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From Financially Perfect to Rock Bottom (and Back Again)

The BiggerPockets Money Podcast
44 min read
From Financially Perfect to Rock Bottom (and Back Again)

Tiffany Aliche grew up talking about money. Her dad was an accountant, and her mother actively engaged the children in grocery  shopping and other areas of finance. She was a teacher at a private school and had just bought her first house.

Then she met a “friend” who convinced her to invest in his get-rich-quick scheme. Promised future returns led to foolish spending. The economic downturn led to a lost job—and, in turn, a lost home.

Bouncing between family members, Tiffany had a revelation: “I need to take responsibility for my past actions, and turn my life around.”

Tiffany took the necessary steps to repair her finances and then started teaching others how they could fix their finances, too.

She’s turned her financial courses into a network of financial resources—including a 350,000+ member Facebook group where you can ask and answer questions or get support during your journey.

This show is for anyone who is sick of making bad financial choices and wants to turn their life around.

Click here to listen on iTunes.

Listen to the Podcast Here

Read the Transcript Here

 Scott: Welcome to BiggerPockets Money, Show Number 8.“This is the thing I say, that your money should be aligned with your values. If you pull up your debit card statement, your bank statement, do you recognize that person? Are you like, who’s this? That’s all that matters. If you look at and you pull up your debit and your credit card statement and that person is familiar to you because you love to read and you see Amazon up all in your statement and you love to travel and you see flights, well then, you are in alignment. But a lot of people are not. They look at their statement and they say, whose Wendy’s? So that’s the key, is that I’m not here to tell you how to live your life. I just want you to be in alignment with what you actually say you want”.

It’s time for a new American dream, one that doesn’t involve working in a cubicle for 40 years, barely scraping by. Whether you’re looking to get your financial house in order, invest the money you already have, or discover new paths for wealth’s creation, you’re in the right place. This show is for anyone who has money or wants more, this is the BiggerPockets Money podcast.

Scott: I’m Scott Trench here with my co-host, Miss Mindy Jensen. How are you doing, Mindy?

Mindy: I am doing so fantastic today. How are you?

Scott: I am great. I was so excited to hear from Tiffany today. I thought she was fantastic.

Mindy: Oh, my goodness. I have been a fan of Tiffany Aliche since I saw her speak in, I think, 2016 at a conference that I go to every year. She told her life story about how she grew up with a dad who’s financially savvy. She made some pretty big money mistakes compounded by the life circumstances that happened around 2008-2009 with the housing crash. The school that she was working for as a preschool teacher went out of business and she kind of lost everything. She hit rock bottom and then decided, you know what, this isn’t going to define me. I’m going to go and figure out a way to make money.

Scott: Yeah, I think it’s fantastic and one of my passions and things that I do with my volunteer efforts, because I work with people that have made money mistakes and maybe like Tiffany’s sometimes. And many people who might benefit from the Live Richer Challenge that Tiffany has created, the program that helps folks get their financial house in order and get back on their feet, get to the point where they can begin actually building wealth instead of just trying to get by. And this program, what she does is just so wonderful and I had been looking for a way to help these people at scale, a site to recommend and a challenge to recommend for so long. And this is really it.

Mindy: Yes, I’ve taken the Live Richer Challenge. I wanted to see, I was so inspired by how passionate she was about it and how easy she made it seem and how non-judgmental. I went and I signed up for the Live Richer Challenge even though I’m in a different financial place than most people who go through it and it’s very matter-of-fact and easy and inspirational and educational and there’s an air of “you can do this and here’s how”. And it doesn’t matter about your past mistakes. We’re just going to go forward from now on.

Scott: Yeah, I love it. And one thing that you guys as listeners that you should know about this is that Tiffany’s program, the Live Richer Challenge, is typically targeted towards women and I think that she said 15% of her audience makes over $70,000 or more per year. So understand that that is the audience that we’re talking about here. We’re talking about how to help people improve their financial lives that are kind of maybe in those areas.

Mindy: Right. But it isn’t like how to save money on bras and tampons. It is actionable for men as well. But the way that she explained it in the talk that I saw her give was that there’s not a lot of financial information directed towards women. This was a gaping hole that she found and she filled and she filled it really well. But we can sit here and talk about her all day long. Let’s bring her in. I bet she can tell her story better.

Let’s bring in Tiffany “The Budgetnista” Aliche. Hi Tiffany, how are you doing?

Tiffany: Hi, Mindy. How are you? Hi, Scott. How are you?

Scott: We’re doing great. Thanks so much for coming on here. I mean, you have an incredible story where you’ve really overcome some challenges to really build your financial position and now we’re going to hear about that. And you’ve also been able to take these challenges and create systems and processes that have helped other people achieve financial freedom and improve their lives. Is that right?

Tiffany: This is right. I’ve been fortunate enough to make every single financial mistake you can possibly think of and so as I learned to dig my way out of my own financial ditch, I have taken people with me.

Scott: That’s awesome. So can we start from the beginning? What kind of position did you find yourself in and how did you get there?

Tiffany: Well first, I was fortunate enough to grow up in a household where money was talked about all the time. My father who was, he’s retired now, a CFO and an accountant so he taught my four sisters and I the basics of financial education like how to budget, how to save, that kind of stuff. And my mom really taught us the application like this is how you grocery shop. This is how you negotiate. And so up until about the age of 25, 26, I was what I called financially perfect. I saved a lot of money. I was a school teacher. I saved a lot of money and bought a condo. The car that I drove, I bought cash. It was like $5,000.

And so I had done all of the right things. I had an 802 credit score. And then at 26-27, I met a “friend” who was like you should invest and I said okay. And he said, well, the first rule of investing is to invest with other people’s money. I didn’t know what that meant. I didn’t even have credit card debt although I did have a credit card. He said well, you should take money off of your credit card and we’ll use it to invest. And I said sure, I’m stupid, and so—

Mindy: I don’t love that word.

