[Today we begin our series on our wonderful Queens of the Kingdom. If you are interested in being featured as a queen, please use the form on that page!
Katie, from ChainofWealth.com quit her teacher job and began a podcast to document her journey to become debt free. Learn more about her inspiring story and why we believe she is a very strong queen :). Katie, we hand you the torch!]
Tell us your story.
I suppose I am a pretty normal millennial. Unfortunately, I spent most of my 20s completely oblivious about money but I am thankful because I realize some people never get their finances under control.
Some fun facts about me:
- I was born in Maine
- My dog growing up was born on my birthday
- I went to 7 elementary schools
- I am left handed
- I never catch a cold- when I get sick, I get really rare random illnesses such as Mumps / Bells Palsy
- The farthest away from home I’ve been was South Africa (this was my first Passport stamp!)
From Chris -> This made me feel bad for complaining about my colds! Would love to hear about your trip to South Africa.
What does being a queen of your financial kingdom mean to you?
Being a queen of my financial kingdom to me means that I am in control of my future and finances. It’s a hard thing to get a hold of and not something that happens overnight.
What has it been like transitioning from Teacher to Podcaster?
To be honest, it was hard. When I transitioned from teacher to podcast/blogger was also in the middle of transitioning states as well. I decided that as much as I love teaching, it was not something that I wanted to do for the next 40 years of my life. I saw the move as the best time to try something else. I am not going to lie and say that everything was perfect from the get-go and there was never any doubt or stress.
When starting the podcast, it was a constant uphill struggle- not knowing what you’re doing and hoping that you’ve made the right decision to move and quit a career is a bit stressful. There were many times I wondered if it was worth it, then I reminded myself that we (myself and Denis- my boyfriend & other half of Chain of Wealth) committed to it and we couldn’t quit so early on.
Thankfully, the struggle has been worth it. Now, a few months later I am seeing some payoff for all of the hard work we have done. I have learned so much and have gotten to the point that the podcast and blog are fun. I haven’t 100% decided not to ever teach again but I am glad that I took this year off to try some new things.
From Chris ->Find it amazing and inspiring that you took on the challenge and are sticking with it!
What other types of careers are you thinking about changing to?
I have always had a hard time nailing down one career. I always wanted be something different growing up and even struggled to pick a major in college- so the fact that I have changed careers early on isn’t too shocking.
I have also thought about nursing because I like to help people. I took a few pre-nursing courses at a community college down the street from my home- Anatomy 101 and having to skin a pig made it clear that nursing was not for me.
After moving to Arlington, I thought that a sales office job would be a new and interesting experience. Honestly, I know it sounds naïve but I thought that office jobs were all pencil skirts and high heels. I learned that is not the case very quickly. I found the job boring and hated sitting in the cubicle calling people all day.
After the sales job, it was at this point that Chain of Wealth was having some real growth without us really having the time to work on it. We agreed that if even only one of us actually worked on it full time, we could get the growth we really want. Denis and I agreed that at least for the foreseeable future, I should quit my job that I was unhappy at and work on the blog/ podcast full time.
Blogging / Podcasting:
Tell us about your podcast.
So Chain of Wealth is a personal finance podcast. It originated after a hard conversation Denis and I had when I first moved to Virginia. We had the talk…. The finances talk. Up until this point in my life, I honestly thought that for the most part, I was good with money management.
Boy was I wrong.
After tallying up all of my debts, I was about $200,000 in debt. Thankfully I did not have any credit card debt but I did have student loans, a massive car payment, medical bills and a mortgage. After having to tell him about my whole financial situation, it was like a harsh wake up call to me. I knew I had to do something to get my finances under control.
A day or so later, Denis was helping me brainstorm ideas to solve this mountain of a problem and I kept telling him that I didn’t even know I was in such trouble.
That’s when he said that this happens all the time to folks and they don’t know where to start. It was then he suggested we try to do something to help other people learn how to be more financially educated. He said that my story is similar to so many people and I could have a platform to help tons of other people- thus Chain of Wealth was born.
From Chris -> This made me feel bad for complaining about my colds!
What made you venture into the podcast world versus other opportunities outside your comfort zone?
That’s a great question. At the time, Denis was really into listening to podcasts.
Before this, I’ll admit, I never listened to podcasts. Denis was listening to a few different podcasts on his way home from work and always came home feeling so inspired and motivated after listening to these other people tell their story about how they reached their dream or achieve something great.
He suggested that we start a podcast about my debt payoff journey and have people on the show who are finance professionals or people who have paid off debt on the show to see how they did it and be able to ask questions. In a way to help me along the way and hopefully help someone else out.
What advice do you have for anyone starting a new podcast?
Don’t quit. It is hard and there is definitely a learning curve but it does get easier.
From Chris -> We find this useful in blogging too!
Any milestones you are most proud of?
So many! So I have made it habit of writing down my goals. I read a study that once goals are written down, you are way more likely to achieve those goals. I go back about once a month and look to see what I can cross off and then set new goals.
So far some big ones we are proud of is:
- Reach over 500 downloads in one day. This seemed like a longshot a few months ago when we were getting 0 downloads.
- Having my first guest post was also very exciting
- Making over $500 in one month from affiliate income
From Chris -> Congrats!!
Debt Free Journey:
Tell us about the conversation between Denis and you that changed your financial path?
It was awful. It started over checking the mail- sounds ridiculous because it is. I was always afraid of checking the mail for fear of what was in there. This made no sense to Denis at all, so he checked it and came back with a zillion bills for me and ironically he got a random check from somewhere he overpaid and a coupon to BedBath & Beyond. I was in a mess but I didn’t know where to start and I didn’t want him to know. As I was opening my mail, he casually looked at my student loan bill and then started asking me all kinds of questions; like “how much do you owe?” “what is your interest rate?” I didn’t actually know the answer to either question.
