In 2015, I was about to become a mom of two, and I was commuting about three hours round-trip every day to work at a job that I did not love, but at which I was making a little under $100,000 a year. I wanted to start making moves that would help me make a career change that would give me more flexibility and time.
The stories I read about people who retired out of the traditional workforce early, thanks to dedicated saving, investing, and debt payoff plans, always resonated with me. So I decided to start a blog where I could write about what I was doing to accomplish my financial independence goals, to hold myself accountable and create a community for others doing the same thing. When it became clear it could generate some income, however sporadic, the blog became my side hustle.
My first big money objective was to invest as much of our income as possible. We took a hard look at our expenses: Anything that did not allow us to reach our saving and investing goal was reduced or cut entirely.
Within two years, my husband and I were able to save and invest $169,000, thanks to a budget we created that focused on contributing the maximum amounts to my 401(k) and to my husband's 403(b) and 457 plans.
Meeting that goal helped me turn the blog, my side hustle, into a career that I am passionate about. I knew the potential was there to make it more sustainable and consistent once I was able to work on it full time. Today, my blog Journey to Launch is my career: I run it full time and use my podcast and platform to educate people on their finances and help them achieve financial freedom, and I earn money through coaching, working with brands, writing articles, and selling products and services.
Through trial and error, I've learned so much that has helped me during this moment. Many things are outside my control. Still, here are the four things I'm doing to position myself to achieve success and financial security during these uncertain times.
By 2017, Journey to Launch had been my side hustle for a couple of years, and I was ready to make it my full-time job. I was also expecting my third kid, and it was important to me to spend more time with my family. So I decided to take the leap and leave my corporate job.
My husband still planned to keep his job, but his salary would not cover all of our household expenses. So we had to shift from an aggressive investing mindset to a more balanced saving mindset, while I still had steady income coming in.
When we reviewed our budget, we looked at both our immediate expenses and realistically how much money we would need to save to bridge any gaps two to three years into the future. Then, instead of putting a majority of our money into our pre-tax retirement investment accounts, we put it into our savings account and Roth accounts. Roth contributions can be accessed at any time, and that gave us some flexibility if we needed them in the event of an emergency.
With that plan in place, we moved forward.
Video by Stephen Parkhurst
If in January you had a goal to aggressively pay off your debt, but now you're finding that you're better served by focusing on building up your emergency fund, that's more than OK. I've learned it's important to let go of financial goals that no longer serve you.
Don't get down on yourself if you need to pivot to a new money mindset. Remember, if you have to reassess your goals, especially during a moment like this one, it doesn't mean you failed. You are giving yourself room to maneuver.
When quarantine began, I was running my company from a computer that was more than a decade old and a phone that was constantly acting up. I was able to still get work done on the older devices, but sometimes it would take up to 15 minutes just for my computer to start in the morning. I was beginning to get frustrated trying to accomplish the most basic business tasks.
I had to step back and recognize that I put off getting the tech upgrades I needed because even after five years of working on this business, I still saw these devices as costs, not investments in the success of my business and a means to bring in more income. So I had to shift my mindset again.
During this time, I wanted to be as responsible as I could with our budget. But I also needed to value my time. So I bought a new computer and phone.
Is there something you could invest in today that would give you the most benefit or return more value? Is there a course or piece of technology that will allow you to save time or earn more money? If you run the numbers and can make a case to yourself for why the investment will help you in the long term, consider giving yourself permission to make that purchase.
Last year, I did my first official onstage speaking gig. I got the footage of the speech back from the organizers but didn't share with anyone. In February, before quarantine began, I decided to post it on LinkedIn. A friend of an old work colleague saw it and reached out to me. They were working on a special project and thought that I'd be a good fit for it.
I never would have made that connection and created that job opportunity if I didn't tell my network what I was up to.
Video by Mariam Abdallah
Putting yourself out there can be nerve-racking, but I've found that the more I share and show up, even virtually, the more opportunities I have.
Don't be afraid to share what you've been working on and what is important to you with your network. It's an activity that costs nothing, and can really help you accomplish your money and career goals.
Even during the toughest times, I have a simple mantra: Act as if. Before Covid-19, I was approached by a couple of producers to be a personal finance expert on a reality show. Helping people this way has long been a goal of mine. For the moment, because of the pandemic, the conversations have paused. Still, even though this dream is on hold, the experience has been a useful one.
I decided that I didn't have to wait until there was a TV deal to prepare myself for this opportunity. I've begun to sharpen my speaking skills and practice speaking more on camera. I now know that if approached for something like this, I'm mentally ready to take it on because I've prepared as if it were going to happen already.
Is there a position that you want and a skill set that you will need or want to improve upon in order to be ready for it? Take this time to practice and work on it now. Even though the economy and job market are in flux right now, you owe it to yourself to still pursue those big goals.
Jamila Souffrant is a podcaster, writer, and founder of Journey to Launch, where she shares her journey to reach financial independence while helping others do the same. Jamila is the resident financial expert on a weekly segment on News 12, the most watched local TV news station in NYC. The Journey to Launch podcast was also named one of "27 Podcasts You Need To Start Listening To In 2018" by BuzzFeed. Jamila and her husband saved $169,000 in two years and are debt-free besides their mortgage. She is also a mother of three young children and lives in Brooklyn, NY.
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