The author and ‘Budgetnista’ discusses the benefits of sharing financial mistakes, helping loved ones be better with money, and what she means by ‘financial wholeness.’
Our guest on the podcast today is Tiffany Aliche, also known as “The Budgetnista.” She is the author of The New York Times bestseller Get Good With Money, and she also has a new book called Made Whole: The Practical Guide to Reaching Your Financial Goals. Through her Live Richer movement, she has helped more than 2 million women save, manage, and pay off hundreds of millions of dollars. Tiffany co-hosts the podcast Brown Ambition, and she has been a fixture in the media, including on the Today show and Good Morning America. She was the first Black woman to appear solo on the cover of Money Magazine. She received her bachelor’s degree in business from Montclair State University and her master’s degree in education from Seton Hall.
Get Good With Money, by Tiffany Aliche
Made Whole: The Practical Guide to Reaching Your Financial Goals, by Tiffany Aliche
Brown Ambition podcast
Personal Finance/Financial Wellness
Live Richer Academy
“Lynnette Khalfani-Cox: ‘There’s a Huge Wealth Gap in America,” The Long View podcast, Morningstar.com, Sept. 28, 2021.
Christine Benz: Hi, and welcome to The Long View. I’m Christine Benz, director of personal finance and retirement planning for Morningstar.
Jeff Ptak: And I’m Jeff Ptak, chief ratings officer for Morningstar Research Services.
Benz: Our guest on the podcast today is Tiffany Aliche, also known as “The Budgetnista.” She is the author of The New York Times bestseller Get Good With Money, and she also has a new book called Made Whole: The Practical Guide to Reaching Your Financial Goals. Through her Live Richer movement, she has helped more than 2 million women save, manage, and pay off hundreds of millions of dollars. Tiffany co-hosts the podcast Brown Ambition, and she has been a fixture in the media, including on the Today show and Good Morning America. She was the first Black woman to appear solo on the cover of Money Magazine. She received her bachelor’s degree in business from Montclair State University and her master’s degree in education from Seton Hall.
Tiffany, welcome to The Long View.
Tiffany Aliche: Thank you for having me.
Benz: Well, thanks for being here. We’ve wanted to have you on for some time. So, we want to start by talking about your background and your biography. It’s an interesting one. You were a preschool teacher in Newark, New Jersey, for about 10 years. What prompted your segue from that job, which it sounds like you really loved, into financial education?
Aliche: Honestly, I was semiforced out due to the Great Recession. I taught for 10 years. I really did love teaching. Then the recession came, and I remember it was 2009, and a lot of my friends were losing their jobs. At the time, I was 29, and I thought, well, not me, because teaching is what I thought recession-proof profession, because you absolutely need teachers, but I was mistaken. And three days before the new school year was set to begin, I was out for the summer. We all got the phone call to say—unfortunately, the school was a non-profit-based school, and they lost their funding because companies just did not have the excess income to support the school—and so, we were closing. And I just remember being in shock and not really sure what to do, because I’d made some prior financial mistakes that I was counting on the new school year to help me remedy.
I’m actually very much risk-averse. And so, I know it seems like, oh, as a business owner, you have to be someone who is willing to take risks, but I really became afraid of getting what I thought was a seemingly safe job after that, because I knew firsthand that it could be taken away. So, I decided to better myself and start something myself. I grew up in a household—my father was a CFO and an accountant. And so, I learned about money very early on. It was very much a part of my life. And I was already teaching it. I was volunteering. I was teaching my parents. I was teaching the maintenance men. I was teaching my co-workers. I was even teaching the preschoolers about money for fun. So, the transition into teaching a wider audience about money wasn’t as crazy as it sounds—going from preschool teacher to financial educator. But yeah, I just decided to better myself because I didn’t want someone to take my job away again.
Ptak: When the school lost its funding and you were out of work, probably that brought with it challenges, maintaining your financial footing, so to speak. How do you think that experience makes you better at relating to people who are having their own financial struggles like you did?
Aliche: Honestly, Jeff, in the beginning, I was a bit of a financial snob because I did all the right things. I was perfect until my mid-20s. I just did what my dad told me to do. I didn’t have a sweet 16. At 16, there was a bank up the street. He walked you to the bank and opened up your first bank account with him. He showed me how to save and how to invest. And my mom showed us, this is what money looks like in the real world. When you go food shopping, and we buy back-to-school clothes. I started working at 14—and I’m dating myself—but used to have those passbooks. Remember that? You would go to the bank?
Benz: I do.
Aliche: And I remember I would have to show my dad every pay period, I deposited my check. And every withdrawal I made, I used to have to explain where the money went. What did I do with it? What did I buy? Show the receipts. And so, that was part of my life. And because I just was doing what I was told, I had not made any financial mistakes. By 26, I had saved like $30,000 from teaching. I bought a condo. I think I had like an 820 credit score, something crazy. And I just assumed, I’m so smart because you know, when you’re in your 20s, you just swear you know everything, not realizing I was just following directions. And then that’s when I decided I’m so smart, I can clearly do this by myself. And so I did, and promptly destroyed all of the things that my parents helped me build. I got into credit card debt. I was a victim of credit card scam.
And what it did though was because before then I was the go-to girl for my friends and their finances. And what it did was it humbled me, but also gave me so much empathy because for the first time I know what it felt like to feel like, how am I going to pay this bill? I don’t have the money. This credit card debt is creeping in. I don’t know if I can afford my mortgage anymore. And so, I’m grateful for those really rough times because had it not been for them, I learned to teach from a place of not just this is what I know, but this is what I felt, and this is what actually helped. And so, yeah, it made me a better teacher, more empathetic, and just someone who is better aligned with the people I’m actually serving. So, yeah, I’m just grateful.
