In this episode of Motley Fool Answers, Alison Southwick is joined by Motley Fool personal finance expert Robert Brokamp. They share a great interview from Fool Live in which Bro and Megan Brinsfield, director of financial planning for Motley Fool Wealth Management, interview Tiffany Aliche, better known as The Budgetnista, as she shares the story of how she went from being unemployed and deeply in debt to an eight-figure annual income. Aliche helps people from all walks of life in their budgeting, saving, credit and debt management, investing, and more.
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This video was recorded on August 4, 2020.
Alison Southwick: This is Motley Fool Answers. I'm Alison Southwick, and I'm joined, as always, by Robert Brokamp, personal finance expert here at The Motley Fool. Hello, Bro.
Robert Brokamp: Hello, everyone.
Southwick: Oh, that sounded so somber.
Brokamp: Oh! [laughs] Sorry, let me do that again. Hello, everyone!
Southwick: There we go, that's better. In this week's episode, we're going to share a Fool Live interview by Bro and Megan Brinsfield. They talked with Tiffany Aliche, better known as The Budgetnista. All that, and -- actually, nothing more, because it's a great interview on its own, on this week's episode of Motley Fool Answers.
So Bro, we're actually going to do something a little different this week, because you had a great interview on Fool Live, and we thought we would just share it here with our listeners on Motley Fool Answers.
Brokamp: Right. And just so people understand what Fool Live is, it's basically, it's like a group Zoom call that goes on every day [laughs] for people who are members of some of our premium services. So Tiffany was kind enough to come on, and we did an interview with her, and we thought it was such good information, we thought let's just share it with the Motley Fool Answers audience.
Southwick: Let's actually; what a great idea.
But before we get started, I have yet another favor to ask, this one is super easy, you may have noticed that you haven't heard about Rocket Mortgage or Harry's razors or the Molekule Air Filter lately. Well, that's because the Motley Fool is focused on helping everyone from our members to our readers to listeners like you invest better, and so we're taking a break from those external ads to instead promote ways The Motley Fool can help you invest better. And to do that, we'd like to know just a little bit about who you are and how we can help.
So if you can go to Mot.ly/survey, we have a two-question survey that will take less than a minute. Again, that's Mot.ly/survey, and the URL will also be included in the description of this week's episode. Thanks so much.
Brokamp: So Bro, take it away. [laughs]
Southwick: [laughs] Oh, him again.
Brokamp: Hello, Fools, I'm Robert Brokamp, advisor for the Retirement service, co-advisor of Total Income, co-host to the Answers podcast. And I'm joined today by Megan Brinsfield, Director of Financial Planning for Motley Fool Wealth Management. And we are super-excited to welcome a special guest today: Tiffany Aliche, otherwise known as The Budgetnista, and an amazing success story. She has gone from being unemployed with tens of thousands of dollars in debt to founding and running her own company, with annual income in the eight figures and playing a key role in getting legislation related to financial literacy passed in her home state of New Jersey. Tiffany, welcome to Motley Fool Live.
Tiffany Aliche: Hi, thank you for having me. Thank you, Robert; thank you, Megan.
Brokamp: So now, before we get to the interview, we have to make the lawyers happy and ask Megan to read a really boring legal disclaimer. So take it away, Megan.
Megan Brinsfield: What that tee-up, I'll take it away. So Fool Wealth is who I work for, and it's an affiliate of The Motley Fool, LLC., and is a separate legal entity. And all of our asset management decisions and financial planning advice are made independently by myself and others at Fool Wealth. Neither Tom or David Gardner or any other Motley Fool analyst is involved in our investment decision making or daily operations. Also, do not take anything I say as personalized investment or tax advice. I'm not trying to recommend that you buy, sell, or hold anything or follow any specific investment strategy or financial plan.
As always, we encourage you to seek personalized advice from qualified professionals regarding all personal finance and tax decisions. Back to you, Robert.
Brokamp: All right. So Tiffany, let's start with your personal story. So we're currently in the third recession of this century, but I'm guessing that you're doing just fine, partially, at least, because of the lessons you learned during the last recession. So tell us a little bit about your history, what the last recession was like for you, and what has happened since then.
