September 17, 2021
Britt: Nicole is a CEO, money coach, and financial literacy advocate, who specializes in helping 20 and 30 something year old women effortlessly manage their money. Our community is full of people who love to travel. So we really want to learn about how to travel more and how to afford it. Hey, there, how's it going?
Nicole: Hello. I am great. Thank you so much for having me on.
Britt: Thank you for being here. As I was saying, it's a crazy time right now. I think a lot of people in this last year have been doing a lot of reflecting, a lot of recalibrating. What does my life look like? What does my life want to look like? How have I been living to this point? How can I do things to actually take charge of the way that I live and excel in this world? I think money is such a big part of that, but sometimes people don't want to talk about it. But that's why I'm so happy to have you here. And I would love it if you could just start off by telling us a little bit about you and how you got to where you are.
Nicole: Yeah. I love that. Well, first of all, thank you so much for having me on. I am so excited to be here today and talk about all things money. And I totally agree with what you are saying. When you mentioned that a lot of people find that money is a really stressful topic for them. So I really want to help debunk some of those myths and just normalize it a little bit more, make it more of an easy conversation to have. Because we don't just have to have stressful conversations around money, we can have happy and exciting and fun conversations around money, and it doesn't need to be that way, it does get to be easy.
So like a lot of people, I was in a similar kind of situation. I went to university. I did what I was supposed to do. I got the nine to five corporate job and I was like, yes, this is what I've been working my butt off for. Finally I've made it, now I can be happy. Now I can finally live life. And I started looking around at all the people in my corporate office and I'm like, okay, they all have to be happy, right? Because they all have this amazing job and they're doing all the things and they got what they really wanted. And I'm like, well, you know, nobody's really happy. Okay, this is kind of weird. I'm like, well, I'll be happy, I'll be happy. This is what I wanted. I've made it. I worked so hard to get here. And I kept waiting for this happiness to come, this feeling of fulfillment, this feeling of okay, now I have it all, and it didn't come. And I was like, something is missing. I want it to be able to have a wedding and I want to be able to buy a house. And if people are watching this from Ontario, you know our housing market is freaking insane.
So I'm sitting there, I'm like, I have all these goals that I want to do, but I'm also still $40,000 in debt for my student loans. I've got $0 in savings. And at this point, even though I'm making more money than I ever have in my life, I'm still living paycheque to paycheque. And it just felt like this vicious cycle that I didn't know how to break out of. And I was like, okay, you know what, I'm a very how-can-I kind of person. I'm going to stop playing the victim here. I'm going to take control my life, take radical responsibility for everything. Even if it's not my fault, I'm going to take responsibility for it so that I can figure out how I can change it for the better.
I went back to the drawing board. I started budgeting, restricting myself doing all these things, and I'm like, this isn't working. The traditional advice just wasn't working. It wasn't providing me the outcome that I wanted. And I'm like, there has to be another way, right? Other people are succeeding, and I'm feeling super stuck. I'm feeling like I'm falling behind. There has to be another way. So I went back to the drawing board, I learned everything I could about personal finance, about psychology, about the psychology of money, about investing, about real estate. And from there, I was able to actually pay off my $40,000 of student loans in 18 months. I ended up flipping my first property for $150,000 profit. And from there built up a $500,000 net worth in my twenties that now rose on its own every day. And I positioned myself based on the investments I made in my twenties to retire a millionaire in my thirties even if I never saved or invested another dollar.
Britt: Girl, that is all incredible. First of all, congratulations for getting to where you are, that's no easy feat. I know that you're sitting here trying to tell people it's not that hard, you just need to make some simple recalibration. I think you've touched on a really interesting narrative, especially for the millennial woman. We graduated with all this debt and we get these jobs, and we do what we're supposed to, and we're just kind of waiting there patiently for our bank account to start looking like what we think an adult bank account is supposed to look like, with zeros in it and investments and RSPs. All this stuff that we actually haven't been taught much about has been the biggest problem. So what is the first step that you would tell somebody looking to recalibrate the way that we look at our own bank accounts, and the ability that the money allows us to live the lives we want to live?
Nicole: There's two things, I think the biggest thing is learning how to see money as a tool. So imagine you make $50,000 a year, that means you have 50,000 little workers. So you own a company, you have 50,000 little workers, and you want to put them to work, because each one of those dollars is a physical representation of hours of your life. So if we're lucky, we get about 700,000 hours in a lifetime, okay? And if we don't learn how to invest, that means we're always trading our time for money or hours of our life for dollars. So every dollar you have or you own is a physical representation of an hour of your life. And from there, learning okay, well, I've traded my finite time on this earth for this money, I want to use it to build the life that I want. So from there, I really would want people to figure out what their 'why' is.
And it's not as easy as people may think, to figure out what your why is. Why you're doing all of this. I had an existential crisis where I was just like, who am I and why am I here? What is the point of anything? And I started reading all of these philosophy books and what is the meaning of happiness and stuff. And what I came up with was the point of life is to just be happy and enjoy yourself. So if you are living in misery every day, you need to do something about that. I mean, if something is not aligned, your actions and your values are not aligned. So we need to figure out our why, and a great way to do this is asking yourself what do you want and then going back and digging deeper. So asking yourself why five times.
