The New Year quickly is quickly approaching and like many of you, I've been reflecting on my past, present and future.
In 2009, I lost my job of ten years as a preschool teacher. In addition to my job, I lost everything else; my home, my savings and my long-term relationship... everything. The non-profit based school that I worked for lost it's funding during the height of the Recession and closed three days before the new school year was set to start. As a result, I could not afford the mortgage of the condo I bought when I was 25, so at age 29 I moved back home with my parents.
Two years later, I was still unemployed. Down to my last $125, I moved in with my younger sister and lived in her livingroom. Though I was unable to contribute anything financially, she allowed me to stay. After a period of nine months, she became overwhelmed and asked me to move back in with my parents.
There I was 31 years old, with no job, no money, no home and no direction. This was my rock bottom. I felt so helpless, scared, financially unstable and unsure of what to do next.
My Teachable Moment
I grew up in a household where lessons on personal finances were taught daily by my father, who was a Chief Financial Officer and an accountant. However, growing up I didn't realize how valuable these lessons were and how much of a resource he was. Looking back, I realize how fortunate I was. People paid my father thousands of dollars for lessons he poured into me freely and openly. Personal finance was not taught in school and my friends were definitely not talking about it; they were more concerned about how to spend the money they had, not how to maximize it.
My unexpected job loss had shaken my confidence in many ways, including my ability to manage my finances. Years prior, I was the go-to girl for financial advice. I showed my friends, coworkers and acquaintances how to save, budget, improve their credit, get out of debt and so much more.
This moment of self-reflection brought about an unshakeable certainty -- I am teacher. Despite my job loss, I had always been a teacher. Whether preschool or personal finance, my life's purpose is to teach, share, inspire and educate.
After two years of struggle, I began to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Then in 2011 I decided it was time to take what I learned from my father and my experiences and started my business, The Budgetnista. My aim was to help women just like me; women who wanted to do better, but didn't know how or where to begin.
As The Budgetnista I became a personal financial educator. I started volunteering and teaching basic, personal finance skills at local nonprofits like the United Way and The Boys and Girls Club. I also used social media to get the word out to the community about my free, financial events.
By 2014, women across the country began reaching out to me asking for help. Due to the overwhelming outcry, I spent that entire year creating a resource that would teach them how to shift their mindset, budget, save, pay down debt, increase their credit score, and begin investing... for free. I called this resource the Live Richer Challenge and in 2015 over 20,000 women in all 50 states and 65 countries participated. Collectively we saved over $4 million, paid off more than $500,000 worth of debt, and 1/3 of participants opened a new savings account.
I had been in their shoes before. Fear and uncertainly drained me of my creativity, and all I could think about was my money issues. I couldn't focus and the stress had begin to affect my health. I think that the only people who think about money more than the rich, are the poor. That's why I am so passionate about helping other women experience what I am feeling today -- financial freedom.
This is the second year of the Challenge and a renewal of my commitment to my life's purpose. The 2016 Live Richer Challenge: Savings Edition and is a free, online financial resource designed to help women collectively achieve their savings goals in 22 days. The Live Richer Challenge is more than money, it's a movement, it's an online community, and it is a positive change and a supportive environment.
By request of participants, the focus of the 2016 Challenge is saving and abundance. I look forward to continuing on my mission of helping the 50,000+ women from over 70 countries that have signed-up for the new Challenge.
Five years after losing everything, I now have the opportunity to give back. Not only has the reach of the Challenge grown, but so has my business as a financial educator, speaker and author via The Budgetnista. In 2015 I hired my first full-time employee and have been able to contract with a number of new entrepreneurs to help me build my brand. In 2009 I became unemployed. In 2015 I became an employer.
As you head into the New Year, how far have you come and how far are you committed to go? I hope that as you plan your growth to the next level, that you actively work toward helping someone else do the same.
Tiffany "The Budgetnista" Aliche