Momentum Series Interview – Money Saved Is Money Earned: Spreading Financial Education
This marks feature #46 in the Momentum Series – an interview series to share the stories of bloggers from across the personal finance community.
The goal is to showcase their story, the wins, the losses and the actionable advice that others can take value from and insights about their blogging journey. Whether that be conquering debt, maximizing career earnings, the road to financial independence or other strategies for financial and blogging success.
This week I’m very excited to welcome Tawnya, one half of the blogging duo, from the great personal finance website Money Saved Is Money Earned.
Tawnya is a elementary special education teacher who has had strong financial roots instilled from a young age thanks to her grandparents. On the blog, Tawnya and Sebastian, share their knowledge of finance topics in order to help others understand finance and reach their money goals.
If you want to connect with Tawnya from Money Saved Is Money Earned:
Ladies and gentlemen please enjoy Momentum Series Interview – Money Saved Is Money Earned: Spreading Financial Education.
I’m Tawnya and I’m half of the duo at Money Saved is Money Earned. I’m 32 and it’s just me and my dogs currently. I enjoy reading, writing, sports, outdoor activities, and travel. I’m also a huge Portland Trail Blazers fan.
My co-blogger and I started Money Saved is Money Earned last March. Our goal is to provide financial education, primarily to youth, but also to anyone who needs it. My co-blogger is older than myself, retired, and an immigrant from India. We bring very different backgrounds and life experiences, and we hope that between the two of us we can connect with a wide range of readers.
I have both a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree. I graduated from Oregon State University in 2009 with an Honors Bachelor’s in Psychology, and from Portland State University in 2014 with a Master’s in Special Education.
I’m an elementary special education teacher, and work with students in treatment due to trauma and behavioral struggles. In fact, I work at a treatment facility and not in a typical school setting. My job entails a great deal of social/emotional coaching and behavior management as well as traditional academics. My class size ranges from 7-9 students, and they typically range in age, grade, and ability.
Has taking control of your money and mastering your personal finances always been your mindset as an adult? Can you share the coles notes version of your financial journey?
Yes, although I didn’t necessarily realize it was. My grandparents were great financial role models, as they have always had good financial sense and encouraged me to save. However, even from a young age I displayed many traits that set the stage for me to be successful with money as an adult. I was always willing to wait until I could have the one I wanted (delayed gratification), I didn’t like to spend my money and was a saver (I saved around $5k at my grandparents’ house up through college), and I was content with what I had (didn’t always want the newest and best). I was also very driven and willing to work hard for what I wanted.
As an adult, my journey has focused on building upon those natural traits by working hard to reach my goals and to keep my spending and debt low. I’ve also continually sought to learn more about finances, which has allowed me to set even loftier goals in my sights. My grandparents and natural tendencies put me ahead of the game at a young age, but now I’m ready to take my game to the next level with everything I’m learning from the personal finance community.
What strategies and tactics have you implemented in your to life to best set you up for financial success?
As I mentioned above, I possess a lot of traits naturally that have helped me to succeed with finances. I don’t like to spend money, which has motivated me to be as frugal as possible and to save as much as possible. It also helps that I’m not motivated to always have the latest and greatest, and I’m not driven to impress others with my “things.”
My natural saving tendencies, combined with a high drive to succeed, have meant that I’ve been willing to work as hard as necessary to meet my goals, including financial ones. Yet another tactic is my aversion to debt, which has been helped by my tendency to be content with what I already have. I’ve always worked to pay off debt as quickly as possible and avoided accruing more unless necessary.
Have you made any major financial mistakes? If so, what was the outcome and what did you learn from these mistakes?
I haven’t made any huge financial mistakes per se, but I have been late to the game in some areas and would be much farther along if I’d known what I know now. As mentioned, my grandparents were major financial role models for me. The downside to them being role models is that many of their habits were a result of the era they grew up in, namely, being Depression era people.
Both my grandparents avoided any stock market investing (other than IRA’s), and also don’t use credit cards. As a result, I avoided those areas until fairly recently, which has put me behind a bit. If I’d known then what I know now, I would have started an IRA as soon as possible and been contributing to it instead of just recently. I’d have also started investing in other areas much earlier, and taken advantage of credit card hacking years before I did.
Although I’m still doing better than the vast majority of people my age, hindsight is 20/20 and I wish I’d had more financial education at a younger age.
What are some of the most influential resources that have shaped your money mindset or financial situation?
Honestly, the main shaper of my financial mindset were my grandparents and my natural tendencies toward saving/avoiding debt. I was also given guidance by my now co-blogger, Sebastian, who had a 30-year career as a public employee.
I had no idea there was such a huge group of like-minded individuals until I joined the blogger community last year. As such, my answers for the following will be pretty scarce.
I recently read Grant Sabatier’s Financial Freedom, and found it very inspiring. The book helped solidify some things that had been percolating in my head, and gave me new ideas to pursue. I’ve actually changed my investing strategies in the last couple months as a result of reading his book.
I don’t have any finance podcasts that I listen to regularly.
I was inspired to start a blog after following Michelle from Making Sense of Cents for several years. I also followed The Penny Hoarder. Now that I’m immersed in the personal finance blogger community, my main recommendation would be Rockstar Finance simply because you’ll find all the latest articles from almost all personal finance blogs there.
