Previous: What To Do After Graduation
Next: 7 Behaviors We Feel Guilty About, But Really Shouldn't



View count:83,645
Last sync:2024-04-15 19:00
In this episode, Chelsea speaks with Cindy Zuniga from Zero-Based Budget Coaching all about law school, paying off tons of debt in a short period, coming from an immigrant family, and using your privilege to help your community.

To learn more about Intuit’s suite of products:
To get started with QuickBooks today:
To get started with Mint today:
To get started with Turbo today:

Cindy Zuniga website:
Cindy Zuniga Instagram:

Subscribe to The Financial Confessions podcast here:

The Financial Diet site:
Hello, everyone, and welcome to another episode of The Financial Confessions.

I'm very excited to talk with our guest today who is someone that a lot of you might be familiar with and who has accomplished a financial achievement that I think is extraordinary and very much worth hearing about. But before we meet her and learn more about her story, I want to talk to you guys very quickly about our beloved partners with whom we make every episode of The Financial Confessions, Intuit.

And if you haven't heard of Intuit, you have almost certainly heard of their amazing suite of products. Essentially they make all of the tools that you need to make your financial life easier, more efficient, help you reach your goals in a more effective way, and just take a lot of the guesswork out of accomplishing all of the various money things you want to accomplish. For example, one of their products is a totally free budgeting app called Mint that I have been using for, god, it's almost like-- it's got to be over seven years now, a long time suffice to say, well before TFD started.

And I'll talk to you guys a little bit more about some of their products in detail later in the show, but for now if you cannot wait to get started with some of their amazing products, check out the link in our description or our show notes. So as promised, today we have a guest that I'm very excited about. She is someone who also exists in the money, personal, finance media world.

She is someone who has accomplished a very big money goal. She's also an attorney by trade and apparently a watcher of The Financial Diet, which is very exciting, and a fellow New Yorker. Her name is Cindy Zuniga, and she also goes online by Zero-Based Budget.

Hi, Cindy. Hi, Chelsea. Hi, so tell our audience about you, how you came to what you're doing now, what the Zero-Based Budget is, everything they need to know.

Sure, so I'm Cindy Zuniga, born and raised in New York City, specifically in the Bronx, which is where I live now. And my story I think really stars as being the daughter of immigrants, so I was born raised in the Bronx in a very low income community where I was very well aware of the lack of money, not really the management of it. And so I went to law school, graduated from law school in 2015 with over $200,000 of debt, most of which was student loans. 95% of my debt was student loans, and of that the majority was law school debt.

So I found myself having graduated law school with a great job and a great ton of debt and just not knowing how to manage it. And that's when I just took it upon myself to start learning about money, self-education. It was my path to self-education and all things money, and through resources that I found like the Financial Diet and many other resources, specifically resources by women, which I thought was really important to me, I was able to find a way to create a plan to actually get out of debt.

And so I embarked on this journey back in 2016 to start paying off my student loans, and in December of 2019-- so now, I guess, over six months ago-- I became 100% debt free. And I paid off all my debt which was super amazing, because I was just I didn't think the day would come. But because I created a plan, I was able to actually accomplish that, which was awesome.

But to backtrack a little bit in this journey of self-education on all things money, I decided to create a platform, Zero-Based Budget, on Instagram, and it really was just supposed to be my debt diary, like my debt freedom diary. Because no one else was talking about money in that way. No one else was talking about how much debt they had or how they were saving or whether they were starting to explore investing.

And so I decided to create my own platform of not just telling my own story, but also serving as a little bit of an educational platform for specifically women. But really important to me has always been focusing on women of color, women of experiences or backgrounds like myself, so that we can kind of see our own voices included in this personal finance space. And so I start at Zero-Based Budget, my Instagram page, back in August 2018, so it's about to be two years.

And fast forward two years later, I started my own personal finance coaching business where I coach clients. I've coached well over 200 clients at this point on all things budgeting and debt payoff and things like that, and yeah, it's just been really fun. It's been a really good time.

And to answer your question on the Zero-Based Budget method, so that's a budgeting method that I used to get out of debt and to organize my money. So it's basically a budget method where you make a plan for every dollar that you expect to bring in a given month. So if you are expecting to bring in, let's just say $4,000 in a month, well you make a plan for those $4,000.

Some of it's going to go to saving, investing, debt payoff. And so through that budgeting method, I was able to really stick to my plan and become debt free, so yeah. That's amazing.

Why Instagram? Because it's the platform I was using. It's the platform that I found myself living in New York City commuting.

When I'm waiting for the train on the platform-- of course, far away from the train-- I scroll on-- important note-- I scroll on Instagram. I want to see what my friends are up to. I want to see just really quickly pictures or short videos of how their day is going.

And I thought that using a platform where I can really distill the information down to a couple of graphics, a couple of pictures that could really allow me to access this large group of people, which to me specifically women, and even more specific so that women of color, just women that were just wanting to know what's up, what's going on in Cindy's day, my friends, my family. That's how I started. And then it just grew into something that was that's been really awesome to just have that journey where I frequently get messages from people like, "Oh, I told my little sister about you," and her being able to find you on Instagram, which is so much more accessible than let's say if I had maybe like a more formal blog, maybe.

It was just-- it was easy, and it was accessible. So yeah. What was your relationship to your debt before you started this project?

So before I start at Zero-Based Budget, well I'll backtrack. The first year that I started repaying my debt, I started to repaint repaying it the way I was told to. So the federal government put me on a 10-year plan to pay off my debt with a minimum payment of $2,000.

And I was kind of like, "OK, I guess I have to do that." Thankfully, I did graduate from law school with a really great job offer, and so I like acknowledging that because there was an extraordinary amount of privilege involved in my journey. I try to be very transparent of that, and so to me I was like, OK a $2,000 payment. Sure, I can do that.

Let me go ahead and pay it off. And so I was just making my payments like normal. I wasn't really thinking about it.

To me it was like-- debt was normal. Everyone had debt. Everyone has monthly debt payments.

And so to me it was nothing really extraordinary. It wasn't until-- and this is also my "aha moment." It wasn't until the end of 2016, when I got my tax statement on how much interest I had paid to my debt, that I realized that of the $24,000 that I had paid to my student loans in year one, only $4,000 went to the principal. And $20,000 went to the interest.

Wow. And that was the moment where I was like, "Wait, what? How?

How did this happen?" And so I was looking at things. I was like this has to have been an error, because I didn't really review my statement. I was just paying my debt.

I wasn't really looking at my money and my debt breakdown the way that I think I should have been. And so it wasn't until the end of the year that I realized, oh wow, most of my money went to interest. Right.