So a lot of people will be like, "Well, Nicole, I want to be rich". Well, I'm going to bet that you don't actually physically want like a million ones in the bank. That's not what you want. Why do you want to be rich? "Oh, because I don't want to work my job anymore". Why? "Because I don't get to spend enough time with family and friends." Going back from there, when you get to the root cause, it's like, "Oh, wow. That's why. That's why I'm doing all this." And you can use that why and that real reason because it is so much more powerful and will do such a better job of pushing you towards your goals than just saying, "I want a million ones in the bank".
Britt: Totally. And it's just that fuel, right? Because I think we were raised to believe that these dollars in the bank will equal this. But unless you actually really know what you want this to be, there's no fuel to actually help you get there. And I think that it's such an interesting way to put it.
And now when it comes to my community, we are of the mind that traveling is worth it because it affords you so many opportunities that money can't buy. But travel is one of these expenses that definitely can take a hit on your books. It's a big chunk of money that you see leave your bank account, and maybe it doesn't allow us to travel as much as we want to in a year. But what would be some advice you'd give somebody who is an avid traveler and wants to keep up that lifestyle, but wants to continue also building their portfolio and their wealth?
Nicole: I think that's a great question. So I think the first thing would be to understand what your values are overall. And I think it's really easy for somebody from the outside world to look in on somebody else's life and pass judgments on where or how they're spending their money. And the thing is, as long as you are following some basic principles, where you spend the rest of your money actually doesn't matter. And this is why I don't believe in budgets, because I don't think we need to section off our spending in each area and limit it to a certain percentage like your vehicle needs to be under 10% and your housing needs to be under 30%. Because what if somebody doesn't drive a car, doesn't have kids, doesn't eat out, but they want to live downtown and it's 50% of their income, but they don't care because they love that lifestyle? A budget traditionally would tell people, no, you're wrong for doing that. I don't think that that's right.
So in terms of travel, I think we want to understand what our values are as a human being. Some people really value health. So they might be okay spending a lot of money on a gym membership or expensive proteins or whatever. Some other people may really value beauty, so maybe they, I don't know, get facials all the time or something like that. And other people may really value travel. So if you really value travel, as long as you are paying your future self first, that you in 5 years, 10 years, 15 years, saving for that person as well, living on less than you make and investing early and often, you can spend on those other things.
So in terms of actually saving up for travel, I would say treat it the same as any other financial goal, right, because if we want money to go there, we need to start thinking of it as a financial goal. We want to understand, is it a long term goal or a short term goal? And then we want to reverse engineer it. So essentially, if you're like, "I'm going to go to Bali for a month, and that's going to be $7,000". Okay, cool. When are you going to go? "I'm going to go in two years." Okay, great. So let's break that down. Instead of saying I need to save $7,000 today, looking at that big goal can feel really scary and overwhelming. What I want you to do is break that down on a monthly basis or a biweekly basis. How many pay periods are there between now and when you want to go? Divide that into the lump sum you need, and that's your goal every two weeks or your goal every week or your goal every month. That becomes a lot more manageable. It becomes a lot more palatable. It gives you that psychological boost that you need because you're like, "Yeah, I saved that 250 bucks this week. I'm feeling really good about that." Instead of being like, "Oh my God, I only saved 250 bucks. I need 7,000."
Britt: Right. You hit the nail on the head when you were talking about the why. Why do you want to travel to Bali? What do you want to get out of it? What do you want to do there? What are the types of accommodations and the types of activities that you wanted to partake in that allow you to determine your budget. And to be honest, I personally started Origin Travels because I was a boots on the ground backpacker, who literally took a blind amount of money and was just like, you know what, I'm pretty sure this is going to last me in South East Asia for four months, I think. And so I took that money, booked a one way flight, and I went with my friend. It was crazy and very stressful because I was on a budget but not prepared for what the actual cost of it would be. So every day, it was kind of just like, okay, should I stay in this hostel that cost this much or should I stay in this guest house that kind of look safer and spend this much money?
But because I hadn't thought of the why in advance and given myself that ability to really get my ducks in a row, the trip was actually really stressful. And once I kind of stepped back and looked at the landscape of what what was being offered out there for young women who wanted to travel in an authentic way, I found that many women specific experiences out there were very much focused on luxury and mindfulness meditation, which are all beautiful things to practice, but didn't reflect the experiences that I wanted. So I said, you know what, I feel like I need to make a company for 20 to 30 something women that offers flexibility in terms of experience, style of the accommodation you want to stay at, the different activities you want to do because the reality is not one size fits all.
Britt: A millennial woman could be making $30,000 a year as an artist, but having an incredibly rich life in terms of what she enjoys. But we can also talk about a woman who's living an incredibly rich life making 200k a year. So the term millennial, you know, it's hard, but that's why when it comes down to it, it comes down to really digging into that why. And I think that that's very cool. So do you have any tips for creating a weekly or monthly budget for someone who has never made one before?