Tiffany: Well, I’m foolish and I said you know what? Even better, I’m not even going to ask my financially savvy father if this is a good idea because I’m going to surprise him with these choices I’m making all on my own. And so I did.

Mindy: Yay!

Tiffany: I know. I actually opened up an additional credit card because the one I had didn’t have enough of a balance for him to steal from and so I opened it up, took the money out, he promptly took it. But it took me a while to realize because once I opened up the second credit card, I was like, oh. Credit cards, I can use them and since I’m going to be rich soon, with this new investment that I’m doing, I should use them and so I did. And I quickly went from like $10,000-$15,000 in credit card debt to about $35,000 in credit card debt.

And then that’s when everything really started to crumble because the recession hit and here I was a schoolteacher thinking my job is secure and safe because teachers don’t lose their jobs. But my school is non-profit based and they lost their funding because corporations didn’t have any money, or at least not enough money to give like they used to and so I had this debt, I just bought a house, I lost my job, and everything just went downhill. My credit score went from 802 to a 547.

I ended up moving back home with my parents first and then I just couldn’t live with them too long because even though at the time, I was 30, they still acted like I was 12 so I still had a curfew which I thought was crazy. And so I moved in with my sister on her couch. I told her three months and nine months later, she said yeah, this one-bedroom is not big enough for the two of us so yeah, it was the hardest time I’ve had as an adult.

It went from age 29 to about 32-33 when I had nothing. I had less money when I was 32—I’m talking about across the board because I was taking money out of my 401K, trying to save my home. I had about $125,000 less to my name. I mean, anywhere. And when I was 16, I had maybe $2,000-$3,000 saved from babysitting. So I had less money at 32 than I did when I was 16 and that’s when I just decided okay, this is probably rock bottom. Let’s climb our way out.

Scott: So let’s go into this real quick. You had this friend who told you to invest—this was around 26-27—and was it all at once or did you kind of gradually lose this money over the course of a few years up to the age of 29? What was that like?

Tiffany: All at once. So the investment was supposed to be, we’re going to take this money off of your cards and where he lived half of his time in France and half of his time in the United States, we’re going to go New York, buy goods and services. He had stores in France and ship them because people want Levi’s and all these kinds of goods, American products, and I live in Newark and Newark is right next to a port which is Port Elizabeth, so they had this seaport.

And we shipped it and at the time, it was stopped by customs and held. I won’t say that it was a total scheme because we did buy the things, we did ship it, but it was held up by customs and they would not relinquish it for months. And so I had all this money tied up and he basically walked away from it because for him, it wasn’t his money.

And so by the time they had released it, he had already walked away and it was already too late. But in that timeframe, it was probably like a few months, I started using those cards irresponsibly because I thought money was going to be coming to me soon. So now I had all of this credit card debt but no additional income to pay it down.

Scott: What I love about this is that you are clearly a very smart person. You’re very successful. You’re very articulate. You’re able to do all these things really well yet you weren’t even hoodwinked. You made a decision that you thought was based on intelligent business practices yet you financed it with a credit card, with high interest debt, and because you weren’t investing maybe from the strongest financial position going into this, that’s why you were unable to basically recoup that money and went through this horrible struggle for the next several years. Is that right?

Tiffany: Yeah. And also too, it was because I didn’t want to take responsibility for the mistakes that I had made because the truth of the matter is when this happened, I had not lost my job yet. And I was really good at living below my means and being frugal and the truth is, for what I owed, not using credit cards, I could have that year paid them off.

But the truth is, that first year, I refused to acknowledge the role that I played. I was like no, I was tricked. He lied. I’m not going to pay down this debt. I’m just paying the minimum because he’s going to pay me back. It’s his fault. It’s him, not me. And so that whole year I could have used to solve my own problem, because I refused to, then the next year is the year that I lost my job.

I didn’t anticipate that happening and so now even though I said okay, I will take responsibility and pay this debt off, I didn’t have the income to do so. Since then, I have never allowed myself to not take responsibility for the choices that I make. That devastated me because it was like, you’re ready to take responsibility and now you don’t have the means to.

Scott: Awesome. I love that. I think it’s a philosophy that sets you up for success and it turns you away from being the victim to being in control of the situation which I think is fantastic. So you got into this hole. Now you’re 32. So this whole, it seems it lasted from around the age of 26-27, until all the way up until the age of 32. What happened then when you kind of adopted this new mindset? What did you do to take back control of your finances and improve your position?

Tiffany: Well, I would say the mindset really shifted around 30 when I said, okay. I thought because I had made financial mistakes, it meant I knew nothing about finance and I said, that’s not true, Tiffany. I’m like, you’re a good saver. You’re a good budgeter. Like, that hasn’t gone away because you made a bad investment.

So I started showing family and friends, which I had done before, like how to budget and how to save and then one day, my best friend said you’re really good at this, Tiffany. You should charge. And I thought well, who would pay? I’d never run a business before. And so, I started asking folks you know, would you pay $50? Would you pay $150? And here and there, people would pay.

At this time, although I had not quite lost my house yet, I wasn’t living in it and the bank that owned my house wouldn’t take my payment because I back-owed. It was good for me because I said fine, I’m renting it out. I guess I’ll live off this rent that the bank refuses to take from me. And so that’s what I was living off of. It was about $1200 bucks a month, how much I was renting my condo out for and my mortgage was like $1600.

So I was living off that $1200 and I said, I think I don’t want to go back to a place and a space that can be taken away from me. Not because I wasn’t a good teacher, but because of whatever economic crisis that the world is in. I didn’t like the feeling of I’m not being in control of my life. So I said instead, I want to do something myself. So that way, I can anticipate changes or I can be in control of the money that I make.

