
  • Shanah is now a client of the Financial Gym and her trainer, Jen, hadn’t heard the episode. 
  • Shanah got creative in freelancing and is no longer on food stamps.
  • There are things that happen in life that lead us to some sort of evolution of ourselves. Although we don’t want to go through it, we are stronger for it.
  • Shanah decided to join the Gym to see if a trainer could see something that Shanah was missing and see what she would say. Jen did tweak a few things and now Shanah is almost to the goal that was set in December.
  • Just like fit people go to a gym, there is a benefit to joining the Financial Gym, and there is a six-month, money-back guarantee. 
  • Shanah has been with the Gym almost six months. She isn’t planning on staying long-term, because she just needed someone to look at her finances from a different perspective. As a frugal person, Shanah said it is worth the money.
  • Shanah now has her own business and just wrote a book, The Art of Becoming a PITA (pain in the ass).
  • Shanah has had Celiacs disease since 1986 and has never had a pita chip in her life. She earned a masters degree in nutrition and is a holistic health advisor, and she works with clients who have food and health issues. This book has nothing to do with food at all.
  • The book cover looks like a box of crackers and has a nutrition label on the back.
  • Shanah has been working on this book as part of a larger project for about six to eight years. This book is a smaller version of the original and she is now going to be working on the second one.
  • It took a long time to write, because Shanah got divorced and she was trying to raise her kids and survive. Writing a book wasn’t really top priority, because it wasn’t making money at the time. 
  • Shanah decided to write this book, because she has lived an unconventional life, when it comes to jobs and finances, since she was 14. She will turn 40 years old this year. “What do you do” is one of those questions that comes up in almost every conversation. People have wondered how she has made it financially without have one stable job, so she decided to write it down. 
  • In the book she also talks about what skills she has learned, what she has learned about herself, and how it makes her a versatile person to have on your team.
  • Diversified income has helped Shanah find a happy work-life balance. She is an entrepreneur, which is not always fun and games.
  • Most people consider you a PITA when you don’t conform to the societal norms where you go to school, get a degree, get a “good job” at a corporation that is stable and gives you a 401(k) and vacation time, work there until you are 65, and that’s all you do.
  • In Shanah’s opinion, the stability of any one job is not something that really exists anymore. It used to exist from about the 1900s to the 1950s and then corporate jobs started not being as stable. Now it isn’t really a thing. 
  • North Carolina is an at-will state, which means you could get hired or fired on any given day for any reason and there goes your stability.
  • If you are putting all of your eggs in one basket, that is fine, but that is not how Shanah does it. It has given her more flexibility to change and shift as the job market changes and shifts. We don’t stay the same.
  • Shanah has learned to diversify her skill set as she has gotten older, to do different things. 
  • Forty two states are at-will, which means they can let you go no matter what. At the end of the day, you have to look at yourself and protect yourself and your family and be flexible. 
  • You don’t know where you will be in ten or twenty years.
  • If you are the type of person that likes working a nine to five job, which is the majority of people, that is fine. That doesn’t mean you can’t look at your current position in your company and see if there are new skills you can learn to increase your knowledge base and skillset, which would also increase your viability.
  • You can look within your company to see if there are other people in other positions that are doing things that you find interesting. If so, figure out how to learn that skillset, whether you are getting paid for it or not, because it makes you a more viable employee and it makes it easier to shift you around in the company.
  • If there are no opportunities within your current company, or if you are not drawn to anything, look outside of your company for things you like to do. This could include photography, writing, or hanging out with babies or animals, and see if you can figure out any skills within your hobbies that you can learn more about, and do it as a side hustle. That may grow into making more money than your full-time job and you may want to shift. 
  • Shanah worked as a bartender at night when she worked in an office, because she liked bartending and missed the socialization.
  • For people who say they don’t have time for this because of their day job and kids, if it is important enough to you, you will figure it out. When someone who has one baby looks at someone who has twins and asks how do they do it, they just do. They have to figure it out.
  • Depending what Shanah was doing, she would either work early morning or before bed. 
  • If you are doing something remotely, you have more flexibility. In the original podcast Shanah did in March 2017, she was up at 3:00 am multiple days of the week. If you are a night owl, work after the kids go to bed. There are plenty of weekends where Shanah worked all weekend long.
  • You can find the time if you really want to. If you work full time, it is only 40 hours a week. It is a matter of realizing that no matter where you are in your career, you should always explore new things, either as a back up or to learn the next thing.
  • At the Gym the first goal is having an emergency fund and being financially prepared for the unknown. On the other side, there is another way to be financially prepared, and that is being as professionally prepared as possible and focusing on other things.
  • You never know what is going to happen. You may get to the point in your career that you hate your job and it isn’t a matter of being let go.
  • A typical response at the Gym is “I am going to go back to school and get a masters in something else because I want to move into this next thing”. 
  • Think creatively about solutions that don’t require tens of thousands of dollars of debt to figure out a change in life. This is what Shanah is pointing out in her book.
  • When Shanah was 14, 15, and 16, she didn’t know what she wanted to do for a job. She is still evolving and changing and she is now almost 40. As humans we are supposed to be evolving and changing.
  • You don’t know what the you in 20 years is going to be versus the you now. It is always good to keep increasing your skillset, because you never know when it will come in handy.
  • In the book, Shanah lays out each job she has had. At the time she wrote the book, it was 56 jobs. Since then, she has added dog boarding, cooking classes, AirBNB, and author — 60 jobs!
  • In the book, at the end of each job, Shanah states what she learned, and it is either skills she learned or things she learned about herself, either that she liked or didn’t like. You can see as she evolves she avoids getting into situations where the majority of the position is things she didn’t like before.
  • Every job you have, you learn something from it. It doesn’t matter if you liked it or didn’t like it. You learn things about yourself and what you like and hate about each job.
  • It is like a marriage when it ends where you learn what you liked and what you didn’t like, so you don’t replicate the things you didn’t like in your next relationship.
  • There is a portion at the end of the book where Shanah talks about creating a financial stability plan when you are making an irregular income. In Shanah’s opinion, having a budget is necessary to see what she has available and what she has to pay for every month versus what she wants.
  • Budgets get a bad rap. They are like diets — nobody wants to be on one. The biggest realization you have with a budget is not knowing your expenses (it’s like stepping on a scale).
  • Whether you like to budget or not there is an issue that has to be resolved or you will accumulate a lot of debt. You need to know your expenses to figure out how much you need to make.
  • Shanah chronicles her life in 56 jobs in the book. 
  • Another book Shannon recommends is Hustle Away Debt by Dave Carlson, who has something like 150 side hustles.
  • With technology, you have a lot more options and it is changing by the day.
  • Shanah likes to talk to people about what she likes and about what she has done before. Most of the jobs she’s had have been handed to her, because they have heard of the other stuff she has done. Talking to people and networking is the best way to get these jobs.
  • Shanah and Shannon hate networking events. Networking is just talking to other people. 
  • The answer isn’t necessarily going back to school and getting another degree. There can be more creativity than that.
  • Other than being doctors, lawyers, CPAs, and other jobs that require a specific education, most jobs you will learn as you go. Certain skills can apply to many different jobs which gives you more options in diversifying your income streams.
  • If you are feeling unhappy with what you are doing, there is an option to do something else that brings you happiness. Start having conversations with people and it might lead you to the next thing. 
  • Change is going to happen whether you like it or not. If you want to live your happiest and best life, you might need to implement that change yourself. 

