From Broke to Financially Woke Interview Series – Kassandra Dasent
Today, I am excited to share with you the third 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 Kassandra Dasent from Kassandradasent.com. On her blog, she states, “My mission is to help people from ALL walks of life go from broke to woke.” It’s clear that she was the quintessential candidate for this interview series.
What I love about her blog is that she focuses on the emotional aspect of money. In her post Reclaiming My Soul and My Calling, she writes about her struggle to overcome depression. It was such a powerful piece; it almost made me tear up.
Definitely check that out and her new Minding Your Money Facebook Live Series when you get a moment.
For now, read her moving story of how she escaped from Broke Phi Broke.
Introduce yourself. Where do you blog? What are some of your interests outside of financial independence?
My name is Kassandra Dasent and I am a personal finance consultant, certified financial education instructor and speaker. “Minding Your Money” is what I specialize in and my website www.kassandradasent.com is also where you’ll find my blog. I help people from ALL walks of life go from broke to woke. I focus on how the emotional quotient can have a direct and lasting impact on one’s relationship with money and communicate practical ways on how to improve their financial circumstances.
I love to read, whether books or articles of almost any genre. In addition I am a music lover. I played classical clarinet from the age of seven through my first year of university. I am also a singer-songwriter and the lead singer of a local band.
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 could have been the Vice President of this sorority! I was a dedicated member from my early twenties until I began my debt freedom journey in 2009. It represented over a decade of spending beyond my income and anxiously living paycheque to paycheque. On one hand, I thought I was doing well in that I could buy whatever I wanted and demonstrate to others that I was “successful”. In reality, I was struggling with low self-esteem and the need to validate myself through material things. My financial ignorance, poor decision making and emotional immaturity created the perfect storm of debt.
By the time I truly felt the walls closing in June 2009, I was $55K in debt. It was a combination of credit cards, a car loan, and bad business debt (I loaned money I didn’t have to someone who never paid me back). I pulled my head out of the proverbial sand, made the decision that I needed to pay it off and that I would do so in five years. With a multi-prong approach, I became consumer debt free 1.5 years earlier than planned, on Nov 21, 2012.
What are some of your biggest financial mistakes?
I have too many but one of the more painful ones included loaning close to $20K to someone in a business transaction and never seeing a cent of it repaid. This was especially hurtful, as I foolishly accessed my credit line in order to supply the loan. Another instance was filing for bankruptcy in my mid-twenties for a relatively low amount (less than $10K). I was misinformed by the trustee about my options and because I was financially illiterate, I agreed to it. Even after the bankruptcy, I still didn’t learn and kept on “livin’ la vida loca” and racked up $55K.
Describe your upbringing. Where did you grow up? What did your parents or teachers teach you about money?
I was born in Trinidad, West Indies and I am of mixed race. At the age of six, my mother and I immigrated to Montreal, QC, Canada. In Montreal, I was raised in a predominantly white middle-class suburb. However, for a long time we were a very low income household. My mother was a single parent who worked for years first as a chambermaid before taking courses to become a nursing assistant. She was a side hustler well before it become en vogue and out of necessity worked two or more jobs to make ends meet.
My mother was not financially savvy and due to overspending coupled with a job loss when I was 10, she was forced to declare bankruptcy. She however quickly learned from her mistakes. She began to live below her means and purchasing only what she could afford. She saved regularly and although she was too fearful of the stock market, she invested in Canada Savings Bonds. My mom eventually landed a permanent full-time nursing assistant role in a public nursing home run by the QC government and was able to create financial stability for us.
Unfortunately I did not heed her financial advice or consider her life experiences. She tried often to talk to me about spending less and saving more but I never took her seriously. I had the “I know it all” attitude which contributed to more than a decade of missed opportunities of making my income work for me and serious financial consequences.
How important is becoming financially woke to you? What steps have you take to increase your financial knowledge?
