From Broke to Financially Woke Interview Series – Jackie Beck
Today, I am excited to share with you the eighth interview in the From Broke to Financially Woke series! The purpose of this series it to give hope to those struggling to escape from the not so secret group Broke Phi Broke. A group whose chant is, “We ain’t got it. Broke, Broke, Phi Broke! We ain’t got it. Broke, Broke, Phi Broke!”
To help me accomplish this goal, I have invited the best and brightest of the financial independence community here to share their stories. As you read their interviews, pay close attention to the mistakes they made. Take mental note of the success principles they used to turn things around.
When trying to apply these principles to your own life, realize that success in life is rarely linear. You will encounter some struggles. But stay persistent. Keep moving forward.
Our special guest today is Jackie from Jackiebeck.com. At her lowest point, she had a little over $367,000 in debt.
Let’s see what steps she took to turn her financially life around…
Introduce yourself. Where do you blog? What are some of your interests outside of financial independence?
I’m Jackie, and my site is JackieBeck.com. I focus on helping Gen X women get out of debt, because that’s a huge step toward financial independence for so many of us.
My biggest outside interests are travel, travel, and more travel. (My favorite place on earth so far is Antarctica.) I’m also an artist and photographer, and love spending time hanging out with my family and our high-energy dog.
Tell us about a time where you were a member of Broke Phi Broke. How did living paycheck to paycheck make you feel as a person? At your lowest point, how much debt did you have?
I spent about 4 years as an unemployed single mom living way below the poverty level, so paycheck to paycheck wasn’t even in the picture at that point. But it definitely was in the years prior to that, even though I made decent money. (Funny how you can feel like you never have any money until you really don’t.)
I always felt so frustrated. I would try and try to get ahead and make progress on paying off debt, and I never got anywhere. Things just kept coming up, and I couldn’t understand why I kept failing.
Of course, I missed the obvious in that the reason things just kept “coming up” was because I hadn’t planned for them. Every month is going to be an unusual month unless you do something about it.
As far as debt goes, the most I had was just over $367,000. (That includes a $220K out-of-state duplex I’d bought with an interest-only loan. While unemployed. Thankfully, I came to my senses on the duplex and sold it almost immediately.) Later, my husband and I paid off our remaining $147,000+ in debt.
What are some of your biggest financial mistakes?
Well I’m sure taking out a $220K interest-only loan counts, but I really lucked out in getting rid of the duplex right away. That mistake could have had some huge consequences otherwise, especially since it was right before the housing market crashed.
Not having an emergency fund at all for many years definitely counts too. Like so many people, I relied on a credit card for emergencies instead. (I’ve since found that MONEY works much better.) I finally woke up to the importance of an emergency fund when I got divorced from my first husband in my early 30s, and then saw the writing on the wall at my job. In fact, I went out and got a second full time job just to build it. That money definitely came in handy during those years of unemployment that followed.
Another big financial mistake was not really saving for retirement until my late 30s. That combined with all those years of unemployment really did a number on my finances.
On the other hand, feeling kind of panicked was also the catalyst that lead me to pursue financial independence. I vowed that I was never going to be in that situation again. I wanted FREEDOM. So I think many times mistakes help make us who we are.
Describe your upbringing. Where did you grow up? What did your parents or teachers teach you about money?
My family moved all around the Midwest when I was a kid, which I enjoyed. We moved to Arizona after my parents got sick of all the snow when I was 9. So I spent the rest of my childhood and almost all of my adult life living in the Phoenix area. (Excluding a 3 month stint where I lived & worked in Germany.)
As far as learning about money goes, my mom taught me the technical details (things like how to balance a checkbook, pay bills, and manage paperwork.) My dad taught me that if you want to buy something you needed money, and that you should always have a little something set aside for emergencies. (If only I’d listened to him sooner.)
Both sets of grandparents were entrepreneurs, which was inspiring. I also spent quite a bit of time learning about stocks and taxes from one of my grandpas. He made talking about money regularly seem normal and fun.
As far as school goes, I had one fabulous teacher in elementary school who made the classroom a working city economy for the entire school year. We all had jobs, paid for things with “money” we earned doing them, kept track of our finances, went shopping, paid taxes, etc. I wish every school did something like that. It was the best. (Junior Achievement has some similar programs, but for a day.)
I feel like I got taught a lot more about money growing up than many people do. But knowledge doesn’t help if you don’t use it.
How important is becoming financially woke to you? What steps have you take to increase your financial knowledge?
Super important. I’ve read many personal finance and investing books, learned from other personal finance experts, and tried out a lot of things. I’ve spent the past 17 or so years making up for lost time and putting financial knowledge into action.
What are some of the key principles you have used to improve your financial life?
Getting out of debt is #1 for sure. After that I would say saving regularly, maxing out tax advantaged accounts, and just plain having a plan for financial independence. (And then backup plans too, because life.)
How often do you consume personal finance information? Name 3-5 of your favorites sources (books, podcasts, blogs, etc.).
Pretty regularly. My favorite money-related books are Your Money or Your Life and The Intelligent Investor. I also really enjoy Vitaliy Katsenelson’s newsletter. (His site is the Contrarian Edge.)
Where are you on the path to financial freedom now?
My husband and I are completely debt free, and are technically FI now. (Although we would be living pretty lean if we both quit actively generating income.) So we’re still working our way further down that path so that we can continue to travel a lot, etc. I think we’re probably not traditional FIRE folks in that we never intentionally cut back in tons of areas to get there as quickly as possible. But the goal has always been the same, and we’ve made steady progress toward it at a pace that’s good for us.
Is there any advice/encouraging words you can give those who are struggling to escape Broke Phi Broke?
Just know that it IS possible to change your life. You’ve got to focus on what you want most more than whatever you want right now. People talk about sacrifice a lot, but I think it helps to reframe it as getting what’s important to you. Change your life to make your dreams a reality. It takes a bunch of tiny steps to do that, so if you take the first one and keep going, you’ll get there eventually. Also, know that everyone has setbacks and that asking for help is a good idea. It doesn’t mean you’re a failure. It means you’re normal. Keep going 🙂
How can the readers contact you?
I’d be happy to hear from them at my website or on social media. (I’m @realJackieBeck pretty much everywhere on social media.) Thanks for the interview!
Questions to Ponder
- How much money do you have in your emergency fund? Would you consider getting a second job to increase its amount?
- Have you ever relied on credit cards for emergencies?
- When was the last time you asked someone for help?
- When you were in elementary school, did your teacher turn the classroom into a working city economy for the entire year?
- Would you like to share your story of how you escaped Broke Phi Broke? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read more interviews in the From Broke to Financially Woke Series.
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Jerry is a Business Insider Contributing Writer who is obsessed with personal finance. He believes you can improve your financial situation by applying principles taught by the financial independence community to your financial life.
If you are having trouble saving, he recommends that you join the SaverLife Savings program where you can get a $60 reward after six months (no income requirement). All you have to do is put a minimum of $20 a month into a savings account. Easy, right?
For a fun read, check out his article 10 Signs You’re a Personal Finance Addict to see if you are a personal finance nerd.
Before you go, check out the new From Broke to Financially Woke Interview Series.
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