Aliche: No, certainly. The last recession caught me off guard. I was not prepared [laughs] because, quite honestly, I was a schoolteacher. And, you know, I was pretty confident. I'm like, I don't know that schoolteachers lose their jobs, because you know, we are essential workers. And now, yet here we are back again. [laughs] But yeah, I was a schoolteacher and I didn't lose my job actually in 2008 when so many of my friends did, but I lost it at the tail end of 2009, so it really took me by surprise.
But up until, like, I would say 25 or 26, I was, what I'd call financially perfect. I grew up in a household where money was talked about, I wasn't scared of talking about finances. My father was a CFO of a small nonprofit. He also had his MBA in economics and his BA in finance. My mom was a nurse. And we literally used to have money meetings. So you know, I didn't grow up with the angst that most people did, so by the time I was 25, even though I was teaching preschool and wasn't making much, I think I was making, like, $40,000 a year. By the time I was 25, I had $40,000 saved. I bought a condo. I had an 802, I think, credit score. I didn't have any credit card debt. I paid off, like, my parents helped with my undergrad degree plus I commuted. So what I did have in student loans I was able to pay that off a few years after school. So financially perfect, like, oh, OK. So I obviously couldn't relate. Although I was helping my friends with their budgets and savings and things like that, I couldn't relate to the mistakes because I had not yet made them, but I was going to. [laughs]
Then when I was 26, I went on to get my master's in education, and I was like, OK, so now I went from no debt to I had a mortgage, not so bad. I had student loans because of my master's, not so bad, but then by 26, I said, OK, now I'm ready to learn to invest. And instead of asking my father, who has literally two degrees and years of experience, I'm going to ask a friend of mine. [laughs]
And so I asked a friend of mine who appeared to be independently wealthy, because he had a really nice car and a fancy apartment. He's like, well, first things first, you have to learn to invest with other people's money. I didn't realize he meant my money. So what he postured it as is that, do you have a credit card? I said, yes, but I paid off in full every month, because as instructed by my father. He was like, well, did you know you could pull money off of a credit card? I did not know that. So he said not only can you pull it off one, you can pull it off two. I was like, double the mistake, let's do it.
So I pulled $20,000 off of my credit cards and I want to invest with him. Let's just say, that didn't happen. I ended up $35,000 in credit card debt, when I didn't have credit card debt prior. And I just remember thinking, the first year, I said, I didn't want to take responsibility for the mistakes that I'd made, I did not tell my dad or my mom, but I paid just the minimum, because I said, you know what, he's going to come back or he's going to take care of this because it's not my fault.
And so from age 27, I didn't do anything. Well, 27, I took out the money; 28, I just paid the minimum. Finally, at 29, I said, all right, I'm going to pay off this debt, just going to buckle down. I live pretty frugally anyway. And then at 29 is when I lost my job.
So now, it's like, I've got a mortgage, student loan, credit card debt. And I was like, OK, I don't know what to do, I've never been in this situation. So I fell into this, like, dark hole of, like, spiral like, oh, because I'm 29 going on 30. I've lost everything as far as I can tell, as far as financially.
So I ended up moving back home with my parents without telling them why. They knew it was the recession, obviously, and they also knew I lost my job, but they didn't know about the credit card debt. So I lived with them for a year, then I lived with my sister on her couch for a year while I tried to figure out my life, because back then -- now, we're getting the $600 a week in our stimulus as a stimulus check, but what's happening then is they just extended unemployment. Typically you can get unemployment for, like, up to a year, they extended it to two years.
So I said, OK, you have two years to figure out what you're going to do with your life. I was afraid to go back to work for someone, because I thought if you can lose a job as a preschool teacher, essential, then that's not safe. What could be safe? So I tried a bunch of different things. I tried party promoting, [laughs] party planning. I volunteered everywhere I can think of, but while doing so I was helping my friends budget, save, get out of debt. All these things, and one day my friend said, you should turn that into a business. And I'm like, can you?
Now, I had gone to school, my bachelor's degree is in business, but I hadn't used it. And so I tried to charge people one-on-one, only to find the people that you're actually helping with their budget, the reason why they hired you is because they don't have any money. [laughs] So that was a bad business model. So I switched my business model to one to few, and I worked on getting contracts and I got my first contract with the United Way. And I remember I was excited, because they were going to pay me, I think, like, $300 or $400 a class, and I had a six-week course that I'd written for them. And so I did, and that was like my first, OK, maybe I can really make a run at this.