Naturally this opened up a can of worms and the excel spreadsheet came out.
At the end of the night, I was so embarrassed and ashamed of the car I got a terrible loan on, not paying off my student loans and having all this debt that literally felt like a massive mountain I had to climb up. Thankfully, Denis knew what the right things to do. He wrote everything down, calculated payments and came up with a plan for me to follow. He assured me it would be okay and that if I followed his plan, I would be out of debt in the next few years.
You were 29 and felt financially responsible, what were some differences in what you thought were financially responsible vs what Denis said to you?
Ironically, when I first met Denis, I thought he was the financially irresponsible one. He put everything on a credit card and I peaked at his savings account when he was checking his statement one time and was shocked at the low number I saw.
Here I am, I had an emergency savings, bought a house by myself and had a great credit score. I knew what I was doing- or so I thought.
Later, I found out that Denis puts everything on his credit card to earn points and cash back and he pays it off every single month. He also didn’t have a lot of money sitting in his savings account because he had all of his money invested in different things.
Then, when I was buying my house and he told me to put more money down, I didn’t listen. Frankly, I thought, he didn’t understand how things worked in America since he had just come from South Africa.
So basically, I have recently learned not to keep thousands of dollars sitting in a bank account just to have. Put down as much money as you possibly can and to always, always pay off your credit card in full- not just a partial payment.
What were some of the questions you didn’t have answers to during that conversation?
- How much interest are you paying?
- How much do you owe?- this was a loaded question since I owed so many people and I didn’t know how much I owed anyone.
- Why haven’t you been paying back your student loan? – this was embarrassing because I actually had thought I was for a long time. In fact, I wasn’t. I fell for a scam and was paying someone (I thought it was a law office) to keep deferring my loan, then one day the “law office” was gone and so was all my money I paid them. I thought since I wasn’t getting any notices from my lender, everything was fine. A humiliating thing to have to admit out loud.
What steps did you take to start making a 3 year plan?
So many steps:
- Put the house up for sale. It was a lot more hassle to rent a house from 5 states away and in the short time that I owned it, it increased in value 20%. (A gift from God, I’m convinced)
- After the house sold, it was time to be able to get rid of my car. I had a $663 car payment because again, I was foolish and co-signed for someone and they were upside down in the loan. I got pegged with $20,000 of negative equity. Anyway, after selling the house, I cleared just enough to be able to pay off the negative equity and sell the car. So no more car payment, negative equity, insurance or parking fees. A feeling of freedom I hadn’t felt in a long time.
- Pay off medical bills. So I opted to negotiate a medical bill I had. Short story- I somehow managed to get the mumps in the spring of 2017. I have had the vaccination 3 times in my life but still managed to get it. It was a 1 in 300 billion chance or some outrageous odd someone with 3 MMR shots would get infected. (Naturally I’d get the mumps, not win the lottery with those odds.)
- Negotiate my student loan interest rate and pay back as much as I can. I am EXTREMELY lucky because Denis has agreed to pay all rent, utilities and such to allow me to put all of my money towards my student loan. I started with $38,000. After a little bit of help with teacher forgiveness, I am down under $29,000 in less than 6 months. This is my last bill to pay off.
What are some topics on money that you feel are most important for those just starting on their own journey?
What to actually do with it. I thought for years that it was the right thing to have your money in a savings account so that it was easily accessible. Easily accessible money is an emergency fund- not your life savings.
What serious repercussions being foolish with money can do to impact your life.
From Chris -> It really can! Warren Buffet and Charlie Munger always state it is best to avoid the big mistakes in life, that is the real key to being successful (and rich!)
When you were making the move from FL to VA, what are some big lessons you learned during the move?
Thankfully there were a few life events that made me confident enough in myself that if this move didn’t work out, I would manage. After all, quitting a stable job, leaving family and getting rid of basically everything you own to go live with a boy is a bold, terrifying and exciting move.
I think the thing that I have learned most about myself is how unmaterialistic I am.
In order to move here, I basically had to sell all of my stuff, that I basically just bought. I had just bought a home, furnished it with a ton of new stuff and then in order to move I had to sell tons of things I loved. In this exercise I realized that all of this stuff is replaceable. It was a hard thing to do, but it taught me how little “stuff” actually means. Now, I am much better at not going and buying tons of decorations and “things” to just have.
Have you had any challenges since venturing out of your comfort zone and how have you solved them?
Yes. I have seen that Denis’ strategy of staying focused and making a plan is a much more effective solution than my old way of just feeling purely panicked.
Now, when I have a challenge or problem, I have learned to take a step back and try to look at the challenge as more big picture; and ask myself what I can do to solve the problem.
After all, if I have been able to get out of $171,000 of debt in 9 months, I have realized that I can figure my way out of most things now.
What big epiphany moments have you had that really transformed your relationship with money?
Now, I have realized how wasteful I was in the past with money. I would buy whatever I wanted or sometimes I just felt like spending money. That doesn’t happen anymore.
I have become much more aware of where my money is spent and if something doesn’t really add value to my life, I don’t buy it. I enjoy being home more and relaxing. It feels much better to make a $1,500 loan payment and have a quiet night than go out partying and wasting hundreds of dollars a month- this might also be because I’m almost 30, but I wish I had come to this realization earlier on.
Thank you so much Katie – we are really honored to be in the Kingdom with one of the Queens. Please keep us updated on your debt free journey, and good luck with the podcast!