Book ‘Get Good with Money’ by Tiffany the Budgetnista Aliche

PDF Excerpt 'Get Good with Money' Book by Tiffany the Budgetnista Aliche
Ten Simple Steps to Becoming Financially Whole
Tiffany Aliche was a successful pre-school teacher with a healthy nest egg when a recession and advice from a shady advisor put her out of a job and into a huge financial hole. As she began to chart the path to her own financial rescue, the outline of her ten-step formula for attaining both financial security and peace of mind began to take shape. These principles have now helped more than one million women worldwide save and pay off millions in debt, and begin planning for a richer life. Revealing this practical ten-step process for the first time in its entirety, Get Good with Money introduces the powerful concept of building wealth through financial wholeness...
Publisher: Rodale Books (March 30, 2021)  Pages: 368 pages  ISBN-10: 0593232747  ISBN-13: 978-0593232743  ASIN: B08DMWLNGC

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About the Author: Tiffany Aliche, aka “The Budgetnista,” is an award-winning financial educator who has transformed the lives of over one million women worldwide. She regularly appears as a financial expert on The Real daytime talk show, and co-hosts a top-ranked financial podcast, Brown Ambition. Tiffany also co-founded an online school, the Live Richer Academy, which teaches women worldwide how to take their finances to the next level and achieve their personal goals. In 2019, Tiffany partnered with New Jersey Assemblywoman Angela V. McKnight to write a bill that was later signed into law, which mandated financial education to be integrated into all middle schools in New Jersey. In 2021 she was nominated for an NAACP Image Award. Tiffany has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Fast Company, Reader’s Digest, USA TodayCosmopolitan, InStyle, Forbes, Redbook, Black Enterprise and U.S. News & World Report and has been on the Today show, Good Morning America, CNN, OWN and CBS. Tiffany currently lives in New Jersey with her husband and stepdaughter. 

Book excerpt

Introduction

I messed up…No, I really messed up this time.

About ten years ago these were the words that replayed in my head as I sat crying and packing up my things. For a couple of reasons, I couldn’t afford my condo and had to move out, pronto.

This was 2009 and we were in the middle of the Great Recession. The recession was like a scary monster that lurked around every corner—we were all talking about it and several friends had lost their jobs due to it. I had assumed I was in the clear because I was a preschool teacher and teaching jobs were supposed to be recession-proof, right?

Unfortunately, my school was a nonprofit, and the corporate entities that kept us going no longer had the funds to do so. Three days earlier I’d learned that I—and all the staff—was out of work. As usual I’d been living on savings over the summer months (I was paid on a nine-month basis and had to plan ahead to stretch it through the full twelve) and hadn’t seen this layoff coming. That was one of the reasons I now couldn’t afford my mortgage and was moving out in a rush.

But let me stop—I’m getting ahead of myself. So much happened before my meltdown. Let me take it back to the very beginning. Cue overly dramatic dream sequence music…

My parents are pretty awesome. They were born and raised in small, rural villages in Nigeria. My dad came to the United States first. He had little money and a dream for more. He later brought my mother, the love of his life, from a neighboring village to join him. Through hard work, discipline, and a sickening work ethic, they both earned two degrees (a bachelor’s in economics and an MBA in finance for my dad and a bachelor’s and master’s in nursing for my mom), held down great jobs (both are now retired), and had five lovely, college-educated daughters. I’m the second (and wildest) of those daughters.

My parents have also always been masters at weaving financial lessons into our day-to-day activities. Here’s a perfect example. I’ll set the scene: Roselle, New Jersey, July 1986. I was six years old and heavily focused on riding my bike, playing outside, and eating ice cream. You know, serious six-year-old stuff. But I had three siblings (at that time), two of whom were also interested in ice cream, which would have added up to a pretty big expense for my parents if we’d all been allowed to buy it from the ice cream truck every day. So my parents had devised a unique and financially responsible way for my sisters and me to enjoy treats: We each had a weekly Ice Cream Day, which allowed us to ask for a dollar when the ice cream truck came around. The others could eat the cheaper, store-bought variety stashed in the freezer.

I can remember one specific occasion when my day came up. I heard the distinctive sound of the ice cream truck bell as it came down the street. I quickly ran into the house to collect my dollar.

“Daddy!” I said excitedly. “The ice cream man is here and today is my day!” “Odochi,” he said a little gravely. (Odochi, pronounced O-dough-chee, is my Nigerian name.) “Odochi, the water man just left with your dollar.”

My six-year-old mind immediately started racing. Had the police been called? Was anybody hurt in the robbery? If it wasn’t a robbery, what did the water man have to do with the ice cream that was in the truck that was getting closer with every minute?