And so that means I need to start learning about how it actually works. A lot of people think that debt is just the amount of money that you borrow, but it's so much more than that. It's also the fee that you pay to borrow that money, and that's the part that I was ignoring.

And so yeah, I'd say before Zero-Based Budget, before really embarking on this personal finance journey, I think I treated debt the way that most Americans do, which is just a part of your day-to-day life. And it really took that "aha moment" for me to realize no, you need to learn so much more. Now you mentioned that you grew up in New York.

You grew up in the Bronx. Your parents were immigrants, and you grew up in a community that was low income. How did that experience shape your relationship with money, both before you started the Zero-Based Budgeting and after?

So I think before I start Zero-Based Budget my mindset on money was I need to make sure I make enough of it. And it was, I think, a pretty healthy relationship in the sense that I knew where my priorities were. My priorities were always I need to make sure that I am able to provide for my family.

I need to make sure that my parents never lack anything, and I need to make sure that I give back to my community. So those two things were always extremely important to me. And I think that because I grew up in a very low income community, I started my journey, I think, on a more positive note.

Because I knew where my priorities were. However, I wasn't thinking about investing or long term wealth or how to grow my money or how to even really accelerate my debt payoff so that I can have more to invest in myself and in my financial future. And I think it was after I created Zero-Based Budget, when I really started learning about money management, I started learning from other content creators and other people in the personal finance space, that I realized there there's so much more to this than just make a lot of money.

It's also know how to manage that money that you do make, so that generations to come will never know what it's like to hover over the federal poverty line, which was where my family was basically my whole life growing up. Yeah, I'd have to say that was probably the biggest shift. Something I always find interesting about people who come from a lower income background or whose parents maybe are not as financially literate, so when I was a kid we did not have a lot of money.

We were definitely same thing, poverty line. And my parents have become more and more financially stable as I've gotten older and they've gotten older, but I've noticed that they still have a lot of, not fear necessarily, but skepticism around things like investments and these wealth vehicles that are a little bit more intangible. Like my parents, they're-- for them, their long-term wealth vehicle is real estate.

And I think part of that is because my mother is very good at it. She's very good at transforming properties, and it is if you do it right, it can be a good way to make money in a short amount of time. But it's also fairly high risk, and it's also really, really labor intensive.

And it's easy to not count the labor that goes into it, but I think for them there's something just very, very tangible about it. And it feels stable to them in a way that something like an ETF doesn't. And when I've talked to my parents about retirement, there is that barrier, which I think is partially generational, but I think also particularly because of that background of precarity.

And I'm-- I can only imagine that that is compounded if your family-- if your parents are immigrants and therefore even less in access to all of these things, less educated about them, did not grow up with the American financial system. So what is your relationship now with your parents about money? Have you brought them into the fold about educating them on these things?

What is their relationship with money like now? Yeah, so growing up we didn't really talk much about money management, but what I did know about my parents is that they were very against debt, very, very anti-debt. Because-- and I think a big part of it is because-- my mom's from Ecuador, my dad's from Honduras-- back in their countries, companies weren't super eager to extend the credit the way they are here.

So back home, my parents if they wanted to purchase something, they had to save for it. That's just the way it was. Whereas when they came to United States, all of a sudden all these furniture stores are saying, "No, put zero down, and we'll happily extend credit to you." So that is one thing that I do think my parents always had, and I'm very thankful for them is really their attitude-- a pretty healthy attitude, I think, against borrowing money if you don't need it.

But when it came to education, that was, I think, their big exception. And so that was definitely a good thing. What I will say though is that when I started my journey, I started telling my parents that I was really focused on paying off my debt, and I created this public platform where I was talking about how much debt I had.

I was publicly putting out there that I had over $200,000 of debt. At first my parents were like, "Honey, are you sure you want to do this? Is that safe to talk about?" and things like that.

So that was definitely one of, I think, the things that they were initially skeptical about, but then as I moved along my journey, they saw what I was doing. It was all great. But the biggest thing I think that's been, not so much of an issue, but something that I've really had to sit down and explain to them, is investing.

Because my father has said, "Well, honey, now that you're done paying off your debt, you have to buy a house." Yeah, oh my god, my mom's greeting to me is like, "Hello, have you bought a house yet?" Yes, yes. Like, "Oh, honey, I saw this a lot. It's an empty lot.

It would be great for you and John." John is my fiancee. "For you and John to go ahead and invest in that and purchase." And I'm like, Dad, real estate in New York City is really, really expensive. Yeah. And so explaining to them that I was pretty heavily focused on trying to get into investing in the stock market and in this more passive approach that I take on investing in index funds, for example, was something that they didn't understand.

Like first of all, what's an index fund? What is this investing in the stock market? Isn't that what collapsed in 2008, 2009?

That's what they're thinking. And I'm like well, you know the housing market was-- Yeah, there's also a pretty big part of that. That was a big component of it.

So I think a big part of it has just been educating them on how investing works and how wealth building works in the United States. And I think that they've been very accepting of it, very excited, when I can tell them now what I'm doing, what I'm learning along the way. Are they investing in the stock market?

No, my parents are-- they're like, "That's for you to do." Yeah. So it's not like they're eager to go ahead and start investing in the stock market. My parents are now enjoying their retirement as they should be.

But yeah, I think that was probably the biggest thing, and I think with immigrant communities is just that exposure to what investing can do. Right. Yeah, it's a fine line to walk, because not only is there the-- you don't want to seem like you're being presumptuous.

Right. You're the child. Yes.

Our parents, I think, have objectively, probably accomplished more than we ever will, because we have so much more privilege than they did. And that's an interesting line to walk. It's something that we think about every day at TFD is there is such a fine line and what you do is a very good example.

What you do is sort of maximizing the agency that you can have over your financial choices and making each one as intentional as possible. But I think that that's something that everyone should do who has the ability to do it, but as you mentioned also, you are an attorney. You have an income that's probably much more substantial than the average American, and you also have the ability to make choices within a very different framework.

And when you talk about wanting to speak to women, and specifically women of color, inherently on a lot of levels that means people with fewer choices, people who their work is not valued the same way by society. A lot of times they come from backgrounds without as much generational wealth, as much generational access. How do you strike the balance between helping people and giving people better tools, but also making things accessible enough for even the people who have the fewest amount of choices?

I think the biggest thing is being extremely aware of financial privilege. And I think that you hear these stories of doctor pays off $300,000 of debt in two years. Lawyer pays off over $200,000 of debt in four years.

Well then that means you need to do that too. Right. And I think that that's a really-- that's not the right messaging.