My little sister gave me the nickname The Budgetnista, so that became -- because she said, like, I'm not like the fashionista who's really fashionable, but I am very cheap, so I should be The Budgetnista. [laughs] That's what you get with little sisters. And so I said that'll be the name that I'll use. And so I started working with United Way, and then before I knew it, colleges would reach out, churches would reach out. And I thought, oh, I can also speak. And so along the way, I just started to create additional streams of revenue that I can add to my business model. And it was really always one of service, because I love teaching, I love serving, but I wanted to always be in alignment with that.
So that grew, until one day I started, about four or five years ago, I started my own online school to not only for me to teach financial education but to showcase my friends that also taught financial education, and it just really took off. And, yeah, we had our first seven-figure month this April. And now, our income is just over $800,000-and-something a month, so we're officially just squeaking by an eight-figure-a-year company. So it's been crazy from last recession, out-of-work preschool teacher, this recession, you know, I don't know, I mean, my net worth isn't that big, but a seven-figure business owner woman. So it's been a wild and crazy ride.
Brokamp: That's really impressive, really impressive.
Aliche: Thank you. [laughs]
Brinsfield: Yeah, I think one part of your story that I just honed in on was how you said you were financially perfect for such a long period of time. And sometimes when I talk to clients, I run into folks like that that, you know, things have worked out for them for a long period and then they might hit a speed bump and not be prepared to react to it, because they've never had to, you know, face that sort of financial adversity before. So I'm curious, in your timeline, how long was that gap between facing some of these challenges, kind of, getting knocked down, to sort of gathering yourself up and saying, OK, I can go on offense again?
Aliche: So it took about two years, because it was so devastating. And for the first year and a half, I thought I was the only one, it wasn't until -- like, I've been avoiding my friends, because I didn't want to admit, oh, I'm 29, moving back home. So I wasn't going out, I wasn't picking up the phone. And it wasn't until my best friend, Linda, kind of like, broke through. And she said, what's going on? And I shared, oh, all these things, I lost my job, credit card debt. She's like, so regular life?
And I was like, what? She's like, uh, Tiffany, you were the only one in our 20s who wasn't broke or who didn't have a totally messed up financial life. I was like, I was? She's like, yeah, you sound like everybody else, it's like, oh, you don't have a job? Oh! It's the recession. Oh, you have a credit card debt? Literally, we all have [laughs] credit card debt. You've got student loans? Uh, yeah, all of our college friends.
And so it gave me this, like, oh, I'm not some terrible person -- which is what I was telling myself -- because I made financial mistakes. I was just a person that made financial mistakes. And it gave me the permission I needed to forgive myself, because I had not. And so that's when, once I was able to do that, I realized that when things like that happen, I had to go back to the basics, which were, living under your means, being frugal, budgeting, creating a savings plan, paying down your debt, managing your credit. So those were the basics I had to go back to literally what I had learned at home, and from there build. And so that helped, you know, to crack open the shame that I was feeling, and it gave me the permission, like I said, that I needed to forgive myself.
So it was about almost two years, but still, there was another two years' worth of struggle. So at 29, I lost my job and everything else, and I really didn't start to feel like I was -- my head was above water until, I want to say, 32. So it wasn't a quick turnaround. It certainly was hard, but something in me realized that there's light on the other side if I keep going. I knew I didn't want to stay where I was, but I knew I just had to keep going. Something had to change.
Brokamp: You talked about the basics, and I assume, because you're The Budgetnista, budget is, sort of, the foundation of it. I think most people understand why you should budget, but they're not maybe sure where to start, or they have started and they can't stick with it. So what do you recommend people do in terms of setting up a budget and making sure you find some way to stay on top of it?
Aliche: No, absolutely, because I know budget sounds so boring, everybody wants to invest, invest, invest. And I'm like, yeah, that is the foundation that you're needing to be able to invest. I'm not budgeting for budgeting's sake; I'm budgeting to create space so I can grow wealth. And so my husband is like, I'm like the spreadsheet girl, and I know, but that's because I enjoy that, [laughs] I get that from my dad, he had like the big legal paper when we did our family's budget. My husband, he's not doing all that. I tried. So instead, we've made it super simple, and we've had his paycheck split before he gets it. So I'm like, split it before you get it.
