The Long View

Jamila Souffrant: ‘What Type of Life Do You Actually Want to Live?’

Episode Summary

Why it’s important to understand what you really want before you craft your life and financial goals.

Episode Notes

Our guest on the podcast today is Jamila Souffrant. She is the author of a new book called Your Journey to Financial Freedom: A Step-by-Step Guide to Achieving Wealth and Happiness. She is also the host of the Journey to Launch podcast. Jamila’s focus is helping people increase their net worths and eliminate debt while also enjoying financial freedom. Prior to starting up her own business, Journey to Launch, she worked at MetLife for 13 years, where she managed a multimillion-dollar portfolio of real estate assets.



Your Journey to Financial Freedom: A Step-by-Step Guide to Achieving Wealth and Happiness, by Jamila Souffrant

Journey to Launch podcast

Journey to Launch Podcast

Episode 366: How to Bounce Back From Financial Setbacks and Adversity W/ Lynnette Khalfani-Cox,” Journey to Launch podcast.

Episode 350: Creating Your Dream Life, Identifying Your Goals, & the Guacamole Lifestyle Levels,” Journey to Launch podcast.

Episode 137—The Black Tax: The Cost of Being Black in America With Shawn Rochester,” Journey to Launch podcast.

Episode 193—How I Bought My Condo at 22 Years Old & My Biggest Takeaways & Lessons Learned,” Journey to Launch podcast.


Financial Independence, Retire Early (FIRE) Explained: How It Works,” by Alexandra Kerr,, May 15, 2024.

Mr. Money Mustache

Mad Fientist

Lynnette Khalfani-Cox: ‘There’s a Huge Wealth Gap in America,’” The Long View podcast,, Sept. 28, 2021.

Episode Transcription

Christine Benz: Hi, and welcome to The Long View. I’m Christine Benz, director of personal finance and retirement planning for Morningstar.

Amy Arnott: And I’m Amy Arnott, portfolio strategist for Morningstar.

Jamila, welcome to The Long View.

Jamila Souffrant: Thank you so much for having me.

Benz: Well, thanks for being here. We’re super excited to talk to you today. We want to start by talking about your personal story. Your book begins with the story of your mother making the decision to move to the US in search of a better life when you were just a little baby and she left you with her family in Jamaica. Can you discuss that as well as what your mom went on to achieve? I was super inspired in reading about her story.

Souffrant: I always like to say I am all me because of my mom and the sacrifices she made. So, she had me at a pretty young age. She was only 20 when I was born, and I was born on the beautiful island of Jamaica. And at that time, she had gotten her papers to go to the US, but I was not really in the picture at that point, or at least my grandfather did not know about me. So, when he came and presented her with the options of coming to the States, he saw me and was like, “Well, I don’t have papers for her. So, you have the decision to make. You have this opportunity to go to the States and you can only go by yourself.” And so, she made the brave decision to leave me behind with my grandmother and came to the United States to establish herself. She really had nothing and worked at a minimum wage job to basically get on her feet. There was no internet. So, all the resources she had, she had to look up and go through a phone book and figure out on her own at 20-years-old. I just can’t imagine that. So, she did that and she knew that education would be the key for her to getting out of her situation and to gaining some stability. And so, she enrolled herself in college and eventually got her associates and bachelors. I did join her a few months after she came to the United States. And I just saw her as my mom working so hard to provide for me and to have a better pathway to give me a better life than she had. And she really did that. She ended up getting her masters, and me watching her all those years— education was a big, big part of our story, which came through in the way I respected education and went through my years. And so that’s what the foundation of what happened and who I am today. And just so proud and always in awe of what she was able to accomplish.

Benz: I love that story. And what did they call you when you accompanied her on research things or things she was working on Polly Pocket or pocket pal or something like that?

Souffrant: Well, they always said I was like her pocketbook because I went with her everywhere. She couldn’t afford really much childcare. So sometimes I’d go to classes with her if the teacher allowed or professor allowed it, and we were like best friends.

Arnott: That’s great. So how do you think watching your mother juggle parenting with going to classes and pursuing a career, how do you think that all shaped the person you are today?