I’m guessing you’re just as confused as I was. So let me step back just a little further and explain the significance of the water man. At six years old, I was obsessed with water. My obsession often led to me turning on all the faucets in the house to enjoy the soothing sounds of running water no matter what room I was in at the time. As you can imagine, this habit did not go over well with my mom and dad, who (a) paid for that running water and (b) were very budget conscious. Which explains what my dad said next:

“Odochi, the water man came because every time you run the water it has to be paid for. So today, I had to give him your ice cream day money.”

I have only a vague recollection of what happened next; the trauma has clearly caused me to block out this part of my history. According to eyewitnesses (my sisters), I dramatically flung my body to the floor in a temper tantrum. Later that night, I cried myself to sleep, lamenting the unfairness of it all.

The next morning, my dad sat me down and I had my very first, purposeful, conscious money talk. I learned that things cost money and that the choices I make have a direct impact on my quality of life. In other words, there is no such thing as a small financial choice. We each must learn how to weigh our short-term desires against our long-term goals. The question is, will you choose water or ice cream?

Sound too good to be true? It was…

Get your pearls ready.…You’ll be clutching them in a minute.

The Scam(s)

In 2007 I had already accomplished the savings and stats I mentioned above. You might even say I thought I was at my most financially responsible. I was certainly feeling confident in my ability to manage my own money. So much so that I decided I was ready to start investing above and beyond mere retirement. And instead of asking my financially expert dad for a crash course on that more sophisticated concept, I turned instead to someone who had money and asked him to teach me how to grow wealth. I turned to a guy we’ll call Jack the Thief (JTT), for reasons that will become apparent soon. JTT had an expensive car, owned a penthouse apartment in New York City, and always seemed to have cash on hand. In my twenties I didn’t realize that you could have expensive things but not really own expensive things.

I reached out to JTT and asked him to help me invest. I had no previous credit card debt, and he said the best way to invest is with other people’s money, so he advised me to open new credit cards and take out cash advances to use the credit card companies’ money to build my own wealth.

JTT owned several stores in Europe and the plan was to use the money to buy popular American brands and ship them to his stores. We had a contract (I wasn’t a total dummy, I assured myself), and according to Jack, the projected revenue on my $20,000 investment would be $2,000 per week for two years. His plan sounded solid to me and since he always seemed to have money, I didn’t doubt where he got it or how he managed his own.

I know! I know! I must have been crazy. The truth was I was blinded by a deep wish to help my parents retire. They had sacrificed so much to put me and my four sisters through college. My logic was to use the money I’d make on this $20,000 investment to make sure they no longer had to work. JTT knew this, and I now know that he took advantage of my softheartedness. Well, that and my total lack of knowledge.

You see, before this moment, I didn’t even know you could get money from a credit card. What I also didn’t know was that cash advances are the worst. You might as well borrow money from your neighborhood loan shark. The amount of interest you pay for that money means you’re throwing money out of the window, stomping on it, rolling over it with your car, and allowing the elements to do their worst.…Cash advances on credit cards are BIG bad news.

Okay, this is the part when those pearls I advised you to get should be clutched because I took JTT’s advice; I went to the bank and I asked for a $20,000 cash advance on the new credit cards I had applied for. I remember the nice bank employees being concerned about me. They kept me there for what felt like an hour, asking me questions to make sure I was making this choice of my own free will. This should have been a huge red flag, but I blissfully ignored it because I was going to make money, honey! That’s what I was thinking. I got the money from the bank at last, and dutifully handed it over to JTT.

SCREAM BREAK:
I’m literally yelling at twentysomething Tiffany, right now…WHY?! No!

And… I’m back. But now we’ve reached the part of my story where a bad choice gets worse. Oh, yeah…It gets worse. Apparently, one scam that week was not enough. Because I decided to use my new credit to further “invest” in myself. I always wanted to start a business, and one of my favorite financial writers was advertising an online “How to Start a Business” mentorship and training program for the temporary low rate of, drumroll, please…$15,000. Sounded good to me!

My thinking went something like this: I would have money soon (the anticipated $2,000/week from JTT), and even with giving my parents some cushion, I could pay that $15,000 off in a few months. After that, I figured I could use the $2,000 a week I was sure I would still be rolling in to sustain the business the course would teach me to start. And that business would further help support my parents.

What happened instead was that in less than one week, I went from having no credit card debt to being $35,000 in the hole. Yikes! All this and my parents, family, and friends had no idea.