I think that-- and that's why I try to be without the schools and my salary to the penny, I try to be very transparent in that I do earn a six-figure income salary. I have since I was 26, since I graduated law school. I have this pretty large financial privilege that allowed me to pay off that kind of debt in that amount of time.

So what I try to-- when I talk to my clients, I'd say 95% of my clients do not earn six-figure incomes, easily 95%. Most of my clients, a typical client of mine, earns something around maybe $50,000 to $70,000 living here in New York City, which that alone is pretty good for a single person, just in America generally. In New York City, of course people will say-- people will argue what's a-- Well, I think for cost of living that's probably equivalent to like $28,000 or $30,000 in a different area.

Yeah, yeah, states like Florida or Oklahoma, lower cost of living states. So I have to constantly check myself and my financial privilege when I'm approaching a client that earns a third or a fourth of the income that I make. And I think that acknowledging that, owning up to it, and then keeping in mind that the principles that I used is what I want to teach others, the overall lessons, the overall budget what you earn.

Start investing small. When I started investing, I started investing $50 a paycheck. Maybe it's not $50 a paycheck for you.

Maybe it's $10 a paycheck for you, but you start small. You start somewhere. Those are the general principles that I use on my clients and I've used with all of my clients, from my recent college grad client that graduated with a $35,000 a year income to my doctor client who earns something like $190,000.

So I need to strike that balance, and I think that I can't say enough how important it is to acknowledge the financial privilege that I do have. And I think because I grew up in a low income community, I am even more aware of it. Like look, Chelsea, I go back home, my community is not a community where a six-figure income is the norm.

Right. My father never made anywhere near the kind of income that I make or that my sisters make. And so I think that we need to be extremely mindful of that, and I think because of the community that I grew up in and how I was raised, I am really sensitive to that.

I guess my biggest criticism is there are a lot of creators in the personal finance space that think that that's the norm. And so they want to paint the picture as, "Well if she did this in four years, well then you can also do it in four years. You also need to do it tomorrow, and if you don't, then that's your fault." And I'm here to say, "No, no.

For you it might take 8, 10, 12 years." It's going to depend on everyone, but I hope that what I can teach my clients is that again general principles of making a plan, creating a budget, intentional spending, those are I think the things that I try to really teach my clients and how I tried to strike the balance. I think that's really important. Also it's very interesting, because the story that you have personally would be I think in a lot of ways the really-- I don't know how to say.

Not tone deaf. Well also tone deaf, but unaware money media that's like, "You can do it to. Everyone just needs to make all the right choices, and you'll be a millionaire." In many ways your story would be the kind of example that they hold up.

Your parents-- They do. Came here. And they probably do.

They do. They do. But your parents came here as immigrants from Central America.

They worked probably very, very low paying jobs, slowly, slowly, slowly built savings over the course of decades, and now they have three daughters it sounds like, who all have good paying jobs, at least one of whom is an attorney who achieved all these incredible financial milestones. So a lot of people would point to that and say, "Well anyone could do that then." And I-- I hate that in a lot of ways, because I feel like it turns what should be-- it turns an exceptional situation into a standard by which everyone should be held. And I think when you look at the structural barriers that exist for a lot of people, I don't know I assume from what your story that you were born here.

So you grew up speaking English. Yes. Going to school, and that was never a barrier for you.

Even in your story, there are probably many areas-- Tons. that you can point to and say, these were areas in which I had some kind of a structural advantage. But it's interesting how your story in particular I think could be used as such an example, and I wonder, I often struggle personally with that same feeling of to what extent do we think things like this are possible, not necessarily a story as extraordinary as yours, but even just class mobility? Because class mobility in America has decreased decade after decade, and now we're pretty far behind most developed countries.

Generally speaking, where you're born class-wise is going to be about where you end up, and 60% of all wealth in this country is inherited in some form. So when I look at structural barriers like that, politically where I fall is I'm very much in the area of it's a miracle if anyone does well. But then people see stories like yours, and they feel like, "Oh wow, this is really such a great example of in exercising agency to get somewhere." So where do you fall even just in your day-to-day thinking and ideology about what is and isn't possible and what people should and shouldn't strive for?

So I'd like to point out that I think 50 things had to happen in my life, like fall into place in order for me to get to where I am. I had enormous privilege growing up even though my household income was probably around the federal poverty line. I grew up in a two-parent household.

I had siblings that were older than me and spoke English and could help me apply to colleges. I went to Catholic school. I didn't go to our neighborhood public schools.

And in my neighborhood that was a pretty big deal because my parents were able-- they were able-bodied and able to work side hustles so that they can pay for my tuition to go to Catholic school from kindergarten to 12th grade. So a million things had to go right in my life for me to wind up where I am today, and I try to be really mindful of that. And I try to maintain that balance of being mindful of it but also sharing that with others and not in a way that says, "Well you too would have to have a million things go right in your life in order for you to wind up where I've wound up." And so I think that a big thing is yes, I do believe that there are extraordinary stories out there of children of immigrants, of children from low-income communities, of children from crime-ridden neighborhoods that grow up and accomplish great things in tech and law and finance, in all areas.

But I think it's a very dangerous narrative to point to those maybe 100 examples and think that that's what everyone should be expected to also accomplish. I don't think that narrative is right, especially when you look at, for example, where I grew up in New York City in our public schools. My best friend went to a public school growing up, and my textbooks were up to date.

Hers weren't. We can't put those same-- I don't want to say expectations, but maybe those standards just across if we're not talking also about how race plays a huge role in all of this and how redlining and redlining districts and just so many issues. We need to look so much deeper, and I think the conversation that's happening now in our country is exposing a lot of that.

So that's why it's-- sometimes honestly, Chelsea, sometimes I do feel guilty. Sometimes I do feel guilty when I see my story highlighted or-- for example, I was highlighted on Good Morning America, and so it was a really big deal. My family was tuning in.

They had shared everything with the family. And it was like they were recording it with their iPhones even though I told them I have a recording of the actual show. They were recording it with their iPhones.

That is a great boomer thing. But I think that I try to look at that, and yes, I'm proud of that. And I'm proud of that accomplishment, but I also need to think about there's someone else that could have accomplished the same thing maybe as I did.

But maybe they didn't grow up in the same circumstances that I did. Right. And so I need to be mindful of that as well.

And so I do think, and I think a big part of the reason why I do share my story and why I do go to schools on career day and when that fifth grader asks me how much money I make, I actually there in that scenario, I do disclose it. Because I do think that there is so much power in seeing someone that either looks like you or has a life experience as you saying about something that they accomplished. For me that person was Justice Sotomayor.

