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My life journey through the lens of money

I’ve shared my story many times. It’s often while discussing financial wellness. In fact, I start my talks with the words: I was a high-achieving financial mess. It usually gets a chuckle from the crowd. But, doing the work, I uncovered my financial messiness had less to do with my lack of financial understanding; it had a lot more to do with my limiting beliefs, the systemic barriers to access, and how I viewed myself.

While upgrading the website, I read this posts about my journey using money as the lens. I wanted to highlight it again because I know so many people struggle in life because of their finances.

I certainly struggled because of my finances. And it was getting my money right that’s truly helped me work on the deeper stuff that was troubling me. Now, this doesn’t mean you can’t work on bettering yourself until you’ve reach financial independence. You can begin bettering yourself and fixing your money at the same time.

You can learn more about money by reading my two books, You Only Live Once (2016) and Happy Money Happy Life (2023).

Okay, now it’s time to reshare the journey. It starts below

My starting point: I didn’t learn about money at home or in school

We grow up hearing there is a path to success: graduate college, start a career, make money, and buy stuff. Just no one every mentioned that money isn’t the end goal, but a tool, and the better you manage that tool, the more opportunities to take a different path and live a life of purpose.

I grew up in Elizabeth, NJ in a modest household. My parents worked hard and made sure I had the basic necessities, but we never talked about money. Our first money conversation happened my senior year in high school, it centered on the affordability of college.

At the time, we didn’t have the financial aid know-how or means to pay for college, so I worked at Newark Airport instead to make money to attend school the following year.

At 18, I was an adult with a paycheck and a credit card who quickly mismanaged those resources. The lack of financial knowledge would have a profound negative impact on my life.

Eventually, I attended and graduated college. I chose a career in banking instead of the arts to follow the money. I worked hard and climbed the corporate ladder. I made significant gains in salary. I achieved major financial goals: a six-figure salary, lived in Silicon Valley, drove a german car, traveled often, ate great food, and wore brand name clothing.

Nevertheless, I held onto a car loan, student loans, and amassed a significant amount of credit card debt. Instead of making the right decisions to save money and use my income to pay off debt, I found myself living paycheck-to-paycheck.

Mindlessly consuming and obsessively complaining

It was hard to admit I had a spending problem and a heavy reliance on credit. I gave every reason why I couldn’t save and found any reason to spend.

Fortunately, my role in the credit union exposed me to financial experts and everyday people managing their money well and living life on their terms. I learned new skills through their stories and began using the right products and services.

I, eventually, recognized my scarcity based money mindset – a set of money beliefs impacting financial behaviors – that prevented me from gaining financial independence sooner.

The credit union experience and a focus on shifting my mindset to abundance enabled me to choose a different path in life. I resigned from my executive job, turned down the successor CEO route, sold everything I owned, and backpacked through 20 countries in 12 months.

During this year of exploration, I had an “aha” moment while sitting on an 8th century temple wall.

Aligning my passions and serving a purpose

I was living my dreams and asked the questions: Where was everyone else? How did I get here?

I wasn’t rich by an stretch of the imagination, but I knew enough about money and about the available resources to change my life.

After months of backpacking, thought-provoking conversations, and eye-opening experiences, I learned how to answer those questions.

The answer: Knowledge is power. Financial knowledge is life changing.

Financial knowledge empowered me to choose better financial products, ask questions, seek help from experts, and become involved in my finances to achieve my life goals.

After my adult gap year, I came home inspired to empower a generation to achieve their dreams through a better way of accessing financial information, resources, and tools.

In 2013, I started a blog and grew a community that supported a successful crowdfunding campaign raising $78,501. We’re now a tribe of over 65,000 road warriors.

Today, I find myself with more opportunities to forge my own path to success and happiness and helping others discover their own road to financial wellness.

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