Nicole: Typically I stay away from the term budget, but I would say more of a spending plan. Budgeting not in the sense like I can only spend this much money on X, Y, and Z, but more about, okay, well, I'm kind of planning to spend this much money on these things, or this is how much money overall food could cost me. And getting a little bit more of an idea there, I definitely do think it's important to plan. It's a little bit different managing your finances from an overall perspective versus when you're like, hey, I have a limited amount of money while I'm out here -I have $5,000 and I'm going to be out here for two months and I want to make sure that this is going to last me. I think I might even go back and just say data and information is king, right? So getting as much information as you can beforehand about what your different options are going to be so that you can accurately plan.
And then also understanding, like you said, your why. Why are you doing this and what's important to you in an experience? For example, if I say traveling to Fiji, a lot of people might think there's really beautiful bungalows on the water. Those are super expensive and they might just think automatically that that's what they have to do, without realizing or understanding that there are other options for them. So I would say it's important to get really clear on what you're doing and why you're doing it. Because if you're going and you're like, I really love authentic cuisine, and that's what feels good to me, and I want to be able to go out there and really search for these things. And maybe your accommodation doesn't matter as much so you can allocate more money towards your food budget, because you really want to go there and eat and try all the things and have that experience versus maybe somebody who's like, I'm going to relax and rejuvenate and I want to be somewhere where there's amazing spas or something like that. They may have a different kind of spending plan there where it's like, hey, maybe the food doesn't matter as much, but their accommodation is something they're really willing to go all out on.
Britt: Yeah. That's a great tip. It's no small feat to kind of take a step out on your own and start your own company, take charge of your own life. There really needs to be a shakeup in your personal life or something that you learned outside of your comfort zone to make you really think that it's time to take hold of the life that I want, something that clicks. And so it could be travel related or it could just be within your own community, but can you name a time that maybe you stepped outside of your comfort zone, had an experience that rocked you and made you think differently about the things that you could personally achieve?
Nicole: Oh, my goodness, so many. I mean, we're talking about travel so I guess the first thing that kind of comes to mind was this really crazy experience we had. It was the first time I ever went away as an adult. And my boyfriend and I, who is now my husband. I was 18 at the time, we took an all-inclusive trip to the Dominican and we're like great, we went there, we blew all of our money. We didn't even bring our credit cards with us for some reason. I only had a debit card or I don't even know if I had a debit card. We spent all of our cash by the time we went back to the airport the last day there. And then we spent it on some chips or something. And then a tropical storm came in and all of the airport shut down, and we were trapped in the airport basically for three days with no money, no cell phone, no nothing. This was like a long time ago and I don't even think we had data. My mom ended up having to wire us money to a Western Union, which was super scary. I'm 18, I'm in this country. I don't know the language. It was really, really scary. And I think the biggest thing for me there was the airlines started giving people credits based on their ticket. They're like, "Hey, you can get a burger or whatever with your ticket now". And then the airport, because it was such a small one, actually ran out of food. So they grounded all the flights, you had your one little square to stand on, you couldn't move off of that. They were putting people on planes just to get them out of the airport because there was no room to stand. The Dominican Army was in there, it was really, really crazy.
Britt: Oh, my goodness.
Nicole: And I'm just like this 18 year old kid thinking what did I get myself into, zero dollars? And from there, it was like, wow, fail to plan and plan to fail. I think we should always be working towards the best but contingency planning for the worst. And that has been something that has rocked my world and really changed the way that I think about things moving forward. I could go on for like 35 minutes about all the things that happened while I was there. And it seems like you would have never thought that that would have happened and it's just so crazy. And it's still to this day something that really, really sticks with me. So it's like, anything can happen and this pandemic is a sign that anything can happen. Just hope for the best, work towards the best, but contingency plan and prepare yourself for the worst.
Britt: Honestly, it's crazy. I've also had to make that call to my mom. This time, I was actually in Indonesia, and she's like, "Where are you?" And I'm just like, off the coast of Indonesia somewhere. I just need this much money to go home. And I really love what you said, fail to plan, plan to fail and when it comes to travel, that's huge. Especially if you're finding yourself out of luck. You're down to your last dollar, like the last day of my four month trip through Southeast Asia, my friend and I literally only had enough money to get us back to the airport the next day, had money for one beer and one banh mi in Vietnam and we sat on the street and enjoyed it. And it makes for a great story, but also as a young solo female traveler, you want to make sure that you are prepared and know and you are aware of all your different options and prepared.
But I really appreciate you being here tonight and letting us know that there is some light at the end of the tunnel, especially in these crazy weird times. People are finding themselves in funny work situations. I've had the opportunity to scan through your testimonials. If you have not checked out No Budget Babe yet, you definitely have to give her a follow and I know she posts some really creative helpful tips on a daily basis, but she also offers a coaching program.
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