And so directly from HR, we already determined, two checking, two savings. Some of his money goes into our bills account. So having a separate checking account to pay bills, some of his money goes into his personal savings account. He and I both have personal savings accounts. So when we spend money, we know it's not coming from the family pot. Some of his money goes into an emergency account. And we've pretty much fully funded that. So now he's just contributing to our stepdaughter's college fund. And then some goes to our long-term savings account. And so that, now, before we purchased the house we're living in now, we were able to purchase this house cash a couple of years ago. So now we're at a point now where the emergency fund is fully funded. So any excess money now goes to just our investment strategy in our investment plan or financial planner.
So you know, but that's the split, that if you are not good at budgeting or you don't want to do the spreadsheets and you don't enjoy that, then I just encourage you to have your two checking, your two savings; bills, spending, emergency, long-term savings. And once you get to a place where you feel fairly comfortable with your emergency fund, maybe three months, ideally six months, then I spill over into diverting that money to some sort of investment plan, whether it's you're going to save to purchase a rental property or investment property, maybe you might start a business. Because the only way to invest is not just in the market. I know I wasn't very comfortable in the market. So for me, I was like, but my business I feel really comfortable, and it's paid off.
Like, I remember, I read this book, Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh, he's the Founder of Zappos. And, you know, Amazon has now since bought Zappos. But still, this man is a billionaire. And he was like -- I remember he gave me permission not to feel comfortable investing in the market, because he didn't. He was like, um, I think I'll invest and grow $1 billion business instead. I'm like, that sounds like a plan. [laughs]
So that's where I started, with business, then real estate. Because my husband and I also have a second property that we purchased. And now, I'm like, OK -- I mean, for my retirement account, yes, in the market, but not myself personally, because it just wasn't someplace I felt super comfortable. But, yeah, exploring different ways to invest, but splitting your money like that will give you the basic budget that you need in order to move forward at the very least. So like I said, I like to get granular, but you don't have to be to be successful with your budget.
Brokamp: One key of that, very quickly, is that you and your husband each have your own accounts, and you can spend it however you want. And that way you're not all over each other's spending and say, how did you spend this, because you've already funded your goals. So whatever you do with that other money is totally up to you.
Aliche: Exactly. And it's just a -- because a lot of couples ask me, like, what should we do? And, you know, I could still be a "budget bully" for my husband. I'm like, whatever. [laughs] So I realized like, you have to allow adults autonomy. So we have like, well, are the bills paid? Yes. We both contribute to the bills account. Are savings saved? Yes. We both have contributed to the savings account. Are investments being made? Yes. So this money that gets put into his account and the money that gets put into my checking account, we can do whatever we want. He might save it up and get something big or whatever, but I know that when I see something new, although the urge is to be like, how much did that cost, where did you get it? He looks at me and I look at him, he's like; I'm like, those are cute sneakers. [laughs] But I know that they didn't come from our plans together. And so it's just made life so much easier.
Brinsfield: In terms of budgeting, you really build on that with your program and the Live Richer Challenge. I'd love to hear more about just how you started that. I know you mentioned starting doing classes and doing more one-to-few, one-to-many instruction, but I remember hearing about the Live Richer Challenge when it first started gaining momentum. And it was a Facebook group where you were helping women go through this six-week budget transformation. So I'm just curious how that got started and how it gained momentum?
Aliche: No, absolutely. To me, it was a pivotal moment in business, so it allowed me to grow the community. So I would say, Beyoncé has the Beyhive and The Budgetnista has the Dream Catchers; that's the name of our community. And so in 2014, I was still working for the United Way, still teaching those classes, but now I was also marketing my United Way classes, because they were like, you know, I wanted to make sure I could fill them so they will continue to pay me. [laughs]
So I learned to market using social media, and then what happened was kind of strange. It wasn't just people who lived locally that started to ask me about attending class. All of a sudden people in other states, women in Florida, in Ohio, in California, and I was just like, well, I don't teach there. And I thought, well, why don't I teach there? What if I took this series I wrote for the United Way and took it online? And so I did, and I called it the Live Richer Challenge, and it was six weeks in-person, but I made the first Live Richer Challenge five weeks online. And I told myself, I gave myself this arbitrary goal, I said, I wanted 10,000 women to sign up. And so it took a full year. Now, we can do this in, like, two hours, but it took a full year to convince 10,000 women to sign up for this free Live Richer Challenge. Because it seemed like, free? Why are you giving it away for free? So the people were very skeptical.
