Momentum Series Interview – Ms Fiology: Redemption & Financial Independence
This marks feature #31 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 Deanna from Ms Fiology to the Momentum Series! Deanna is an amazing blogger that produces high quality content on financial independence, personal finance, career growth, personal development and much more.
Deanna has a powerful story of redemption after struggling with addiction earlier in life. She dug herself out of that trouble, eliminated her debt and is now on the path to financial independence.
If you want to connect with Deanna of Ms Fiology:
With that said, please welcome Deanna and enjoy the Momentum Series Interview – Ms Fiology: Redemption & Financial Independence.
Hello! My name is Deanna and at the time I’m writing this I’m a 45-year old single woman. If there is one word which can be used to describe my life it is transformed. By the grace of God, I was able to get sober from drug addiction, out of an abusive relationship, and become debt free. Now I get to be on the redemptive path of saving for financial independence. Moreover, my past is turned into something beautiful when I’m able to help other women.
I started my blog about 4 months after getting out of debt. In addition to helping others, I wanted to keep accountable to my financial goals.
I know my story is one that resonates with people who may have thought it too late. Furthermore, I wholeheartedly believe that I have a gift as a result of recovering from addiction. The gift I possess is understanding. I am uniquely positioned to help other women who are coming out of the trenches as well. I help women one-on-one in recovery but my hope is that my blog can be a resource to a larger audience. Most women in recovery have financial wreckages to clean up.
Funny story: when I was at my 10 year high school reunion, they had a contest to see who had been in school the longest. I almost went up on stage because it had taken me 10 years to get my bachelor’s degree. I’m glad I didn’t because here’s how it would have went down:
Hi, I am Cathy and I have a PhD in Aerospace Engineering
Hi, I am Tricia and I have a MD in Internal Medicine
Hi, I am Deanna and I have a bachelor’s degree in Economics
Haha! In all seriousness, I just didn’t know what I wanted to do so here is why my undergrad degree took 10 years:
- Started out at a community college
- Transferred to Kent State University
- I switched majors a couple of times
- Partying was often my major 😉
- I took time off to travel and moved to Colorado
- Became a resident of Colorado
- Went back to school at Metropolitan State College of Denver and fell in love with Economics
- Three friends & I took a few months to backpack through Europe
- I was married in 1998
- Divorced & bankrupt in 2000
- Went back to school at Cleveland State University and finished in 2002
Phew! That is a journey. I often joke that while it took me 10 years to get my undergrad degree, I got my Master’s degree in 1 year. When I was in my early 30’s I realized I wanted to be a math teacher. I did some post baccalaureate work and got into an intensified one year Master’s program at Kent State University. This is where $40k of my debt came from.
Interestingly, I’m not currently teaching math. However, I do teach and I do math but not together. I’m currently working for a broker/third party administrator. I met my boss in 2010 and was so impressed by his small company. He came up with a unique way to help small businesses by setting up a semi-self funded model for health insurance. For small businesses the math of self-funding doesn’t work, but his semi self-funding model does.
I was offered to come join his team in 2011. It was a whole new world to me but I was happy for the challenge.
I’ve been able to grow my income by 70% in the 7 years I’ve been there by good old fashioned hard work and a little career hacking.
I currently manage accounts and calculate the best financial positioning for our clients within out unique model. Furthermore, I get to go out to our clients and teach their employees about their benefits.
In your 30’s you’d hit the trenches of trouble with addiction and debt. Can you share how you got there? Was it a gradual progression?
Upon reflection in sobriety I was able to recognize I always had the propensity for more. It first manifested in high school when I drank alcoholically. I grew up a very insecure child and so when I took my first drink, I became everything I thought I wasn’t – funny, smart, outgoing and pretty.
I found I could become who I wanted to become through outside substances. It was smoke and mirrors.
I got into “recreational” drug using after high school and the pattern of the next 18 years of my life was born. I’d use substances to the brink of insanity then I’d clean myself up. That was the basic ebb and flow of my life and I fooled myself that I had control of it all.
In my 20’s I had some years where I slowed down from drug use. However, with an unreconciled past and the failure to admit my problem, I was defenseless from falling back into it.
In my 30’s after I finished grad school, I was reintroduced to my drug of choice. I had no defense against it. I walked away from my dream of teaching and went down the dark road of addiction and abuse. Ultimately, this lead lead to my bottom.
