Financial Independence

Reading My Hustle might provide some helpful background here 🙂

My 2 sisters left for college while I was in elementary school. They actually ended up “boomeranging” back to live with my parents after the homestead had been downsized when I was 13. I loved having my sisters around again, but I definitely got used to being a pseudo-only child in the 6-8 years they were away. So as a 17 year-old living in a house that barely had enough room for 1 of my sisters to come back home, let alone 2 – let’s just say I was easily motivated to not move back home after I left for college.

With a recession looming, I got a quick and dirty education in the importance of personal financial management. I witnessed the conflict my parents faced welcoming their kids back home, but not knowing if they had the physical or monetary resources to accommodate them. I saw the strains our sisterhood was put through to once again be living under the same roof, but with very different life experiences. I observed the burden of student loan debt weighing heavily on my sisters, leaving them without any options aside from asking my parents if they could come back. So I knew one thing for sure – I did NOT want to endure that same struggle when I was their age.

Like I said, that was a quick and DIRTY education. My parents talked to me about the importance of saving as I aged. I started working as soon as I could at the age of 14 bussing tables, and have been fortunate enough to have a job since then (much of the time 2+ jobs). When I was deciding which college to attend, I thought I made the best choice I could from a financial perspective. It enabled me to graduate with my undergrad 1 year early without incurring any additional cost. BAM – $24K in tuition saved! There was a Wegmans nearby so I could keep my current job and work through school, and (minor detour) obviously do my shopping at Wegmans because… WHO MOVES WHERE THERE IS NO WEGMANS?!?! Insanity!….

Actually you know what’s insanity? Attending the same private university your 2 older sisters did 8-10 years later, and expecting a different outcome financially – even if you were smart enough to work through school and shave a year off. Boy was I wrong.

After enrolling, I was notified that I needed to read a book over the summer before the my first “Intro to Business” class – I was less than pleased. Reading over the summer? I thought I was in the big leagues! College. Not elementary, not middle school, not high school. Why on earth did I have to read a book?! This was supposed to be my summer off(ish) – aside from working. The book was called “Rich Dad Poor Dad.” What the heck is that?! I’ll show you!

This book ended up being a blessing in disguise. I was intrigued by the subtitle – “What the Rich Teach Their Kids About Money That the Poor and Middle Class Do Not!” … My family was “middle class” as far as I knew. Was it worth reading this book?

Here were my top takeaways as teasers:
1) Keep it simple, stupid! … No I’m not elaborating you should read the book!
2) Assets that depreciate quickly, aren’t actually assets (i.e. – cars & automobiles are the biggest offenders, unless they’re well cared for classics that actually appreciate in value)

It’s literally $6 on Amazon – 100% worth it. Free through audiobook!

Reading that book set me on a path to taking control of my own financial future and helped me recognize that while I love my parents for teaching me everything they know, they don’t know everything. Thankfully they’ve been super supportive in my journey for financial independence and self-education. This is best outlined in my experience in utilization of college cost calculators – when I let my dad drive the bus my freshman year and why I took over sophomore year and beyond.

Long story short, I’d highly recommend not only prospective students to read this, but even entire families or new parents to do so together. Even if you’re not in a position to make some of these moves currently, it gives you insight into the bigger picture for acquiring and maintaining wealth long term.

SO while I may continue to be salty about the amount of debt I incurred, and was less than thrilled about my freshman 8am BUS 111’s summer reading assignment, I’d be remiss if I didn’t shout out Dr. James Kling and Professor Mitch Alegre. Without them I may not have developed my passion or opportunity to help people with higher education costs.

My Hustle

When I was 13 I distinctly remember my math teacher approaching me with an opportunity to attend a conference for young women interested in potential mathematical careers. In my awkward teenage years, already standing out more than I would’ve liked as an “over-achiever” (as my classmates liked to call me), I immediately said no. I didn’t even know what I would and/or could do related to a career involving numbers. All I’d ever heard my entire life is “You’re never going to need that in the real world.”

That statement couldn’t have been more wrong. It just goes to show how difficult it is to understand the connection between those foundational math principles and everyday adult life. 

