Growing up in lower-middle-class Queens, it felt like everyone around me was just trying to survive. But I believed that my life could be different. I figured my hard work and good grades could be the tickets to a better life, one where our lights didn't go out a couple times a year and I never worried about where my next meal was coming from.
So I focused on my education. Then during my first year of college in NYC, I decided to get a Bloomingdale's credit card, and started charging new coats, shoes, and dresses to my shiny card. Looking back, what I was actually buying was an escape from the challenges of being broke. The clothes I bought were my attempt at upward mobility. If I could look the part, maybe I could become the part.
Unfortunately, your credit score isn't based on how good you are at faking financial success. It wasn't long before I acquired additional credit card balances on top of the massive, six-figure student loan debt I had taken on to get my education. Before I knew it, I had a 480 credit score and shame to go with it. And even when I was earning more, I was still living paycheck to paycheck as I paid off my debt.
But I didn't let those setbacks deter me. And my experience informs the work I do today. I've been an entrepreneur for 11 years, I'm a mother of four, and I'm the founder of Hello Seven, a company dedicated to helping marginalized folks build wealth. And my business earns $10 million a year.
There was no easy, simple, get-rich-quick scheme to become a self-made millionaire. It's been a long journey filled with ups, downs, and plenty of complications and challenges. But looking back, there are three crucial moves I made that paved the way to millions — moves that you can make, too.
I used to believe I was simply "bad with money," and I thought I had the credit history to prove it. But I wasn't bad at money, and neither are you. We just live in a society that is often determined to make us think that we are. Case in point, the constant media messages that portray women as frivolous and irresponsible spenders. But I was able to fight through that noise, once I accepted that being "good with money" was a skill I could learn.
My mindset began to shift after I started dating my husband. He had grown up even poorer than I had, but he had developed an abundance mindset. He helped me stop treating every dollar we had as if it was our last. He trusts that we are smart, resourceful, and capable, and that if something ever happened, we would figure it out.
Video by Courtney Stith
Ultimately, being "good with money" is about trusting yourself. So every time those old, detrimental "I'm bad with money" thoughts creep back in, I stop and consciously reframe my thinking.
I tell myself that I believe I can make smart decisions and provide financial security for my family. And even if I make a money mistake, or some outside force causes me to lose everything, I have the hard-won knowledge to help me find a way to make it all back.
This mental practice has helped me avoid self-sabotage and helped me grow. I started investing in myself, such as in training programs to help me advance my career and earn more. And while I paid off all my outstanding debt prior to starting Hello Seven, I'm not averse to taking on new debt if it makes sense for my financial plan, like when I purchased my home.
Remember that no one is inherently good or bad with money. But you can learn how to manage your finances, take calculated risks, and make decisions that work best for you.
Today, my business Hello Seven provides executive coaching, an empowering community, and strategic, wealth-building education, so marginalized people can make more money. But I didn't get to this point overnight — I worked as an entrepreneur for seven years before I had my first seven-figure year — and I definitely couldn't do it alone.
I had young children almost immediately after graduating from law school, so I knew from the start that I had to figure out a way to make money that didn't require me to work insane hours and severely limit my quality time with my family. I had to think of some creative ways to boost my income and provide solutions to my clients without constantly being on call.
Initially I started creating digital products, like contract templates and do-it-yourself instructions for things such as incorporation and copyright registration, to help entrepreneurs with their legal needs. This took work upfront, but ultimately became an additional source of passive income for me. Over time, the focus of my company shifted from legal work to business education.
Video by Helen Zhao
Growing my team and delegating to those trusted and talented employees became the key to expanding my company and subsequently increasing my net worth. I also hired domestic support to give me the space I needed to concentrate on my goals. Building a team — both at work and at home — has given me the time I need to focus on building wealth for myself, my family, and my team, and helped me avoid burning out.
If you want to take advantage of your unlimited earning potential, I would consider building a sustainable and scalable business. If you're not sure where to begin, start by identifying what you have to offer to the marketplace. Consider the skills, knowledge, and natural talents you have that can change someone's life or make someone's day. Pick something and turn it into a side hustle.
Try it, tweak it, improve it, and see what happens. And then start putting together your dream team as you go, one person at a time.
I've also learned that having the right community around you is crucial to building a successful business and long-term wealth. This is why I always tell my clients that they need to build what I call their "Million Dollar Squad."
The energy and drive of your squad will lift you up, and creating meaningful connections with like-minded people can lead to practical, bottom-line success in your business. Which is exactly how it happened for me.
Just a few months into starting my own law practice, I joined a program that involved a retreat in Arizona and several months of coaching in a community of fellow entrepreneurs. Looking back, that investment has resulted in millions of dollars of revenue and a number of amazing relationships.
Video by Courtney Stith
During that program, I met people who have helped me thrive in every aspect of my life and my business. These people became clients, advisors, collaborators, and friends. They put me on the fast track to where I am today by sharing resources, strategies, and referrals. Ten years later I am still connected with the people from that very first entrepreneurial community that I decided to join.
I truly believe that by spending time connecting with like-minded, ambitious people, you will find more success for yourself. I've learned that no matter your background and no matter what systemic injustices are stacked against you, you can make more money. And in case you didn't already know, let me assure you: You deserve to make more money.
Rachel Rodgers is the founder of Hello Seven, a multimillion dollar company that teaches women how to earn more money and build wealth. Rachel is the host of "The Hello Seven Podcast" and founder of We Should All Be Millionaires: The Club, an online network for professional women. She is also the author of "We Should All Be Millionaires: A Woman's Guide to Earning More, Building Wealth, and Gaining Economic Power." She resides in North Carolina with her husband and four kids on a 53-acre ranch, leading a life that is beyond her ancestors' wildest dreams.
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