Random Three Questions

  1. If you were to write another book, not book two, what would you write?
  2. What is your favorite thing to cook and is it what your kids like to eat?
  3. What is something people wouldn’t know about you through Google?

Connect with Shanah

Website: Adaptive Nourishment

Book: The Art of Being a PITA (Amazon)

If you’d like someone to help you figure out if you can work for yourself or manage the business you’ve already started, I hope you’ll reach out to my team at the Financial Gym. We work with hundreds of people building businesses of all shapes and sizes and we’d love to help you.

As many of you know, we increased our rates in 2019 for new clients, but I have instituted a 15% discount for Martinis and Your Money listeners going forward so the new rates will not impact you.

If you’re ready to manifest your dreams and grow your business in 2019 like Shanah, head over to financialgym.com to get signed up today.

Getting Naked with Paul

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Getting Naked with Paul

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 another dude who’s a long time podcast listener and also a long-time financial gym client. I’m excited to have Paul join me today to share his digits and his journey to a financially healthier lifestyle.  

What Are We Drinking?

Paul — Sandro Veste Wine

Shannon — Vodka with Black Berry Schweppes

Podcast Notes

  • Paul was a podcast listener for about six months or a year before he joined the Financial Gym. He has now been a client for over a year. 
  • He joined the Gym, because he needed some direction with his money. He was looking for a second opinion on what he should be doing. 
  • Paul discovered the Martinis and Your Money podcast when he heard Shannon on Listen Money Matters. He went back and listened to all of the episodes. When he is looking to make a change, Paul likes to immerse himself in relevant podcasts. Sometimes it takes time for the information to sink in.
  • Paul lived in New Jersey when he joined the Gym, but now he lives in Rhode Island. He was able to keep the same job, but now he works for a different market.
  • Paul works for Nielsen TV Ratings. The data that is used is collected from people who have a box on their TV and a people meter that participants interact with. Nielsen randomly selects people in different areas and asks if they want to participate.
  • There are about 1,300 homes that represent all of New York. Providence, Rhode Island has about 400 homes representing their state, because the market is smaller. He has worked there for about five and a half years. The company has been around for almost 100 years doing consumer research.
  • Paul and another client, Natalie, are heading up the New England Money Tribe. They had their first meetup in Boston. You don’t have to be a Financial Gym client to be part of a Money Tribe. There are now ten Tribes around the country, and the plan is to add more in other cities. If you are interested in joining a money tribe, go to financialgym.com/national-money-tribes 
  • The Gym is looking at expanding and opening physical buildings in more locations. The top two locations are D.C. and L.A., but Dallas may be next, because Lindsey, a Gym trainer, recently moved there. There is another trainer who is interested in moving to Boston, which means there may be a physical Gym location there in the future.
  • The Gym works with clients in 47 different states and D.C. 
  • Questions from the financially naked discovery questionnaire:
    • Birthday: 11/9/1992
    • Salary: $52,000 base salary
    • Quarterly Bonuses: $2,000 – $5,000
    • Pay Cycle: Bi-Weekly
    • Net Pay: $1,350 per paycheck
    • Schwab Checking account: $4,800 
    • Emergency Fund: $6,500
    • Vacation Fund: $330
    • Joint Checking (Rent): $0 after rent is withdrawn
    • Taxable Investment Account: $2,100 (long-term savings)
    • 401(k): $35,000
    • Roth IRA: $22,000
    • HSA: $5,800 (to be used for LASIK)
    • Moving Expenses: Planned $5,000; Actual $7000-$8000
    • Student Loan: $29,000 (was $92,000) 
    • Sapphire Reserve Credit Card: $1,375 (paid off each month)
    • Freedom Unlimited Credit Card: $587 (paid off each month)
    • Chase Ink Preferred Credit Card: $80 (paid off each month)
    • Other Credit Card: $13 (paid off each month)
    • Personal Loan: No
    • Car Loan: N/A – Company car
    • Credit Score: 812 
    • Auto Insurance: N/A – Company car
    • Renters Insurance: $10/month 
    • Long-Term Disability: Yes, through work
    • Rent: $825 (total is $1,625)
    • Will/Trust: No
    • Children: No
    • Average Monthly Expenses: $2,200
    • Goals 1-3 years: Take and pass the CFP exam (Certified Financial Planner) and go on a cruise to the Bahamas this summer
    • Goals 3-5 years: Purchase a fixer-upper house and work in financial planning 
    • Goals long-term: Financial independence, marriage, and kids
    • What’s important to you (sacred cows): Food and family

Takeaway: My biggest takeaway is the importance of planning, even if you don’t know where life is going to take you. Paul joined the Gym with general life goals but as his personal situation has changed, so have his financial needs. I always tell clients that you may not know where life is
going to take you, but whenever that next exciting chapter presents itself, you don’t want money to hinder you from going after it. 

Random Three Questions

  1. What is your most used emoji?
  2. If you were a wrestler, what would be your entrance theme?
  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 Paul in 2019, head over to or send friends to, financialgym.com to get signed up today.

Work Optional with Tanja Hester

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Work Optional with Tanja Hester

When I last had this guest on the podcast, she was still an anonymous blogger who was just on the verge of making the leap to a public outing and declaring financial independence with her husband. Fast forward over a year and now she has written a book to discuss her experience leading up to financial independence and why she’s not a typical FIRE (Financial Independence Retire Early) persona. I’m excited to have back on the show, and for the first time publicly, Tanja Hester, author of Work Optional: Retire Early the Non-Penny Pinching Way, founder of Our Next Life Blog, and co-host of The Fairer Cents podcast. 

What Are We Drinking?