She grew up in my same neighborhood. She went to my same elementary-- I went to her same elementary school, her same high school. And so when she came to our high school, my senior year, and I heard her story and I heard what she had accomplished being someone that lived in public housing, I didn't live in public housing.

So boom, that's a privilege right there that I had, and that she didn't. But her being able to share that story, that to me showed me the potential of what could be possible. And so that's why I do share my story, because I do want kids from these low-income communities or children of immigrants to say, "Wow, that could be accomplished." But I'm also very mindful of acknowledging the privilege that I do have.

And also even a couple of weeks ago, I talked a little bit about how higher-income individuals are taxed and et cetera, et cetera. And I put it out there-- I think it was on my Instagram story-- that I'm very happy to pay my taxes. Yeah, same.

So I'm very, very happy to do that. To me it's an honor. It is a privilege to be able to do that to fund-- to live in a city where a lot of social welfare programs are funded.

And so I think that that's also that that's the balance is being willing to share your story while acknowledging all that you had to get there and what you do have now, but also the willingness to partake in a society that hopefully one day will help establish some type of level of equality, some type of level. I totally agree. I totally agree with the tax thing.

When I hear people being frustrated-- now listen, I would love if my taxes were not going to fund endless wars and stuff like that, but when people who-- don't love that-- but when people get angry at the idea that your tax dollars are going to help someone live on welfare, and I'm like, shouldn't you be so happy that you're in a position where you are stable enough that your money can literally go help someone else who isn't stable. What a level of privilege to be at that you have that to give, because keep in mind, if you you're at the poverty level, you're barely paying taxes, if at all. So to be able to pay a substantial amount of taxes every year, means that you are so stable and doing so well that you can help someone else.

But I also feel like I feel the same way as you in the sense that I don't like a lot of portrayals or representations of when people ask about TFD, yes, there are a lot of things that are to be proud of for sure. But period end of story, my co-founder Lauren and I only were able to do this because we were able to quit our jobs and had husbands who could pay our bills for the period where we weren't taking home money. And they both had insurance that we could be on.

That's it. If that didn't happen, none of this is here. And yes, technically that wealth isn't inherited.

It's not intergenerational. We all come from very, very modest backgrounds, but that's just a massive, massive privilege that a lot of people, if not most people, don't have access to. And without that context, I feel like stories like yours, or in some ways like ours, can be used to deny people help, to deny them structural resources, to deny trying to make everyone start from a better starting point.

Because if a few people were able to accomplish something so extraordinary, then everyone else who's not able to do it, it's a failure of character, not a failure of opportunity. But at the same time, it's interesting because I feel like because I'm obviously surrounded, like on my social media and even in my own life, I'm surrounded by people who are pretty far left economically. And often I think there can be a sense of despair, a sense of why even bother, why even try.

Things are so unfair. They're so bad. And that's true in a lot of ways.

But I also feel like if we give up on an individual level, we're really condemning ourselves to live a much worse life then we probably could have otherwise. It doesn't necessarily mean you would have achieved what you happen to have achieved, but there can still be a huge difference in terms of what your life can look like with enacting more personal agency over your finances versus not. But also on a collective level, everyone who is able to get themselves to a place of stability has even more ability to enact change in their communities, to help other people, to help change the narrative.

If someone like Justice Sotomayor didn't achieve what she-- think about how much her verdicts have changed American life. Oh, yeah. And certainly not everyone's going to become a Supreme Court Justice.

You can't have 360 million Supreme Court Justices. My dad's convinced that I will, and I'm like, "Oh, father." Oh, that's so sweet. "Oh, father. No, no.

No, no." But in all seriousness like you were saying earlier before I started filming, your fiancee is running for office. Yeah. And you go and speak to students.

You work with clients. You through a result of enacting a high level of agency on your life weren't just able to improve your life, you're able to improve so much more. And I feel like often-- I hate to say it, but the people with money, the people with power, the people with influence are often people with really bad ideas.

Yeah. And people who want to-- they want to pull the ladder up behind them. They don't want to extend it.

That's it. We need more people-- That's it. to get up the ladder and then push it even further down. My dad always said if you take the elevator up, make sure that you push the elevator back down so that whoever's on the first floor can go back up with you.

That's critical. That mentality of this isn't just for me, it's for us. See, I desire to build wealth, not-- Chelsea, I don't want a huge mansion in suburban New York.

Look, no offense if you have a huge mansion in suburban New York, but I don't-- Why are you watching the show? I don't want to clean that space. That's not what I want.

My fiance went to NYU Stern School of Business, great business school, graduated with fantastic opportunity in the private sector. He decided to quit his job in the private sector and take an unpaid internship in local government in the Bronx. And then through him just working his way up, now serving a district in the Bronx, and now, thankfully-- and we're really excited-- running for city council in the Bronx.

Me, being able to have thankfully the financial resources that I have and being able to make donations, tangible donations, to specific organizations in our community that have used that money and shown us, look at what we were able to fund. We funded this program for X amount of kids. That is what all of this is about.

That's what all of this is about. Go to it. It's about actually taking the privileges, the 500 million things that had to go right in your life.

I remind my fiancee of this all the time. My fiancee is half Black, half Puerto Rican, and I tell him do you understand the amount of things that had to go right in your life for you to be where you are today? The fact that you were never stopped and frisked, the fact that you were able to grow up in a two-parent household, the fact that your parents decided to invest in that kind of education.

And we have these conversations, these very honest conversations, where we say our story and our income level even, it's not the norm. Right. And so what we need to do we now have a responsibility to our communities.

We absolutely do to give back, and not just to give back by saying, "Oh, I'm going to just post on my social media and say I support XYZ or Black Lives Matter." No, no, no, it goes beyond that. What is the actual work that we are doing in our communities to show that indeed Black Lives do matter, to show indeed that Black education matters, to show that children of immigrants deserve the same opportunities as children from parents that have been here for generations. What are we actually doing in our communities?

And I think that conversation, having that conversation, taking on those actions, that's what makes all of this worth it. That's what makes me so happy to be free of that debt, because now I can go ahead and turn that into yes, investing into myself, which of course, is really important for generational wealth, et cetera, et cetera, but also the kinds of investments that I'm making in my community. Yeah.

So two things I think in your situation are pretty exceptional. You are back in the neighborhood you grew up in. He grew up in, but-- Oh, well sorry.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. In the borough you grew up in. Yes, in the borough.

Yes, in his little neighborhood. Yeah. But still being in the borough you grew up in, it's you're very, very close to your roots.

