3 Finance Experts Share the One Life Event That Shaped Their Views on Money

published Oct 20, 2020
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Credit: Joe Lingeman

For some, personal finance comes easily. Creating a budget spreadsheet? No problem. Living within one’s means? Easy

But for others (and maybe even the vast majority of folks), financial mistakes more often than not turn into learning experiences. It’s not uncommon for someone to not know the first thing about personal finance until they need to budget to pay off their student debt, or until they’re working towards meeting a goal such as buying a house

Some financial experts became experts because of the mistakes they made in the past. Events that caused hardship turned into lessons for their futures. Ahead, three personal finance experts describe the one event that transformed their financial lives, and the lessons they learned along the way. 

“I was scammed.”

“I turned to someone who I thought was a friend for investment and financial advice, and he convinced me to ‘invest’ with him—but it was a scam,” says Tiffany Aliche, founder of finance site The Budgetnista. “After the scam, I ended up with $35,000 in credit card debt. Then the recession hit and I was out of a job—and I had a mortgage and student loans from my masters on top of that.” 

The Budgetnista is now a wide-reaching personal finance resource, teaching skills like budgeting, investing, saving, and raising your credit score. Aliche credits this event for getting her to where she is now, teaching others the skills that she’s learned from this period of her life. 

She says that learning to forgive herself was the first step towards a healthy financial life. “I had to talk to myself the way that my friends would talk to me,” she says. “I had to work on the self-talk and forgiveness before I could move forward.” 

“If I could go back in time and say one thing to myself back then, it would be ‘You aren’t going to be in this forever.’ You won’t be in this place of hardship for the rest of your life, but it’s going to take some work. It took me nearly five years before I was back in a good place financially. But the $35,000 mistake I made then taught me invaluable lessons that I can use now to help others.” 

“I was over $200,000 in student debt from law school.”

“Without my debt from law school, I would have never become so interested in money,” says Natalie Bacon, a life coach and certified financial planner professional. “My curiosity and desperation led me to completely transform my financial life. I ended up leaving law and ultimately turned my baby finance blog into a thriving online business. My entire business is a result of my journey from my law school debt. I’m so grateful for it.”

Bacon now runs an online business and hosts a podcast in which she discusses finances and other topics relating to life coaching, such as time management and to-do lists. 

“I realized that this new knowledge I discovered about money was worth the frustration, confusion, and financial hardship,” she says. 

“I stopped making my student debt mean something about me as a person. Instead, I decided to actually appreciate and love my money, my debt, and everything related to my financial life, including my past decisions. Making peace with my law school debt allowed me to have the self-confidence to believe in myself to create the business that I did.”

“Somebody taught me about the magic of negotiation.” 

For Stefanie O’Connell Rodriguez, a personal finance author and founder of Statement Cards, her money transformation wasn’t sparked so much by a single financial hardship, but rather when she started working with someone who was able to show her what a little negotiation can do for an individual or a business. 

“On one of the first contracts my talent agent and I negotiated together, I was initially offered $500,” she says. “I forwarded the offer to my agent, and he got on the phone with the client. He called me back about an hour later asking if I would accept $5,000. It was the first time I ever thought about negotiating and increasing my income by adding zeros rather than a small percentage.”

A large part of O’Connell Rodriguez’s business includes booking public speaking gigs and events relating to personal finance. When she was ready for her business to grow, she started seeking out bigger clients.

“I understood that no matter what I did or how great my work was, I couldn’t make someone have more of a budget than they had. So I brainstormed outlets and clients where bigger budgets would come into play, and thought about how I could shift my offerings to command those higher rates,” she says. “I recommend focusing on maximizing what your work is worth by figuring out how you can tweak and shift your offering to command those higher rates.”