Souffrant: I think it left an imprint on me in terms of seeing and realizing all the sacrifices she was making. We actually spoke today. I have kids myself, and I think it’s this conundrum of wanting to provide or instill values like that into your own children, but I’m in a much more financially stable place. And so, it was, what did I gain, and how did I realize at that too-young age that it would take perseverance and hard work and just feeling resilient to come through to the other side and to be where I am today. And so, I just say that watching her and seeing how brave she was and then as an adult, being able to reflect on that and not take that for granted has empowered me to move forward and to want to honor the sacrifices she made by continuing on and making her proud.

Benz: I’m curious, you mentioned your own children and I am sure on an ongoing basis, you work to impart financial messaging about being a financially well person. Can you talk about how you’ve approached that with your children?

Souffrant: Yes. I think the biggest thing while I think financial literacy is extremely important and understanding the basics are important. I think what gets lost a bit in the conversation is this internal self-worth and confidence. I call ourselves like we as humans our mind and our determination are our best asset. And so, when I think about why I was able to make it this far, yes, it’s because I learned financial tools, but it’s also because I have this immense feeling of self-confidence and worth. And so, when it comes to my kids, teaching them the basics of saving and understanding compound interest—they’re very young, but still understanding those concepts are important. But I think for me, what I’m trying to do is give them a strong internal foundation of self-confidence and knowing that it’s OK—having the growth mindset of it’s OK to not understand something, just like sometimes you don’t understand something financially right away, but you keep on going. And so, those are the tools. I’m continuing to work with them so that they can impart it on their own financial journeys.

Arnott: Can you talk about your initial exposure to FIRE, the financial independence, retire early movement? Were there any blogs or books or podcasts that were especially influential in your own journey?

Souffrant: Certainly. I remember going to work and not understanding or knowing that financial independence, retire early movement, that was even a thing. And I Googled how to quit my job one day and I did stumble upon blogs like Mr. Money Mustache and even the podcast, The Mad Fientist. So, they were like the first blogs and podcasts that I started to listen to and devour. Especially on my commute, I had an hour-and-a-half to two-hour commute one way driving from Brooklyn to New Jersey. And I started to really just engage and seat myself into that world. And I started to understand what that was and learn from everyday people when they were interviewed or when they talked about being teachers or engineers or whatever profession that they were saving and investing smartly to reach a level of independence. And that’s what really got me going and thinking, I can create a plan for myself if I am intentional about it. And so that’s what started me on my journey.

Arnott: And it sounds like your commute was one of the unpleasant parts of your job. Was that part of the reason that you were motivated to become financially independent?

Souffrant: Absolutely. There was not just the commute, but also the work itself. I knew it wasn’t something I enjoyed. And then it was a multitude of things. I also didn’t enjoy having a boss or having to ask for time off. And I knew I wanted to start a family and I did start a family while I still had the job. And so being pregnant and thinking about my future, I said to myself, I had these dreams of being more free or not working in a cubicle when I was in my 20s. But I didn’t really understand how to make that happen because I thought you had to win the lottery, start a big business or marry rich or something. I didn’t really know how to do that with a regular salary until I found the FIRE movement. And when that happened, I used the car so that even though it was one of my greatest discomforts, it actually became almost a useful tool because it became my learning center. And all that time in the car listening to podcasts, absorbing that information, learning really propelled me to then apply what I was learning to my own journey and my own life.

Benz: You mentioned Mad Fientist and Mr. Money Mustache. And I think the early days of FIRE, certainly it very much was a movement driven, led by white men. And so, I’m wondering, as you absorbed information from them, how did you identify with it? How did you receive it? And did you think there needs to be other people talking about how to do this rather than just white guys?