My stomping grounds, yes. But also your husband is going to-- or fiancee rather-- is going to be running for office. So those are two really, really powerful ways that you are attached to a very strong sense of community, which is one thing that I think so many Americans lack.

They don't have that same sense of identity. They don't have a shared sense of responsibility to their community. Often people are transplants.

They live somewhere they didn't grow up. They don't necessarily know their communities very well or socialize a lot in their communities, and so it can be easy to feel very atomized, which has horrible impacts on mental health. It's very bad for you psychologically.

But it also can leave you with a sense of you and maybe your family are the only things that really exist, and it can become a self-perpetuating thing. So I obviously really recommend that people if that's their case, join a community organization. There's guaranteed to be one around you.

Granted, some of them are probably really bad, and they're just mostly like a suspicious person is walking down the street or whatever. Don't join those kind of community organizations. But so there are those, but I also think for a lot of people one thing that would be really helpful is to find one cause outside of yourself that it doesn't necessarily need to be something that doesn't affect you.

It could be something that affects you but also affects a lot of other people, and try to integrate that cause, the community inherent in that cause, that ideology into your framework the way you would a hobby you're really passionate or a social activity that you're really that you spend a lot of money on. Because I think for a lot of people if they feel like-- especially in 2020, it's like everything's so bad. What can I even do?

And you feel almost paralyzed by the amount of things out there that could use your resources or your money or your platform. And I feel like if you pick one to focus on, I think in many ways, not only will that help people feel motivated in a way that's even just outside of themselves and their own finances, but also allow them to feel like they're able to do something. Like you were saying, you give to an organization, and you can actually see what they did with that money.

Or if you give your time to a specific cause, especially if it's narrow in scope, you can have massive impacts. And I feel for a lot of people, especially now in a time where things can feel so scary and pointless, that I think can be really helpful to people, both mentally and financially. Yeah, I think it's more tangible that way.

Yeah. You see yourself more able to just dive in and to say, you know what I'll adopt this one thing that I can focus on. And even if it's something small, but the important thing is to start.

I think that this year has been-- Not good. Not optimal as my husband said yesterday. Not ideal at all.

But the way I see it is I can't afford to give up. I can't. I can't.

I'm in too much of a privileged position to even think that giving up is an option. And so we-- moving, like me moving from my home in Harlem to the Bronx in the middle of a global pandemic, not ideal. But I did it, and when I did that, I had a lot of my friends, people that I even grew up with, saying, "Cindy, why are you going back?

Didn't you do all of this, so you can get out? Why are you going back?" And I said, "Because what's the point?" Accumulating all this privilege, wealth, whatever you want to call it, and for me not to go back into the community that made me who I am today, then what does that say about me? And what does that say about how my parents raised me?

My parents still live in the same one-bedroom apartment that we grew up in. They are now going-- I think it's-- in September I think it's 47 years of marriage. I hope my parents don't divorce.

I think it's 47 years. My parents have lived in that same apartment for over 45 years. And I'm not going to leave them.

Right. What good is it if I am able to move out of the borough and accomplish the big house purchase and the cars and all of this and all of that, if I feel like I'm leaving my parents behind. I feel like I'm leaving people that I grew up with behind, and I don't really-- I don't think that's the purpose of my life.

I don't believe that's the calling of my life. I believe a huge part of the calling of my life, and I'm really fortunate that my fiancee feels the same, is for us to go back to our communities and start doing the hard work. It's not pretty.

Look, running for office, I've never done it, but I can imagine it's not all rainbows and butterflies. It's going to be hard. It's going to be really difficult, but we have to do it.

We have to do it, because we have to show the kids in our community that people that "make it" aren't going to just "make it" and leave. They're going to make it, and they're going to come back. And they're going to reinvest into the communities that made them.

Otherwise, what is the point? Totally agree. So if you are looking to do bigger and more important things with your money, you are going to want the right tools to budget that money.

For me the most essential tool to getting a handle on my money, reaching my savings goals, and being able to diversify what I'm actually making my money do on a practical basis has been a totally free app called Mint. Mint syncs up with all of your various accounts and credit cards and all of that stuff to show you a really high-level, detail-oriented portrait of your money at any given time. They have little pie charts that show where your money is going.

They show what you owe versus what you have at any given point. They'll send you little alerts if you're going over budget in a certain category and help keep you on track for all of your various goals. Mint was the first tool that I ever got to help me get good with money, and it is something that is still very important to my finances today.

So if you are interested in getting that hold on your finances, check out Mint for free at the link in our description or our show notes. So obviously in order to pay off over $200,000 of debt in four years, you had to radically change your lifestyle. I wouldn't say I really had to change it, because I was already a very broke law student.

So I had to just maintain my lifestyle. But, yes. But so what were the key strategies and trade-offs involved in saving that money or sorry being able to pay off that debt in such a short period of time?

Yeah, so I graduated law school, and what I didn't do is move in to a luxury, high-rise apartment in Midtown. That's what I didn't do. What I did do is stay in my studio in Harlem, and so the same studio I was living in law school.

So I think one of the very, very big and very important things that I did was I drastically reduced my expenses. I focused on the three areas, living, so housing, transportation, and food. And so with my housing, like I said, I stayed in my studio where I was at least for almost the first year of me out of work.

And my rent was like $1,100. It was such a steal, a beautiful studio, so I was like, I have no reason to leave here. So my rent was quite low.

Now I realize some people watching this are like, "$1,100 for a studio. That's ridiculous." New York City, reminder. New York City.

So that was one thing. Transportation, I did have a car when I was in college, and so I was mildly tempted to purchase a car when I graduated law school. And then I was like I work in Midtown.

Where am I going to park? Yeah, just parking alone would be such a nightmare. Where-- Exactly, exactly.

So avoiding-- keeping my transportation expenses pretty low, limiting my rideshare app use, and really going with my good old metro card. That was another thing. And then for food was I meal prepped a lot.

OK I only treated myself to purchasing lunch on Fridays. That was my treat-myself day where I would go to just salad or whatever and get myself my $15 salad. But I really limited takeout, all of that.

I just really didn't do it. And so that was one of the main things that I did was really drastically cutting my expenses in the areas where it really mattered, the larger expenses. And then the big thing was budgeting.

I had to make a plan for my money. I had to understand, OK, next month's in the-- you already have an idea of what your paychecks look like. You get two paychecks in a given month.

Budget that at the top. Put that at the top. List out maybe what portion you want to set into your emergency fund or maybe your $100 monthly into investing, and then from there keeping the expenses pretty low.

And everything else went to my debt, everything else. Did your social life suffer as a result of the budget? I don't think it suffered, because I was very open about it pretty from the get with my friends, saying that I was on this mission to pay off my law school debt.