Tanja — Coffee with a splash of cream

Shannon —  Black Cherry Schweppes Sparkling Water

Podcast Notes

  • Tanja recently wrote a book called Work Optional: Retire Early the Non-Penny Pinching Way.
  • When Tanja was last on the podcast, she was a few weeks away from retiring from her job and revealing her identity on her blog Our Next Life.
  • One of Tanja’s concerns before leaving her job and declaring financial independence was how she would feel emotionally. She had spent years with the people she worked with and had many professional relationships. 
  • Tanja spent a ton of time thinking about how her identity would change and how she would feel worthy in the world without contributing through traditional employment. She suspects the transition was good, because she thought about the emotional aspect of it ahead of time.
  • After she left her job, Tanja actually thought about work less than she expected. She was surprised how quickly thinking about work left her head and she pivoted into the next thing. She believes it is because of the preparation and thinking through that transition.
  • In researching for her book, she found that those who celebrate the end of one part of life (retirement) and treat it as this big moment are much happier than those who are forced out. Closure helps the transition.
  • The transition for Tanja and her husband, Mark, was pretty smooth, but there were some new rhythms in their relationship they needed to figure out. Some things were better than expected.
  • One of Shannon’s fears is not being prepared for transitions in life, which is why she believes in the importance of an emergency fund. Preparation makes things so much easier to handle.
  • We can’t predict the future and we don’t know what might happen, but if you are planning a big life transition, mentally prepare yourself, because even really good changes often feel scary and can feel like a loss. Knowing that it can be sad or stressful can make it easier to cope with. It helps you let yourself off the hook.
  • Last summer was really tough for Tanja, because things were progressing with her disability and she wasn’t able to get outside as much as she wanted to. She was feeling depressed, but reminded herself that she doesn’t have to go to work and tried to think about the positive parts of her life. Feel the sadness, but don’t add extra sadness by beating yourself up about being sad.
  • Shannon is a big fan of feeling all of the feelings. In April 2018, Shannon had a lot of struggles with the Financial Gym, and it set off some emotional alarms. It was her aha moment that it is okay to have these feelings. A glass of wine and a good cry in the shower helps.
  • Tanja’s was in her late 20’s when she decided she wanted to retire early, because she realized the career promise, you climb the ladder and life will be happier, is not necessarily true. We live in a burnout culture and every time you move up the ladder, you make more money and it is good for your ego, but you trade in all of your free time.
  • Tanja’s dad has a disability that forced him to leave the workforce in his early forties. It has always been clear that she may get what he has, and it turns out she has had it all along. It is a genetic disability called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS). She probably won’t get his particular manifestation of it, but she is getting other effects.
  • In her early 30’s, she realized that she may only have a decade left of full mobility and she might not be able to climb mountains her whole life or travel the way she wants to when she gets older. Work was also getting busier and busier. She needed to get on a different path. 
  • Tanja avoids the term FIRE (Financial Independence, Retire Early), because she doesn’t think working a job is bad.
  • If she had retired at 30 or 35, she thinks she would have missed out on an important chapter of her life. For anybody who looks at the FIRE movement and thinks they missed the boat, there is a trade off. Those who retire early could potentially be missing out on something. Look at your own situation and figure out what is important to you. Value your life experiences for what they are. 
  • Shannon recommends running your own race. It doesn’t matter where you are going, it just matters where you want to go. You can run a marathon at any point in your life. Who cares if it takes you 30 years instead of 20.
  • Shannon likes the FI of FIRE. FI, Financial Independence, is the goal Gym trainers give their clients. It is the ability to work because you want to work and not because you have to work. If you want to keep working, have at it. It is a freeing idea. Any time before 59 1/2 is early. It doesn’t matter your age. 
  • Tanja ran one marathon and she is banned by her orthopedist by running anymore, because of her disability. She ran it very slowly, her time was 5:25. She views it as an accomplishment, because she ran for five and a half hours.
  • There is something to sticking with a goal for a longer period. You will always be slower than someone else. Sticking with frugality, saving, or investing for a long period is worth celebrating. We are all unique and are all on our own journeys.
  • As a society, we are really bad at teaching people how to value ourselves outside of a work context. The idea of the American dream is focused on “If you work hard _______”. The whole vision is tied to work. It does have its merits, but if you are trying to take yourself out of that paradigm, it is difficult to know your worth.
  • Tanja has heard from some of her blog readers that they reached FI and felt aimless, and it was difficult for them to get out of bed everyday.
  • Tanja spent a big chunk of the book talking about self worth and who am I, when work is no longer a part of my identity.
  • The biggest surprise of early retirement for Tanja was realizing how much she loves working, but on her own stuff, not for an employer.
  • Tanja was a consultant for 16 years and her name wasn’t on anything. Now it is on a book. Getting to own what she does is such a gift. 
  • We are not all raised to define our worth outside of the traditional view of employment. 
  • If someone asks Tanja what she does for a living, she responds based on how she feels. If she is feeling saucy, she will say “I retired!”. Most of the time she will say she is a writer. Getting to say that feels like a privilege. 
  • Retirement is still a new concept. The idea that it is one fixed thing is an idea Tanja wants us all to move away from.
  • Shannon never connected with retirement, because she wants to work. The idea of FI came to her when she worked at Merrill Lynch, and it sounded so much better. 
  • Shannon is trying to reframe retirement as FI, because retirement is too far away. The purpose of preparing for FI is to give you the flexibility to discover your big thing in life. 
  • Tanja wants to kill the idea that you need to know early in life what you are cut out to do. Over her desk, Tanja has a picture of Julia Child in her kitchen in France. Julia didn’t learn to cook until she was over 40 and she went on to be the greatest cooking icon of all time. She was able to pursue that, because her husband had a job that supported them and she had financial flexibility.
  • The power comes from just knowing you can quit a job that sucks. Knowing you are good for a year is incredibly empowering. Early retirement doesn’t need to be your goal. Semi-retirement includes scaling back on work to allow yourself to do other things that are more meaningful to you. Sometimes you don’t need full retirement.
  • Two best financial tips to help you reach FI: 
    • If you have an employer match on your retirement account, you need to get the full match. It is free money – get it as soon as possible.
    • Automate your savings and hide it from yourself. Keep it out of your checking account and continue to increase the amount. Keep challenging yourself and see if you can do it. 
  • You don’t need to cut every single expenditure, just cut the excess stuff, the mindless spending, that doesn’t make you happy. Spend money on the stuff you love, without guilt.
  • When you cut back on the crap, you have the stress-less ability to spend on things you love.
  • The Gym tracks spending on 1,700 clients. The top spending areas are food/dining out/food delivery, Amazon, and Uber/Lyft. Create more mindfulness around your spending. We work hard for our money, and we need to make it hard to spend our money. It is too easy to spend money and we are not paying attention. 
  • Tanja’s book takes a balanced approach to achieving FI. She takes readers through the emotional and existential choices of FI to help you get on the right path. The book includes questions, checklists, and other tools. 
  • Tanja had a dream of writing a book and she feels better than she expected she would now that the book is finished. Her experience was very positive and she is really happy with how the book turned out. 
  • The book publishing experience is a reminder, over and over again, about how much you cannot please everyone. It isn’t the perfect book for everyone, but that is the nature of writing a book. She is proud of what she put into it and had a positive experience with her publisher and editor. She wanted to write this book for people who are not money nerds.
  • Tanja wanted to write a book that was more inclusive. She wanted it to help people who are single, people who have kids, people who don’t make six figures, people who have a non-traditional career path, and people who didn’t go to college. She wanted all of those people to feel welcome and see themselves in the book. She also wanted to break apart the concept of early retirement, to show that it is not all or nothing, and to write something the lets people decide for themselves what adds value to their lives. Tanja feels like she has accomplished those things. 

