Minki: Hey WINers~ Welcome to MoneyBites! Here's a hypothetical situation. If you were sacked from your job or if you were stuck in a job that you just can't stand, financially, do you have plan B? Today Luisa will share with us her journey when a career wake-up call launched her on a whole new financial adventure that resulted in her quitting her job and entering a coding boot camp.
Hi, Luisa. Welcome to MoneyBites! Thank you so much for your time.
Luisa: Thank you so much, Minki. I'm very honored to be here.
Minki: Should we start off with a short intro of yourself?
Luisa: Sure. My name is Luisa. I'm originally from Colombia, now here in Chicago. I consider myself a jack-of-all-trades, background in counseling, teaching, logistics, and now trying to become a coding ninja. So that's a little bit about me right there.
Minki: We'll dive into all of that. But before we start, there's two things that we have in common. One is our love of Colombia and Tango.
Luisa: Yes. Yes, yes.
Luisa: Yes, yes. That's how I de-stress. Tango just is such a beautiful dance.
Minki: It is. The second, is our passion for tracking and improving our finances.
Luisa: Yes, definitely.
Minki: So that's where I'd love to take a deep dive with you today. I know you're going through a big life transition right now.
Luisa: Yes. A very big pivot as I like to call it.
Minki: This transition was triggered from a very specific moment at your work?
Luisa: Yes. I had come back to work from a trip, I had been in Colombia, when I was called into my boss's office. I was advised that I had made a big mistake and if I hadn't been on vacation, I would have been fired. Yes, I made the mistake, no doubt I did. What scared me was I had no plan B. Financially, I had money that would've lasted me three months but that was it. I didn't know professionally what would be next. IF I get fired, how do you go about another job?
I walked out of that office and I went back to my desk. I kept my cool. When I got home that night, I wrote myself a letter. I told myself, "I know you feel horrible, but in a year you're going to be thriving." That day I said, "I am never again going to be in a position where something happens and they say, "we're letting you go," when I'm not set financially or I don't have a clear path where to go.
I had been wanting to code for a while and I could see how it could empower my work but I didn't know how to achieve it. I didn't know how to go about it. I just changed gears. My saving patterns were somewhat in place but by then it became way stricter, ex. what has to go. I can't remember exactly some of the things that went but I just remember I set the savings in place. I increased my saving from what I had before and I started mapping out the plan on what bootcamp I was going to go, how much money was it going to cost me, and what kind of payment plans I had to do.
Yes, there was a huge trigger and one of them was the impotence of me being at the mercy of somebody giving me a job. We all have our seasons. That was a season in my life when I had really needed the job. But I didn't want to be in that position again. I wanted to be able to say, "You know what? This is not a good fit for me." And I've created a cushion where I can walk away from the situation, empower myself professionally, and walk into another setting.
It's a luxury that not, for many reasons, everybody can have. But I am incredibly proud of myself that I created that stability. I studied my life to see what had to go. That I was okay having the uncomfortable conversations. You need to have them. I went to Colombia for Christmas with my family and I had to say, "Look you know what my goal is. You know I want to quit my job. Therefore, I can only spend this much. Just FYI. If you want to do this other thing, do it and have a blast. Don't worry about me. But I've made a choice and I'm sticking with my choice." That empowerment - I had never understood how much money empowers you psychologically. It's so great to say "no." I didn't know the power of no until I embarked on this journey.
Minki: That's awesome. I love the fact that you used money as a tool that you could use rather than a restriction that kept you in your situation.
Luisa: Yes. I think one of the greatest lessons that I learned in the last year was that I had always associated restricting myself with money with not having enough. But when I set really clear goals for my money, it was an empowerment. "Because I have this [goal], I have power over my money and I can choose how I spend it." The fact that I didn't go out on certain Friday nights to eat, it didn't mean I was poor. It meant I was empowering myself to achieve something in the future. That was really life-changing. Also challenging because it meant I had to say no, but it was really empowering.
Minki: Yeah, it's definitely not an easy journey to stay inside on Friday nights, but I love the mental shift in how you brought the choice and power back to yourself.
Luisa: Yes! For me, this whole journey has been about how to live my life holistically as a woman. I would express my challenges and my fears sometimes with money. So if I was frustrated, I would go and treat myself. There's nothing wrong with treating yourself. But it's like why, when and where instead of it being a knee-jerk reaction of "I just had a bad day at work and now I want to go spend money." Now, I actually budget treats. How do I spend money? Where do I want to spend it and how am I going to really enjoy that process?
Minki: I love the message you're giving in that it's NOT become super stringent and don't ever spend and only save. It's know your priorities, set it, and work your life around it so that you're getting the most fulfillment out of where you're spending your money.