And a lot of my friends at first were like, "What? Why? Girl, you're a lawyer.

Go buy the designer bag. Buy the--" That's what lot of my friends and even family were saying like, "Cindy, it's OK. Treat yourself now." But I really wanted to get out of debt.

That was really my focus. And so my friends and I are really-- we live in New York City, so that's like a huge thing in and of itself is that there are so many free things to do, like the free movie at Bryant Park, and going to the High Line, and being a tourist in your own city. So I was very big on suggesting free things to do with my friends, but I also found that my friends were very receptive to it, which is I guess another lesson.

Know who your friends are. And also just limiting actually going out to eat where it can get extremely expensive to maybe just a couple times a month. And so I don't really think it suffered just because I was open about it.

I was very candid about what my goals were, and then also I was very quick to suggest the alternative of what to do. How has your lifestyle changed since you paid off the debt? Well since I paid off the debt, this whole pandemic struck.

Man, yes. God was like, "Oh, you have lot of extra money to spend now. We're going to cancel that." No you don't.

No you don't. No you don't. Get back in the house.

Go back inside. Thank you very much. But seriously.

That's hilarious. Honestly, the way-- and I had made a post about this a while ago on my page, because that's one of the most popular questions I get. Like, "Cindy what are you doing now with all that money that's freed up?" And honestly not really too exciting.

I just I did decide to increase our travel budget with hah, laughs, because where we going right now. Nope. Nope.

I did initially like from the get in January, I was like, OK, I'm going to increase that travel budget. We're going to go to Australia. We're going to go to Paris and no, no, no.

None of that has happened, and likely, well we're not sure when that's going to be able to happen. So that was one of the areas, but even so I am still saving like in a travel fund because one day travel will come upon us. And another thing was dining now, so really the things that I really value I decided that I'd increase my budget in those areas.

And it's-- other than that, we've kept everything else pretty low like our housing expenses. My fiance and I, we share in those, so everything else I've kept pretty much as it was. I still do my audience asks me, "Cindy, are you still Zero-Based Budgeting?" And I say, "Yeah." And honestly I think I do it, because it's become habit now.

Yeah. And I also see the power of being intentional with your finances in that way, that I think anyone can apply that to their lives, no matter what income level you're at, no matter how much debt you have, or what your savings goals look like, or whatever it may be. If you create a plan for your money, you will be more likely to accomplish those goals.

And so other than that, yeah, I've been increasing my investing, my savings, and honestly not too exciting. It's pretty much stayed the same. When you started to ease back into quote, unquote "normal life" after paying off your debt, and I realize that this question is so needs the world's biggest asterisk that as you pointed out two months after you're ready to go spend money again, the entire world shut down.

So not a whole lot of places to spend it. But did you find that anything changed for you emotionally or mentally in terms of how you just lived your life? Oh my gosh, yes.

I felt like the weight of the world was all off my shoulders. I felt like this massive burden had been lifted. We're talking over 200 grand, $215,000 to be exact.

That's a house. Yes, that's a house. A whole house in that tiny, little diploma that you probably have framed.

That is a whole-- Yes, yes. In a very nice frame. Oh gosh, I felt like I could just breathe.

Yeah. I felt so relieved. I felt so just lighter that if an emergency comes up with my family in Ecuador, which since the pandemic certain things have, I can give to them like this, without even thinking.

Yeah. That flexibility has I can't say enough of how light that has made me feel, how-- I would have nightmares. I actually had nightmares that said that after I paid off my debt, that I got a statement saying, "You owe $100,000 to your debt." I had nightmares like that where it was even if I did pay off the debt, it's still there somehow.

And I think that-- I think that's something that we don't really talk about, just the anxieties that money can bring on to us. And I also felt like I couldn't really talk about it, because how dare I. I was a high-income earner.

I can't. I'm not allowed to talk about these types of money anxieties, but they certainly existed. And so that, I won't say I have no money anxiety now.

That would be a lie. But I would say that weight has just it's been lifted. It's interesting my-- I have never really lived with debt.

I had some consumer debt that-- it's funny my relationship to debt, because it was always very small but very intense. Because I would have a couple thousand dollars in credit card debt, which should have been manageable, but I would let it go for until I was getting collection calls 20 times a day and getting court summons and stuff like that. So I have had the opposite experience with debt that most people in our generation did in the sense that for me debt was a relatively short period of my life where I was dealing with it.

It was a relatively small amount, but it vastly interrupted my life experience. I didn't answer my phone for years, because I was like, who could this-- The creditors. Are they spoofing my boyfriend's numbers or something?

And it had a lot of really disastrous results in a short period of time, but then once I got a better relationship to money, it was very easy to quickly pay it off. Because then the actual amount was fairly small. Now rebuilding my credit score took quite a lot longer, but ultimately that process is-- it doesn't really have the financial impact the way debt repayment does obviously.

So my experience with debt was that it was never normalized for me. It was always scary for me. It was always terrifying and bad.

And so I actually do, I think, have a more reticent relationship with debt than a lot of people would, even something like a mortgage is really, really scary to me. Because the idea of being on the hook for money again, I just don't like it. But on the other hand, as you mentioned, a lot of people in our generation, out of necessity, they have the opposite relationship with debt, where it is fairly unobtrusive to their day-to-day life, even if it's a high amount.

They've normalized it in their mind. And paying off debt for the next several decades is just-- it's part of things. It's not scary or overwhelming in the sense that they're not being hounded by debt collectors or having process servers show up at their house.

But they're-- it's a weight that they-- it's almost like the difference between being-- I don't know-- like touching a hot stove versus someone having to carry around 40 pounds of rocks every day. You know what I'm saying? And for a lot of people, it's more that 40 pounds of rocks, just there's always a badness, but it's part of your life.

It's part of your normal. And to your point, for a lot of people that leads to a passivity with the debt and a resignation with the debt that not everyone needs to be living with. How do you make the decision-- how do you advise people like your clients or your audience to make the decision between to what extent you should live with the debt and accept it and not obsess over it and to what extent should you be pushing yourself harder to pay it off faster?

You don't want to live a life that is devoid of any joys, and you don't want to feel like paying off debt becomes your only focus in life. But on the other hand, you don't want to let it go to that other extreme, where just through being passive and not proactive about it you end up paying tens of thousands of dollars in an unnecessary interest. So I think one of the things is before we even talk about emphasizing debt that day, I do emphasize with my clients the importance of an emergency, and especially now, especially now, the importance of an emergency fund.