And so the Budgetnista started growing. Everyone who knew me previously knew that I was good at budgeting but the one-on-ones were not making enough money and a mentor of mine told me that I should look into getting a contract. And so I reached out to everyone that I knew and I met a woman at the United Way in Newark and she said, you know we’re actually looking for a financial instructor but let me test you out. Come and teach our staff.

And so I did. I did a good job and the staff that actually missed it said, can she come back because we heard good things. I came back and then from there, they gave me a year-long contract to teach financial education in the community and that’s what I started doing. And by then, the bank had taken my house but the contract with the United Way supplemented so that was my income. And I did that for a while.

Mindy: And what year was this?

Tiffany: That was—I was 31, I’m 38 now—I’m always the worst at like—what was that, 2011-2012?

Mindy: Yeah, that sounds about right.

Tiffany: And so it was like okay, I think I have an almost business. You know, like I’m not making a whole lot and that was around the year I was about 31 or 32 when my sister said you’ve been here nine months, you told me three months. I love you but it’s time for you to go.

And she knew I wasn’t going to be homeless because I could always move back home with my parents who gave me a 12 o’clock curfew. But I’m like, I might as well be homeless. I don’t want to go back there. And plus, you know, you tell your parents all the lies in the world like everything’s fine. I’m doing really good. They didn’t know that I was sleeping on her couch.

Mindy: Oh, they didn’t even know you were sleeping on your sister’s couch? Wow.

Tiffany: I mean, they think we were “roommates” like oh, that’s nice. Sisters are roommates but they didn’t realize no, I kind of just like live off of her because I don’t have anybody. So I didn’t want to admit and go back home again and so I remember a bunch of friends who were also like young and broke and trying to figure out how to start their own business.

One of my friends found a house in Newark and the woman was willing to rent it out by the room. So there was about four of us and each room was $500 and that included all utilities and I was like, I’ll take it. Because Newark is a college town and so you’ve got a lot of universities so you’ll find that oftentimes that you’ll find really cheap housing.

And so we ended up living like college students for a year, a year and a half, for $500 bucks a month and that was where I really started to build my business. The United Way, one of the things they tasked me with was, we’ll pay you to teach but we want you to fill the classroom.

So here’s when I started to learn social media, like hey, I’ve got this free class, come on in, using Twitter and Instagram and Facebook. Instagram wasn’t out then, really, but Facebook to fill the classroom and that’s how I started building my brand online, really by trying to fill my United Way class so I could be paid.

Mindy: I want to go back. You gave us a bunch of information that’s awesome but I want to go back and reiterate a point that I think is really, really important. You said, since you realized that you were—not an active participant in this like losing all this money but you weren’t like totally swindled. Like, you participated in it.

Since you realized that and you’ve allowed yourself to take responsibility, you’ve never gone back and not allowed yourself to dismiss the responsibility and I think taking financial responsibility for whatever situation you’re in is so very important to keep in mind. I have a lot of friends who are perhaps have made foolish decisions with their money and oh, it’s his debt. I let him use my name to get a car and then he didn’t pay it or whatever.

That’s all fine and good. Yeah, you didn’t actively participate but you passively participated and it doesn’t really matter that it’s not your debt, it’s still your debt because it’s in your name. So taking financial responsibility kind of like Scott said, takes away the victim mentality and really focuses on the fact that this is mine. I’m going to do this. I love that. I love that so much. Every part of your story, I love.

Tiffany: Thank you.

Scott: And I’ll chime in here and say that you know that seems to have extended to other areas of your life because you took this job at United Way and you mentioned, hey. It’s a job. It’s a contract yet you have to develop an employee kind of entrepreneurial skills in order to make that work by filling up these classrooms in social media. Am I right? Was that kind of a training ground for your entrepreneurial pursuits that were later followed?

Tiffany: Certainly. Because I knew that if no one came—because I think the first class, the United Way put the word out and said, hey, we’re having this free class. Come and take it and five people showed up. And then the next class, maybe like three, and I thought okay. They’re not going to pay me to speak to no one.

And so I was like, no. I have to have people if I have to get my friends and family to sit here and look busy, people have to be here because I can’t believe I landed a contract. And so I asked him, I said you know, can I—I wasn’t sure how open they were because the United Way had something called the IDA Program. It’s called the Individual Development Account where you took the class and you saved money and then the United Way had a partner bank that matched your savings. And so I wasn’t sure if people who weren’t part of that program could join and they said, sure, we don’t mind.

And so I got really good at marketing this was free. You received all of these tools. I convinced the United Way to use my book, The One-Week Budget, at the time that I had written and self-published as the tool for the class so I could make additional income. And so I would take a lot of pictures and really illustrate how fun and engaging the class was and how I was really shifting the minds and the money of the people in it and before we knew it, it was consistently ten people then 20, then 50, then 80, to the point where we couldn’t have it at the United Way office anymore.

We had to look for larger venues because we would have maybe a hundred people. The class was a six-week course and so for six weeks, people would come and people are still friends. One of the women from the class just wrote me. She just got married to somebody she met in one of my classes.

Scott: Oh, wow.

Tiffany: So I did that for about I don’t know, maybe about 16 cohorts. So 16 of those six-week courses. And so it taught me one, how to be a better speaker. So being a teacher, you learn how to be a speaker but I taught preschool so it’s different. Teaching preschool teaches you how to be engaging and how to take someone from no knowledge to knowledge. But teaching at the United Way really taught me how to speak in front of an audience.

And I thought, this will be my business model so my first business model was one-on-one. But that didn’t work because you’re only limited to how many people you can help. And my second business model was one to a few. So like okay, I’ll stand in front of this classroom. I’m physically here. And the third business model came to me accidentally because I kept sharing the United Way, people outside of New Jersey, because social media was growing, started saying hey, I wish I lived in Newark or why can’t you bring that to Oklahoma?