Benz: You’re a big believer in not just empathizing with people, but also giving voice to your own financial struggles. You call it sharing your shame. You think it’s important to talk about where we’ve stumbled in our pasts before with money. Why do you think that can be such a powerful thing to have that community where we talk openly about some of these issues?
Aliche: So, as you know, I have a new book that just came out, Made Whole. It’s one of the major components in the beginning part of the book because one of the things I learned from making so many financial mistakes, and I think for all the financial professionals that are listening, is that you know that your clients come to you riddled with shame. And you know that shame shields solutions. It is very hard to open that bank account, start paying down debt, start budgeting, if you can’t even open up the envelopes that are coming in the mail—the pink and the red ones to say you’re late or you’re behind. And I know for me, after I made all these financial mistakes, I didn’t want to tell my parents, I didn’t want to tell my friends. And so, the shame kept me in the mistake longer than I needed to be.
I think so many financial professionals forget that you need to tackle that first. You have to create a safe space so that way the person that you’re serving can share and release some of that shame, so then you start to interject solutions. It’s like similar to going to the doctor and you’re like, I don’t feel well. They wouldn’t just start to prescribe you medicine. Instead, they’re trying to get down to a space where they’re like, what’s actually happening here, so I can come up with the best solution for where you actually are. So, for me, that is the most important part of the work that we do as financial educators or advisors is to help people move past the shame. Because if you can do that, the solutions, not only will they take, they will stick, because I’ve had people make similar mistakes again, and that’s OK. But because they’re no longer ashamed, they go right into the solution. I call it, “I want to be a paper towel person.” My mom taught me that. So, I’m one of five girls and we had quite the rowdy house growing up. And my dad is like a strict disciplinarian, like, “Do what I say; this is what I do; that’s too much noise.” That’s my dad.
So, as a kid, which now that I’m older, I understand, because I’m like, oh, five kids, I don’t even know how they did it. But as a kid, my dad was a type, if I spilled something, he’d be like, “Oh, my goodness, Tiffany, you have to be more careful.” Because I was a clumsy one. “You’re always running; slow down; be mindful; drink your juice in the kitchen.” That was my dad. And then, he would hand you a paper towel after doing all that fussing. But my mom was the opposite. If I spilled something, she would just hand me a paper towel. And I learned from that that—in the end, you just end up getting a paper towel anyway. Can we skip the fuss? So, I try my best to do that for myself. Like, let’s skip over the, “Oh, Tiffany, you made this mistake again. Why can’t you understand? Why are we here?” And let’s just get straight to the paper towel. Get straight to the solution. And so, I encourage everyone to encourage the people they work with to be paper towel people.
Ptak: How do you get people to open up? Are there icebreaker questions of certain kinds that you use to get them to open up about problem spots in their finances, things that they’re ashamed of, so to speak?
Aliche: Absolutely. This is something I pull from being a preschool teacher. Because really, you’re just like a surrogate mom during the day. And you have to create an environment of nonjudgment, of kindness. And if you feel comfortable sharing some of your mistakes, like, “I actually understand because when I was XYZ age, or my daughter also went through …” Sharing something of your own journey, whatever you feel comfortable with, makes people realize that they are not alone. Because that’s really what people are struggling with. They think that they are alone in the mistakes that they’ve made. And if you can share with them, even if it’s not your stuff, you might say, “Ten years ago, I had a client that filed for bankruptcy, that XYZ, and now they’re flourishing.” And so, offering up something to let people know that they are not alone in their journey is one of the best things that you can do.
For me, I like to share my financial journey and the mistakes that I’ve made. I remember I had one woman who I was working with, she was like, “Well, I’m not as bad as that!” I’m like, don’t turn the judgment table on me. But that really helps because then people relax and they realize—because 1) I don’t jump right into let’s do our spreadsheets. No. One of my opening questions that I ask is, tell me your story, how did we get here, to allow people—because people want to get it off their chest, like, how did we get here? Just tell me your story. Because I know they’re going to tell me the financial things, but also there’s other things. Because my teacher ear is listening for the things not said. You might come to me, and you’re like, my husband is overspending. But what I’m really hearing as you start to talk is, oh, you grew up in a household where there wasn’t enough. And you’re afraid that if he spends that you guys won’t have enough, even though you’re an attorney and he’s a doctor. He’s actually not overspending. It’s your fear of going back to where you came from financially that is holding you hostage. I’m listening for those things. So, I love when people tell me their story so we can work through those things first.
Benz: I wanted to go back to your trajectory and your decision to strike out on your own and be an entrepreneur and build your empire. Why that route versus doing financial education for a big financial service provider or becoming a financial advisor who works one on one with clients?
Aliche: Well, truthfully, I wanted to work with big organizations, Christine. They didn’t want to work with me. They didn’t want to work with me.
Benz: They do now.