Apps or Services
I haven’t used any apps or services with any regularity. I prefer to budget and whatnot the old fashioned way.
Is there an area or area(s) of your own personal finances that you’re still looking to better master and improve?
I’m always looking to improve. The main area I’ve been learning about lately is investing. My teaching job offers a pension, so I’ve been contributing to that for years. However, I recently started a 403(b), a Roth IRA, and a separate brokerage account with Vanguard. I’d like to contribute more to my investments rather than just save.
Another area I’d like to look into is real-estate investing. It’s been a goal of mine ever since buying my first home 3 ½ years ago, but I recently had an epiphany (while reading Grant’s book). I realized that I could use the equity in my home for the down payment rather than having to save up that money. I plan on looking into everything this summer in the hopes of purchasing my first rental property next winter.
Other than those two things, I hope to look into a better place to park my savings (to earn more interest) and continue to try and grow my blog into a nice side business.
If you could send a memo to every 18-22 year old in North America about better managing their finances and understanding money but it could only be 3 sentences long, what would that memo be?
If you want to be set for life listen up. Work as hard as you can to educate yourself and build your skills, don’t buy something unless you can afford it, and save as much of your money as you can by opening an IRA account and other investments. Try to be content with what you have while always striving to improve yourself, but don’t worry about how you stack up to others because there will always be someone with more.
Can you explain the mindset around the shift from consumerism to frugalism that you’ve written about?
Our world is built on consumerism and this idea of always wanting more. Well, wanting more and getting more also means spending more. When you really think about it, almost everyone and everything you encounter during the day is trying to get you to spend money. Media and marketing is all around us, and always trying to convince us that our life isn’t complete without whatever it is they’re selling. While marketing has always been there, our access and exposure to it has exploded in the last 20 or so years so that it’s constantly in our face. Not only that, the advent and explosion of social media has added another layer to the classic idea of keeping up with the Jones’.
All of these factors have combined in such a way that we are actually conditioned from an early age to be huge consumers. The problem is that we are also given little education into financial matters, so our desire to consume makes us easy targets for financial institutions, car dealers, and other corporations. We want it, but have no idea what we’re getting ourselves into to get it, and worse, often times we don’t care.
Shifting your mindset from consumerism to frugalism is two-pronged. One, we hope to provide financial education so that people understand how finances and financial institutions work. However, we also hope to provide education into habit-formation, social psychology, marketing, and all these other outside factors that try to shape who we are and turn us into mindless consumerist beings. Once you understand how you’ve been conditioned by your background, marketing, and social media, you can begin to combat bad financial habits.
What are some strategies that people can implement to counteract those bad financial habits or negative influences made by social media and marketing efforts?
Once you understand how these systems work, you can make a concerted effort to not be swayed by them. You can learn how to use the systems to your advantage by getting good deals, not paying unnecessary interest, and not being caught up in the rush to get the newest and best no matter the cost.
You can begin to shift your focus to saving money on new purchases and getting maximum usage out of what you already have. When you begin to think in this way, your satisfaction will no longer be tied to the object itself, but to the money you saved through choosing that object both at purchase and through long-term use.
Next time you are tempted to make a purchase, think long and hard about why you’re considering that purchase.
For example, a new or different car.
Do you already have one that runs fine? Are you jealous because your friend just bought a new car? Are you embarrassed because your car is old? Did you see a new model advertised on TV? Are you thinking about all the attention you’ll get from your family and friends?
If any of these reasons cross your mind, then you’re practicing consumerism.
When did you first start blogging? Was there a specific launching off point or what influenced you to go down that path?
We launched our blog on March 7th, 2018. However, we did a lot of background work before launching the site, and had talked about starting a blog for a couple years before we actually did it. We got serious about blogging in December of 2017 and began writing articles.
We wanted to make sure we had a nice stock of articles and a sound business plan before launch. We spent December through March writing, getting our site and business set up, and researching blogging.
Is there a mission statement or underlying purpose to what you intend to accomplish with Money Saved Is Money Earned?
Our goal is to teach people of all ages how financial systems work, and how to take advantage of these systems to save big money. Both Sebastian and I are passionate about educating others, as we are both sickened when we hear stories of people being tricked and taken advantage of.
Do you have any specific goals with your blogs over the next 12 months? What tactics are you planning to leverage to accomplish these?
Our main goals are to continue to build our readership and to continue to monetize. We’ve dabbled in monetization but we’re still very new in that area. Other goals include booking our first speaking engagement, reaching out to more brands for collaboration, and possibly writing a book.
If you could recommend 3 of your blog posts for Making Momentum readers to check out, what would those be?
The 3 posts I’d most recommend to readers are:
Any final pieces of advice or recommendations?
My overall piece of advice to others is to always focus on making yourself better than you were. It’s true that some are given a head start in life, but as my grandpa would say, focusing on what others have doesn’t help you become better, it only helps you become bitter.
Any special shout-outs?
I’d like to give a special shout-out to some inspirational bloggers that I’ve had the good fortune to interact with this past year, and who I now consider friends.