And then I thought well why can’t I bring it to them online? Is there a way to do that? And so that’s what I did. So my six-week course, that six-week course was the one, I wrote it for the United Way, it was mine to do whatever I wanted to do with it and I took it online and I created something called the Live Richer Challenge. And it is our signature service. It’s free but it grew my audience from a few hundred to 500,000 in like three years.

Mindy: Your numbers are amazing and I am a member of the Live Richer Challenge. I’m a member of the Facebook group and those women are rabid fans of yours. They love what you have done. They love what you’ve shown them. It’s like a no-judgment zone so they can ask questions about, hey I am having this problem. Oh, well you should cut that out. It’s like a hundred people that will give them advice instantly. It’s such a wonderful program. I’d like to know more about that. I know about the program. I’d like you to share with the people listening about the program.

Tiffany: So it was my way of giving back. I didn’t think of it as a way to make money. And honestly, the first challenge was 2014 and my goal was 10,000 women. I wanted 10,000 women to sign up. The United Way course but online. So at the time, it was five weeks instead of six. I shortened it. And the way the challenge worked, I said well how do I—my preschool teacher brain kicked on and I said how do I breadcrumb these women to success?

And so I decided that the challenge was going to be a daily task sent to you via e-mail and then you—so I’m not super techy so I was trying to figure out what does this look like? You sign up for the challenge and you get a daily e-mail. Each e-mail sent you to a blog post fully explaining that day’s task. So you know, day one is always setting your goals. And I give you everything you need. You need a goal sheet, you can download it. You need a script so if day three was call your credit, your debt collectors, I give you a script. I give you everything that you need during the challenge and I was really excited.

We got to 10,000. It took almost eight months to sign up 10,000 women. That was it. I thought I was going to be done. And then I decided to automate it because some women missed it because I always launched a new challenge every January. And so I automated it so they could do it throughout the year and then next year, they were like, well what are we doing next year? And so I created a second version which was a savings edition. And I shortened it to three weeks because I found out that people couldn’t hold on for the full ten.

And same thing, daily tasks and the overarching theme was savings. Every day, a task to get you closer to your savings goal. And the most recent challenge was from last year was the credit edition. And the one that we’ve launched for 2018 is the net worth edition. And so it’s really exciting to see how many people. My audience is about 500,000 large but about 400,000 women have gone through one or more of the challenges and to see people go from you know, a 403 credit score to a 700something credit score.

A woman wrote me about two years ago and she said, I’m homeless. I’m recently homeless but I do have a cell phone in a shelter right now. Should I do the challenge? And so I gave her some resources but I said yes. The challenge is going to help set you up for the life that you want. She wrote me late last year and said, Tiffany, I just want to thank you. I just closed on a home. So she went from homeless to a homeowner.

Mindy: That’s fantastic.

Tiffany: And I couldn’t believe it. And I said, what? And she said, I did everything you said step by step. I raised my credit score. I did the savings edition. And so yeah, the challenge—and I never thought about the challenge as kind of a business but it opened up this other business model which was, I serve my community and they get it for free but I get affiliate programs that I can connect with. I’ve had people who have sponsored the challenge so that was a way to make income. And as a result of my audience going so large, now I get spokesperson working gigs. So I did not anticipate that. I didn’t even know that these things were available but as your community starts to grow, it really opened up different ways to expand my business model.

Scott: This is awesome. This sounds like a fantastic business that is just helping improve thousands, hundreds of thousands of lives and it’s just really cool that you’ve been able to build all of this. I’d love to ask a quick question here. Can you talk a little bit about the specific things that these folks that are kind of maybe entering the challenge or doing that—where are they starting from and what are the specific things that they need to do to complete the challenge or improve their financial positions? Who is the ideal person to go through the challenge and what are the struggles that they deal with? Why do people drop off? Why do people fail and are not able to improve their financial positions?

Tiffany: I identify three things that really hold people back. It’s knowledge, it’s access, and community. So knowledge—I just don’t know how. And so the challenge takes that excuse away. Day one, open up your notebook or here’s the goals sheet. Here’s exactly how to fill it out. Maybe there’s a video. So we take away that component. People usually come from all walks of life. We have women that make $10,000 a year to women that make $100,000 a year doing the challenge. What I find is that the overarching characteristic is they want a change.

They don’t like where they are. They want to be someplace different as it relates to their finances. And so knowledge. I can teach you and by giving you knowledge, access. And so sometimes there are tools that you don’t even know that are out there. And so that’s what I try to do. I really curate awesome tools and I share them with you through the challenge. So that’s the access that I give to this community. And then community.

So knowledge, access, community. We have an online Facebook group so when you do the challenge, you don’t do it alone. The group has about 300,000 members as of right now so as you’re doing the challenge and you’re going through it creating your budget or your savings plan or whatever that these tasks is, you can go to the community at any time and ask a question 24 hours a day and know that there are hundreds of thousands of women there who are going to support you, help you, and just make sure that you have all the resources you need to succeed.

Mindy: Who has gone through this? I don’t have financial hardship right now. I’m in a different place in my life but as somebody who’s gone through this course just to see what it was about, this is—it’s so easy. Like, Tiffany gives you everything you need. Like she said before, she gives you everything you need and the first task isn’t go build a house by tomorrow.

The first task is find a location, or whatever the task is. I think the very first task is get a copy of your credit report. That was the first task when I took the Live Richer Challenge. That’s not a difficult thing. Not only does she say that, she actually tells you how to do that. So you’re not looking. You’re not like, oh, I don’t even know. Like everything. If you don’t follow through with this, it’s because you didn’t do it, not because the information wasn’t there. And the community, I didn’t take advantage of all the tools that you had. Again, I’m in a different place in my life. I actually knew about a lot of those tools.

But the community is amazing. It is a judgment-free zone. And they have moderators in there. If somebody comes in and is nasty, they kick them off instantly. These are women who are having problems with money in their life. It’s an awful thing to talk about. Nobody talks about it. Nobody teaches you about it so you’ve made a mistake. Everybody out there has been bad with money. I mean, not everybody, but there’s so many people in your situation but nobody talks about it so you don’t know that your neighbors are also struggling.