Aliche: I know, which is so funny because sometimes I’m like, really? Because in 2010, nobody was interested. I remember distinctly, I went to this financial conference and a friend of mine was like, oh, you should come. There are all these brands here. By then I had launched my very first Live Richer challenge. And I think I had 2,500 women signed up. It was largely women of color. That was my core audience. It’s still my core audience. And I created a media kit. And I asked the women who had signed up for this online challenge—it was this free three-week course that I created to help walk women, in January—walk them through their financial goals. And my goal was to have 10,000 women signed up and I had already had 2,500 so far. And so, I created this media kit and went to this event. I asked the women, if you’re comfortable, if you could send me a picture of yourself because I want to put it on the front cover of this media kit. And so, as I share it, I just want this beautiful front cover, so people are like, oh, wow, this is who Tiffany is serving, some of the women. And the media kit was beautifully laid out. I still have it, a copy of it.
And I remember when I initially would approach brands and say, “I’m teaching financial education. I have this online challenge that I’ve done, or I’m doing, and 2,500 women have already signed up,” their eyes would light up and say, oh, because these are great numbers. And then I would hand them the kit, and I would visibly see the disinterest creep on. And it took me a while to realize, I’m like, is it because it’s women of color on the front cover? I couldn’t understand because I had friends who had way less people and were getting money hand over fist. I could not … it was so disheartening. And I was like, maybe not because sometimes as a Black woman, you’re like, it’s tiring. You’re like, that can’t be my first thought. No, Tiffany, it’s just this brand, they’re not interested. But I would see my friend have the same conversation and she would say, oh, I have 500 women and they’d be excited. Let’s have further conversation so we could talk about sponsorship. And then I would come, here’s my friend Tiffany. She’s got 2,500 women to my 500. And they would say, so excited. I would give them the kit. Face would drop. Oh, that’s cool. And I was like, OK.
So, then I got mad, and I said, you know what, I’m going to build it myself. I’m going to build it myself. And it was the best thing ever because that January 2014, I believe, it took me eight months to convince 10,000 women. This is actually free, and they signed up. By the end of the year, 20,000 women had signed up. By next year, because a challenge happens every year, by next year, we had 30,000 or 40,000. And just this past January, 300,000 women did the Live Richer Challenge. And the brands are just like, “Oh, Tiffany!” I’m like, oh, now you care. I’m not above taking their money now. I’m like, let’s not be foolish.
But although I was pissed at that time, it was the best thing that could have ever happened, because if I would have built that thing for a brand, I would not own the IP, all the access. I have data dating back—some of my surveys are up to 200,000 respondents of how much do you make? Where do you live? What are your financial goals? Do you have children? 200,000 people responding to surveys. No one has data like this for this set in the way that I have. I can ask any question of what I call my “dream catchers,” and there’s nothing they won’t answer. And so, I’m grateful for those no’s because it allowed me to grow something that I own, that I can do what I want to with, and I don’t have to answer to anyone. It allowed me to build my business. I started an online school as a result, the Live Richer Academy. It allowed me to write my books. I self-published my books in the beginning because nobody was interested. And my dream catchers, my audience, they purchased the books. And when my book, Get Good With Money came out and two years ago, it hit The New York Times Bestsellers list. I’m not Suze Orman or Dave Ramsey. It stayed on the list for eight weeks and it’s only been two years and it sold almost 300,000 copies in two years. That’s unheard of. I’m not famous. And all because of this audience that I built. And so, yeah, really the reason is not because I didn’t want to, Christine. It’s because nobody wanted me.
And I didn’t become a financial advisor because one of my mentors, Lynnette Khalfani-Cox, she is this amazing woman. She was one of the first Black women I’ve seen in personal finance when I was first starting. She took me under her wing, and she shared there are some things as a financial advisor that I’m not going to be allowed to navigate and say and do. So, to decide what side did I want to be on. And I wanted to be able to speak a little more freely. I certainly don’t give investment advice or anything like that. So, she just told me that she obviously suggested, for the direction that I was headed in, that it probably wasn’t going to be a fit. And she was right. Because I’ve worked with organizations like a Prudential for example, and they’re like Tiffany, we want you to say this part because our financial advisor can’t. So, it was because of her honestly, because I was studying to do that and she was like, I don’t think it’s going to be a fit for the direction you’re headed into. So, I’m grateful to her for that.
Ptak: Since you mentioned it, can you elaborate on what the Live Richer Challenge and the Live Richer Academy, what those things are, what they strive to do, respectively?
Aliche: The Live Richer Challenge is a free online challenge that I do just about every January. It’s a three-week course and it’s an email course where every day you get one specific task to do as it relates to the overall goal. So, the most recent challenge we did was the savings edition. So, every single task, it’s supposed to get you closer and closer to your savings goal. So, week one, we talk about what your goals are, you help to identify those goals, and then you start to work toward, throughout the challenge, saving and setting aside reducing your expenses, calling your company. So, every day I give you a little bit of homework to do those goals. But what’s really important is that we have an online community that does the challenge alongside you. So, you’re literally doing it alongside hundreds of thousands of other women. So, you’re never alone. And so, we get to chat daily and navigate until the live version happens every January. And then, it’s automated, so anybody can go to, for example, LiveRicherChallenge.com and sign up and just do it on their own or with their friend or whoever. But just know every January—like this upcoming January 2024 we’re going to be doing the credit edition, so all things credit. And so, yeah, it’s one of my favorite things that I built because one of my rules as The Budgetnista is, you don’t have to spend money with me to get help. I’m really adamant that I am in a position of service, and it’s my job to figure out how to monetize, not your job to figure that out. And so, the challenge is the way that when someone says I have nothing, I send them to the challenge and say it is totally free help since 2014 and go get what you need there.