And so then when we move from that conversation and we get to the debt payoff conversation, I actually pull up debt repayment calculators and show them, if you just continue making the minimum payments on your debt, this is how much in interest you're going to pay. That I think is really powerful, is when they see, oh my gosh, I'm going to lose out on like $20,000, . Let's say sometimes it is that high, when we're talking about student loans and credit cards.

And so and then when I say, well are there things in the budget that maybe we can trim down a little bit, or maybe are there sources of income that we can take on. Because those are really mathematically those are the only two things that we can do, cut expenses or increase income. And so when I show them the possibilities, small things that we can do, small changes, I'm never going to tell a client you're not allowed to dine out anymore.

I'm never going to tell a client, look, if you have a-- you love your manicures, you must take that out of your budget. Because then they're not going to stick to the budget. They're going to resent the budget.

They're going to resent the plan. And so I tell them to make sure to keep what they truly value, and everything else may be cut. And I show them the power of what that maybe additional payment could look like.

And so I think that I do-- personal finance is mainly behavior based. And I'm not a psychologist, far from it. But what I do try to show them is when they start seeing also the math component of it, I think that is a powerful force that then says, then they say, yeah, I can make a sacrifice for a couple years.

And that's what it is for some-- for most of my clients. I'd say student loans are definitely the ones that usually take a little longer. So that's why I try to first focus usually on consumer debt, like what I mean by that, mainly credit cards, and even car loans that have higher interest.

So I usually try to focus on those, getting rid of those. And then as far as the student loans are concerned, I try to map out a realistic projection of what that could look like. So instead of going on the 25-year or 15-year plan, what could maybe an eight-year plan look like for you and something that's manageable.

I think there's a lot of conversation in the community of you need to pay off your debt in four years like I did. And I don't think you need to go that aggressively, especially if in your budget it just doesn't allow for it. But as long as you have some type of a plan, and you do see an end date, and you have one in mind, I think that's also-- it motivates people to actually just want to get rid of the debt, while of course balancing things that they actually value.

What would you say to people who are carrying a high-debt burden. Let's say six figures, could be a mixture of student debt, consumer debt, all that kind of stuff, and they feel like they're just treading water. And it is so hard for them to get ahead of.

It so hard for them to talk about. It feels like a day-to-day burden, especially people who might be older, who might have kids, who might have a lot of responsibilities and aren't necessarily able to cut back all that much on their expenses. How do you-- where do they start?

Yeah, I think that it's such a difficult question, but it's a very real question. It's a question that a lot of my clients come to me with. They're like, Cindy, I can't.

I'm a single mom. I can't really make thousands of dollars of extra payments like you were able to your debt. What do I do?

And so what I tell them is first of all, breathe. Breathe. Second of all, sit down, maybe with someone.

You can sit down with a friend, maybe a friend that's into all this finance journey as well, whatever it may-- or it might be sitting down with a good book on personal finance or a blog or something to educate yourself to be able to have that conversation. And then write it all out. It might bring you a lot of anxiety.

You might absolutely hate it. You might need a glass of wine. That's OK too.

But write it all out. Write out what kinds of debt you have. Write out the overall balance on the debt, your minimum payment, your interest rate.

Those are the four pieces of information I ask my clients to give me. Type, balance, minimum payment, interest rate, right all of those out. Then get yourself organized.

Put a plan in place where you say, OK, I'm going to focus on this one debt. See a lot of my clients they come to me and they say, "Well, Cindy, I've been trying to make minimum payments on all of my credit card debt, and I have five different cards. And I'm not getting anywhere." And so I tell them well instead let's just focus on one card.

Now we make the minimum payments on everything else, of course. We don't want to go into default or anything. But let's focus on one debt, and let's just take it one at a time.

Because that's all you can do at that point, just take it one at a time. Have a written plan now in place. And you might after doing that, you might say wow, it's going to take me like 10 years to get over this.

But I do believe that there is a certain peace. There is a comfort in knowing well, at least I have a type of plan now. Look, a lot of people that take on mortgages, if they take on a 30-year mortgage, that's a 30 year journey.

Now I'm not saying that I necessarily want you to sit with non-mortgage debt for 30 years. I'm not saying that at all. I'm just saying that with a mortgage a plan is made for you.

You have to pay off this amount every month, et cetera, et cetera. With this journey of paying off student loans and credit card debt and being overwhelmed, all you can do is just sit there, write out a plan, try to educate yourself as much on personal financing. It's very easy to say we'll just go make more money.

I also think that's really privileged to say, especially now with what's going on with the pandemic. For a lot of people it's just not an option. But maybe look into creative ways that perhaps you can make more money.

Bring on an additional source of income. I was talking to a good girlfriend of mine, and she was saying how "I think I might start cleaning apartments. It's something I know I'm good at, and I know there is a demand for it.

I'd be very careful with PPE and all of that. And so maybe that's something I can start and take on." So maybe you yourself though can look at different ways, any other side hustles that you can take on. But my first thing is to before you even go down that path of whether you can get a salary increase or a side hustle or create a business or whatever it is, before you even go there, I would say just sit down and write everything out.

Know your numbers. I'm a big fan of just confronting your numbers head on, because otherwise, you can't make an effective plan. I also feel like for a lot of people joining some kind of a support group or getting in touch with a financial therapist or counselor, having an outlet to talk about it, because I think for a lot of people there is such a massive sense of shame about it, especially if you are older.

You should quote, unquote "know better." Or let's say you are living a lifestyle that you can suddenly no longer afford, or a lifestyle that you couldn't afford in the first place and was putting you into debt. There's such, I think for a lot of people it's not that far off from the experience of having to say, "I'm an alcoholic," or, "I'm in a bad relationship that I have to get out of." Or essentially you're for a lot of people, I think you're running up against the idea that people will really think differently of you, not just by talking about being in really serious debt, but also by, as we talked about earlier, having to if you're going to make a real dent in it, shift into a different lifestyle that maybe other people aren't used to. And I know people who are going through this, and it's really terrible.

Because obviously this is so for me it's like, ask me any financial question, and I'll be honest with you. And there's nothing that I feel even about the worst stuff that I've been through that I wouldn't feel uncomfortable talking about. And I'm so used to being around people who shout their debt and who they have a ticker on their website, like I'm right here now.

And I feel honestly often the people who would most benefit from that are the people who are least able to do it. I'm curious for you were there any specific mindset shifts or strategies that allowed you to feel comfortable, because you had mentioned that even your parents were like, are you sure you want to do this, but allowed you to feel comfortable with being so radically transparent about your debt? I wanted to show people that people think that well, because you graduate as from law school or med school, and now you must be living a glamorous life.