Takeaway: My biggest takeaway is that financial independence and the road to it and through it can be different for everyone. The most important decisions you can make on your financial journey are the ones that resonate most with you and bring you joy at the end of the day. Although I can’t think of anything more joyous than living a work-optional life.

Random Three Questions

  1. What would be your second book you would write?
  2. What is the next big trip you would like to take?
  3. What is something that has to happen every day for you?

Connect with Tanja

Website: www.ournextlife.com

Book: Work Optional: Retire Early the Non-Penny Pinching Way 

Podcast: The Fairer Cents

If you’d like someone to help you figure out if you can live a work-optional lifestyle, I hope you’ll reach out to my team at the Financial Gym. We have hundreds of clients currently on this path, and we’d love to help more.

In case you didn’t know, Martinis and Your Money listeners, and your friends, get 15% off services at the Financial Gym. If you’re ready to manifest your work-optional dreams in 2019, head over to financialgym.com to get signed up today.

Self Employment with the Happy Hour Ladies

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Self Employment 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 self employment. An interesting side note is that all four of the happy hour ladies took the leap to self employment and we all took it in different ways and for different reasons. Today we share why we made those leaps, the lessons we learned after taking them, and some really important tips we want you to know so you can make the best decisions around self employment.

What are we drinking?

Melanie from Dear Debt — Bubbles

Tonya from Budget and the Beach — Chardonnay

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

Shannon — Sweetzer Cellars Pinot Noir

Podcast Notes

  • Melanie finished the third Lola Retreat in L.A. last weekend. The next Lola will be held August 16 – 18 in Seattle. Tonya will be speaking on a panel at that retreat.
  • Melanie suggested the happy hour ladies discuss self employment, because we are in the golden area of side hustling.
  • Many people who don’t already have a side hustle are thinking of starting one. Side hustling tends to be a hop, skip, and a jump to self employment full-time. This affects your taxes, your income, your time, etc. It needs to be talked about more.
  • Self employment looks glamorous from the outside, but it can make you insane, stressed out, and financially volatile.
  • Melanie had a full-time job in the non-profit space. She did a lot of side hustling, and a big one was writing.
  • Melanie was waking up at 6:00am and going to bed at 12:00am, in order to finish all of her work before going her full-time job. After reviewing her finances, she realized that her writing was bringing in the same amount as her full-time job.
  • In Melanie’s first year of self employment, she doubled her income from $30,000 to $60,000.
  • When Melanie quit, she had $40,000 in debt and only three months of expenses saved up.
  • Shannon recommends saving up at least six months to a year of expenses, before going out on your own. She learned that from personal experience. There are so many unknowns and it is good to be financially flexible.
  • Within the first year and a half of being self-employed, Melanie was hit with a huge tax bill, right after she paid off all of her debt, because she didn’t realize she was in a different tax bracket. Melanie was reserving 20 to 25 percent, but it wasn’t enough. She owed an extra $10,000.
  • After Liz had her first daughter, she realized it didn’t make sense to pay for daycare and go back to her job, since she was planning to quit in a year anyway. Liz had been saving everything she was earning, along with most of her husband’s income. It was not a crisis situation, because her husband still worked for his employer.
  • Liz and her husband bought their Vermont homestead while she was pregnant. She did a lot of freelance work after she had the baby and while they moved to Vermont. Once they moved, they also had rental income, because they rented their house in Cambridge.
  • She wanted to earn enough to replace her previous salary. After that, she transitioned into writing her book. She stopped freelancing when she started her book.
  • Liz recommends getting an accountant, because it is really complicated.
  • Tonya was forced into self employment, because she was laid off from the company she was working for at the start of the recession. She landed a big freelance job right away, but she was spending more than she was earning. She never really felt successful as a freelancer. For every podcast you hear of a person making six figures as a freelancer, there are about 500 to 1,000 others that are struggling to figure it all out.
  • You can make $30,000 as a freelancer and be really successful. Income is not necessarily an indicator of success.
  • There is a difference of being self-employed and having a spouse with a job and being single and living in a high cost of living area.
  • Shannon never had a side hustle leading up to starting the Gym. She wasn’t allowed to do anything with finance while she was working in that industry.
  • If you are so passionate about what you are about to build that you can’t sleep at night, you will find a way to make it work. Shannon has found a way for the past six years. She always felt 99 percent sure it is what she was supposed to be doing.
  • Shannon was able to have that opportunity, because she was married and her husband had an income and health insurance.
  • The Financial Gym is now valued at $10 million. Six years ago, Shannon would have sold it for $10 million. Now she wants it to be worth $500 million.
  • Shannon did do freelance writing to bring in extra income, when she was building the Financial Gym and going through her personal income.
  • There is essentially no overhead with writing as a side hustle. There are no large capital expenditures up front.
  • How much do you need to feed yourself and your family, and how much do you need to feed your business?
  • There is a right way to start a business, such as saving up prior to leaving your full-time job and making low cost choices. Don’t wait too long to find alternative sources of revenue for your business.
  • iFundWomen is crowd sourcing for women-started businesses. They’ve helped women raise over $3 million for their businesses.
  • Don’t go into credit card debt when there could be other people out there who love what you are about to build. Think of other sources first. There are easier ways to find people who are going to support you.
  • Melanie never felt like she would need to raise money for her business, but she wants to learn more about it.
  • If you need to raise money outside of friends and family, there are so many different paths and different ways.
  • Have more investors lined up then you think you will need. Shannon had really great meetings with people and thought they would invest and they passed on the opportunity. You can’t force people to write a check for you. It takes a lot of strength and is like going on 50 first dates. If you are really passionate about what you are building, you will find a way.
  • There have been about four times over the last two years where the Financial Gym was really close to not making payroll, because of investor timing, but paychecks have always been funded.
  • Don’t avoid building something because you need to raise money. Don’t let the capital scare you, there is plenty of money out there you just need to find it.
  • Top tips for people who are thinking of becoming self employed:
    • Melanie: Save more for taxes than you think you will need. Create your own accounts for sick time, vacation time, and retirement. Figure out different ways to monetize your income, so if one stream is down, you have others to support yourself.
    • Liz: It is helpful if you know your mission and purpose. What is the root goal? Are you trying to earn a certain income, pursue a passion, or both? Don’t serve too many different masters. You need to diversify to a point and then assess if it is consuming too much of your time. Where do you really want your best energy going? You only have a finite amount of time.
    • Tonya: You don’t have to do it. There is a huge push to work for yourself. For some people that is okay, for others it is not okay. Don’t follow the crowd. When you are freelancing, you still have clients and demands. Do what works for you. Don’t try to force it if it is not working for you. You don’t need to jump ship forever – you can go back to a full-time job.
    • Shannon: It is not for the weak of heart. If you try and it doesn’t work out, or if you don’t love it, you do not fail if you go back to a full-time job. It is important to say no when you need to, even if it brings in money. Sometimes you should say yes to things that don’t pay.
  • Don’t be afraid to quit, but don’t be afraid to stick it out. There will be some hard times that you need to push through, but you will get to something better. Don’t be afraid of the friction.
  • Self employment is a roller coaster. You can have ups and downs and sometimes all in the same day.
  • Go into self employment with your eyes wide open.