And then the Academy is the next level. So, we have a regular edition, and we also have a college edition. It is an online school and we have graduated about 100,000 students since it started about six or seven years ago. We currently have, I want to say, 15,000 or 20,000 students currently. The courses in the Academy are not just taught by me. I teach the budgeting class and that’s it. But for example, my estate planning attorney teaches the estate planning class. I have an insurance class that my insurance agent teaches. So, I have gotten all of the experts that I feel are top in their space that have either helped me or I’ve admired, and they teach a class to their expertise, everything from budgeting, savings, banking, credit, starting a business, taxes. And so, I just pulled the best of the best inside the Live Richer Academy. Some people stay, and they just take as many courses as possible. There is a fundamentals course that you can take and graduate from, and some people do that, and in a year, they decide to move on. We have this college edition that college students are able to take. We reach out to different colleges. They purchase the course for their students. So, I’m really proud of the Academy.
It’s fairly nominal. By the time this airs—right now, the Academy is about $50 a month. But you just get all this awesome access. The courses, yes, are prerecorded, but there’s also monthly live sessions, even study hall sessions. And we have the community aspect built into there too, so you can work alongside other students within our private online community. So, I’m just really proud of those two things. And the Academy has just done really, really well.
Just for context, I’m a numbers person—when I first started The Budgetnista in the way that I did it, people said I was silly because I gave so much away for free. But it’s the same reason—I didn’t become a preschool teacher to become rich. I just felt compelled that my life was to be based on being of service. And I refuse to believe that in order to serve, it means you have to be broke. And so, I said, I’m sure I can figure out how I can serve, how I can show up for my community, anybody who needs help and still monetize. And people told me in the beginning, you can’t. So, just like I always do, because I’m a middle child, I’m going to prove you wrong. And I did. And if I’m being all the way candid, since I started my business, especially in the last five years, we’ve made well over $50 million, at our peak $10 million a year. This is from a business of service. And so, I share that because there might be somebody who is listening who thinks to be of service means that you can’t make good money. You can. I always operate from a place of kindness and integrity. The people who work for me, we pay more than well. I operate from a place of fairness. You’ve never heard any The Budgetnista scandal because there is none. I’m always really open with my team about what we can and can’t do. I encourage and empower them to ask for raises. If I’m not able to give them … We share our numbers. So, they see what our numbers are. So, I share all that to say it is possible to be successful, to navigate from a place of kindness and integrity in this space of financial education. Just giving that little bit of encouragement because although it’s the long road, it’s the road that I’ve been on, and I’ve just seen great success as a result of it.
Benz: I wanted to ask about that. We’re in the midst of a creator economy, where a lot of people are delving into becoming creators, and in some cases, have the opportunity to have sponsors underwrite their work. And sometimes that’s not necessarily disclosed to people consuming the content. So, how have you navigated that, who you forged relationships with, and have you ever had situations where you’ve said their business model—X financial-services company—just isn’t aligned with what I’m trying to do here?
Aliche: Every day. Every single day, Christine, someone emails me, and I take a look at and I’m like, what in the scam? So, if anybody follows me on social media, I do very, very few sponsored things, because I find that the way many companies, if not most, in this space, what they’re selling is misaligned, or how they’re doing it is misaligned. So, I say no. And it’s not easy to say no because I’ve turned down millions and millions and millions of dollars. And I’ll see some of my colleagues, and I’m just like, maybe, but I’m like, no, I need to sleep well at night. Tiffany, I’m like, you need to sleep well at night. So, that’s why I offset so much because I don’t find too much alignment in this external B2B. I said that you need to create some really good B2C stuff that you can sell and share directly to your customer because you’re not likely to find a lot of people that you can partner with that would make enough money to do so.
I used to have this rule when I was deciding if I was going to partner with an organization or a company or a corporation or whatever, and it was called the Lisa rule. So, Lisa is the youngest of my four sisters. She is the youngest of five, and we’re all very protective of Lisa. We call her Baby Lisa, even though she is 33. But she is a baby to us still. And so, Lisa is a dream catcher, meaning she is one of my audience members. And I remember distinctly—I had this rule where it was like if I wouldn’t suggest it to Lisa, if she was in this position, I’m not going to suggest it to you because I’m protective of her. Well, it used to be the Tiffany rule. It was like if I wouldn’t use it, then I’m not going to suggest it to you. But I realized I’m a lot laxer with myself because I will try something new, like I’m going to try it.
And I thought, one day I was doing the Tiffany rule, like I was sharing things, I was sharing an app or something with my dream catchers. I sent an email out saying, “Really love this app. You guys should try it. It’s an affiliate link. So, if you do use it, I do get money if you use it, but I’m not going to share anything that I’m not currently using and I’m currently using it.” Lisa called me because sometimes she likes to pretend like The Budgetnista and Tiffany are two different people, and she said, “Hey, Tiffany, so The Budgetnista, right? She sent this email.” And I was like, you mean me? She’s like, “Whatever. Anyway, it’s this new app and I signed up for it. I’m excited.” And my heart froze. And I said, “Wait, wait, what app? What app did you sign up for?” And she was like, “Well, the one that was in the email.” I said, “Wait, wait, which one?” And then, I thought, why am I nervous? Tiffany, you shared this with hundreds of thousands of people. And I realized that I had a stricter level of protection over Lisa than myself. So, I shifted and said, no, no, no, it’s not enough to say I would use it. It has to pass the Lisa test, because I am hypervigilant over her financial journey, and I feel like all my dream catchers are my Lisa’s. And so, it changed. So, there are things that I use, and people will ask me, and I’ll say, no, because I would not have my sister use this if she was in your position. I don’t feel comfortable. And so, that is the way I vet.