You’re likely wondering, was the training program I bought legit and helpful? To some degree, yes, but not $15,000 helpful. However, it did help to water the seeds I had already planted for The Budgetnista to take root.

I feel your shock at how far from financial grace I fell in such a short period of time. But pace your sense of disbelief because it gets much worse before it gets better.

Predictably, Jack the Thief ran away with my money, never to be seen again. Yes, we had a contract, but no, I couldn’t find him. Everything went downhill from there. For nearly two years I refused to accept financial responsibility for my choices. I reasoned that it was all the Thief’s fault, not mine. That meant that although I was still a really good budgeter and saver and could have buckled down and paid off the debt in a year or two on my teacher’s salary, I only paid the minimum on my credit cards while I hunted JTT down.

It wasn’t until I turned twenty-nine that I finally accepted that the Thief and my money were really gone. Now you see why ten years ago I was sitting in my condo crying and saying over and over that I messed up. I really messed up.

I had a $52,000 student loan, a $220,000 mortgage, and $35,000 in new credit card debt; my summer savings was nearly depleted; and I just found out the job I worked for and loved for ten years was gone, indefinitely. I was also preparing to move back home with my unsuspecting parents. Oh, to add insult to injury, I was newly single because I’d recently broken up with a boyfriend I’d had for seven years. Yeah, I was not in particularly great financial or emotional shape! But things got better, right? Well, yes.

But not quite yet. I’m sorry to tell you that I was not yet at my lowest point! That came next.

I enjoyed a happy week or two when a friend agreed to rent my condo from me for $1,500 a month, which would put me only $160 short of the mortgage payment. I was so excited at the prospect of having most of my mortgage paid, however, that I ignored some huge red flags yet again. Apparently, I’m color-blind when it comes to red. The day my friend was supposed to move in, she didn’t have her deposit for the first month’s rent. She explained that her previous landlord hadn’t given back her safety deposit yet. I needed to believe that she was good for the money and because she was my friend, I let her move in anyway. Unfortunately, she was late on rent every single month for nearly a year. Which meant that I spent the rest of my savings and even withdrew all the money from my retirement account trying to pay my mortgage despite not living in my condo, because I didn’t know how to evict her.

Let’s recap: I had a condo I no longer lived in and a problematic tenant. I owed massive debt. I had no job and no savings, and I lived at home. My parents, although awesome, were super strict (I had a curfew even though I was almost thirty). And my youngest sister, Lisa, was staying in my high school bedroom suite in the basement, so I was relegated to my middle-school bed, in what was now my mother’s second closet/guest room. And I was still single. Big surprise.

I lived this way for two years. I didn’t go out. I avoided my friends and stopped picking up the phone when my money ran out and the bill collectors started calling. Ultimately, the bank would foreclose on my condo.

(A little petty update on Jack the Thief before we continue: A recent quick Google search of his name revealed that apparently, his scamming didn’t end with me. He’s currently in prison for identity theft and a myriad of other offenses. The federal government indicted him for trying to create fake passports while using the identity of U.S. citizens. Karma, am I right?)

The Budgetnista Is Born

I have a good friend named Linda. Linda and I were pretty much born into friendship.

When my parents immigrated from Nigeria, they connected with other Nigerian couples and formed a community. Linda’s mom and my parents became fast friends as young people chasing a new dream in a new country.

I was at the above-described lifetime low when Linda finally got me on the phone. I’d been avoiding her for months. I’d always been known as the girl in our friend group who had her financial life together. A large part of my identity was tied up in how well I managed my finances. Now that I was a money mess, I wasn’t sure who I was anymore, and I was embarrassed and ashamed.

When we finally spoke, I tried to pretend that everything was okay, but I quickly fell apart and started crying. I told her everything. I told her how I’d lost my job. I told her about the JTT credit card scam, the course I bought, the bad tenant and the pending foreclosure, the student loans I owed, and how I drained my savings and retirement accounts. Her reaction surprised me.

Linda chuckled and said, “Is that it? I thought you committed a crime or something. Tiffany, everyone is struggling with their finances. That doesn’t make you a bad person. That makes you human.”

She went on to explain that most of our friends were still hot messes financially and that I was not alone in trying to figure things out. She normalized my mistakes, and our talk allowed me to forgive myself. And once I was able to let go of the shame of my financial mistakes I was able to focus on solutions. I realized that I had all the skills to solve my dilemma. I started by writing down all the strategies I’d learned growing up: how to budget, how to save, how to get out of debt, and how to manage my credit. These are things that I knew how to do but temporarily forgot when things got hard.

