Just a few months into writing, I received the news that my entire team was being laid off.
It came as a complete shock. Our team was kicking butt on our projects. But the pandemic being what it is, I learned that nothing is really guaranteed when it comes to work.
Suddenly, the message behind the book took on more urgency. If this could happen to me–it could happen to anyone! And I wanted people to be prepared.
I reflected back on the journey that brought me to where I am financially.
I can still remember the day I came to school after an article had been published in the St. Louis Post Dispatch about my family.
My aunt had been murdered and my four cousins came to live with my mom, my sister, and me. Our little apartment was bursting at the seams. My mom was doing her darndest to make things work, but our family was crumbling.
The newspaper decided to cover our story. A full-page picture of my mom showed up as a feature story, and all of our family’s financial business was on full display.
I went to school the next day and my principal cornered me in the hallway. “Would you be okay if we held a toy drive for your family?” she asked. I was beyond mortified.
I think that was the first time a fire was truly lit inside me to make it to a new financial bracket. I couldn’t wait to escape to college.
Arriving at Harvard as a freshman was something of a dream. I was surrounded by an abundance of resources, and for the first time, felt like I was no longer poor. It was a miracle.
I immersed myself in the experience–made good friends, joined the choir, and explored my academic interests in African American social issues. (I was drawn to understanding why poverty persisted in my community, and boy did I learn a lot about systemic oppression!)
When I graduated, working in education was a natural next step. After all, education had saved me from my circumstances and helped me access an entirely different life.
I worked in “college access” – helping low-income families across the country gain access to elite educational opportunities – for years.
I was living in a tiny studio apartment, spending lots of money on my car note, student loans (from graduate school–college was free!), and credit card bills from the debt I had been accumulating over the years.
In some ways, I felt like a success. My community had celebrated my achievement of an Ivy League degree. I was doing work that I loved. And I had just taken an international trip to see Beyonce perform in Portugal for my golden birthday!
But something wasn’t right financially. I was earning a lot less than my friends from college, and honestly feeling pretty broke at the end of each month.
I set out on a journey to make more money, manage it better, and start investing.
In just a few years, I had I eliminated my debt, doubled my salary, and joined the FIRE movement (which stands for “Financial Independence, Retire Early”) by investing in index funds.
By the time I got laid off, I was in a strong enough position that I didn’t need to immediately jump into another job.
I took advantage of my newfound free time to travel, hang out with friends around the country, and try out the digital nomad life. After enjoying several months off, I decided to accept a senior position at a mission-driven organization with a leader whom I adored.
I still work in education today. I didn’t have to change careers or make any drastic investing moves to turn things around financially.
As someone who grew up in a working class family – with bouts of outright poverty sprinkled in – I had certainly come a long way from living in housing projects in St. Louis, MO.
That's when I realized I was going to have to get intentional about money.
I was used to being seen as the smart kid in school, not the poor one.
It wasn't until I was in my 30s that I had another wake-up call.
There truly is a simpler way.
If I can do it, so can you. Pick up your copy of the book today and let's go get free.