Was there a ‘breaking point’ moment when you said ‘enough is enough’? What sparked that initial momentum to break free from those chains holding you back?
There was a breaking moment. Although, prior to actually breaking free, there were little epiphanies leading up to my departure from that lifestyle.
I remember on my 36 birthday I was standing outside on a freezing cold day in January with my dog, smoking a cigarette. I cried and cried for what my life had become.
Additionally, there were many episodes of me looking in the mirror and cursing myself. I would say things like, “I don’t know who you are anymore. You disgust me.” I was the quintessential self hating addict.
On a very dark but glorious day in August of 2009, I had a breaking point. I had a vision where I saw three distinct paths:
- Me rocking back and forth in an insane asylum
- Complete blackness
- A glimmer of light
I knew if I kept doing what I was doing I would end up on path #1. I recognized the darkness as death and contemplated taking my life at that moment. Finally, I knew the glimmer of light to be a God I once knew.
At that moment, I got down on my knees and prayed for the first time in a long time and asked for help.
It took one more week and another vision before I got up the courage to leave the abusive relationship. Once I did this I was able to quit the drugs. I have never looked back except to understand why, how, ultimately heal, and help others.
What kept you motivated on that journey to transform? Were there any specific mindsets, mantras or strategies you used to stay on the correct path?
At first it was all about being honest with myself and others. Actually, telling the truth was the only thing that made me feel sane. You see, I had been living a dual life and telling lies for years. The truth was refreshing and simpler than keeping up with my lies.
My actual sobriety date became February 1, 2010. After I quit the drugs, I continued to drink minimally until I decided it wasn’t worth the risk. The recognition that any mood or mind altering substance was dangerous for me has been a key to my success.
Furthermore, I wanted to comprehend how the heck I ended up as an abused addict. So I embarked on a journey of understanding as a hedge against it ever happening again. In this I embraced the following:
- What were my resentments?
- What is the role I played?
- When did I first start believing lies about myself?
- Where did these lies come in?
- Healing & forgiveness
- Making amends/cleaning up my side of the street
- Unveiling the truth about who God says I am
- Believing new things about myself
- Helping others
As a result of this hard work, my relationships have changed.
Occasionally, the shadows of what I formerly believed about myself appear. However, I stay on the path of recovery with prayer and the help of the people who I remain accountable to. Furthermore, I get to be an accountability partner to other women who are finding their victories.
After taking back control of your life, you shifted focus to your finances. Can you share the details of where you were with that debt in total and how you navigated through that until debt freedom in 2017?
In 2014, I became ready to tackle my finances. When I put out the call for help, I was steered towards the Dave Ramsey camp.
A woman from my church met with me and helped me get on a budget. Additionally, she taught me the first two baby steps that Dave Ramsey suggests.
I quickly got a baby emergency fund and started working the debt snowball. I was looking at paying off $46,763 (not including my house). During the process, I lost my home to foreclosure. This was a low point but I used it to catapult me into a season of intensity. I moved in with my parents in the fall of 2016 and made my final payment in December of 2017.
How did you find the concept of financial independence? What was the immediate takeaway or thought process in terms of application into your own life?
In the spring of 2017, I was plugging along and listening to copious amounts of the Dave Ramsey podcast. I had a colleague, Carson, who turned me onto the ChooseFI podcast and my world was rocked!
It took several episodes before I understood the concept of Financial Independence (FI). The progression went something like this:
- Live below your means and use compound interest to build wealth?? Woah!
- Who the heck are these people??
- People are actually able to retire early in life, whaaat?!?
- It might be too late for me.
- Nope, I am going for it anyway.
- Sign me up!
I’m not an idiot. I did understand the concept of compound interest, but I had always been drowning in so much debt that didn’t think I’d ever be able to take advantage of it.
By following a plan to crush my debt, I had the mental space to dream about building wealth. I had already learned to live frugally and discovered I was no less happy. I knew working toward FI would be the next long term financial goal in my life.
What strategies and tactics have you implemented to best set yourself up for financial success since finding financial independence?
Firstly, paying off my debt has set me up to have a high savings rate. Before getting out of debt, I started contributing minimally to my employer-sponsored simple IRA. However, I knew I’d max it out in 2018.