Then in January 2015, we launched the Live Richer Challenge with just over 10,000 women that signed up, and it's a daily course. So the way the classes work is that every week, I would create a theme. So for the fundamentals edition of the Live Richer Challenge, the very first one, week one was, mindset. Week two, budgeting and savings. Week three, credit and debt. Week four, insurance. And week five, basic investing, and that's the way it went. So every day was tied to the theme for the week. And so it would be a daily task. So I literally preschool teacher-ed throw the task. This is exactly how you create, like, your budget. I did everything but come through the computer and take your pencil and write it for you, so.
Because people assume that just because someone is smart, they know how. I know so many attorneys, nurses, doctors, engineers who are like, yeah, yeah, [laughs] I know how to budget... I don't know how to budget, you know. [laughs]. Or like, oh, yeah, yeah, I know how to, I know all about credit, they know nothing. And so I assumed that you didn't know how to do anything except for read, write, add, subtract. And so I created it, and 10,000 women went through it. I created a Facebook group. Facebook Groups had just come out, so it was a place that we all, kind of, congregated to talk about the task that day.
By the end of that first iteration of the Live Richer Challenge, women were like, oh, can you do it again, my mom missed it, my sister missed it, my cousin, my whoever, you know? And I thought, you know, I'll automate, and so I did. And very quickly, the next month, 20,000 women had signed up. I was like, wow! OK. So the first Live Richer Challenge lived on throughout the year, and people would just sign up and tell their friends to sign up. Then the next year, they said, can we do it again? So I started to create more specified editions. I did the savings edition, the credit edition, the net worth edition, the homebuying edition. And it went from 10,000 women, and now, well over 900,000 women have signed up for one or more of the Live Richer Challenges in the last, what, five years.
And it has just built this amazing community that has allowed me to create these other businesses. So although the challenges are still free, it has allowed me to create this community, to create a platform where people have just come to trust and love The Budgetnista brand through those challenges, and then they're introduced to other things that I do.
Brinsfield: Yeah, I, in preparation for speaking with you today, I did join your Facebook group. So I'm an official Dream Catcher, I'm proud to say. And I noticed that, you know, now, it seems like you've modified the weeks a little bit, so there is a week that's focused on, kind of, the increase side of the equation. That earning more, negotiating your pay, working on side hustles. And I know you recently spoke out on Twitter about being offered less to speak at a conference, less than other white women, less than other men that were asked to speak ...
Aliche: Significantly less.
Brinsfield: Yeah, it was jarring. And I think so many women don't know where to start when it comes to figuring out if they are earning a fair wage. Especially in the world of speaking that you're doing, a lot of those agreements are considered confidential or nondisclosure. So I'm wondering how you went about finding that out and how you coach other women who might be in a similar situation.
Aliche: So the truth is that when it comes to your speaking agreement, hardly, I don't know that I've ever, ever signed an NDA for my speaking agreement. That's not, honestly, typical. What I found instead is that people just don't talk about it, not because they can't but because people don't feel comfortable sharing numbers. I don't mind sharing numbers. And so what I did was, I knew that -- because I had already heard the whispers of what people for this conference made, you know like, on the low end, maybe like, $15,000; on the high end, $50,000. So I already kind of knew that. So when the offer was made to me at $2,500, I remember thinking, not Tiffany 10 years ago, but me now, $2,500 is like what the local church would do as, like, they call a love offering, like, we know we can't afford what you'd normally get, but we took an offering and we just thank you for your service.
I mean, $2,500... I was like, I remember thinking, are they going to ask me to sweep the floors after this? Because it was egregious when I knew that they paid just someone two years ago, a white man, they paid him $50,000, and he said it on the stage. And I just remember thinking, OK, so my keynote speaking fee currently is $30,000, and I command that, I've gotten that, because I've just been 10 years in this and I've grown such a successful business. And quite honestly, what do I need $2,500 for, when if we had a $2,500 day, that would be a bad day in business, you know.