For example, you will never see me sell credit cards. I don’t think credit cards are the devil. I don’t think they’re the worst, but they could certainly be a gateway drug. The only cards that you might see me suggest is a secured card. And I will certainly teach you how best to use credit cards if you have them, but you will never see me say, “Get this whatever rewards card.” Like I said, I’m not anti-credit card. I have credit cards myself. I love my points, but I am not here to push credit cards on anyone else because to me, it does not pass the Lisa rule. Like, if we’re talking about secured cards to build or if you’re a business, then yes, I’m going to say, here’s my favorite business card because that’s different. But as an individual, I might share a company that has credit cards as one of their services because they have a savings account that I really like or some sort of debt pay down program. But to actually say this credit card right here, go and get it individual person, I’m not going to say that. Instead, I’m going to say if you have credit cards, here’s how best to use it. So, that’s one of my Lisa rules because I have seen it is a gateway and I don’t want to be the person that says you got that credit card and now you’re using it wildly, and it was a gateway to bad financial decision-making. So, that’s just one of the things.
I remember a company tricked me once and I literally was in tears because I was supposed to be talking about some savings account or whatever and it slipped into the contract that it was also going to promote their new credit card. And I call them, because I distinctly said online, hey, no problem sharing the savings account, but I don’t promote credit cards. I’m not anti-credit card. If you want me to talk about credit card education as a whole, got you. But I will not say get this specific card. But they edited the contract and put that in there. I didn’t read it the second time. And so, when it came, they were like, oh, we need you to say this line about go get this credit card. I was in tears. And I was like, wait, no, we discussed that. And they’re like, oh, it’s in the contract. And I was like, why would you do that? I just remember thinking, I told them. I said, OK, you’re going to need me before I need you. And I’ll never, ever work with you again. And I will never suggest any of the tools or resources because what kind of person does this? And so, I had to say that one line. I said it quickly because it was in my contract, and I didn’t want to be sued. And I never have. They have reached out to me time and time again because they want access to my ever-growing loyal audience. And I’m like kick rocks because no, you don’t operate from a place of integrity. So, that’s a long way of saying that I have to sleep well at night. And so, integrity above all else, it is possible to navigate from that space. You don’t have to trick people to make money. I think that the two things are not mutually exclusive.
Ptak: A key concept that you’ve used to infuse your books, including your latest workbook Made Whole is the idea of what you call financial wholeness.
Ptak: What do you mean by that, financial wholeness?
Aliche: Made Whole is the, it’s a get-go money workbook. It’s Made Whole: The Practical Guide to Reaching Your Financial Goals. So, the teacher in me, when I was writing Made Whole thought, you know what, I don’t like to teach to the fringe. So, teachers are taught that basically 80% of your class are smart kids, average intelligence, smart; 10% they might be gifted, and 10% might have some challenges learning. So, what I see a lot, especially in the financial space now is everyone is teaching people how to get rich. Like, oh, I’m going to teach you how to be a millionaire, I’m going to teach you how to be rich. And OK, there’s nothing wrong with that, because if I’m being candid, I’m rich. I became a millionaire at age 37 because of my businesses, and I’m 44 now. But the issue is that that is the 10%. Who was teaching the 80%? Because so many of my friends who have good jobs—this one is a mechanic, this one is a nurse—they will likely never be millionaires. So, does that mean they don’t get a chance to have a good life? It just didn’t sit well with me.
So, I wanted to create a step-by-step guide to guide you into something not financial “freedom,” because to me, when people think financial freedom, I’m going to have a pile of money that I never have to work again. I wanted to create something different. And so, I called it financial wholeness. That’s where the name Made Whole came from, where if you do these 10 things, you can have a holistically healthy financial life that will allow you to live well. So, that’s what financial wholeness is, is when these 10 components of your financial life help you to live well. So, that’s your budget, that’s savings, that’s managing your debt, that’s managing your credit responsibly, that’s learning to earn, that’s investing for both retirement and wealth, that is managing your insurance, increasing your net worth, your financial professionals—that’s a critical component. Who are your financial professionals, including financial advisors, and so on. And lastly, that’s estate planning. So, those are the 10 components of financial wholeness. And when I wrote Made Whole, the teacher in me, it’s literally written as if it’s teacher Tiffany—I walk you through each of the steps: what are they, how do you achieve them as if you were going to get an A. I give you the homework. I give you a space to do the steps and an example of what the steps look like completed, so you can work through them to achieve financial wholeness.
I’m so proud of Made Whole. I just had to read the audio version. I did the audio version of the book too. I had to read it in studio. And as I was reading it, when you’re in the studio, you’re always in there with an engineer and then there’s like someone who was just listening to make sure that you don’t mix up the words or whatever. And we had to keep stopping because they kept stopping and saying, “Oh my gosh, I love this part!” And asking about their own personal finances as it related to that part of the book. And I loved that because it meant that it was connecting with the people who were just in the room who were professionally there just to help me record the audio version. So, yeah, I’m just excited that it’s recently launched, and it is available. It is a tool that you can have with you. When people say, what do I do with my money, how can I be OK if I’m not going to be a millionaire one day? And Made Whole is a step-by-step guide to teach you how to do so.
