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“You have to believe that what you do today will result in a better tomorrow.” – Dr. Brenda
During this interview about financial freedom with Dr. Brenda of the Early Exit Academy, you will hear her story about how she overcame her financial and career struggles by being smart with her savings and investing. She also shares the biggest mistake she sees business owners making when it comes to their finances.
Dr. Brenda is a sociologist, researcher, writer, educator, and financial coach whose mission is to bring hope to people who struggle with money. Through her highly interactive online courses, Dr. Brenda guides people on their journey to debt-freedom and financial independence.
Tell us a little bit about your business.
I am a blogger (The Five Journeys), writer of 30-day challenges (Better Life Challenges) and creator of online courses (Early Exit Academy).
What inspired you to start your own business?
In 2018, after more than 16 years with the same organization, my career ended. Once I got over the shock and trauma, I began to see this “disaster” as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create a new life built on my passion – empowering people to master their money and build their dream lives.
What life events prompted you to become savvy at saving and investing?
My 30th year was a tough one. I earned my PhD, was downsized out of my job, and moved to a new state. It took me three years (and five states) to land a decent job again and that period left me with debt, and despair. Once I caught a break, I saved and invested as much as I could, eventually building a $1,000,000 net worth. I never wanted to be poor again. (You can read my story here.)
How did you become interested in personal finance?
I’ve always been frugal by nature, but I never really had a plan until I read David Bach’s Smart Women Finish Rich. What really caught my attention was his discussion of a dream fund. Wow! What a concept. I was hooked and began tracking my net worth, accelerated paying off the house, and started investing outside of my retirement fund.
How did you learn to save and invest your money?
I’ve always been a saver, but investing was new territory to me. I read a lot of books before I opened an account to trade stocks. Then it was fire by trial and error. I learned about my own tolerance for risk and made plenty of mistakes. Now I tend to invest in just a handful of larger companies, low-fee index funds, and robo-advisor funds.
What is one thing you wish you had known when starting your career?
Great question! I wish I had valued my skills and talents more. I think as a woman, I undervalued myself. Now I realize just how much I have to contribute and that it’s perfectly appropriate to charge accordingly.
Was there a time when you felt like giving up on a dream of yours? How did you move past that?
Absolutely! As a new entrepreneur, I did not realize how long it would take to turn a profit. When I feel like quitting, I ask myself three questions: (1) Am I producing the best product possible? (2) Is there a need for my product? (3) Am I enjoying the work? So far, I can answer YES to each question, so I continue onward.
What do you find to be the most difficult thing about being an entrepreneur? How do you handle this?
The most difficult part, at least when starting up, is the loneliness. I spend the majority of days working on a laptop from the dining room table. And since I don’t have a business partner, I’m not able to easily bounce ideas around. But I’ve greatly benefitted by attending a weekly group of entrepreneurs, where I’ve made friends and can discuss the business.
What keeps you motivated and focused when things get tough?
It’s true – some days it is very hard to stay motivated. But really, life is just a series of phases. And I know that working my way through difficult days will bring me closer to a new phase. You have to believe that what you do today will result in a better tomorrow.
What is your favorite thing about being an entrepreneur?
I can create the most awesome products and never compromise on quality.
What do you attribute your success to and how do you explain it?
Perseverance. As Dory said, “just keep swimming.”
For someone who is looking to step out of their current career to start an online business, how would you suggest they proceed financially, enabling them to make the switch?
Ha! They can take one of my courses! Seriously though, experiment with side hustles. Some will be a good fit, and others won’t. Start earning money from the side hustle and growing it before quitting the job. Here’s a link to my Side Hustle Navigator for those who would like to get started.
What advice would you give to an entrepreneur who is in the early stages of starting their business?
Build the framework first – create a game plan. Set one big goal for each week. And don’t demand perfection of yourself. Finally, carve out some “me” time and treat yourself, because you’ll be putting in long days when you first start out.
What advice would you give to an entrepreneur who is currently financially successful with an established business?
Consider the lifestyle you want for yourself and your family. If you want to expand and grow, that’s fine. But it’s also cool to begin coasting so that you can spend more time doing the things you love. It’s a personal choice so don’t feel pressured by what others expect of you.
What are some of the biggest mistakes you see others making when it comes to personal finances?
Upsizing! The more money people make, the more they spend. They get caught in the consumerist trap, buying houses they can’t really afford, and showing off expensive cars. So as the salary gets bigger, people still feel trapped living paycheck-to-paycheck. Good money management is about prioritizing the things that bring you joy, and letting go of the other stuff.
As a gift, someone gives you a lottery ticket that ends up winning $10 million dollars. What would you do?
Wow! The first thing I would do is hide out for awhile to avoid all the scammers who want the money. Then I would look at my personal and family needs, which are not great. I would use the vast majority of funds to set up a foundation so that funds can be dispersed to organizations that promote social justice and environmental causes.
What resources do you have to offer others who are looking to gain financial freedom?
In addition to online courses, I am a financial coach. I specialize in working with women who are on their own and women who seek financial independence.
“Good money management is about prioritizing the things that bring you joy, and letting go of the other stuff.” – Dr. Brenda
Thank you to Dr. Brenda for taking the time to share her financial freedom knowledge and expertise with us!