Luisa: Exactly. You need to figure out what works for you. For example, going back to my dad. My dad is an engineer who loves Excel spreadsheets, loves formulas and loves Quicken. I am totally not like him. If you give me more than three things, I lose track of it. One of the reasons that I wasn't successful in saving was that I was trying to follow my dad's footsteps to the T. Then I realized that I needed something really visual and beyond having an app that's tracking my money. I needed something more tangible. I realized that for me it was cash. Every pay period, I would set up for rent and certain payments to be automatically withdrawn from my account, including my savings. It was all taken and then I would go to the bank. I would take out what I could spend for the next two weeks. I would leave just a cushion in my checking account for just a payment I forgot, etc.
Then every two to three days, I would count my money. For me it worked to take out all the other categories. It wasn't like I spend $8 in coffee and $40 at the groceries. No. Everything was just lumped in there. Transportation, food, clothing. It was just there. It actually became a joke at the office. It was like, "Luisa can't join us for lunch today. We know she's down to like $5." But you know what? It was like "yeah!" It was funny but it was also empowering because for me, it became sacrilegious - I couldn't touch my savings. It was an absolute no. If I don't have the cash, then I can't do it. Or if I really wanted to do it, then I have to save the cash.
Minki: So you were paying yourself first in terms of all your fixed expenses and your savings. Then you were paying everything else in cash?
Luisa: Yes. I had gotten in trouble in the past. I like points on my credit card because I love traveling. I love points so I can go places. The thing is that sometimes you pay with your credit card but it takes a few hours for it to show up on your statement. (I'm talking for me because I want everyone to find their own journey. This is just my opinion and hopefully it will help somebody find their way.) For me, credit card is just not immediate so sometimes I would forget that I spent something and then I would check and I'd be like, "Oh..." I spent because I forgot those hundred dollars went to that. But when I pay with cash, it's immediate. It's gone. Right now because the goal was to save, the credit cards and the points ... Again, something has to give and that had to give. When I just had cash, I removed the thinking. For me, that's what worked. It's gone. That's how much money needed to be in my savings and it worked for me.
Many times, I would go out to dinner and be like, "I'll just have one drink tonight. I don't need to have more than one drink." I still went out and I still did things, but I also had a clear goal. If we're going out, this is how much money I can spend. There were also really great times when it was Thursday before payday and I was like, "Whoa! I still have all this money!" The habits had these joys in it and I'm saving. I was still able to go to Cancun or to Florida to see my family because I figured out how to streamline the process. How to take the decision out of it. Saying, "hey dad, it worked for you and that is awesome, but this is how it works for me." For me, saving the last year was empowering, not only because I could see the money piling up in my back account. I had never had that much money.
I was also frustrated where I was at. It was empowering to know that I didn't have to stay in that situation because I had created the cushion to be able to walk away from it.
Minki: So going from where you were, not necessarily paycheck to paycheck but not necessarily having all the structures in place, to having a long-term savings goal, to being able to walk into your boss's office and say, "This isn't for me." How long did that take?
Luisa: July of 2015... To give you a little more background, when I went to Colombia I was literally paycheck-to-paycheck. I moved back to the states in December 2013 and I worked for a startup for a year-and-a-half. That was totally paycheck to paycheck. Because it's startup life! Then when I joined this logistics company, for the first six months, I was like, "Money, money, money!" I went out and I went on a trips. I think psychologically I needed that. I could've and should've curbed it a lot sooner. I should have said, "for the next two months, I'm going to blow it because I haven't. Then I need to get on track." But it took me six months. I started working there in February and it was in July 2015 when I was like, "Okay let me curb." I was paying a gym membership but I wasn't going so that went off. I started saving but also not as clear. Then it was in February.
I've been working professionally for 12 years since out of college. It was only until the last year and a half that I really did it. And there are still times when I'm like, "Awe, man... I blew that."
So much of habits are linked to emotions. There's nothing fruitful in me going back and being like, "I could have." If I could talk to my 20 y/o self, I would love to. I had my dad as an example but as a woman, there weren't a lot of women around me having these conversations of "how can I save for myself?" I would love to have a family. I would love to have a partner, but at the end, I still want to save. I didn't and I wish I would have. We can talk about woman issues in many, many levels. I think when it comes to money, we should [talk].
I'm glad you found a great partner. I'm glad you have a kid. But how are you working on your own financial future? It might look different for you than it looks for me. There was nobody challenging me and asking, "where are you financially as a woman? Irrespective of any relationship, motherhood, wife, whatever relationship you're in. Who do you want to be when you're 50 and what do you want your financial portfolio to look like?" Nobody asked me that. It wasn't until I started thinking about this that I started considering that.
It is what it is. Now I'm empowered to do it. Any young woman out there who hears this, where do you want to be? You can do it. You can totally do it.
Also, I am still talking from a point of ignorance. This is how you and I met and how we started having these conversations. There's so much that I want to learn. I'm making the spaces to learn it but it doesn't mean I have to become a full financial guru to start saving for my future. I'm not. I just took my experience in operations and I transferred it to my budget and I succeeded at it. Same thing for someone else.