You must have this kind of lifestyle that I can never really obtain. And I wanted to show people that, no, I actually have a ton of debt. And I have my own very serious critiques on the cost of an education, and the burden it places on students, the fact that that is a very intentional obstacle for many students, specifically students of color, to be able to obtain higher education.

I have my very serious critiques of that. But I wanted to show people that there is a freedom when you get to just talk about your money. There is a freedom even if it is me talking about how I meal prep these meals that each only cost me like $2.

No one's ever going to think that a lawyer at a great law firm is going to be willing to talk about that. But I think by normalizing that conversation, I also saw that other friends of mine started sharing their own stories. Other friends of mine were actually sharing with me, "Hey, Cindy, look, I have all this debt." I never forgot I had a client who I actually went to undergrad with and told me, "I'm really ashamed at all of this debt that I have accumulated, and I've actually never told anyone." So I think that to your point of a support group, of just being-- I think that through my platform I showed people that there is someone that's here that's willing to listen to you and that's willing to also be transparent in her own numbers, her own story.

And I think just having that conversation is super important, because I think that people start thinking that this is a source of shame that I'm going to have to carry for the rest of my life. And there really isn't-- in the way that they are to your point again, like if like an alcohol anonymous type of support group, there aren't really similar support groups necessarily for money, shame and money-- I think there's debtors anonymous. Debtors anonymous.

OK, OK, and so I think that people-- it's something that people really just don't-- they don't want to talk about it. Nobody wants to talk about all the shame. And I think also what being now in 2020 has highlighted, this pandemic has highlighted, is that even people that maybe weren't living with that great source of shame, people that thought they had very secure jobs, are now suddenly their world has completely shifted.

And so I think creating platforms or a willingness to have conversations with your friends about money, for everyone that's watching this, to just be able to say like, "Hey, how's the student loan thing going?" for me personally, and then you can insert your own story. I think that when you start making these conversations a little bit more accessible and normal, I think that people will be very receptive to that. Because you'd be surprised at how much others are keeping within them that they don't even want to share.

And maybe they'd be willing to share with you. That could be like an initial step. So we have reached the final step in our conversation which is our famous rapid-fire questions, world famous, I would say.

What is the big financial secret of your industry, and let's say, law? That people have a lot of debt. Yeah.

A lot Actors too. A lot. What kind of lawyer are you?

Corporate. So I do-- well I do the litigation side of corporate law. I do commercial litigation, so the "courts" side of it.

You're a trial lawyer? No I'm not a trial lawyer, but I represent clients that are either sued or are doing the actual suing. What do you invest in versus what are you cheap about?

I invest in travel and-- Not right now. food. Not right now. Not right now.

And in food. I love going to eat. I love trying new restaurants.

I love it-- for me it's more the experience of it all, rather than just the convenience. And so I guess maybe what I'm cheap about is I don't do takeout or delivery. I rarely deliver, order delivery.

Even though during the pandemic, I was trying to, because I'm also supporting small businesses. And so but I'd say I'm pretty cheap about that I. I will cook at home usually, but as far as what I'll invest in it's definitely a good meal.

What has been your best investment, and why? Oh, my law degree, hands down. Where did you go to law school?

Cardozo Law School. Where's that? Downtown.

It's right by Union Square. Is that a part of the school? It's part of Yeshiva University.

OK. So it's Yeshiva University's law school, but hands down my law degree. A lot of people, they ask me, "Cindy, do you regret taking out all that debt for law school?" And I say if I hadn't taken out the debt, I wouldn't be a lawyer.

So, no. What has been your biggest money mistake, and why? Oh, so much money spent at Sephora.

Oh, my god. When I graduated law school, this is one thing that I splurged on a lot, because I was very-- I've always been very into YouTube. I love watching YouTube, and I subscribe to a lot of the beauty channels.

And so because they had 20 blushes, I thought well I need to have 20 blushes too. Oh, my god. I know.

As someone that doesn't usually wear makeup on a day-to-day basis, that was a horrible-- that was a horrible-- that was a horrible money mistake, I guess, but you know. What is your biggest current money insecurity? I think my biggest insecurity would be not being able to provide for my family, especially if it's needed, and not just my parents and my sisters, but also my extended family, my family that lives in Ecuador in Honduras.

If there's something that came up that I couldn't provide for, I would be extremely hard on myself. So that's something that sometimes does give me a little bit of mild anxiety or insecurity if you will. What has been the financial habit that has helped you the most?

Budgeting, hands down. Good one. And when did you first feel "successful" quote, unquote, and when does that word mean to you?

When I walked across the graduation stage for to get my law degree. Hands down being able to look on to the audience and see mom and dad super happy, and my fiancee, and my sisters that's been absolutely the greatest accomplishment. A lot of people will think that I'll say paying off my debt or getting this job or that.

No, it's so much more. And I think as a child of immigrants, that just-- that meant so much more than, I think, any dollar amount could ever be placed on. All those poor 2020 grads having to do some graduations.

That really breaks my heart just because I know how impactful walking across that stage was for me, for my life. I still get chills thinking about that day, and so yeah, that did make me sad, just realizing how many kids weren't going to be able to do that. And you hadn't even passed the bar yet.

Oh yeah, and then passing the bar was also up there, like top-- I say like top four moments of my life all had to do in some way with my law degree. But first I'd definitely say it's graduation, and I think second would be passing the bar exam. That's awesome.

Yeah. Well where can people go to find out more about you? Easily Instagram.

That's the platform that I'm mainly on, @zerobasedbudget. Well thank you so much for coming. This has been such a joy, so nice to meet you-- Thank you, Chelsea. and to hear your story.

And if you guys are looking for a way to do something bigger and better with your money, like maybe, I don't know, one day going to law school, you are going to want to get a much higher level view of your financial state and make sure that you are in the right position to make these big decisions, like education, buying a home, et cetera. So a free app called Turbo, also made by Intuit, the makers of Mint, it helps you get that bird's-eye view of your finances. It gives you a great understanding of things like your debt-to-income ratio, your credit utilization ratio, all of the bigger criteria that someone like a lender might look at to help decide whether or not you're right for a loan and what kind of loan, all that stuff.

Before you walk into something like a mortgage lenders office, you want to have a really good understanding of your own financial state and make sure that you're making those key improvements so that you can set yourself up for the right bigger financial decisions. And Turbo is a great complement to Mint, because it helps you do that. If you're looking to get started with Turbo and prepare those bigger decisions, check them out at the link in our description or our show notes.

And as always, guys, thank you for joining us here on The Financial Confessions, and we will see you cash back here next Monday. Bye.