Benz: Well, that’s awesome. Congratulations. I wanted to ask—you just referenced that there’s a section in the book about how to find financial helpers, financial advisors. I feel like that’s a huge stumbling block for people because they don’t know what they’re looking for. And it’s a little bit of a wild west in terms of financial advice. So, how do you urge people to proceed?
Aliche: So, in Made Whole, one of the things—because this is what I did. I’m the financial advisors’ worst nightmare, maybe best client. I don’t know. I guess, Angalee, my financial advisor, would have to tell you. Because although I’m not a certified financial planner, but it’s like the doctor who was like, I’m not sick. So, I interviewed 20 financial advisors to find my perfect match. And through that process, I came up with a system, which is what I share in Made Whole. So, what I did was, I said, before I interview anyone, let me make what I call my so-called financial life. And so, this was just a document with everything about me financially. How much did I make? How much was in my bank account? What are my financial goals and dreams? What is my credit score? What my businesses make? Every aspect of my financial life I organized it and put it into this document. And in Made Whole, I give people the blank template so they can do that too. So, that way, when I went to interview financial advisors, I knew that they knew everything about me financially. Then I asked family and friends, who did they know? I think I even did a Facebook post that I’m looking for a new financial advisor. Can you make suggestions below? And people started to post. It was about 13 different people. I reached out to them and said, I would like to give you access to this document about who I am financially and what my financial challenges and goals are, as well as where I currently stand. So, that way, you can tell me, do you think we’re aligned? And of the 13, three or four of them said, wow, this is so helpful, this is not my wheelhouse. But I love that, because we don’t have to jump on a call.
So, I interviewed about 10 of them and I knew what I loved is, I didn’t have to ask myself, oh, you forgot to tell Jeff that you also have this other burgeoning business. It was like, no, no, because everything is in that document. There’s no forgetting. Everything was there. I took notes from each advisor. And what I found was that three of the advisors said, “You know, you sound like you need one of my colleagues. Her name is Anjali.” The first person said that, and I was like, OK, because she wasn’t on my list. No one had mentioned her, but an advisor mentioned her. And then, a third advisor was like, “Oh my gosh, Tiffany, you have a lot going on. You know who you’d be perfect for? My colleague, Anjali.” And I was like, OK, this is the second time. And the third time they mentioned, I said, who is this Anjali woman, because apparently, I’m a handful, and they were like, “You need Anjali.” So, I reached out to Anjali, and they were right, she was excellent. And here’s why, because she was aligned. Anjali specialized in—although mostly her clients were doctors—but she specialized in people who own businesses, high-net-worth individuals whose net worth was growing. She also was just really patient because I’m an educator. I look for an educator. I tell my dream catchers, you need to look for someone who is going to educate you on the process. I can ask a ton of questions. She doesn’t get annoyed. She’s got great communication.
Also, in the beginning, because I had had some experiences that weren’t so great with some financial advisors before, so, I was very much like, I want to do everything. I’m like, just tell me and I’ll push the button. She understood I have to build trust with Tiffany first. She’s not going to want to push the button and sell and trade. But she let me think I was going to do that at the beginning by saying, “OK, I will email you and text you when you have to trade or when you have to sell.” And after a while, like a day or two, I was like, “OK, girl, I don’t want to do that anymore.” But she was absolutely amazing, and she is still. It’s been three, maybe four years working with Anjali. Because I knew how to make money and I knew how to save and manage it. But my parents were immigrants from Nigeria, although, like I said, my dad was a CFO, but it was a small nonprofit. My mom was a nurse. So, we didn’t grow up—especially, when we were little—we didn’t grow up with a ton of money. No one in my family has had this kind of money before, and I didn’t know what to do. I was like, all I’m doing is saving and making money and I’m in the market a little bit, but I don’t know what to do at this level of wealth. So, Anjali just helped so much.
I’m not going to lie. I wasn’t like pro—because of my experiences before—financial advisor before. And it was because I realized then I had not found the right alignment. So, I don’t know what I would do without her. She has helped me with—I am fully financially whole now. A really good financial advisor to me, it’s kind of like—I don’t really play sports, I’m assuming it’s like the center or maybe the quarterback. So, she is the center of my financial life. One of the things she said, you are severely underinsured. And so, she was like, reach out to an insurance company. You need to have this level of insurance. She looks at my business stuff—let me talk to your CFO because let’s see if you need to be an S Corp or C Corp. What I also like about Anjali too is not only she is a CFP, she’s a CPA, which I love because she looks at my taxes as well. I already have a CPA and an accountant for my business and for myself. But Anjali also looks at them and then they talk, because she’s like, well, this is what I’m seeing on Tiffany’s personal side, this is what’s happening on the business side.
So, whenever I’m making a big financial decision for my company, I’ll have a team of my personal CFO, my CPA for the business, Anjali, and my attorney, it’s this group—and they’re all women, which I love—it’s this group of amazing women and they’re discussing what is best. Anjali will weigh in largely for personally, Tiffany should do this. My CFO will say for the business, this is what’s best. So, I cannot speak highly enough about having the right alignment when it comes to your financial advisor. And so, yes. One of the feedbacks I’ve gotten about Made Whole is that people have not seen, in a book, that talks about personal finance in this generalized way, like, how do you find your teammate? And that’s a critical component of your team, if it makes sense. And I have a quiz about, if this makes sense, do you need a financial advisor? Here’s how you find them. Here’s the blank template for my so-called financial life. Here’s some questions to ask. Here are ways they get paid. So that way you can understand that. So, yeah, I just think that what financial advisors do is such an important part. I think people just think financial advisors help make you more money. And I’m like, that’s only a small component of what a really good certified financial planner ideally does.