I read JL Collins book, A Simple Path to Wealth and formulated my investment strategy and asset allocation. The tax advantaged accounts I’m maxing out for 2018 are:
- Employer-Sponsored Simple IRA
- Roth IRA
Furthermore, I have an after tax-brokerage account to contribute to.
Is there an area or area(s) of your own personal finances that you’re still looking to better master and improve?
I want to become more diversified. This may mean getting into the real estate market and employing a form of house hacking. I’m currently building up my savings account for a downpayment on a property.
Additionally, I’d like to grow more streams of revenue. Currently I’m focusing on my blog, helping women, and thinking about other projects which have the potential to produce an income.
What are some of the most influential resources that have shaped your money mindset or financial situation?
I already mentioned JL Collins, The Simple Path to Wealth, but it’s worthy of repeating. Additionally, these books have influenced me:
- The Bible
- The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey
- The Millionaire Next Door by Thomas J. Stanley, Ph.D. and William D.Danko, Ph.D
- Meet the Frugalwoods by Elizabeth Willard Thames
- The Year of Less by Cait Flanders
- Mindset by Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D.
- The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
- Essentialism by Greg McKeown
Some of these books are not overtly about money but rather habits. Developing healthy habits, in my humble opinion, is the way to change your life and that includes finances.
Um, well I think you know my favorite podcast already! ChooseFI bar none. I don’t listen to a ton of other podcasts. My other regular is the Everyday Money Show. I listen to some Tim Ferriss podcast interviews as well.
It is a balance in being a blog content producer and a consumer of blogs. Sometimes I have to take a hiatus from reading to write. However, I do get inspiration from reading others so here are some I enjoy from time to time:
- ESI Money
- Saving Joyfully
- The Retirement Manifesto
- Get Rich Slowly
- Route to Retire
- Money with a Purpose
- Good Life. Better.
- Guy on Fire
- She Picks Up Pennies
- Early Retirement Now
- Rose Colored Water
- Mastering the Side Jam
- Half Life Theory
- Military Dollar
- Reaching for FI
- Tread Lightly, Retire Early
- Seonwoo Lee
- Montana Money Adventure
- Women Who Money
- Slowly Sipping Coffee
- Budgets are Sexy
- Peerless Money Mentor
- The Physician Philosopher
- Waffles on Wednesday
- Two Corporate Millennials
- Making Momentum 😉
- The Money Mix
- Chief Mom Officer
- Coco Jam Travels
- Freedom is Groovy
- Vital Dollar
Apps or Services
When did you first start blogging? Was there a specific launching off point or what influenced you to go down that path?
I started my blog in April of 2018. I first started writing for ChooseFI in the beginning of 2018. Once I developed my craft, I knew I wanted to start my own blog. Jonathan was a big encourager of this.
I followed ESI’s series on starting a blog and took action.
Is there a mission statement or underlying purpose to what you intend to accomplish with Ms. Fiology?
My mission statement is, “To love God and others. And to live a life of intention and purpose while employing my God-given gifts to teach and bring out the best in other people.”
I know I’m called to help women, whether it be from getting out of addiction or debt. I want my blog to be a place for women to get better.
Do you have any specific goals with your blog over the next 12 months? What tactics are you planning to leverage to accomplish these?
I want to hone in on my niche audience which I believe is women who want to get better in life.
I’m looking to partner with a few affiliates so that involves research as I only want to recommend services I value.
Additionally, I am working to set up my site so that people of varying levels can find what they need.
I’m putting my goals into Todoist so that I set aside the time needed to make improvements to my site.
If you could recommend 3 of your blog posts for Making Momentum readers to check out, what would those be?
Any final pieces of advice or recommendations?
If anyone is reading this and has lost hope, know that there is a way out. I could not see a way out of my bleak situation but I took the leap of faith. That leap has proven to be the best move in my life yet.
Don’t compare yourself to others. Especially with all of the social media outlets, don’t get caught up in the highlight reels of other’s lives. All of our situations are unique and personal.
However, I do recommend that everyone get some accountability. For accountability, choose others you trust and want to emulate. I believe we are meant to live in community and that means sharing our secrets, heartaches, hopes, dreams, struggles, finances, and goals.
Lastly, if you have a past you need to reconcile with, do it. Life is short and life is beautiful, so clean it up and find your purpose!