TAKEAWAY: My biggest takeaway is that self employment is not for everyone, but as scary as it is, don’t let it scare you away from trying it, if you think it might be the next step in your life path. Ask yourself what’s the worst that can happen if you make this leap, and I guarantee you the worst that can happen is some financial troubles. Everything we do financially is fixable, and building something can be a once in a lifetime experience that’s worth trying.

If you want to work with my team at the Financial Gym to help you achieve your goals of self employment, remember that Martinis and Your Money Listeners get 15% off Financial Gym services, and our number one employer at the Gym is self-employed, so we’ve seen it all and know how to help you make and build a great business of your own. 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!!

Building a Freelance Business with Diana Davis

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Building a Freelance Business with Diana Davis

In a recent search of the top employers represented from Financial Gym clients, I discovered that the number one employer is “Self Employed.” We work with a lot of freelancing, entrepreneurial clients and it’s one of the many things I love about the Gym. Freelancer finances are difficult to understand and plan for and we love helping our clients build businesses in a financially healthy way. I also love all of the ways people can build a business, so today I’m talking to Diana Davis, a Health and Wellness photographer in New York City, about how and why she started her business and how she’s built a successful practice doing the two things she loves most, design and photography.

What Are We Drinking?

Diana — Boda Box Red Wine

Shannon — Box Chardonnay 

Podcast Notes

  • Diana has been a Financial Gym client for a long time. Shannon and the trainers have had a front row seat watching Diana grow her business. 
  • Diana does photography and graphic design and went to school for them. Side hustlers tend to turn their passion and hobbies into full-time jobs. Diana has always known what she wanted to do and she has always been happy doing that craft, no matter what setting it was in, whether corporate or on her own.
  • When Diana first moved to New York City, she would get asked “what is your dream situation”. It was difficult to answer. She thought she would work for herself eventually, but more like 10 or 15 years down the road. 
  • Diana was doing corporate graphic design as her day job, and on the side she was doing photography, when she lived in Montana.
  • Diana decided to move to NYC without a job. She grew up on a ranch. She had been coming to NYC for food shows, as part of her job working for a local food company that did infused oils and vinegar. She was their in-house designer and photographer, she taught cooking classes, she wrapped pallets, she did sales, etc. They had her going to trade shows because she was so ingrained in the company’s culture.
  • Diana fell in love with New York and she knew she needed to be there. She didn’t see herself failing, because she was wiling to do whatever it took to make it. It is very hard to get into the NYC job market when you are from a different city, especially since her resume said Bosman, Montana.
  • She had a few opportunities where companies wanted her to come in for interviews the next day, but she was still in Montana. She decided she needed to move their to find a job.
  • Diana found a roommate on a website who was renting a room in an apartment on the upper east side, on 75th and 1st, and she didn’t know what the apartment looked like until she got there.
  • Diana had a nest egg of about $4,000. She moved to New York in September and gave herself a deadline of November 1, to find a job. She did have some freelance work that carried over from her former job, but she started networking immediately.
  • Diana found a job at Time Inc. in their branded content and publishing department. A couple of years later she was poached by Hearst. After that, she went into her entrepreneurial life. She was hired by Hearst as a senior designer, and about four months later, they eliminated her position. It was the biggest relief of her life. 
  • Diana signed up at the Financial Gym shortly after she was let go from Hearst. She had a photo shoot with Caitlyn, and she invited Diana to a Wine and Learn at the Gym. Diana committed to the Gym, because she didn’t want to fail being an entrepreneur because of finances.
  • Time Inc. offered Diana a permalance position, which means freelance as a permanent employee, but you don’t get health insurance. It is like working as a regular employee without benefits, and they can let you go tomorrow. This is common in the publishing world in NYC.
  • Time Inc. offered Diana three days a week at $20 an hour and she was so disappointed. She asked them for $30 an hour and they accepted. The next week, it ended up being five days a week. She was paid that amount for a little over two years. She quickly rose to a senior position, but she was never given a raise. She had been asking for a raise for about nine months. 
  • At Hearst, she was paid $60 an hour, without negotiating. She wasn’t paid for any holidays or vacation time. 
  • Diana had a side job doing social media design, while she was at Hearst, and she is still working with them. She was also doing some fitness photography on the side and that ended up feeding her full time.
  • Now as an entrepreneur, graphic design and photography fluctuate from month to month. In the last six months, photography has really taken over. Photography is her passion and it comes the easiest to her. 
  • Diana credits her business success to surrounding herself with successful women and networking. Emily Merrell, from Six Degrees Society, sat Diana down and asked her how she pictured her day-to-day life. Diana pictured herself working with tons of different people and different companies. It helped her decide to be a contractor. She really wanted to cast a wide net.
  • She put herself in networking groups, in front of other people, and attended events to meet people. When you do a good job, people talk. Almost all of her inquiries for the first seven months were word of mouth. Now it is mostly through Instagram.
  • Diana recommends Six Degree Society. She was invited to one of their events and had no idea what it was. She was laid off the same day as their event, so she decided to go in order to network.
  • They do matched networking. Everyone has a bio and that information is sent out before the event. There is always two matched networking situations, where you talk to someone you were matched with for 15 minutes. The matches didn’t necessarily turn into her clients, but she was on the top of their minds if someone else needed something.
  • You need to make sure you are in a room of like-minded people who are there for the same reason, to connect and help each other out. Six Degrees Society and the Financial Gym do well with these events.
  • It was important for Diana to collaborate with others. Those people have referred her to a lot of other people. 
  • Shannon’s pro tip is networking. The way to successfully network is to build a garden. You need to plant the seeds and then tend to the seeds by checking in. At some point that seed is going to bear fruit when you need to be fed. Always play nice in the sandbox with others professionally. Leave your job on good terms, stay in contact with people, etc.
  • Shannon had a boss about 13 years ago at Bank of America, and she kept in contact with him after she left. Ten years later, he was the first investor in the Financial Gym.
  • When you start a business, you can’t be afraid of the freebies. Don’t be afraid to be free once in a while. That person will likely lead you to the next thing. It is part of the building process.
  • Last month, forty percent of the Financial Gym’s business came from referrals. That is a pretty consistent theme. If you treat your clients well, they are your ultimate salesforce. It is the best way to do business and to grow your business.
  • Don’t just hand your business card to 20 people and then leave. Try to make connections.
  • Diana has been on her own for about a year and a half now. Her total revenue was around $91,000 last year. Her goal is to get above $120,000 this year. As a freelancer, you are not bound to restrictions of hourly pay or getting a raise. You can make as much money as you want to make and choose who you want to work with.
  • If someone wants to take their passion or side job and turn it into a full-time job, they need to be able to hustle. If you are afraid of hard work, forget it. It is not a cushy situation and you need to pay for your own health insurance. It isn’t for everybody. You need to be all things in your business. It is exciting, but also daunting, especially when it is your only income. You need to wear a lot of hats.
  • It is always going to take time to ramp up. It took Diana at least six months for the momentum to really build.
  • The Financial Gym has helped Diana feel more prepared to handle her finances. When you take as many anxieties out of your life as possible, things are easier. On her lower payment months, she gets anxious and goes through what if scenarios. She just has to prepare the best she can and trust that everything is going to fall into place.
  • “Sometimes the best thing you can do is to not think, not wonder, not imagine, and not obsess. Just breathe and believe that everything will work out for the best.” – Hoda Kotb
  • The further you get into building your business, you realize this is suppose to be. Even with the ups and downs, you are certain this is what you should be doing. It took Shannon two years before she knew she was really on the right path.
  • Diana likes to look back at pictures from a year or two ago and see how far she has come. She is grateful for what is to come.
  • Shannon listens to Oprah’s SuperSoul Conversations and uses gratitude journaling to gets her through rough times with her company.
  • Diana’s word for 2019 is expansion. She does a lot of fitness photography and she really wants to travel to different places. She went to Montana last summer and photographed a yogi. She wants to travel outside of New York, because it is becoming her comfort zone. She wants to be able to announce that she is going to be in a certain city and be able to book photo shoots while she is there. 
  • No matter what you are thinking, picture your life. What does it look like when you get out of bed? Are you going to a desk job or working at your kitchen table? What feeds you in your mind’s eye? Let that lead you and go towards that. What do you want your day to look like? How do you shift your path? That looks different for everyone.