But you go on Facebook, the Facebook group, and you say, hey, I’m really struggling. Here’s  a thousand people that will tell you what they did and they’re actionable tips. It’s not just these little oh, well, you should change. Thanks. They’re really, really helpful and they are either in the same place and can give you just a word of encouragement. I mean sometimes that’s just all you need to get you over the edge.

Scott: So I have a question here about the knowledge and access piece. What specific knowledge are you talking about here? One of the things you said, the first step was, get a copy of your credit report. Are you saying you would provide a tool or link to a tool like Credit Karma or something like that and then you would provide information that would teach people about what their credit score is like? Is that what we’re talking about here?

Tiffany: So literally the first step might be go get your credit report. And then I might explain what a credit report is. Here’s the link. Here’s the different ways that you can get it. You can get it mailed to you. So all of the ways. It’s just that simple. That’s day one. And you’re like, that’s it? That’s it. And the next day might be, now that you have it, here are the components we’re looking at. Your utilization—so now I break down those components and what percentage of your credit report, those components make up. And that’s literally day two. Just acquiring something new.

So let’s just say there’s a debt part of the challenge. Then I might say, today’s date, you might just have to go and list everybody that you owe. And how much you owe. And then the next day, I’m going to show you a step by step guide of how do I systematically pay this off and automate that process? So everything is hand-holding to the tenth power. Like I said, the preschool teacher in me is literally teaching you the way I used to teach my three and four-year-olds. Like, okay.

Mindy: But that’s perfect.

Tiffany: Yes.

Mindy: They have the knowledge of three and four-year-olds. They have the financial knowledge of three and four-year-olds because nobody’s ever taught them before. If you’ve never been taught, how do you know?

Tiffany: Exactly. And then on top of that, like I said, you’ve got this wonderful community that you can lean into. We’ve given ourselves a fun name—Dream Catchers, and so I will literally be at the airport somewhere and a woman will say, Budgetnista, I’m a Dream Catcher! You know? Or I remember a woman was scared to call the IRS because she was a Dream Catcher.

She was in the group and saying I’m scared to call the IRS because I know I owe taxes but today, Tiffany’s task was to call your debt collectors. And she gave us a script about what to say. And even if they say this, then you say this. If they say this, then you say this—I give you everything.

And so she calls the IRS. She was speaking to the agent and she told her, I’m only calling because my friend and my Dream Catcher group—and the agent said, wait a minute, are you a Dream Catcher out of the Budgetnista? She was, too. And all of a sudden, it was like, a sigh of relief. You just never know.

I want to take away this fear and this taboo when it comes to money that you don’t have to be financially perfect to be financially viable as it relates to where you are and where you want to be. It’s okay to make mistakes. But here are the solutions to make your life better.

Mindy: Yes, and every task is doable. It’s doable in one day and I want to say they’re not overwhelming. If I was in super debt and had to list out everybody that I owed, I think that concept would be super overwhelming to actually see it all written out. But the task is easily done. And every single task is the same thing. It’s easy and it builds on the day before.

So if you missed a day before, go back to your e-mail, read it, do it, and then catch up. Because they sit in your e-mail. You can just do it whenever you feel like it. It’s just important to do it. It’s important to keep up because it’s easy to get like too far behind. But even if you get too far behind, you can still catch up. You’re not giving them these overwhelming tasks.

Tiffany: Exactly. I had a lot of people who are like, they’ll write me and they’ll say, you know what? I’m actually going to stop the e-mails. I’m on day ten. I’m just not in a good space. And then six months later, restart it up again. We always encourage them, like you should do it with an accountability partner. Someone that’s going to—we’ve even created a space in the Group where you can find your one partner in the Dream Catcher group to say, okay.

This is Maria from Florida and I’m Tiffany from Jersey, but every day we text each other and say, did you do today’s task and keep up with each other. That idea of accountability has grown so much so that they started splinter groups. So now we have official Dream Catchers Chapters where they take what we do online and they meet offline quarterly or sometimes as much as monthly.

Like the New York Chapter is rocking and rolling. They have a few hundred members and they meet every single month. They go bowling together. They do like parties together. But then they also meet every month to go over their finances together. So it’s really become a movement. It’s more than money. It’s a movement.

Mindy: And it’s a safe place to discuss your finances. I can’t impress upon you enough. If you’re having problems with your finances, this is a safe judgement-free zone. There’s a lot of unnecessary shame like oh, I didn’t do my finances right. Well, okay, so you didn’t. Let’s fix them now.

Scott: Do you have like a specific person that you think about, like wow, this person really came in with a lot of debt, in a bad position, and look where they are now. Do you have anyone that comes to mind with that? Like a case study, maybe?

Tiffany: Well, of course, the woman that went from homeless to homeowner, but just some simple ones. I remember a woman, she had never gone on vacation. And she did the savings edition and her daughter graduated high school that year. And she decided that she had enough to pay for her and her daughter to go on vacation as a present for graduating and she paid for it up front. And she said, Tiffany, I never thought I would see the inside of a plane, let alone to pay for and to take my daughter. And so I thought that was beautiful. Another woman, she was like 35, she said since I’ve been an adult, 21 years old, paying my bills, I have never paid all of my bills on time ever. She said, it seems like such a small accomplishment but all of my bills are paid on time.

Mindy: And not having bill collectors calling you, not having that guilt that oh, I still have to write a check. And that’s so freeing.

Tiffany: Exactly. A woman actually just wrote today, Camille. She was sharing in the Group how she had cancer and she survived it, and she was like it wasn’t the cancer that almost took her out, it was the financial repercussions as a result of the cancer. And that she did—her employer forced her to Social Security disability and she just had such a hard way to go.