Benz: I wanted to follow up on something, Tiffany, which is, it sounds like you’ve made smart financial decisions. You’re financially well. But all of us have someone in our orbit who is not financially well, a loved one, family member, or whatever. How do you approach that, and how do you urge others to approach that where they want to help? They want to perhaps provide direct financial assistance to a family member, whoever struggling. How do you navigate that and urge other people to navigate that?
Aliche: One of the best things you can do is to do well yourself and then share the journey. Because I think a lot of people want to go in and fix, but everyone’s not ready to be fixed. I know my little sister Lisa is sick of me, but I’m like, whatever. So, Lisa, sometimes she’s not the greatest with her money. I used to be like, “Lisa, do A, B, C. What the heck?” But I realized I wasn’t as helpful. So, instead, I would share my journey with her. Like, “Today, these are the financial choices that I made, and here’s been the outcome.” So, that way, she has an example of how things go when they go right, and how things go when they go wrong. And when she does ask for money, or somebody else … One of the best pieces of advice I got from my friend Cabral is that he said before he lends money, he asks himself, will this solve the problem? I’ll give you a real-life example. She was like, “I need to go to the doctor and there’s a boot on my car.” I was like, “Oh my god, why is there a boot on your car, Lisa?” And she was like, “Well, I have some unpaid parking tickets.” I’m like, “How many unpaid parking tickets does it take to get a boot on your car?” And she’s like, “I need to go to the doctor,” almost like you’re focused on wrong things here. “Are you going to help me or not?” She had a doctor’s appointment, and it was really important. It took a long time for her to get just her general doctor’s appointment.
And so, I asked myself if I gave her the money to get this boot off her car, does it solve the problem? And it did because she gets the boot off, her tickets are paid, she in theory pays me back, but she gets to go to the doctor. Now, if she would have said, hey, can you give me money for—her car is paid off, but let’s just say she had a car note. Can you give me money for this month’s car note? And I said, well, if I give you money for this month’s car note, how are you going to pay the car note next month? It’s like, I don’t know, I’ll figure it out then. Well, then my money for this month’s car note doesn’t actually solve the problem. We’re just kicking the can down the road. So, then I’m likely to tell her, well, no, I’m not going to do that because you’re eventually potentially going to lose the car and my money with it. So, that’s one of the things, one of the guiding posts that you can use is to ask yourself, if I help this family member, will it solve the problem? And if not, let’s talk about things that will solve the problem. What does that look like?
And it’s OK to say no. Setting boundaries has not always been easy for me, but practicing setting boundaries with the people that you love and asking yourself, what are you willing to give, if you want to give? If you don’t want to give, that’s OK, too. But you have to get good. I have an amazing therapist, because being a middle child, I just learned to be very accommodating, especially of a big family. So, the therapist and I call it “the small piece of chicken syndrome,” because if there’s a big bowl of chicken and we’re having it for dinner, I will, before anybody asks, will volunteer to grab the smallest piece so everyone else can have a big piece because I think that’s the nice thing to do. But I might be sitting with vegans, and I will relegate myself to less because I think, well, as a good person, as this middle child of a big family, I don’t mind having less so everybody else can enjoy. And she’s always like, “Tiffany, you can grab the big piece of chicken sometimes too. You can do that.”
And so, that’s something that I had to learn to set boundaries in a way that says, I don’t have to give away everything for people to love me or for people to want to be around me. I am not responsible for everyone’s whole entire life, that certainly, if I care and love people, I can help them find solutions. But the solution doesn’t have to be, it’s me always giving money. And so, I just keep those things in mind that I could take the big piece of chicken, will this actually solve the problem, how can I be a living example of the thing, and what are other ways outside of giving money can I help?
Ptak: Speaking of setting boundaries, do you think traditional budgets and expense tracking work? Or should people set a savings target and not spend so much time tracking the specifics of their spending?
Aliche: I think it’s a mix. Honestly, when I was my, I call it broke-broke, because there’s broke and there’s broke-broke. Broke is when you’re like, oh my gosh, I make $1,000 a month and I spend $1,000. Broke-broke is, I make $1,000 a month and I spend $2,000. So, when I was broke-broke, I tracked every cent because we don’t have anything to spare. I don’t have a nickel to spare. So, I think it’s helpful if you are really having a really hard financial time to track everything, because quite honestly, if you’re broke-broke, meaning you’re in the negative, you need to know where every dollar goes. But if you’re broke and above—I don’t track it all now. Instead, I do general. Like, OK, in general, here’s how much money that I set aside for bills every month. I top up my bills account. I top up my spending account. And my savings account is already maxed out, and so then excess, I invest through Anjali, or I buy real estate or whatever. So, I say the further away you get from broke, the less you really have to think about looking at every little penny, but it might be helpful in the very beginning.
What I like to do is, I tell people, look, if you have a job—I have this thing that I wrote about in Made Whole called: “split it before you get it.” And that’s like when you do the math of how much you need for bills every month, how much you want to set aside for savings and investing, how much to set aside for spending, and then you go to payroll and say, hey, instead of putting all my money in this one checking account, can you split my money before I get my money and put it into these four accounts: checking for bills, checking for spending, savings for emergencies and savings for long-term goals/investing eventually. Can I split my money into those four accounts? I’m not a big business, relatively speaking, and we’re able to split up to four. So, if you do that, then you don’t have to track so heavily because the only thing I’m concerned about is my debit card is only attached to that one checking. It’s not even attached to my bills account, which is a checking account. I told them to unattach my debit card to the bills account. When I swipe, I want to know the only thing that I’m able to touch is this one checking account set aside for spending. And so, I don’t have to track every penny because I know my bills are paid. My saving is saved. I’m investing. Boom. So, split it before you get it is what you aspire to get to. But in the very beginning, tracking dollar for dollar might be helpful in the very beginning, but you certainly don’t have to stay there.