Even with my credit cards, I gave them to my roommate. I said "I can't have access to this" and I removed them from my automatic payments because it's so easy and I've done it before. I've been so guilty of it to be like, "oh, but it's only like a $100 and I could totally pay it off later." Yeah, but trust me it piles up. I'm paying off some credit card debt because of those habits and because I didn't create a pattern where I didn't have access to it. I went to Grubhub and I went to Amazon and I removed my credit cards. So if I want to get something, it has to be from my debit card and I always think twice or three times before I spend on my debit card than when I spend on my credit card. But again, I figured a way it worked for me and I saw that the debit card had that power over me so I validated that power. So my roommate has my credit cards. I told her "you have to hide these credit cards and if i ask you for it, you need to ask me why."
Minki: You have so much trust in your roommate. But I love the accountability! There's so many gold nuggets in what you said. I really believe it. I mean one of the main pillars behind WINii is to bring transparency into our conversations about money. I also love the fact that you're willing to share your experience with our younger members. With that said, we also do have members who are in their 30's, I'm in my 30's, in their 40's and beyond. Once you have that habit you created, it never goes away. It's sort of like riding a bicycle. Now it's in your toolkit forever and ever.
Also as an entrepreneur, one thing that I've learned is always be biased towards action. Rather than thinking, "oh, it's too late. What could I possibly do?" No. It's always better now than later.
Luisa: Yes. I completely agree. I think it's not only a habit in my toolkit, I have to be more responsible than when I was in my 20's because I now know how to do it and I have proof. I achieved it.
I agree. For me, my 30's have been the most empowering thing. You can't pay me enough to go back to my 20's, even if it meant a full bank account with wiser financial decisions. It's empowering. Not thinking about retirement, I know my body will age and my mind, but I always want to have that youthful "why not?" What's my next adventure? What's my next pivot? Find your uniqueness. What works for you? Celebrate it and run with it and know that it can empower you. I feel like I took this drug of empowerment. I can't live without it.
I've come to understand that empowerment, like it or not, money rules so many things so I cannot divorce my empowerment from my money. I just absolutely cannot. I don't ever want to stop experiencing this clarity and this excitement of being empowered so I just have to make it happen with my money. Yeah, there are moments when I'll be like, "Ugh, I want more." Yes. I've had them. But when I think long-term, I actually feel richer because I know I'm setting myself up. I'm creating the resources to get there and it's amazing. I wish this on everybody. I wish it on everybody on their terms and with their story.
Minki: Fantastic. As a closing question, we always ask, WINii is actually WIN plus two roman numeral "i"s. You win > We win > We win too = WINii. Our closing question always is, what is winning in life to you?
Luisa: Wow. I love that you asked me that question because my birthday was last month and my sister-in-law threw me a birthday party last Friday. It's the first time in maybe eight years that I'm surrounded by so many people that I love all in one room to celebrate my birthday. To me, that was the picture of winning. Last Friday was all these people under one picture frame and being surrounded by people who are growing.
One of the things that I learned was how making wise financial choices empowered me to put myself in a situation of growth. I can learn to be a coder and that will open other financial opportunities. It has allowed me to grow as an intellectual and as a woman and has put me in situations to meet other people who are also growing and challenging themselves. If I had stayed where I was at, I'm not so sure I would've had these amazing encounters that I'm absolutely loving. It was the financial empowerment that allowed me to take that leap of faith. If I hadn't made the initial choice to set a realistic budget, I could've missed out on this opportunity.
Minki: It's amazing how you plant one seed and the momentum keeps knocking at your door.
Luisa: Exactly. The funny thing is I thought of you this morning because I'm most likely going to have to quit CrossFit because I have carpal tunnel and lifting weights is flaring it up horribly. But if I hadn't signed up for CrossFit, your post wouldn't have caught my attention and I wouldn't be here right now. Even though I will most likely not continue doing CrossFit, it was a trigger to harvest a healthy lifestyle. Then it opened the door to this conversation, which I think is so absolutely amazing. You never know. It's this domino effect and money's just part of it and who would know?
Minki: Money's just part of it. Yeah. I love that. Money's just part of it.
Luisa: I'm actually really excited that this is on tape. I'm going to send myself a reminder to listen to it in five years. I sincerely hope I'm going to be patting myself on the back. No actually, I will. I know I will. But this is a great. Hey, it's out in the air!
Minki: There are going to be strangers listening to this so you can't go back on it.
Luisa: I know. Don't look me up in five years and be like,"Hey." Yeah. This is me. this is my story.
Minki: Luisa, this has been a privilege. Thank you very much.
Luisa: Thank you so much. Thank you for your time. This was awesome. Thanks for allowing me to share my story.
Minki: That's a wrap. Hope you enjoyed WINers! Did you ever have a similar experience where a financial shock turned out to be a blessing in disguise? We'd love to hear your stories. Send us love and share your stories either on our homepage, www.wewinii.com, or you can find us on Twitter @WINiiHQ. See you next time.
Our theme music was played and produced by Luna Lee.