I define financially woke as being both emotionally and financially conscious. Putting financial knowledge and emotional awareness into practice is powerful and that is when you start to see progress and success in your finances. In the early days of my financial education, I started off by reading many books including The Automatic Millionaire by David Bach and The 9 Steps to Financial Freedom by Suze Orman.
Interestingly enough, I discovered the online personal finance community when I was close to becoming debt free but I was immediately hooked. As a result, I started my first blog in late 2013 called More Than Just Money. I learned so much from others about not only aiming for financial stability but creating wealth through investing in order to achieve financial independence. In 2016, I decided to obtain my CFEI designation from the National Financial Educators Council. I primarily serve and educate GenX and those in disadvantaged communities on how they can go from broke to woke.
What are some of the key principles you have used to improve your financial life?
To speed up my timeline during my consumer debt paydown, I found ways to increase my income. I negotiated raises with my primary employer. I also turned to side hustles which included being paid to sing as a backing vocalist and as a solo performer. I did what many would not consider which was to downsize and live with a roommate for one year in order save on expenses and apply those savings to my debt. I also carefully assessed my spending and reduced or eliminated things that were not truly important to me. I began to practice conscious spending and I learned that I needed to direct the potential for growth of my money.
When I married my husband, we established our common financial goals and we still regularly review our expenses and savings. As a couple it is crucial to understand how the other perceives money and what they want to accomplish with it. The key is finding a management approach that both people are happy with.
As the family CFO, I espouse simplicity and try to approach our finances from that perspective. When it comes to investing, I invest in ETFs and index funds and hold all our investments with Vanguard. I look for funds that have stood the test of time in terms of value and results and that have low fees.
How often do you consume personal finance information? Name 3-5 of your favorites sources (books, podcasts, blogs, etc.).
Almost daily. I consider it my responsibility as someone in the personal finance space to be aware of what is being published in terms of financial concepts and strategies. Many ideas are old, tried and true. However, often someone will produce a gold nugget of wisdom or a different approach that is worth considering.
Where are you on the path to financial freedom now?
We remain consumer debt free six years and counting. My husband and I are focused on paying off our mortgage in the next five to seven years. We took on a new mortgage in 2018 after selling our previous home. We invest in retirement accounts and a taxable brokerage account. Our Kiss Off fund, aka FU fund, is fully in place. The latter, along with my husband and I being able to live on one income, gave me the green light to resign my former role as a Software Project Manager in 2019. I now concentrate my efforts full-time as an entrepreneur.
Despite our late start, my husband and I are solidly on the road to financial independence but I am in no immediate rush to get there. We have already created a way of life where much of it will be mirrored once we hit FI. The obvious difference is that we will no longer need to work if we so choose. We are able to be present for each other and our family while enjoying what we do for a living. It is still a juggling act at times but I am grateful for all of it.
Is there any advice/encouraging words you can give those who are struggling to escape Broke Phi Broke?
Call this tough love but love nonetheless. It is not enough to think you want to be free of being broke. It is not enough to consume information that can help get you out of the cycle of financial instability and poverty.
Until you address what is at the root causing you to struggle financially, beyond tangible evidence such as not earning enough, spending too much, socio-economic disparity, racial inequality, you will continue to experience the same results. I am talking about mindset.
Those that succeed in their desired goal understand not only what can help them to get there but identify aspects that may be holding them back — and they deal with it.
Get real with yourself. When you are ready to experience change, the personal finance community is here and willing to help you navigate past the challenges you are facing.
Without the belief that you can and deserve to be wealthy, you will remain broke in spirit and truth. For me, the moment I unequivocally believed that I would one day be debt free was when I had the courage to take actionable measures that made a difference. It takes both mind and matter.
How can the readers contact you?
In addition to my website, please feel welcome to reach me via email email@example.com and Twitter @kassandradasent
- Have you ever struggled with low self-esteem and tried to cure it by purchasing material things? If so, what steps did you take to fix this issue?
- How do you feel about loaning your close ones money? Have you loaned them money before and they didn’t pay you back?
- What is the root cause of your financial struggles?
- 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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