And so yeah, of course, I declined. But first, I reached out to others, especially women, I wanted to know the one that had spoken and had done keynotes at this conference, what were they offered? And that's when -- and like I said, there was no idea, because I know when my offer came in that that was not a requirement. And so I got a gauge of, oh! So I didn't ask publicly, I just pinged them. Hey, yes, we spoke, you know, can you share with me, if you feel comfortable, because I was offered this.
So I always, when I'm teaching financial education, what I've found that helps to make people feel comfortable is to offer up first. Hey, I was offered $2,500, just wanted to know if that was normal or not. If you don't feel comfortable, that's fine, I just wanted to ask. No, no, no, I don't mind, you know, I was offered $3,500. Hmm! Interesting. I was offered a Starbucks gift card, literally. I was like, wow! You know. Oh, no! I personally know the gentleman who spoke, he got $15,000, he got $10,000, he got ... I'm like, wow!
So it was beyond egregious. And quite honestly, more than insulting, because you know, the person who asked me to speak at this conference, he's well aware of the success of my business, what the thought was that, the privilege was mine to speak at his conference. But the truth is, that's just not true, there is a mutually beneficial relationship here that I would bring to the table. And I had spoken at this conference before and had gotten the only two standing ovations in that conference history. So it wasn't like, he was like, huh! Is Tiffany going to do well? It's like, we can go back to when she spoke here before. So it wasn't a keynote, but still, like you know.
So yeah. Unfortunately, there are moments when you take less because you need to feed yourself [laughs] and your family, and I've certainly done that early on in my career. But one thing I've learned from home is that you have to maintain for yourself an expectation of excellence. So I came from the type of home where if I got a 96, my dad would say, what happened to the other 4 points? Like, literally, verbatim. And I'm like, what? But that's a 96. And he's like, OK, you know, you can do better, I know you can. Or if I got a B, he would ask me that anyone in my class get an A. And if I said, yes, he would ask me. I remember I was a kid, I didn't understand, he would ask me, did Sarah, who got an A, have two heads? And I'm like, I don't -- my dad is Nigerian, just to be on ... right, and I'm like, I don't understand you. And my mom was like, he wants to know if she has two brains instead of one and maybe that's why she got an A and you got a B. I'm like, in other words, do better. [laughs] Like, what's so special about Sarah? Because in his estimation, Tiffany, you're smart, you can do it. And so I've always taken this expectation of excellence for myself internally.
And so what I realized is that, when I show up the best that I know how, and over time your reputation precedes you, and I'm able to command what I deserve. And when I can't command what I deserve, then I decline and I make it myself.
So the Live Richer Challenge, I reached out to all these brands to work with me to do the initial Live Richer Challenge. They all declined, because quite honestly, most of my -- I mean, this is from brand themselves, a woman who worked for the brand pulled me aside and said, it's because most of the women that you're serving are Black women, and the thought is, in this financial space, there's no money in serving Black women.
And I remember, I was so mad, but I'm actually really happy that happened, because then the Live Richer Challenge would not be mine. I would not be here, this audience of +1 million women worldwide are a product of The Budgetnista. And I can speak directly to that audience and share my products and services with them. So imagine if a brand had attached themselves. Now those very same brands that did not want to work with me then, I mean, every day, I feel like every hour of every day; just today, three banks alone -- I typically don't work with, not even typically, I've never worked with the big banks because most of them are just out of alignment with what I'm trying to do.
So it's funny how everything comes full circle. When you raise to the level of excellence, you force people to treat you differently or they lose out, you know? So I could literally, I have worked with very few brands on purpose, so I can align myself with what I believe to be my integrity, which is, I only share things that are going to be good for my audience. And I can do that because there's nobody who I have to answer to but myself. But everyone can't do that. I could not do that when I first started, but over time, I created an environment for myself where I can. And so that's what I encourage, ask questions, you know, reach out to other people that you feel like you can safely ask what they made. You know, too many times, what we make is a secret. And then, two, hold yourself to a standard of excellence. And either it will force someone's hand or will force you to create a way for yourself internally where you don't have to ask for anything; instead they will come and ask you.