Souffrant: Well, so I thought to myself, although I couldn’t relate to everything they spoke about or some of the guests spoke about, I was really honing in on the object or the goal of what everyone was trying to achieve, which was freedom, which is I think universal for everyone is wanting more autonomy, more energy and time and freedom. And so, I learned to take and use what I could and discard what didn’t work for me. But there were those moments where they happened and maybe have a person of color, a Black person on or I saw another commenter that looked like me like in the blog. And I was like, wow, that feels really good to see someone or to relate to someone in that way. And I also knew in my own personal life that I could take what I needed and leave the rest, but that there are a lot of people in my community or even friends and family that they wouldn’t even bother to listen to a podcast or read a blog because they would feel just so ignored or they just wouldn’t feel relatable to that person. And I knew that there was a missing space or voice because I said to myself, while they may have good intentions, they just have blind spots about what it’s like for maybe an immigrant or a Black woman or just all these things that they can’t relate to or share from their perspective, which really set me up to then eventually start my own platform to share my journey because I just knew not only did I want to share it publicly to hopefully be accountable, but I knew there were other people like me who needed to hear from someone like myself.

Arnott: So, when we talk about FIRE, there are all sorts of variations on the basic concept. There’s lean FIRE, fat FIRE, and so on, meant to describe how frugal someone is along the way to financial independence. How would you describe your own financial independence journey and where do you fit along that spectrum?

Souffrant: Yes, I think when I first started and I started to calculate the numbers, I thought I could be more frugal in reaching my goal to financial independence. It was a factor of I want to get out of this job as quickly as possible, but that means we have to be able to have enough money to sustain our lifestyle if I quit my job. And so, let’s just spend less. And that worked for a bit of time, and it really helped to supersize our investment accounts because when we got really focused in the beginning of cutting back and being more budget conscious, we were able to save—my husband and I were able to save—and invest $169,000 in two years. But as I started to at this point now, I think, by the time I quit my job, I had three kids. When I started the journey, I had one and I knew that I didn’t really want my lifestyle to be consistently frugal. I wanted to enjoy vacations. I had a partner who is not as frugal as me that we need to come to a better balance. And so, I started to think about what does a more balanced approach look like to financial independence and maybe it’s not as frugal. Some areas can be frugal, but some areas can be I’m sacrificing, investing, and saving for this lifestyle goal that I have.

Benz: You referenced your husband, Woody, and you talk about him in the book and talk about how you approach this differently. And you think it’s OK for members of a couple to have different goals and different approaches to retirement and to financial independence. Your carrot is early retirement and your husband’s is a nice luxury car. So, can you talk and maybe share suggestions for couples because we’re not all the same, right? Partners aren’t all the same when it comes to the things we aspire to financially. Can you talk about how you and your husband found your way along that financial independence path?

Souffrant: I think, foundationally outside of money, having a partner that you respect and who respects you is a great place to start because then you can come to the table, even if you have differences of opinion about something, you can ultimately respectfully listen to each other and know what the person or at least try to understand where they’re coming from. So, with me because he knew I had a long commute, I was having the children and I think he was very understanding in my desire to need to quit my job and to have freedom, even if that meant him sacrificing having a nice car and he was willing to do that. And I think for me, because I also cared about what he wanted, I thought to myself, well, if we get in a position where we can one day buy that car or take the vacations, I want to be able to do that too.

So, I think for couples, it’s a matter of sitting down and really listening to each other because I know that having family goals are very important and you should, but I think you can still have individual goals. And so how does that work in to the timeline of what you guys both want, and sometimes it may be you’re working on one person’s thing first, or it may be that, if it’s going to be at the same time, then the timeline is slower to get to the destination, but that there is a real consideration of your partner and that you talk through about what they need, because oftentimes I find that when you get your financial enlightenment, or for me when I was so obsessed with listening to podcasts and the FIRE movement, I was excited about it, but he was in his own world. And so, I couldn’t expect him to jump on board or as in deep with me without him having some excitement about it. And so, it was like, how do you excite your partner to seeing that there is for them also what they want, that they also get something they want in this whole thing too.

Arnott: Another idea I’ve heard people talk about is the idea of a finance date or a money date that you have a regular weekly or monthly outing with your spouse and spend part of the time talking about how are we spending, how are we doing on our goals, things like that. Maybe it’s not the most romantic thing in the world, but do you think that that is a way for couples to connect and talk about how they’re doing?