Takeaway: My biggest takeaway, and I think the number one factor in the success of any freelancer or entrepreneur, is hustling. If you’re afraid of hard work or the hustle, then this type of dream/career is not for you. 

Random Three Questions

  1. What is a show that you like to binge watch?
  2. What is a place you would like to travel to?
  3. What is a food you hated as a child and do you hate it as an adult?

Connect with Diana

Website: dianadaviscreative.com

Instagram: @dianadaviscreative

If you’d like someone to help you figure out if you can work for yourself or manage the business you’ve already started, I hope you’ll reach out to my team at the Financial Gym. We work with hundreds of people building businesses of all shapes and sizes and we’d love to help you.

As many of you know, we increased our rates in 2019 for new clients, but I have instituted a 15% discount for Martinis and Your Money listeners going forward so the new rates will not impact you.

If you’re ready to manifest your dreams and grow your business in 2019 like Diana, head over to financialgym.com to get signed up today.

Getting Naked with Stacey

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Getting Naked with Stacey

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. Now this is a regular series on this podcast. Getting in the hot seat today and getting financially naked with you is Stacey, a Financial Gym client with a not-so-pretty past financial life, hoping you will learn from her mistakes.  

What Are We Drinking?

Stacey — Zolo Rosé

Shannon — Irony Pinot Noir

Podcast Notes

  • Stacey recently gave birth to her first child, Scarlett, in 2018.
  • She is a molecular scientist, and she works at a company that does personalized diagnostics. She does the DNA and RNA sequencing and processes the data to match treatments. Her company was recently acquired, so she is not sure what is going to happen with that transition.
  • Stacey is married and she and her husband live in San Diego. She has a great home and she has a rescue dog named Lena. She is now trying to navigate motherhood.
  • Stacey is 30 years old and she was married and divorced before. She could not have imagined having kids with her first husband. Stacey’s parents got divorced right after the honeymoon of her first marriage, and she realized she changed her values because of who she was with.
  • When she met her current husband, she wanted to have kids with him and was excited when she found out she was pregnant.
  • She found out she was pregnant three weeks after she and her husband eloped.
  • Dating after being divorced is different than if you were never married. 
  • Both Stacey and her husband are spenders and live outside their means.
  • Stacey’s parents paid for college and her cars. She had jobs when she was in school, but it was for spending money. She never had to work to pay for living expenses. Until you are hungry, the changes won’t happen, because you don’t feel the pain of it. She had poor money management skills in general.
  • Stacey treated debit cards like gift cards – try it and see how much is on it.
  • She never had accountability, because she kept getting bailed out when she overdrew her account. 
  • When her first husband was in the Marine Corp, he gave her $10,000 to use for rent for when he was gone, and she mismanaged it. She was about 22 or 23, was not yet married to him, and was going out all the time. She used the money on hair, nails, and going out. His parents were the first ones to call her out on it.
  • Her in-laws helped her get the money she needed to pay for rent and then she took a Dave Ramsey course to figure out how to manage money. 
  • Stacey donated eggs to make money. She had to fill out a detailed questionnaire, go through psychological testing, and sign legal documents. When they went to retrieve the eggs, there was nothing there and they told her she was not ovulating. Later, she was surprised when she got pregnant within four months of going off birth control.
  • It took having a child for Stacey to realize that she is trading her time to work and she needs to treat her money with the same respect as time. 
  • She transferred her bailouts from her family to her spouse. No one let her hit rock bottom. 
  • She got married to her first husband after he returned from Afghanistan, and her marriage ended after about a year and a half.
  • After the divorce, she wanted to stay in California. Her parents, who were in Texas, told her she would need to do it on her own if she stayed there. 
  • She started pulling money out of her Roth and 401(k) and she is still paying off the taxes. She was pulling money out of the accounts until last fall. She also took out a personal loan to consolidate her debt, but she ended up re-maxing out her credit cards. 
  • She went on maternity leave and thought she would need to pay about $4,000 for the hospital bill, so her husband put that into an account.
  • Stacey received 55 percent pay from the State and about 12 percent from her company and she was going to use that for debt payments. She had credit card bills along with her personal loan, but her husband didn’t realize how much she had in debt.
  • Stacey didn’t think she would spend anything when she was on maternity leave, but a lot of little expenses came up. She decided to take a full 12-week leave, but the last six weeks were unpaid so she went back to work two days a week. During that time, she had to pay a part-time nanny.
  • Stacey was making minimum payments to her different bills, but her financial situation was crashing down, because she couldn’t keep up.
  • After Stacey hired a full-time nanny and went back to work for a couple of weeks, she realized that everything was in the red. She was at work and her husband said he put more money in her account to get her in the green, but then she missed her minimum balance in her Wells Fargo account and was back in the red within an hour.
  • She didn’t have money for lunch, so she went in her car and googled “best financial podcasts” and Martinis and Your Money was on a list of 10 podcast. It was the only one that looked interesting, so she started listening.
  • A couple of weeks later a debt collector called her at work and her coworker answered the phone. Stacey put her head in the sand and didn’t pick up the call.
  • She never wants to be in that position again and she started changing her spending habits right after listening to the podcast and having her Financially Naked session at the Financial Gym. 
  • Questions from the financially naked discovery questions:
    • Birthday: 30 years old
    • Salary: $95,153.76
    • Pay Cycle: twice a month
    • Net Pay: $4,800
    • USAA checking account: $189.69
    • Wells Fargo checking account: $930.37
    • Wells Fargo savings account: -$4.72
    • 401(k): $4,224.97
    • Rollover IRA: $0.03
    • Roth IRA: $0.01
    • Student Loan: None
    • Mortgage: None
    • USAA Credit Card: $14,330.13
    • Citi Card: $5,188.46
    • Capital One Card: $274.92
    • Debt Collector: $540 (medical bills for birth)
    • Radiology Bill: $90
    • Dental Bill: $250
    • Personal Loan #1: $738.56
    • Personal Loan #2: $1,835.22
    • Credit Score: 504 Transunion; 489 Equifax
    • Car Loan: $7,933.67 (2.85%, $285/month)
    • IRS Debt: $320
    • Auto Insurance: $100
    • Rent: $3,400 (she pays $1,500)
    • Electric: $70 
    • Internet: $50
    • Formula: $200 – $250
    • Nanny: $1,440 (she pays half)
    • Financial Gym: $68
    • Life Insurance: $28.72
    • Will/Trust: Will and medical directive; needs it notorized
    • Children: one daughter
    • Average Monthly Expenses: $4,200
    • Freelancing through Upwork: $500/week
    • Goals 1-3 years: Debt free by 12/31/20, hopefully sooner; raise her credit score back to excellent; start an emergency fund; start Scarlett’s college fund; get educated on investing; get a Scarlett tattoo; take a vacation to Greece; maximize her 401(k) contribution to get the full match
    • Goals 3-5 years: Go back to school
    • Goals long-term: Buy a house within 10 years; retire on time or early
    • What’s important to you (sacred cows): her daughter (formula and the nanny) and time with family