Brokamp: I mean to say, I'm not surprised at all that you got standing ovations, because I would recommend everyone to go to YouTube, find you on YouTube. If you want to get your personal finance advice with some singing, with some dancing, and a ton of personality, Tiffany is the person to look for. So anyways. I just want to make sure everyone is aware of that.
Aliche: Oh, thank you. [laughs] That's the preschool teacher in me. I mean, to me, that was the best job to prepare me to do what I do now. And like, you know, because money can be pretty scary and boring, and I'm like, why? Why can't we sing and make it interesting and engaging? So thank you.
Brokamp: Yeah, it's definitely interesting and engaging, it's outstanding. But to bring us to education here -- by the way, I used to be a teacher and I also have a master's in education, so we have that in common. But you had a role in passing legislation in New Jersey that mandates financial education for middle schoolers. So tell us about the genesis of The Budgetnista law in New Jersey.
Aliche: Yeah. So a friend of mine, Angela V. McKnight, she's an assemblywoman. And I actually met her through teaching at the United Way, she was one of my students. So she did a lot of volunteer work in Jersey City, in New Jersey, where she's from. And someone suggested that she should run and be an assemblywoman, because she just did such good work. So she did and she won. And she came to me and said, "I really want my first year to be focused on education," and she knew I'd been a teacher, she knew I had my master's in education. And I said, I agree. And she said, you know, I'm thinking about something for financial education. I said, well, New Jersey is really at the forefront of this. We already have a law in place for high school. But when I taught preschool, I was teaching age-appropriate financial education to kids.
And I think that, really, there should be, as soon as you step into the public school system in New Jersey, you should start getting financial education. Age-appropriate financial education. That's how I grew up and the reason why I am here now. And she said, OK.
So we met at a Starbucks in Newark, New Jersey, where I live, and we started to craft out language for a bill. Then we met with some people who would be affected by the bill. So other principals, other teachers, and really started to craft what it should be like. Of course, Angela has her staff that has to do all the other stuff that has to happen when it comes to writing a bill. But Angela wanted to understand from an educator's perspective, what would it look like played out in the classroom? Because so many times, if you remember being a teacher, they would have some new mandate, and you're like, who made this up? This is not going to be good for the kids.
And so I really listened to the pushback, and I'm like, oh, that's right, I remember being annoyed by that. So instead of the bill saying, hey, we're going to stop and have financial literacy time, let's talk about how financial literacy should be integrated into the day. Meaning, if you're going to do art, how about today you do a savings box, where the kids decorate a shoebox and you talk about savings with art. And if you're going to do reading time, so how about the book that you choose this week is going to be a book that teaches, like, you know, how to count or how to count money or whatever, how to save.
And so that was really great. So she took the law, so it has to go to committee, through the Education Committee, since it was an education law, then the House voted on it, then the Senate in New Jersey had to vote on it. So the first iteration, it got all the way to the governor's desk. He promised he would sign it. He did not. He was on his way out. So in New Jersey, if a bill isn't signed, it's basically vetoed by just basically being ignored. So we had to go back two years to get there. So we were really discouraged, but we went back. And you have to go through the whole process of reintroducing the bill again, which we did. So again, the committee, House, Senate, but this time there was pushback, and they said instead of elementary and middle school, let's take off the elementary component and just have middle school. And at this point, I was like, fine, whatever, we'll go get elementary later. And so we did, it went to the current governor's desk, and not only did he say, this is awesome, but he allowed us to have a law signing day, which does not happen, because hundreds of laws are passed.
So Angela chose a middle school in New Jersey, and the kids got to see in real-life time, a bill being signed into law. And it was really a magical time, especially looking back at it now, it was signed in January 2019. And what was magical about it, especially now with so much civil unrest, is that Angela is a Black woman, the governor Phil Murphy -- Murphy, who couldn't be there, sent instead his deputy governor. She's the first African-American woman deputy governor, Sheila Oliver, and then myself. And the school was the Barack Obama Middle School. And so you have all these Black and brown beautiful children watching on stage as three Black women helped to create a bill and turned it into a law right in front of their eyes.