Benz: I wanted to ask about serving women and helping women financially. It’s a big thrust of your work. Do you think women approach money matters differently than men?
Aliche: I do. Things are starting to change a little bit, but there’s a lot less confidence when it comes to women and money. It’s almost like, that’s why there’s been this big push about women in STEM, because somewhere along the way, we have normalized this thought that science is hard for women, math is hard for women, money is hard for women. But we have to understand that up until the ‘70s, women could not open up credit cards by themselves. Even my dad, I wouldn’t call him progressive—he’s 80-something. But when growing up, the only reason why he taught my sisters and I about money is because we didn’t have a brother. Literally, he was like, uh, because clearly after five girls, you could tell he was trying for a boy, so my mom was like, the shop is closed. And so, after the fifth girl—Lisa came four years after—because we’re all two years apart, and then my mom took a break and then tried one last time. And we just knew Lisa was going to be a boy. And then, we had a girl. And so, I remember him distinctly saying, “This is something I was going to teach my son, but there are no sons. So, I’m going to show you how to manage your money.” I remember him saying that. I was like 9 or 10 years old, and we started to have weekly meetings. Every week, we would have a family meeting about chores and homework and grades and things like that. And then we would talk about the family’s finances, what we were working toward, we would go over terms. Sometimes he would have—he had a financial advisor back then, Gary, or something like that—sometimes he would come and sit with us and talk to us. I remember I had a paper route, and he was like, OK, we can start to open up an account for you.
I think that because women are just now getting access to just even basic financial tools and resources, and there’s still a lot of mindset that your husband can take care of that—that’s being undone, and women don’t have as much confidence around their money decisions. Because at the end of the day, men will ask you, well, how come you teach this and you gear toward women? Are the money decisions different? Not really. A budget is a budget. Debt paydown is debt paydown. Credit is credit. But with women, I spent a lot of time building up the confidence about, you are able to do this, you are capable of doing this. Certainly, your husband might be great or your partner, whoever, but you can do it as well. And so, that’s really the difference is the confidence level, but that’s shifting, which I’m really happy about and proud about.
Benz: So, you think it’s shifting by generation?
Aliche: I think so, because honestly, this TikTok generation, you can’t tell them anything. I have a 16-year-old bonus daughter, my stepdaughter. She’s not lacking in confidence. So, we talk about money, and I’ll just tell her, “well, what about this? You should do this.” So, I pay her to do social media for me. And while I’ll explain to her like, “I’m going to pay you, but just enough that you could put into a Roth IRA,” so she knows what that is. I don’t know if we’re at $6,500. That’s what it is for the year, but that’s what I pay her so she could put that in directly. But I remember last year, I think it was $6,000. I was like, “Hey, Lis,”—Alyssa, that’s her name. I’m like, “Hey, Lis, depositing money in your checking account, but Anjali is going to transfer it to your Roth IRA. Don’t forget.” She’s like, “OK.” I said, “Alyssa, don’t forget. Deposited that money.” Within two days, why was $500 missing? I called her and I’m like, “Where is the money, Alyssa?” She was like, “I was wondering where that money came from! Don’t worry, don’t worry. I’m going to transfer it back.” I don’t know where she put it, but she transferred it back and it went into her Roth IRA. And I told her, “I’m not here to take your money. It’s just your younger self setting aside for your older self.”
But when I talk to her about money, she’s not intimidated by it. I think TikTok and social media have normalized the talking about money. And so, I just find that younger women are not nearly as fearful. They’re curious and she doesn’t know, but certainly when I talk to her, she’s not like, “Oh, well, that’s too much for me to learn.” She’s just like, “Oh, understood, understood.”
Benz: Well, Tiffany, this has been such a treat to have you with us here today. Thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule.
Aliche: Awesome. Thank you.
Ptak: Thank 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 us on Twitter @Christine_Benz.
Ptak: And @Syouth1, which is S-Y-O-U-T-H and the number 1.
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 TheLongView@Morningstar.com. Until next time, thanks for joining us.
(Disclaimer: This recording is for informational purposes only and should not be considered investment advice. Opinions expressed are as of the date of recording. Such opinions are subject to change. The views and opinions of guests on this program are not necessarily those of Morningstar, Inc. and its affiliates. While this guest may license or offer products and services of Morningstar and its affiliates, unless otherwise stated, he/she is not affiliated with Morningstar and its affiliates. Morningstar does not guarantee the accuracy, or the completeness of the data presented herein. Jeff Ptak is an employee of Morningstar Research Services LLC. Morningstar Research Services is a subsidiary of Morningstar, Inc. and is registered with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Morningstar Research Services shall not be responsible for any trading decisions, damages or other losses resulting from or related to the information, data analysis, or opinions, or their use. Past performance is not a guarantee of future results. All investments are subject to investment risk, including possible loss of principal. Individuals should seriously consider if an investment is suitable for them by referencing their own financial position, investment objectives and risk profile before making any investment decision.)