And she said that she tried to come across resources and she wasn’t able to find something that was going to help her and she said, but the way that I create the resources and challenges that one, they’re free but two, what they do is they allow you to help yourself at your own pace.

And she said, I took the challenges and I was slowly able to, at my own pace, rebuild my financial life. She said, I don’t have a big bank account. I don’t have a big investment account. She doesn’t have a super high credit score. I’m literally reading it right now—she said, I’m not in a race with anyone. I’m in a race with me. Where I am today is better than where I was yesterday. I’m blessed to be in this group.

And so that’s the overwhelming feeling, is that I did it. I could do it because all I had to do was read, write, add, subtract. I didn’t have to wait for someone to pull me one way or the other and it’s really important to me that the women in the group feel like they can do it as long as they have the knowledge, the access, and the community.

Mindy: Absolutely. That is the best thing about these courses, is that you give them everything. I am such a big fan of yours, Tiffany. I love the actual challenge. All the challenges. I saw Tiffany speak at this conference that I go to every year called FinCon. And you were like halfway through your speech and I grabbed my phone and I started texting the guy who runs the conference, PT, and I said you have to have her as a keynote speaker. I’ve never learned more than I learned here and I already know everything about finance. Your story is so amazing on so many different levels. I have a question though about the past challenges, because the one that I participated in was I think 2015 or 2016. Can you go back and take some of the other challenges, like take the original one? Take the savings one?

Tiffany: Yeah, you can. It’s planned that way, too. So it’s great. If you go to LiveRicherChallenge.com and click sign up, literally they’re all listed so you can take the current net worth edition there. You can take the credit challenge. You can take the savings edition or the fundamentals. The fundamentals, when someone says I’m not really sure. I’m just a financial mess. I tell them, start with the first one because it kind of touches on all of them, the basic financial kind of friction point.

So bad credit, budget, savings, mindset. A little bit of investing and insurance. But if you know savings is my issue, take the savings edition. Or take all of them. Not at the same time, or you’ll be overwhelmed. But yes, one at a time. They’re always free and they always will be free. And I’m excited that, I’m trying to figure out what the 2019 challenge will be.

Mindy: You’ve covered a lot of stuff. The investment challenge.

Tiffany: I was thinking that. Maybe the small business challenge or something like that. I don’t know. I definitely want a progress-full one. Like we started with fundamentals. Then a little savings. Then credit. And now net worth. And so really progressing forward.

Mindy: Yes, then investment then small business. You’ve got the next two years.

Scott: So you talk about these things but who is your target? Who is your kind of the typical person that would enroll in this? Is it someone that’s in debt? What does that person look like? Who are they?

Tiffany: So my target is women, honestly. I am one of five girls and each one of my sisters kind of represents a type of woman that I’m thinking of. Lisa, the baby, is a millennial, and so I’m definitely coming after like millennials to start strong as they enter into financial adulthood. My older sister is a couple of years older than me and she and her husband are really established. She’s a scientist. He’s a doctor. They make great money but she’s loving the net worth edition because it doesn’t speak to—it talks about debt somewhat but not really. It’s really more about growing wealth.

And so, it’s not necessarily a woman that’s making a certain amount of money. It’s just a woman that is tired of where she is financially. And she can find her space. So if you’re a beginner and you don’t even know how to budget, you start with the fundamentals. But if you’re someone who is maybe in your thirties and you want to buy a house, you do the credit edition.

Scott: Would you say that perhaps your site targets women that maybe have less than maybe $100,000 in investible liquidity for example, so you’re not targeting billionaires? Is that correct?

Tiffany: I would say that. I mean, the truth of the matter is, I thought, so every challenge, one of the things we do is I do a big registration survey so you sign up and you get the survey and I ask, basically, how much do you make? I’m actually surprised to see for the net worth edition, about 15% of our audience for the net worth edition made over $70,000 a year.

Mindy: Oh, wow.

Tiffany: So what I’m finding is that I guess depending on which challenge it is, so I found with the savings edition, they made significantly less. So it depends on the subject matter. So you know, we’re finding that the net worth edition is really bringing out women who have the money. They just want to figure out well how do I build upon this and really start to grow wealth?

Scott: Awesome. I love it.

Mindy: And how are you advertising? Are you still on the social media and are you still connected with the United Way and is it just word of mouth? 500,000 people is a lot.

Tiffany: Yeah, so honestly, we’ve gotten really good at social media advertising. The first 10,000, I didn’t know what an ad was. That was just word of mouth and me posting organically on social media. And the last two years, I’ve said, oh wait, so you can do an ad on Facebook? So once I learned that, I’m really good at writing ad copy and really just engaging people so I write good copy, I make a good video, or maybe a really great picture and then I invite people to the challenge.

I’ll give you an example. I just did an ad. It wasn’t even going to be, but it was my husband and I recently got married and we decided that we weren’t going to buy each other Christmas gifts because we’re buying a home and we’re closing really soon and we decided instead, because we’re purchasing our new home in cash, it’s a foreclosure. Because honestly, I’m not really one for stuff. Not really. And so he said, let’s not exchange gifts. Let’s put the money towards the house because I want to put a new kitchen in and a new bathroom in.

So as I was typing it up, I said you know what? I was just using it as an example because I like to use my life as a teachable moment. And I thought this would be a great space to say hey, if you want to learn how to increase your net worth, join the net worth challenge. And it exploded. And so it did really well and I put some ad money behind it and I think we signed up in like a few days, an additional 10,000 people as a result of that.

Yeah, so authentic ads are everything. So what’s really happening. People can sense the truth in you because they sense the truth in themselves. All of my ads always rings from a place of this is what’s actually happening. If you’d like for this to happen for you too, here’s a resource.