Despite turning down that early opportunity, I managed to meander back to numbers. Being the “over-achiever” that I was, I pretty much knew from the time that I was in 9th-10th grade that I wanted to do something business related. Having attended a relatively small school (graduating class was 83 people – strong year), there were only a few business classes offered there to dip my toe in the water. Accounting was one of them, but I’d heard through my involvement in DECA that it was pretty difficult. At that point I was seriously considering Human Resources (HR) as a potential major.

Amongst college visits and applications fall of my senior year, I continued to question whether HR was the right path. I turned to my eldest sister who had been out of college for a few years, and was paying her student loans already (I’ll come back to that in another post). The conversation went like this:

Me: I don’t know I really thought I was going to like HR. Everyone always tells me I’m a good listener and I thought it was the closest to psychology in the business field.

Sister: No offense, but HR is generally the first thing on the cutting room floor in tough times. What else do you like? What are you good at?

Me: My accounting class is going pretty well. Everyone always talked about how hard it was, but I feel like it’s pretty easy for me

Sis: Uhhhh… Becc – do that. Accountants make decent money.

Me: They do? I’d be kind of worried that I’d end up hating it though. Like you know how you do something you love so much that you get sick of it? 

Well, after shadowing 2 college classes the following spring – one HR & one accounting – that was it. I could not connect with the HR class at all. I didn’t even hear anything in the accounting class because they were taking an exam (probably a blessing in disguise looking back), but I was positive I did NOT want to do Human Resources any more. 

Fast forward 4 years and I’d graduated with a BBA and MBA in Accounting, and had passed the first part of my CPA exam. You don’t throw away 4 years of education and accrued student loan debt by failing to get your CPA license, right? That’s what I’d heard for the last 4 years anyway – kind of a waste of a degree/money otherwise. Oh, and if you don’t get your CPA license, you’re basically a failure. What no one told me when I was picking a major was that the reality of working in the public accounting industry meant agreeing to work 80 hour weeks for at least 4 months of the year. Thankfully I’d stumbled into a niche within the industry that offered amazing experience without having to do that. After a few years in enterprise risk management, a stint at a bank internal audit shop, and a few more years in operational risk management I found a new professional certification that spoke to me like nothing else in my life – the Certified College Financial Consultant…. and my CPA license was a pre-requisite. Finally I no longer had to question whether I’d made the right choice investing in my CPA and opting out of the typical tax/audit tracks. Everything was clicking.

See the part that I skipped over was the development of severe anxiety related to my financial situation. Would I ever be able to stop working? I felt like I was drowning in student loan debt. How did that happen? I got merit scholarships that covered my half my tuition, finished my undergrad a year early, worked multiple jobs since senior year of high school over 30 hours/week, and borrowed less each year of my higher education. What did I do wrong? How did I end up with over 6 figures in student loan debt?! I was so careful!!!!

So I dedicated all that time outside of work to getting myself on a better financial track. Blood, sweat, and tears to fixing that on my own… because no one I’d known seemed to have the answers.  They’d either (1) never gone to college, (2) struck the jackpot in the gene/inheritance pool, or (3) faced the same problems I did with student loan debt without any answers. So I taught myself – through my tax experience, credit score research, cost management education, and unwillingness to accept paying on this debt for the rest of my life I began improving my situation. 

We’ll get to the specifics of how to avoid some of those pitfalls in some other posts. Long story short – not only did my professional license provide a springboard to the right path, but the new certification showed me everything I did “wrong” along the way. That sort of experience and hindsight is not something that every financial planner has to offer.  My passion for preventing these financial catastrophes for future generations is too valuable to keep to myself. I want to help improve people’s everyday monetary situation in a way that’s best for them not only today, but sets them up for success in years to come.

So here I am. Just a girl, writing to the internet, asking them to let me help them.

Note: For those of you that think I just ended the post in an extremely corny fashion, please refer to the movie Notting Hill. I mean it’s corny for sure, but rooted in pop culture, so that counts for something, right? No?…. Awkward…. Okay I’ll stick to the numbers 🙂  

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Preliminary list of services are as follows:

  • 529/investment management
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    • Payoff strategy/advice
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