Souffrant: Absolutely. It’s something we definitely did more often in the beginning to get on the same page. And it can look different. It could be in the outdoors, if people like to be outdoor or be more athletic with something, maybe it’s going on a walk, maybe it is having some wine or beer or whatever it is that puts you in the mood to want to have the conversation or at least to bear the conversation together. I will note that one of the things that helped get my husband more on board was showing him the numbers and thinking about where our lives could be if we started getting more financially responsible. And so, I did show him a scenario of if we continued to do the same thing, here’s where our investments could potentially grow. Here’s where we’ll be when our kids are off the college, and it’s a good life and we can continue on this way. Or if we make some of these changes, here’s what could happen. Here’s how much more we can have and the more flexibility we can have. And him seeing the numbers, I think, really changed his perspective because everything else was conceptual and how do you know and maybe that’s not going to happen. But him seeing the numbers modeled out made it more real for him to take the chance to say, OK, let’s try it that way.

Benz: I wanted to ask you about the evolution of the FIRE movement, that it seems like the RE, the retire early piece, is really getting downplayed and the financial piece has come to the fore and people say, well, retiring early might be one thing you could do, but you could also do this, this, and this. Do you think that’s a healthy evolution?

Souffrant: I definitely think it’s a healthy evolution—it probably is a revolution, too. So it’s one of the reasons why in my content I created the journey or stages, like the five journey or stages to reach to get or go through to reach complete financial independence, where work becomes truly optional, where you don’t have to do it. Because I did realize that when I did tell people about the FIRE movement that were not involved in the FIRE movement or maybe they were in the general personal finance space, the biggest pushbacks were: “That really feels impossible because of my starting point”; “how would I not be able to work and retire early? I’m not even on track to retire in general.” Or that it’s just not something they want to do because they like their job or they want to work.

And so, I don’t believe that people don’t want to work at all. I think people like to feel like they’re contributing to society, whatever that looks like in our challenge. And so, the goal is not necessarily to never work again, it’s having the option to or not. It’s having the option to take a break for whatever it means that in that break that you do, whether it’s travel, have a family, maybe you switch careers and do something more meaningful. But I think I love that the concept or the idea around what happens after you reach stability and security that it becomes more of a choice, and you can continue to pursue complete financial independence, or you can scale back and live a more balanced life. That I think is actually more relatable to a lot of people.

Arnott: You’re also a big believer in making statements about what you hope to achieve before you achieve it. So, for example, on your blog, you announced that you plan to be financially independent by the age of 37. You also announced your intention to get a significant book deal. What do you think is the value of making a declaration like that?

Souffrant: I think putting your dreams out into the world, sometimes you should be careful, sometimes you keep it close to you and you don’t want to share. One of the reasons I started the blog and then had the podcast was that accountability, even if it’s just your friends and family or even if there are strangers on the internet, it for me at least works in making me want to rise up to meet that challenge that I’ve set for myself. And I think showing or telling and speaking my dreams out loud was important because I love when I was on the sidelines just listening to other people and they had the courage to share their dreams, it inspired me. And I really do think that having big goals, or just goals, and whether you write it out just for yourself to see every day or put it in your phone as a note. I have a reminder that pops up in my phone at 9 a.m. every day, three qualities that I want to exude. Those are things in which I feel like seeing it, and even if you just put it out one time, you don’t look at it again, I do believe that does something, that does put your flag in the ground that this is what you want. And I do think after that it just becomes a matter of working toward and recognizing when the opportunity arises that you can achieve that thing.

Benz: I’m curious about those three qualities that you want to exude. Do you change those up every day or are they the same every day? And I also wonder if you would be willing to share what those are.

Souffrant: Authentic, brave, and confident.

Benz: Love it.

Souffrant: Three qualities I want to exude. They don’t change often.

Arnott: That’s great. So, one of the key challenges for all of us, even beyond the FIRE movement, is balancing living well in the here and now versus deferring gratification into the future. And you write about the fact that this is very individual-specific. So, there’s no right answer that has to apply to everyone. What questions do you think people should ask themselves to figure out where they land on that spectrum?

