Tell us about your family’s relationship with money growing up. Did you talk about it?
My parents got divorced when I was three, and neither of them spoke to me about money. Mom is a child of the 50’s, was raised to get married and expected to be taken care of forever, even though she was a math major (so rare at that time). So, she had to hit the reset button at the age of 42.
We were always in survival mode, but I remember how amazing it was to watch my mom transform. It felt so liberating when she not only got back on her feet, but became a great earner, saver, planner, investor and breadwinner.
Though we never really spoke about it directly, I actually learned a lot from just observing her—I saw her go from being the Good Wife to abandoned, to then be able to pick herself up, take care of three daughters, get an MBA, and start a career at the age of 42. She advised me to never depend on anyone, because no one can really support you except yourself.
Tell us how you learned about money, and how you became confident about skills like saving, debt, and investing.
Money started out for me as a game. I learned about it through video games, like Nintendo’s Kid Icarus, where the objective was to collect gold coins. I’ve worked since I was 13. My first job making cappuccinos. While I was lucky that my parents paid for my college in full, I still had to work for extra funds to do anything besides eat.
While I supposedly learned not to depend on anyone, I still had financial trouble. I tried to save and budget, but as my life devolved into chaos with newborn babies and a struggling marriage, at age 30 I woke up $90,000 in debt.
My assets were actually expensive liabilities that were driving me into debt. So I decided the best way to figure out the money game once and for all was to start a financial newsletter for women called DailyWorth to expose my faults publically… I figured that the potential of public humiliation would drive me to make sure I saved!
Where are you now with your saving habits? What do you do well, and how might you want to improve?
I’m an entrepreneur, so it really all depends on cash flow. I always put half of what’s left after my bills towards saving, and the other half I use to either pay off debt or to invest for retirement. I’m always building cash, paying down debt or adding to my retirement. I’m now net worth positive, have a robust emergency fund, I’m maxing out my IRA this year, and I have no credit card debt carry, but still a few bills left over from my divorce.
My mother was an incredible saver, but she never taught me how for whatever reason. She doesn’t operate as a “teacher.” One thing I did learn from her was her philosophy for child raising: “Roots and Wings:” She said they were all I needed to be successful. Roots are knowing that you have a family who loves you and a secure home, and wings to chart your own path and to confidently face whatever obstacles may get your way. That stuck with me, and as I learned more about personal finance, roots and wings came to symbolize different things: Roots are assets, often illiquid, like retirement accounts, investments, paid off real estate and such; and Wings are your income, the money that fuels daily life and gives you the ability to also build roots. The sooner we can build solid roots in our lives, the better they can support all of the projects and adventures that we want to explore with our wings.
Share your #1 savings tip.
Whenever you choose NOT to buy something you want, move that money out of your checking account into your savings account – that way, you can see how much it would have cost you, but still reward yourself by building your savings.
What is the first thing you would want your daughter to know about saving and money?
Whenever she and her brother get a gift, say $10 from grandma, they can only spend half, and must save the other half.
I do want her to save, but I first want her to see that mommies work and can be in charge, and that she has the power to decide whatever she wants for herself and that she can design life on her terms.
I don’t want her to ask herself “Can I?” or “Should I?” But more like “Is it worth it?”