Takeaway: My biggest takeaway is what I always say at the Financial Gym: everything you do financially is fixable. Short of death, everything is fixable. If you’ve made mistakes in the past, or feel like you are not where you should be, don’t stress about it, just get a plan in place and start working on it. I am so proud of Stacey for doing that.

Random Three Questions

  1. What are your top two or three podcasts?
  2. If this was your last night on earth, what would be your last meal?
  3. What is a show you like to binge watch?

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. 

As many of you know, we increased our rates in 2019 for new clients, but I have instituted a 15% discount for Martinis and Your Money listeners going forward, so the new rates will not impact you. If you’re ready to manifest your dreams in 2019, like Stacey, head over to, or send friends to, financialgym.com to get signed up today.

Getting Naked with Natalie

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Getting Naked with Natalie

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. Now this is a regular series on this podcast. I’ve had Financial Gym trainers get naked, sisters get naked, single clients both male and female get naked, and this is my first married couple to get naked. Not only are they married with children, they also run a farm. I just love the diversity of Financial Gym clients. 

What Are We Drinking?

Natalie — Pear Thyme Kombucha

Shannon — Matcha Latte

Podcast Notes

  • Natalie is a professor of environmental studies and she focuses on water quality – mostly water quality impairment from mining, oil, and gas. She lives in an area that has a lot of legacy coal mining.
  • Natalie moved to a university in Ohio to be a professor, and her family is nearby. She relocated there from northern England, where she and her husband both earned their PhDs.
  • Over the course of a few years of living there, she and her husband were renting a house from her dad.  Her dad didn’t want to live on a farm anymore, so she and her husband switched houses with him. They now have dairy goats, chickens, and chickens for meat. They have two greenhouses, an orchard, a bunch of gardens, and woods.
  • Natalie grew up on this farm, but they didn’t have livestock when she was young.
  • After earning her PhD and working a few years, she was offered a position at a university in Ohio. Her husband is originally from northern England and they met playing ultimate frisbee at the university in England.
  • When they moved back to Ohio, they wanted to have chickens and it unfolded from there. 
  • For about six or seven years, Natalie’s husband worked full time at the university. Now he works part time at the university and has taken on more of the farm work. 
  • Natalie does a lot with the plants and her husband mostly takes care of the livestock.
  • The farm is more on the homestead/sustainability side. Her husband is moving into trying to make money from the farm.
  • When Natalie and her husband relocated back to the States, they didn’t have any credit.
  • They now have two kids: Wilder is four, and Wolf is one. It changed their financial picture having the farm and two kids and planning for the future. Also, her husband’s contract went from full time to part time, and that changed their financial picture.
  • Questions from the financially naked discovery questions:
    • Birthday: Natalie – May 10, 1984; Husband – August 6, 1985
    • Employer: a university in Ohio
    • Salary: $127,500 (includes $17,000 for a three-year appointment)
    • Pay Cycle: twice a month 
    • Natalie Net Pay: $3,166.84 bi-monthly
    • Husband Net Pay: $250 bi-weekly
    • Husband Net Pay: $200 month (rental management)
    • Rental Home Net Income: $540 month
    • Checking account: $5,685 
    • Rental savings account: $5,000
    • Emergency fund: $4,500
    • Travel account: $4,800
    • Farm down payment fund: $475
    • Appliance repair fund: $420
    • Car down payment/repair fund: $200
    • Ally savings account: $500
    • Ohio State Teachers Retirement: 14% (defined benefit) 
    • Husband Roth IRA: $8,200; monthly contributions
    • Natalie’s Roth IRA: $1,400; monthly contributions
    • Husband Roth IRA: $17,000
    • Natalie’s IRA: $85,000 
    • Wilder’s 529: $23,000
    • Wolf’s 529: $4,000
    • Rental house #1: $53,108 mortgage; value $111,000
    • Rental house #2: $76,000 mortgage; value $114,000
    • Husband’s Car: Honda Insight (paid off)
    • Natalie’s Car: $6,800 loan; 1.49% interest
    • Student Loan: None
    • Credit Card: Netflix fee only; paid automatically each month
    • Barclay Credit Card: $2,500 – $4,000, paid off every month
    • Natalie’s Credit Score: 776
    • Husband’s Credit Score: 725
    • Rent: Sweat equity
    • Renter’s Insurance: Yes on the farm and the two rental properties
    • Disability Insurance: Short-term and long-term on Natalie through work 
    • Life Insurance: through Natalies work; looking into it for her husband
    • Will/Trust: Yes, reviewed within the last three years
    • Children: Wilder (4), Wolf (1)
    • Daycare: $1,500 month
    • Average Monthly Expenses: $5,000 
    • Goals 1-3 years: Visit family in England annually, continue investing in the farm and in the rentals, moving to the new school for Wilder, consider having a third child
    • Goals long-term: College saving and retirement, possibly more rentals
    • What’s important to you (sacred cows): family, both staying in physical touch with family far away and supporting and growing her family here; the farm; good, healthy food 

Takeaway:My biggest takeaway is to try and have as much transparency with your finances where your family is concerned. We always say it’s tough getting financially naked, and it is even tougher talking money with family. If you’re financial life is going to be impacted by the people you are related to, then you want to have those conversations sooner than later.