Souffrant: I think questions to ask yourself for anyone—there is a bit of self-reflection and going within because what you really want to ask is what type of life do you actually want to live? What are the things you want to have and really have because you want them not because of society. And there are some things, it could be in just your own culture that that’s just the norm and you do want to upkeep that norm or is it something you want to do differently? And so really understanding what you truly, truly want and what will make you happy is important and then crafting a life and then your financial goals around that. And so, I think the season of your life that you’re in, makes a big difference on what this journey looks like and your starting point. So not everyone is starting from the same point and depending on their lifestyle goals, and something I call guac levels in the book, might not be something that you actually want to sacrifice for. The guac levels go from one to five where one is the most frugal and guac level five is the most expensive or extravagant. And understanding the type of life you want to live versus what your goals are and then what you’re willing to give up and the opportunity costs associated with those sacrifices or investments are important because then you can realistically plot out what this initial run at financial independence looks like.

Benz: So just to clarify those guac levels correspond with guacamole and how comfortable or how much latitude I would give myself to say, yeah, give me the guac as well as whatever my salad or burrito or whatever I ordered, right? Is that how people should approach it or think about it?

Souffrant: So, the guac level stands for guacamole and there is a range. So guac level one being the most frugal where you would never buy guacamole outside; you make it at home. And then guac level five is like something ridiculous, like you have a guac factory, and you can replace guacamole with anything you like. But it’s really meant to show the levels at which we want to enjoy our life and also understanding that you can be a guac level one or two in one area of your life, maybe clothing versus a guac level four in vacation. So, there is a varying depending on the budget line item. But it’s to understand why when I first came into the movement, the FIRE movement, and even though it worked for a bit to jump-start our finances to be frugal and invest and save aggressively why it wasn’t sustainable, because naturally, I felt like and feel like the level of lifestyle we want to live is more of a guac level three and four, where we do want to experience nicer things or my husband at least likes to experience nicer things in certain areas. And so, then that makes more sense for us why maybe some things were harder or were not sustainable. And so, if you can start to understand what your true guac level is—and that can actually change. I actually recommend if you’re on the beginning journey or stages that it does require some sacrifice and some frugality to get you forward if you’re not earning enough or spending too much, but it can help give you a guidance on why things may be harder for you than other people that enjoy being frugal or give you a realistic time frame about what it’s going to take to reach financial independence.

Arnott: I think one of the biggest challenges is that people have a tendency to compare themselves and what they’ve managed to achieve to what their neighbors and other peers are doing. And material goods are the main outward way of expressing how you’re doing. So, what advice do you have about how people can get off that treadmill of buying fancy homes, cars, and clothes as an outward sign of wealth and how they’re doing?

Souffrant: I think releasing maybe shame and feeling guilty if you do think that way because really society and consumerism and capitalism is meant for us to feel that way about things. Corporations and companies spend millions of dollars to know how to market to us and to keep us on this treadmill of wanting more. And then there are some systemic things too in terms of how people of color, particularly Black people, show up in terms of buying material items, being disvalued or feeling unvalued in a society where you may not feel like your worth was seen than showing that your worthy may look like buying expensive, quality items that other people can see. And so, I do think there is a deep-rooted thing that we have that is just not as easy as telling someone just don’t buy that car or don’t want that car.

But I do think when you’re looking at your overall life and what you’re sacrificing in order to have that material thing, is it worth it? So, for me, while I would love a really nice car, I’m sure my husband wants one like now, I love the flexibility and freedom that I have that I’m able to pick my kids up every day or not feeling stressed about our finances. And so that is worth it to me to not have that thing. And I think people just need to sit down and look at the cost of maybe the luxury or the thing that they like and make it a conscious choice that if you are OK with working more or longer in a job that you may not like because you really value this thing, then it’s your choice. But if you sit down and you have that discovery that it’s not worth it, then you can try to make a different choice or work to make a different choice on scaling back, not because you don’t deserve it, but because you deserve something else that’s worth even more to you. So, reframing the way you look at the opportunity cost of having that thing, and maybe decide it’s worth it, then that’s fine. But you may decide, like I did, that it wasn’t. And it’s not to say that I won’t want a nice car again, it’s more of does this fit into and does it take precedence over this feeling and the opportunity and flexibility that I have. And while we want it all and all at the same time, I don’t think that we can have it all and all at the same time. And so, it’s really a choice of do you have it now or do you save and wait for later and can you hold that off? Can you delay the gratification so that you can have this life that you say you want to have?