As I started to fix my own finances and gain momentum, my friends took notice and started asking me for help. Linda wasn’t wrong that they, too, were reeling from the recession and financial errors they’d made. Soon I was helping most of my friends, then their friends took notice and started asking me for help too. Before I knew it, I was sitting down with someone every weekend and helping them to make plans to fix their financial messes.

There’s a saying that goes, “When you teach, you learn twice.” That’s what happened to me. The more I taught, the more I learned. The more I learned, the more I taught. Each person I helped exposed me to new challenges; and helping them helped me to find solutions for new and different financial problems real people were facing. For two years, I donated my time and helped hundreds of people while babysitting, collecting unemployment, renting out my condo to a new, more reliable tenant, and taking odd jobs here and there to make ends meet. My not-so-baby sister, Lisa, started calling me The Budgetnista. I liked the ring of it and decided that if I was ever able to turn my free financial coaching into a business, I’d use that name for it. That happened sooner than I might have imagined.

My volunteer work caught the eye of my local United Way and they asked me to create a curriculum and to teach a series of financial classes to the community. My business was born, and this was my very first contract! I was back in the classroom, but this time instead of fifteen screaming three- and four-year-olds, I was helping adults to get and stay on financial track.

My first group of students at the United Way consisted of about ten people, but through the process of friends telling friends and then through the power of social media, I started getting requests from people outside of the city to attend my classes, then outside of the state, then outside of the country. This took me by surprise. I had no idea how many people needed help.

Unfortunately, everyone was not able to travel to Newark, New Jersey, where my classes were held. So I created an online version of the United Way curriculum and called it the Live Richer Challenge, or LRC. I set myself a goal of getting ten thousand women to sign up for the challenge. Well, it took me a year, but I got ten thousand women to agree to allow me to help them. The results and response were so amazing that I started hosting LRCs each year. It seemed that my goal to help other people reach their own dreams was coming true, so I dubbed those original ten thousand people my Dream Catchers.

Get Good with the Fundamentals

Since I started my Live Richer Challenges (you can still sign up at www.livericherchallenge.com) more than a million Dream Catchers have gone on to save and pay off hundreds of millions of dollars in debt, bought thousands of homes, invested, gone on vacations, paid for college, started businesses, and raised their credit scores. Since becoming Dream Catchers and having gotten good with their money, they are living all-around richer lives!

But make no mistake: Getting good with money—whether back on track or organized for the first time—is about mastering the fundamentals, not magic. And the point isn’t to get rich quick or retire on a private yacht off the coast of Monaco, but rather to become what I call financially whole. I’ll explain what that means for you in the pages to come, but for now what you need to know is that being financially whole means that ten fundamental areas of your financial life are in working order and you have a realistic picture of where you are on the path to reaching your wildest dreams. You can achieve this state regardless of your current income, savings, debt, or credit score! Like me you can get good with money and become financially whole even if you are in a total financial hole, even if you’ve lost your job and have been thrown into debt by a scam artist. Remember, I speak from personal experience!

Another way to think about the concept of financial wholeness is that it cracks the code on how to master your money and attain peace with your finances. It is both a journey and the destination. This book is the road map and will help lead the way. Here’s how.

Each financial wholeness tier contains three main sections: The Plan, The Do, The Review.

The Plan is like an overview of the chapter and will orient you to and outline the big-picture goal for the chapter.

The Do is all about the steps you will want to take to get an A in the chapter topic. To help ensure that each step is productive, each Do will finish with Your Assignment.

The Review is a quick and clean snapshot of what you just read. Plus, I might drop in a little opportunity for some extra credit!

I’ve also created something that I call the Get Good with Money Tool Kit, which is where you’ll be able to easily access resources I’ve shared throughout the book. This free, downloadable tool kit includes websites I’ve mentioned, worksheets, spreadsheets, and quizzes. You can get instant access to the most updated version of all Get Good with Money resources at www.getgoodwithmoney.com.

Throughout this book you’ll also find information and advice that I’ve gathered from my own trusted advisors under the heading Budgetnista Boost. I like to think of these injections of information as extra frosting on the cake of what I’ve baked up for you. That probably stems from my days as a preschool teacher when someone always seemed to be baking (cupcakes!) for a classroom party.

If there’s one other thing that’s a holdover from those preschool teaching days, it’s this: I often used the phrase “I’ll meet you on the carpet” with the kids as a way to let them know that I was there to meet them where they currently were, typically a colorful carpet somewhere in the classroom. It was my job to bring the help to them and to create a welcoming, nonjudgmental space where learning was exciting and engaging. Just like the carpet, this book represents a safe place that can launch dreams, open doors, and ignite potential right where you are.

I’m so glad you’re here! Now let’s get good with money.