Mindy: Okay, now doesn’t it mean since you didn’t buy your husband a Christmas gift, does that mean that you don’t love him anymore? I get so frustrated with these people like, look at all the things I got. Well yeah, but you’re a thousand million dollars in debt. I love that you didn’t buy a gift because you want to buy a house. That’s a better gift.

Tiffany: I feel like there’s no shame. Some people were like, oh, you’re shaming me because I bought a gift. I’m like, I don’t even know you. So I’m not shaming. I have a bonus daughter. He has an 11-year-old. Guess what? She got Christmas gifts. It’s not like no one in our network received any gifts. We just decided it doesn’t make sense for me to buy you another sweater and some perfume. I honestly want a really nice kitchen. You know? And so, I don’t want to skimp on that. If it’s an extra $200-300 dollars, I’d much rather put it toward a really beautiful kitchen and so it’s not a sense of judgment.

This is the thing I say, that your money should be aligned with your values. If you pull up your debit card statement, your bank statement, do you recognize that person? Are you like, who’s this? That’s all that matters. If you look at and you pull up your debit and your credit card statement and that person is familiar to you because you love to read and you see Amazon up all in your statement and you love to travel and you see flights, well then, you are in alignment. But a lot of people are not. They look at their statement and they say, whose Wendy’s? So that’s the key, is that I’m not here to tell you how to live your life. I just want you to be in alignment with what you actually say you want.

Mindy: Yes, yes. Perfect. I do want to give a shameless plug to BiggerPockets.com. If you do have any questions about buying a foreclosure, please don’t hesitate to ask. If I don’t know the answer, I know a lot of people who do. And if you’re looking to invest in real estate, BiggerPockets.com can help you along the way.

Scott: I just wanted to—we’re getting ready to move onto our Famous Four but I want to comment that it is fantastic what you’re doing here. You’re helping people. You’re targeting people that maybe had financial difficulties and they’re growing, they’re succeeding. They’re building wealth. They’re improving their credit scores and they’re able to begin accumulating wealth, and now the transition begins to looking at that net worth and how do I increase that and maybe go on to buy a home and achieve down the line financial freedom. And that’s what all this is about. And the people you’re helping are sometimes overlooked and it’s just so powerful what you’re doing and such a great place, a great resource for people that are in those positions to begin their journey.

Mindy: Thank you. Tiffany’s program gives you the steps you need to take action when you don’t even know where to start.

Tiffany: I always knew that I wanted to be a teacher. You know, when you’re a little girl, everybody wants to be a teacher but I knew. Because I want my legacy to be that people are better as a result of me being here.

Mindy: They are.

Scott: Awesome. Well, with that, let’s move onto our Famous Four. These are the same four questions that we ask every guest that comes onto this podcast. And Mindy, do you want to handle the first question here?

Mindy: I will. What is your favorite finance book, Tiffany?

Tiffany: My favorite finance book is actually David Box, The Automatic Millionaire. He’s like my financial crush if I had to have one. When he friended me on Facebook, I almost died. And I was so mad I missed him at FinCon.

Mindy: I was just going to say he was at FinCon this year. He was signing copies of his book.

Tiffany: Ugh, I love him. But that’s okay. We’re Facebook friends. Hey, David.

Scott: What’s the key takeaway from that book?

Tiffany: The key takeaway is that you can actually become a millionaire. That as the biggest like—and there’s an automated process. I’m a processes person so I was really surprised. I read it when I was maybe 20-21, I was like wow, I don’t have to make $200,000 a year to achieve millionaire status, that there is a systematic way if I set aside, spend less than I make, set aside some, save some, and invest some, I can be a millionaire. So that was the biggest takeaway, that it was possible.

Scott: Awesome.

Mindy: Nice, nice.

Scott: Question number two here, what was your biggest money mistake?

Tiffany: Well, you already know. My biggest money mistake was trusting my “friend”. You know what, no. I would say that my biggest money mistake was not doing my due diligence. Because no one could trick you if you are knowledgeable. So I always say now, a wealthy investor is a knowledgeable investor. So it was making an investment decision based upon just emotions and not knowledge and not work on my end.

Scott: Awesome.

Mindy: Awesome. What is your best piece of advice for people who are just starting out?

Tiffany: To start. Everyone always has an excuse. You meet those people and you’re like, well, you know, you have to spend less than you make. Well, I can’t because—you know you have to invest some. Well, I can’t because—and what they’re looking for you to do is like pull out the magic wand from your back pocket and make it all go away and there is no magic wand. Right? Sorry to tell you.

But you know it’s like the bad news is, it’s you. But the good news is, it’s you. Because if it’s you, you have choices and if you make different choices now and you start, something small, simple, and soon, then the life that you live later will be significantly different. So just start. You don’t have to know all of the steps. Just start with the next best step. It might be clicking a website link. It might be signing up for the Live Richer Challenge. It might be going to BiggerPockets. So just start.

Scott: Awesome, I love it. Now, this is the toughest financial question of the Famous Four. What is your favorite joke to tell at parties?

Tiffany: I always think I’m funnier than I am because I’m always the one laughing. I don’t know that I have a favorite joke. Like I’m more of a storyteller. Honestly, I’m sorry. I don’t have a favorite joke. I more so tell funny stories about something that’s happened to me. But typically not as funny as I think, so any of the joke’s on me?

Scott: All right, well then I’ll fill in with one. This is the best one I’ve heard ever.

Mindy: You’re going to love it, Tiffany.

Scott: A termite walks into a bar and he says, where is the bar tender?

Mindy: Ugh. See, that’s it. That’s like the whole joke.

Scott: That’s it. That’s all I got.

Tiffany: Wait—oh, I get it. That’s not a joke I’ll be sharing but that’s a great one. That’s a good one.

Mindy: That’s an awful one. Don’t encourage him, Tiffany. Okay, Tiffany, where can people find out more about you and the Live Richer Challenge?