Benz: Following up on your comment about when you look at data on Black and Hispanic people and where they spend money, a lot of times it is on luxury goods, that maybe don’t necessarily align with their finances. We interviewed Lynnette Khalfani-Cox for this podcast. I saw that you recently interviewed her as well. She discussed the Black tax, and this is something that she has written as well about. And the basic idea is that Black people who have achieved material wealth often feel a pull to help family members who might not be as financially well off. Can you talk about that in your own experience, whether that’s been something that you’ve confronted and how you’ve navigated, OK, how much can we keep for ourselves and how much do we want to help other people who we care about who are in our lives?

Souffrant: The Black tax I know is sometimes it can be used in different ways. The way Lynette uses it is completely correct in one side of things where this feeling of—I call it more of the survivor’s remorse where maybe you made it to a higher level, maybe the first one in your family to be earning a certain amount of income and then you do want to help or feel compelled or you just feel like you need to help. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it can create some limiting beliefs where you do tap yourself at how much you do earn or because of the fear of success or that there’s just more to take care of because you have more responsibility and people behind you that you’re responsible for. And so that’s one way to look at it.

I talk about the Black tax—I’ve had someone on who actually has a book about that and his name is Shawn Rochester and he was on previous episodes of the podcast, my Journey to Launch podcast. And he talks about Black tax more in a way of economically, like all the years where Black people were enslaved in this country, whether it was policies ingrained in our government that prevented us from building true wealth, that tax that has carried on today and which results in the difference of net worth and income and all these disparities that we see and the unconscious and conscious biases that Black people face in terms of even getting jobs or with their names or just in general. And so, there’s that type of Black tax that actually affects how much we earn, how we are looked at and how it impacts our ability to build wealth. So, I did want to just make that distinction.

Benz: Thank you. That’s helpful. So, a few different definitions of how people are using that term.

Souffrant: Yeah.

Benz: OK.

Arnott: So, one of the things you write about in the book is how you were able to save up a lot of money during college and then bought a property in Brooklyn at a fairly young age. Can you talk about what you see as the pros and cons of investing directly in real estate?

Souffrant: I’ll tell just a little bit about that story. I went into contract for my condo when I was 22 years old, so right as I was graduating from college, but it was a new construction building in Dumbo, down under the Manhattan bridge overpass in Brooklyn. So, it took two years to build. So, I didn’t move in and close on the unit until I was 24. So, I always loved real estate. I learned that real estate was a vehicle for freedom or to wealth when my grandmother, who also immigrated here—she was a bit older but didn’t have much and she worked as a nanny to wealthier people—was able to buy a home for herself, a brownstone in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. And at that time when she bought it, it really was undesirable, but she wanted a home. And so by the time I came of age, I realized that this piece of property that she bought was worth so much more than when she bought it, and I was just amazed—and that was like about high school, college did I learn that—and from then I just loved the idea of real estate.

And I talk about this in a book. I met a couple of what I call the neighborhood millionaires—very unassuming, but after talking to them, they talked about that they own property in certain areas of Brooklyn, and they were renting them out. So that planted the seed in me to be interested in real estate. So, when I was working at my internship, I was earning good money but saving most of my money. I had the saver’s mindset thanks to my mom and my grandma, because they were such big savers and she did teach me that you should save something—if you get a dollar, even if it’s five cents, you should save something. So, I took that mindset when I started to work, I started saving money. And I remember I wanted to buy property in Brooklyn, and I wanted to really buy a brownstone, but at the time I couldn’t really afford it. I was still in college, and I saw an advertisement for a new development in Dumbo, Brooklyn, which at the time it was not what it is today. And I went, and the only thing I could maybe afford if I stretched it was a studio apartment in this new-construction building. And my mom actually—I would say she gifted me because she didn’t require for me to pay it back—a portion of the first 10% of the downpayment. And I always like to say that because when we go back to my mom’s story of her coming here with absolutely nothing and being able to one day then help her daughter secure or put down for her first apartment, I’m not ashamed of that. I think it’s important to say that because she really sacrificed so much to get herself to that position.