And I remember when she signed it, my mom was there, my friends were there. And it just was a magical moment of like, what's possible, especially to a community that's told that so much is not possible. So it was just an awesome time. And I didn't think about it, because honestly, I'm somebody who plows through. So I do think, I do a thing, I'm like, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. And it wasn't until my neighbor around the corner -- she has a daughter, Olivia, who's in middle school. And I was hanging out in her house, and she said, Ms. Tiffany, can you help me with my homework? And I said, sure. So helping her with homework, and it was like, something about money. I'm like, you're learning about money in school. Oh, my God! My law. It hit me, like, Olivia is living my law. So I was just like, do you know I wrote the law? She was like, OK, so how do you do this homework? [laughs] She didn't care that much.
But it was amazing, because what was so great about it, is that the law, very quickly they put it into action. So you know, there are middle schoolers now who are learning about financial education in school. And what I didn't know too is that a friend of mine, he -- I didn't write the curriculum for it, because schools could choose whatever curriculum they wanted. And honestly, I was at capacity, I didn't have time. But because of that, they were able to employ educators who did write curriculums. And so a friend of mine was telling me, you know, you got my friend a job. And I was like, how? He was like, you know, New Jersey was looking for people to write financial curriculum for middle school students, and he was one of the people that they chose. So there's just a ripple effect when you show up, you know, that you have to bring your best, there is somebody who needs you to show up. And I just wish more of us realize just how amazing, whatever it is that's inside you, to unlock that so the world can be better.
And to me, it's more than money. Honestly, to me, this is really a movement and money is merely one of the tools that I use to make the world better. But, yeah, it's just like, I just wish more people understood that there's something in all of us that if we unlock, the world would just be a better place. And yeah, so to me, there's nothing better than a teacher. So Robert, you're my fave; Megan, I love you too but, you know. [laughs]
Brinsfield: I can only do so much. [laughs]
Brokamp: [laughs] It's really impressive. You deserve so much credit for that. And I know we've kept you a little longer than already that we scheduled. Megan, did you have one last question you wanted to ask?
Brinsfield: I did. One of my favorite things that you talk about is Wanda, and so I was just hoping you could wrap up a little bit with what Wanda does in your life.
Aliche: Absolutely. So I read the study once that said the reason why people don't save for retirement if there's a disconnect. They literally cannot visualize themselves as an older person. And so I remember, like, I saw that there was this simulation that these financial companies were going to come up with, so you can put your picture in and see yourself as you're older, and I just remember thinking, like, I would always, kind of, play with my friends that when I'm told that my old-lady name would be Wanda.
And so I thought, huh! That I would do that with my friends, but what if I made this a financial tool? And so I always tell folks, you know, think about your 80-year-old self, think about what you'd wear, how you sound. For some reason, my Wanda is like, a little bit on the mean side. She loves taking the balls that the kids throw in the yard and she's like, it's mine now, you know? [laughs] And so I just imagined Wanda with all the sass, right? And so she's my 80-year-old self, and when I'm making financial choices now, I'm able to disassociate myself and think to myself, what would Wanda say? I could just see, Wanda, like, oh, so another vacation, interesting. Oh, so another day of just frozen food, because you don't want to save for our future. And I'm like, OK, Wanda, I will save more. [laughs] You know, I will be more responsible.
So it's just a fun game that I encourage people to play, like, what would Wanda say? What is your old-person name? You know, what is your 80-year-old self's name, because it is truly your younger self's job to look after your older self. And if you kept that in mind, you would just manipulate and move with your money differently.
Brokamp: Tiffany, thank you so much for joining us. Where can people go to learn more about you, all your educational offerings, and the Live Richer Challenge?
Aliche: Sure. So you can find me, I am The Budgetnista on YouTube, on Facebook, on Instagram, on Twitter. I'm even on TikTok, but I don't TikTok, because my stepdaughter refuses to teach me. [laughs] But if you're wanting to join one of the free Live Richer Challenges, you can go to LiveRicherChallenge.com and just anything, all things Budgetnista, you can go to the Thebudgetnista.com.
Brokamp: Thank you so much for joining us. This has really been a pleasure. Hopefully, we'll stay in touch. The Motley Fool is actually trying to explore some options for financial literacy, so maybe we have some room for collaboration in the future.
Aliche: I would love that.
Southwick: Well, that's the show. It's edited frugally by Rick Engdahl. Our email is [email protected]. For Robert Brokamp, I'm Alison Southwick. Stay Foolish, everybody!