Tiffany: So the good thing is that, and this is for any business person out there, really try to secure your name the same way every place. I am “The Budgetnista” so thebudgetnista.com and thebudgetnista on Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, every single social media platform you can think of. It’s just thebudgetnista all together. And if you want to sign up for any of the challenges, just go to LiveRicherChallenge.com. And they’re all listed there. Yeah, that’s where you can find me.

Scott: That’s thebudgetnista and nista is spelled N-I-S-T-A.

Tiffany: Correct.

Mindy: Yes. And we’ll put links in the Show Notes to this show at BiggerPockets.com/MoneyShow8 so all of these links will be ready. And all you have to do is click them.

Tiffany, thank you so much for your time today. I know you’re really busy jetting all over the world, spreading your message of frugality and financial betterness. I really appreciate your time today. Thank you.

Tiffany: No, thank you for having me. It’s always awesome to be able to share with folks. I’m always blessed when someone’s like, hey, we’d like you to share some more. Because like I said, this is my purpose and my passion is to help women live better lives and to leave this world better than I met it.

Scott: Well, thank you so much. I love what you’re doing and I’m grateful for what you’re doing and I’m so grateful that you took the time today to talk to us about what you’re doing.

Tiffany: Thank you.

Mindy: Okay, we’ll see you later.

Tiffany: All right. Byebye.

Mindy: Okay, that was Tiffany Aliche, The Budgetnista, the founder of the Live Richer Challenge. I am so excited. Just talking to her always makes me feel better. Scott, what did you learn from the show?

Scott: I just learned a tremendous amount. It was fantastic to hear her take on the things that people need in order to get out of these situations. I think she had three things. She had knowledge. She had access. And she had community. And those three concepts really resonated with me because I’ve seen those concepts, maybe worded differently but those three areas—those are the things that people need when they’re struggling with finance. They need to know the basic correct sources of action.

They need to know who to call and what resources to use and then of course, they need that support from the community. They need the encouragement and one thing that the Live Richer Challenge community seems to give is advice and perspective. Which may be at odds. There are a lot of areas in finance where you can have intelligent debate and that community aspect can really bring that in where you can get good, intelligent perspectives that are maybe different from various people that are going through the same things that you’re going through.

Mindy: Yes. And I think it’s really important to point out a couple of things. First of all, the community of the Live Richer Challenge group is very non-judgmental. There’s a lot of shame involved in having financial issues which is funny because everybody has financial issues. I mean, not everybody but you know, a lot of people. Most people in your life, even if you don’t know it. They’re struggling in some aspect of their finances and this is a safe place where you can go. It’s a closed group so not all of your friends are going to see this unless they’re in the group. But it’s a closed group where you can say, hey, I’m having a problem. I need help. I need just encouragement, even. I am so distraught I don’t know what to do and there’s 97 people that will come in and give you some support. So yeah, I hope I didn’t fangirl too much over Tiffany because I think she’s amazing. The other thing I want to point out is that she went out and did this. She didn’t just sit around and wait for something to happen. She didn’t sit around and wait for somebody to call her up and say, hey do you want to teach 500,000 people how to be better with their money? She went out and made it happen. And if you want to make changes in your finances, you have to go out and make it happen.

Scott: And if you want to make changes in the world, you’ve got to go out and make it happen. Use that as inspiration, not only for your personal finances but also think about how much good she’s done for people’s lives. And how can you leverage the improvement in your financial position to help other people as well? I think that’s a really important takeaway as well.

Mindy: That’s a great point, Scott. Great point.

Scott: On a later note, Mindy, what’s going on in your personal life? Any updates? Has your daughter won an award recently? Is that right?

Mindy: Today’s kind of a crazy day. At eight o’clock in the morning, my youngest daughter won the Citizenship Award for exemplary behavior at school and I am going to wrap this up in a minute so I can go see my older daughter make the Honor Roll for the first semester of fifth grade. So I’m having a good day. And talking to Tiffany just made it better. Oh hey, what’s today? We’re recording this in January on the day that my new book was released. How to Sell Your Home.

Scott: Oh yeah, I completely forgot about that.

Mindy: So if you are looking for information on how to sell a house, you’re getting ready to move—while BiggerPockets is an investment real estate site, the book has tips for selling rental property as well as selling a primary residence and moving on and moving out. And if you’ve never sold a house before, you have no idea what you’re doing. And that’s okay. That doesn’t make you a bad person. But you can make a lot of mistakes and cost yourself a lot of money if you don’t do it right. So my book is, the book that will give you the steps that your real estate agent may not tell you. They might have forgotten or they might have just thought you knew it. It’s everything you need to know to sell your house for the most profit and the most stress-free sale.

Scott: Wow, what a plug. I’m going to give you an A+ for that plug, and A+ for the content in that book, and just comment that there seems to be a lot of A+ going around in Mindy’s family today. The Jensen family, so—

Mindy: The Jensen A+ family. Wow, that’s kind of snotty. But yeah, you know what, today’s a good day.

Scott: Awesome.

Mindy: Well, thanks, Scott. Should we wrap this up?

Scott: Let’s wrap it up, Mindy.

Mindy: Okay. For Episode 8 of the BiggerPockets Money podcast, this is Mindy Jensen Over and out!

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In This Episode We Cover:

  • Tiffany’s journey
  • How she hit rock bottom
  • Her shift in mindset
  • Why one should take financial responsibility
  • How the Live Richer Challenge came to be
  • Tips for building a community
  • How to take actionable steps
  • Advice on finding an accountability partner
  • How to align your money with your values.
  • And SO much more!

Links from the Show

Books Mentioned in this Show

Tweetable Topics:

  • “Where I am today is better than where I was yesterday.” (Tweet This!)
  • “Your money should align with your values.” (Tweet This!)
  • “No one can trick you if you are knowledgeable.” (Tweet This!)

Connect with Tiffany

Note By BiggerPockets: These are opinions written by the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions of BiggerPockets.