And from there, I ended up saving the money to then get the rest of the down payment and closing costs by the time the two years had passed to move in. I still own that apartment today over almost 20 years later. It was a risky investment at the time because I was barely making enough to cover the mortgage, but I started to save to be able to cover it. But it worked out for me and I still own it and I plan on keeping it, so hopefully my kids one day can live in it and have it. But the real estate to me is just like a tangible great asset to have, but I also realized that I was very lucky when I purchased my unit in that not everyone today has that type of opportunity or the type of mom that is able to help them the way that my mom did. I am a big proponent of real estate. Even though that first apartment worked out really well for me, I had a second instance where I also bought another preconstruction condo with my husband and it didn’t work out so great because by the time that we signed the contract, the market had imploded and so the apartment was worth less than what we went into contract for.

And so, for me having those two stories, I understand that for a lot of Americans their wealth is built into their equity of their home, and it is a big part of how people are able to reach wealth here. But understanding that things have changed a lot from when I started looking at real estate, and realizing that’s not the only way to build wealth. And for some people owning is not the best thing and that’s OK. It really is an individual choice that you have to look at and make sure you’re going into it smart. When it comes to financial independence and having passive income, I know that there are some platforms and people, they definitely push real estate as the way. And I think it could be if you get a great deal and you’re smart about it. In my corporate years I was a real estate asset manager. My master’s degree is in real estate. So, I understand real estate pretty well but also know that it is a big risk and it’s not for everyone and that there are simpler ways to reach wealth. It may take longer, but that real estate isn’t for everyone and that’s OK.

Benz: We wanted to ask about your podcast, which you you’ve mentioned, Journey to Launch, and you’ve been doing it on a weekly basis since 2017. When you think back on that big catalog of episodes, what been some of your favorite ones that you’ve done?

Souffrant: So, starting the podcast in 2017 I think it’s been— I can’t believe it’s actually been that long. I would say definitely the beginning stages were really magical having a podcast because it was so new, and the conversations were so fresh. I’m still having those same conversations. They’re a bit different now as I’ve matured on my journey. But I would say some of the earlier episodes are my favorite because if you go back and listen to even episode one or the solo episodes where it’s just me talking, you definitely hear where I was at that time. When it came to maybe focusing more on saving and investing and being frugal versus where I am now where I talk more about the balance and spending money. And so, I’d say that it’s evolution—there’s certain parts of the podcast that I think back to, and I can remember that, wow, that was a great error in my life. Or when I quit my job I shared that on the podcast, and that I know for some people who listened has been their favorite episode because they heard me from the beginning when I had my job on the podcast and then heard a couple of years later when I was able to quit and how I did it. And so, I would say some of those are my favorite moments of the podcast and sometimes my listeners’ favorite moments too.

Arnott: Is there any piece of personal finance advice that is taken as gospel but you think is overrated?

Souffrant: Let’s see. I think the idea that all debt is bad. I think it’s one of those things where it’s a tool and for many people if you don’t know how to use the tool—you wouldn’t try to fix a delicate glass house with a hammer, so that tool is not for that house versus if you’re trying to reshore a house that is more stable, then you use the hammer. So, for a lot of people using debt as a tool in their lives, it’s not something they should do, it’s not something they can manage if they haven’t been able to get a grip on it yet. But for some people having debt or using debt has been a catalyst to other things in their life. And so, I go back to buying a home. I wouldn’t have been able to do that without a mortgage. Or student loans—for me, I did take out student loans, but it was worth it in terms of the trajectory of my career and income. And then credit card debt—I use my credit cards every day, pay them off every month for travel reward points. So, I do think that debt is a tool you should be careful of but that it’s not all bad. That’s probably maybe one of the rules of thumb that I’d push back on.

Benz: I wanted to go back to that conversation we were having about that treadmill just to get bigger, better stuff, cars houses, and so on. To what extent do you think social media has fed into that? And I guess the thing I’d really like to know is how do you approach that with your kids? How do you keep your kids from just wanting to hop on that treadmill because it’s very attractive, especially for young kids to try to just have all the stuff. So how do you work with them and how will you approach social media with them?

