Welcome to our Personal Finance Bloggers of Color interview series!
Our goal with this series is to highlight the experiences and perspectives of people of color in terms of money and personal finance topics, as these voices are often underrepresented.
This interview features A Purple Life.
1. Please introduce yourself by telling us about your background.
Hi! I’m a 29 year old who was born and raised in Georgia. My father was an immigrant from East Africa.
I moved away from home to attend college in the Northeast. The day of my graduation I ran off the line – straight into a car – and drove to Manhattan and an apartment I had rented sight unseen on Craigslist. The next morning I began my first day of full-time work.
I worked in several ad agencies in Manhattan for 4 years before finding a direction for my life. I had been wandering aimlessly looking for that next big promotion when I would finally be happy, that next great job where I’d finally feel fulfilled. I achieved every goal I set for myself and felt no different.
So I decided to change it. A job wasn’t going to give me fulfillment. After a lot of reflection I discovered that I didn’t actually want the corner office. I wanted uninterrupted time with the people I love and the ability to explore this amazing world we live in. I had discovered what I wanted out of life and created a plan to grab it.
At 25 I calculated that I could be 10 years from retirement despite my high Manhattan rent, so I did everything I could to cut my expenses while still living a happy life. One of those changes involved moving to Seattle where I have lived for almost 4 years. Combining that move with an increase in salary now has me on track to retire in less than 2 years at age 30.
2. When and from whom did you acquire knowledge about personal finance?
I’ve always been a money nerd. I’m not sure where it comes from because no one in my family seems to share my obsession. My grandparents touted the virtues of CDs (which were great for the time they were investing) and my Mom, despite retiring herself at 55, didn’t even invest in stocks until she was 40. She didn’t trust them based on my grandparents’ advice.
I’ve always been an avid reader – so much so that my Mom told me when I was about 12 that I “need to stop buying so many books.” That didn’t stop me reading though. The timing luckily coincided with us getting the internet in my house and me being required to have a laptop for school. I found a way to continue to gather knowledge without the same price tag.
My knowledge of personal finance has basically all come from books and blogs. When I decided I would go down this path to retirement I devoured every book I could and took notes so I could later suss out what made sense to me so I could create a path forward for myself.
3. Do you feel that your race/cultural background has impacted your life in terms of personal finance? How so?
I imagine my cultural background has impacted my financial life though it’s hard for me to pinpoint since I have only been, well me. No one in my family received a financial education. Everyone I know just follows what their family and friends tell them to do.
This is actually how almost all of my family still operates. When someone asks me for advice, for example, I tell them to please believe nothing anyone says – even me – until they have verified it themselves. That doesn’t often go over well – so far everyone just wants me to tell them what to do, but that’s not helping solve the problem.
One specific instance I can think of where I imagine my age, race and gender worked against me is when a financial advisor tried to basically bully me into giving him my money to put into a sub-par fund. Luckily this was after I had begun my financial self-education and I accidentally laughed in his face.
4. How did you become interested in personal finance? What made you want to start a blog?
As I mentioned, personal finance has always been an interest of mine. In fact, I’ve always hoarded my money even as a young child. I was actually a bank to my step-siblings…a bad one. They still owe me $50 plus 20 years of interest (and counting).
I started writing my blog 4 years ago, but it was private and unsearchable until 6 months ago. I began my blog to catalog my journey to financial independence and retirement. I found it helpful to look back and read what I was thinking or feeling during certain life changes. It was also awesome to see my progress and how far I had come.
About 7 months ago I had coffee with an anonymous blogger that I admire and when I asked her if I should take my blog public she asked me “what do you have to lose?” And the answer was nothing. I am only in this awesome position because of the great bloggers that showed me it was possible and if my story can help anyone at all that is a win for me. So I took the blog public and haven’t regretted it once.
5. What advice would you give to others with a similar background?
- Educate yourself. The world definitely isn’t going to do it for you, especially when it comes to personal finance. At the very least, knowing basic information can help you side step the swindlers.
- Don’t settle. And I mean on anything in life, but particularly in your career. The first few times a recruiter came up to me and said I should take this interview, which was a promotion and a lot more money I said “Oh I don’t know if I’m ready.” The same happened when an employer expressed that I could do more.
I have luckily completely broken myself of this thought process and since then I’ve held out for what I want. If a potential employer is unwilling to hit my salary request (which is based on the actual market value of the position) I politely decline additional interviews. If a recruiter isn’t willing to even discuss a certain number with a company I tell them I’m no longer interested. I had (and always have) a healthy emergency fund and that combined with my new mindset has allowed me to almost double my income in 4 years. Don’t settle. You’re worth it.
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