Random Three Questions

  1. What do you feel your farm is missing?
  2. If this was your last night on earth, what would your last meal be?
  3. If a movie was made about your life, what genre would it be and who would play you?

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. 

As many of you know, we increased our rates in 2019 for new clients, but I have instituted a 15% discount for Martinis and Your Money listeners going forward, so the new rates will not impact you. If you’re ready to manifest your dreams, like Natalie and her family, in 2019, head over to, or send friends to, financialgym.com to get signed up today.

Homeownership with the Happy Hour Ladies

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Homeownership 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 homeownership – why we’ve done it or why it is not even a life goal of ours, and the pros and cons. I hope you enjoy!

What are we drinking?

Melanie from Dear Debt — No drink – Dry January

Tonya from Budget and the Beach — Kombucha – Dry January

Liz, Mrs. Frugalwoods, from Frugalwoods.com — Bota Box Nighthawk Wine

Shannon — Tito’s Vodka & Tonic

Podcast Notes

  • Shannon went to the Angel’s Envy conference and spoke to their employees about financial wellness and being financially fit. In her first session, someone asked about homeownership, and she said she doesn’t think it is a necessary goal and there are other ways to build wealth.
  • One of the participants went on a rant about how you are throwing your money away, and as that story made its way around the conference, the topic of homeownership came up in every single one of Shannon’s sessions. Everyone had an opinion about it.
  • Tonya and Melanie have never owned a home.
  • Melanie is a happy renter and thinks it is foolish for people to say that renting is throwing money away. She has a roof over her head and renting gives her the flexibility to move if she wants to. She likes that she doesn’t need to fix things when they break, she just needs to call someone. Her parents also don’t own a home and she didn’t grow up with it and she is not interested in owning a home. She has never had a dream of homeownership.
  • You need to be honest with yourself about the cost of homeownership. Comparing rent to a mortgage is not comparing apples to apples. You can still build wealth when you are renting.
  • A house is an asset and a liability at the same time. If you have a mortgage, it is pretty much a complete liability.
  • Liz owns two houses, one in Cambridge, MA, which she bought in 2012, and another house in Vermont, which she bought in 2016. The Cambridge house was their primary residence for a few years, but they bought it with the idea to eventually rent it out, which they started doing in 2016, when they moved to Vermont.
  • Liz and her husband met when they were 18 and got married when they were 23 and combined their savings. They saved $65,000 in six years that they used to put down on their $460,000 house in Cambridge in 2012.
  • Liz and her husband used Redfin to purchase their house and Liz recommends it, if you know what you want and you only need someone to do the paperwork. She had a 3.8% mortgage and refinanced and got it down to 3.6% or something close to that. She has a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage.
  • When Liz and her husband moved, they analyzed if they would be better renting out their Cambridge house or selling it, and they evaluate that every year. Cambridge is an expensive city, but 65% of units are rented, because of the colleges near there. Professors and students need somewhere temporary to stay. Her tenants so far have been graduate students.
  • Liz has a property manager for her rental, and so far it has been a good return. She sees that house as an asset. If you are going to rent out a house that you used to live in, you need to divorce yourself from the emotional connection.
  • Liz has a mortgage on her Vermont homestead also. They have chosen not to pay off their mortgages, because they think their money is likely to deliver a higher return invested in the market.
  • When you have a low, fixed-rate mortgage, the stock market return, on average, is around seven percent over the long term. It is a hedge against inflation and it diversifies your investments. There is very little you can do with a paid off house. It is a numbers game, but it only works if you invest your cash.
  • The number one goal at the Financial Gym is having a fully funded emergency fund. Clients feel better once they have that money in the bank.
  • You can’t build wealth by paying off houses. You need to take the emotion out of it. A paid-off house is not a liquid asset.
  • Tonya has never owned a house and she is neither for or against it. There are a lot of online calculators that can make the answer a little more clear. She has lived in a lot of high cost areas, but had she stayed in Detroit, it probably would have made sense to purchase a house because of the home prices and cost of living. In L.A., it makes almost no sense to buy a house.
  • If the right circumstances occurred, Tonya wouldn’t be against it, but homeownership is not something that is on her radar. She loves HGTV and is obsessed with homes from a viewer standpoint. She loves architecture. For her, the pros of renting outweigh the cons.
  • Shannon has been a homeowner and a renter. It depends on the situation – if you can rent for $900 or buy for $700, maybe it makes more sense to buy if the other circumstances are right.
  • In the initial thought process, you need to think about several things. Can you afford the down payment on the home? What if you have to get out of the home? Do you have to pay realtor fees to sell? Where do you want life to go in the next few years? It usually takes about six years or so to recoup the purchasing fees.
  • Make sure you have a contingency fund when you buy a house, because it becomes your liability. You need to either be handy or have someone on speed dial. Think about your competencies and how you want to use your time. If you have to hire out small repairs, they can easily be $600 or $800.
  • One con of renting is that the landlord can raise the rent or they can sell the building.
  • Liz chose a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage, because the interest rate was low. It is all about the interest rate. You might be able to refinance, but you might not. It is helpful to know about the area you are buying in. She considers her homestead a $0 asset, because it will be very difficult to sell, where she sees the home in Cambridge as an asset.
  • Owning a home is not always an asset. You are not necessarily building equity or value. It depends on your market and it needs to be a minimum of a six-year commitment.
  • If you want to buy a house, think about all of the costs and start setting aside the extra amount you would need if you had the house now.
  • You do not need to buy a house, because you have kids. They won’t even remember it for the first five years of their life.
  • We are sold this dream that you go to college, get a job, get married, and then buy a house. Life is not linear and the American dream is what you make of it. There is so much more information out there now than there was 20 years ago. People are out there living in vans or RVs or abroad.
  • If you want to own a house, do it for all of the right reasons, but question why.
  • Shannon loves renting.
  • Every house project is an expense. Even new homes have things that need to be fixed.
  • Liz is married to someone who loves home projects, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that there is always a string of things that need to be done. It takes time. Do not live rurally, unless you are super handy.
  • Liz likes having a property manager, so she doesn’t have to think about what the tenants are doing to her house, and she wants her tenants to be well-served.
  • The answer to the question “should you buy a house” is all about math and your lifestyle.
  • Don’t let the “renting is throwing money down the drain” rhetoric get to you if you like renting. Get rid of the propaganda. Look at the math.
  • The equity isn’t real until you sell the house.
  • Owning a house, or not, is a personal decision. Whatever your decision is, own it! Love where you live and live where you love.

TAKEAWAY: My biggest takeaway is to make your financial goals your own. If homeownership is a goal of yours, make sure you go into it with eyes wide open. If it’s not a goal, no big deal. It is not a requirement in life to own a home. It is important that you have life goals that resonate with you, not someone else.

If you want help identifying life goals and how you can achieve them, I hope you’ll reach out to my team at the Financial Gym. Ninety percent of our clients are hitting their financial goals, and I hope you do as well. Starting in 2019, we now offer a Martinis and Your Money listener discount of 15% off your membership, 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!!