Souffrant: I think social media, back in my day—I feel like when I say that, I’m older. Myspace came out when I was in high school. But Facebook came out when I was in college. So, I didn’t have Instagram or all these immediate ways to see what everyone else was doing. I could only see what the people in my school had. I think that we probably still all had those influences, but it was micro. It wasn’t on a bigger scale, and it wasn’t as often. So, I remember in high school wanting nicer sneakers because everyone around me had nicer sneakers and so that impacted me. But now, when I think about my kids and they’re too young thankfully right now for social media or phones—even though my oldest is already asking for it, he’s nine—is that I think going back to that self-worth and honing in on and talking to them about, yes, it feels good to put on new or in-trend clothing but it doesn’t make you who you are. You’re fine without that too.

And so, having those conversations, even me now that they’re actually not into clothing that much yet, and so the way I model shopping is not that I’m constantly shopping, it’s not something that I desire or like to do. And so, I think some of those habits and those influences even now I can see it in them where they’re not as concerned with it but giving them the tools to understand why I might not purchase something. So even something as simple as ice cream. My kids are at the age where if we stop at the park after school, the ice cream truck comes, they all want ice cream every day. And now, they know that I have a book. My kids watch a lot of my media stuff. My daughter, the youngest one, she’s definitely in the know, and she’s like, “Mom, but you have money, you’re rich.” And I’m like, well, listen, I have money and we have money, but I don’t want to spend it or it’s not important to spend it on ice cream every day. And so, sometimes I’ll do the quick math with them—if we bought ice cream every day, this is how much it would be. And so, there are some things we want to do, right? You want to go back to Disney World; you want to go to camp or all these things. The money that I don’t use for that, I’m spending it on something else. So having those conversations around value and that just because you have it, doesn’t mean you need to spend it is something that I’ve been constantly talking to them about. But not in a way where it gives them scarcity mindset I hope, but in a way that they’re more empowered that you don’t have to have this thing because everyone else has it is where I’ve been going with it.

Arnott: We also wanted to ask you about life management in addition to financial management. It sounds like you’ve got a lot of balls that you’re juggling all the time. You have your business; you have your media appearances; you’re also a wife and a mother of three kids. What are some of your top tips for making it all work?

Souffrant: Well, I’d say understanding that it does not all work at once. And so, my season of life now is something I’ve accepted even with my business is that it’s a lot slower. I hustled a bit more when starting Journey to Launch, especially when I first went full time and feeling like I needed to do all the things. And since then, especially with my kids’ ages and them requiring a bit more shuffling back and forth between commitments of sports, so my energy is split more. And so, with that, I realized that I only have a couple of hours a day to actually do work, and I’m OK with that. Sometimes I do feel guilty, like, OK, instead of going to the gym or running— which I love to do, it gives me that peace of mind and just energy I need and like—that that means I’m going to get less work done. And so, it’s realizing that I can’t be all the things and be super productive in all my areas. Right now, what’s a priority for me is my health and wellness and being physical, also getting stuff done for my business, but then also being there and present for my kids in everything they’re doing right now. And so, there are other things or business opportunities that I may not be able to accommodate or do and be all the places and post all these things a day, and I’ve become fine with that. So, I’d say realizing that I can’t do it all and being OK with that and then accepting that some things will fall by the wayside, or I won’t be 100% in everything.

Benz: Well, Jamila, this has been such a worthwhile conversation. Thank you so much for taking time out of your busy, busy schedule to be with us today.

Souffrant: Thank you so much for having me.

Arnott: It’s been great talking with you.

Benz: Thank you for joining us on The Long View. If you could, please take a moment to subscribe to and rate the podcast on Apple, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.

You can follow me on social media @Christine_Benz on X or at Christine Benz on LinkedIn.

Arnott: And at Amy Arnott on LinkedIn.

Benz: George Castady is our engineer for the podcast and Kari Greczek produces the show notes each week.

Finally, we’d love to get your feedback. If you have a comment or a guest idea, please email us at Until next time, thanks for joining us.