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From Childhood Homelessness to Financially Confident

The BiggerPockets Money Podcast
42 min read
From Childhood Homelessness to Financially Confident

Cristina Livadary immigrated to the US when she was 6, and less than a year later, her father left, leaving her stranded with her mother and sister. She didn’t speak the language, had no money, and lived in hotels until her mother was able to find steady work as a chef.

She grew up without much in the way of financial education, but did secure a water polo scholarship to Bucknell. Until a rotator cuff injury lost her the funding at the beginning of her third year. She left college with $100,000 in student loans and a burning desire to find a high paying job to live out her Carrie Bradshaw dreams of living in NYC.

She spent two years in New York, working hard and spending harder. She moved to LA to run a division covering California and Hawaii, and decided she needed to make a big change.

Cristina stopped spending lavishly on things that didn’t matter, started focusing on what made her happy, and now helps others manage their finances to get money out of the way and live their best lives.

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Mindy: Welcome to the BiggerPockets money podcast show number 150, where we interview Christina Livia, dairy and hear how she went from homeless to certified financial planner on her way to financial independence.

Christina: I like spreading everything out and I just want the highest probability to reach my highest goals and how you do that as you stay diversified.

You don’t pay a lot of fees and you minimize taxes.

Mindy: Hello? Hello? Hello. My name is Mindy Jensen and with me as always is my, uh, mazing. Co-host got gotcha.

Scott: Oh, that was a corny intro, but we didn’t coordinate it all. Mindy

Mindy: and I are here to make financial independence less. The Gary. Less just for somebody else and show you that by following the proven path, you can put yourself on the road to early financial freedom and get money out of the way. So you can lead your best life.

Scott: That’s true. Whether you want to retire early and travel the world, go on to make big time investments in assets like real estate, or start your own business, [00:01:00] or just go and buy that first home.

That’s really important to you. We’ll help you build a position capable of launching yourself towards those

Mindy: Scott. I am super excited to have Christina on the show today because she came from a fairly tough background and had to work really hard to get where she is today. And, you know, there’s a lot of people who start off with a position of weakness and are able to push themselves. Forward really pull themselves up by their bootstraps and everything that Christina has is because of her hard work, which just makes it even more valuable in my opinion.

Scott: Yeah, you can tell that she’s just a really special person, you know, division one athlete, uh, with college scholarship, you know, went to a really, really good school there really high [00:02:00] income earner learned lots of painful financial lessons and, you know, and, and, and. Really, it seems to, it all seems to be coming together here, but it’s just amazing to see what she’s been capable of doing over the course of her career.

And you have no doubt that she’s going to be very successful with her new business and, uh, after the racist, towards, by, uh, in a big way of the next couple of years, Yeah, I’m

Mindy: super excited for what’s coming up for Christina. Uh, before we bring her in, let’s hear a note from today’s show sponsor, Christina  Adare from mana financial life design.

Welcome to the BiggerPockets money podcast. I’m so excited to have you with us today.

Christina: Thank you both for having me.

Mindy: I first met Christina at the mamas talk money summit. And the talk that you gave was just so inspiring. I was super excited to be able to get you on the show today. Um, let’s talk about your money journey because it hasn’t always been super smooth and roses.

And I think that’s where you learn the most is [00:03:00] from people who have experiences that. Kind of sucked, frankly. I was spoiler alert.

Christina: Thank you for putting a button. No, I mean, I think that that’s a big part of, um, my money journey is my story around money and it starts from a very early age when I was just seven years old.

I immigrated here from the Philippines. Um, and I was within about. Nine months of being in the Philippines or being in the United States. Rather my biological father took off and took with him our security and stability, and he fled to his home country of Venezuela. And so he left my mom, my sister and I alone in this foreign country.

Yeah, not really being able to speak, speak English and, um, just really, um, without a, and also undocumented. So it was a very tough few years. And so for the first few years of our life here, we [00:04:00] were living homeless and out of cheap motels. Um, and so, uh, that was really the beginning of my, my money journey.

Um, so, you know, for the first few years it was, it was fraught with instability. Moving around. Um, but luckily my mom ended up, you know, finding, um, a great job because she’s also, she also happened to be an executive chef. So she was able to, to get, you know, get some stability, found her now husband, my stepfather, and, um, throughout my teenage years.

I was able to work hard at school. And I was able to also get a scholarship to play water polo at Bucknell university, where I went to school. Um, and so I went to college. I went to the East coast, a completely strange and foreign land for me. And I’m three years into my college Waterpool career. I tore my rotator cuff.

Which meant that I lost my scholarship and I had these big dreams, um, to become an [00:05:00] international litigator, um, at the international criminal court and to change the world and to fight the good fight. But unfortunately I looked up the cost of law school and I realized that after I graduated from undergrad, I’d have a hundred thousand dollars of student loan debt.

That’s what private liberal arts colleges cost back in 2006. So, uh, so I had to, to, um, face the reality that for, you know, starting June of when I graduated, I owed my student loans a thousand dollars a month.

Scott: Going back here a second, you tore your rotator cuff your third year.

Christina: In the beginning of my junior year.


Scott: Oh, and so your scholarship got revoked for that year,

Christina: correct? Hmm. Yeah. Cause we were a spring. We were a spring sport and so fall was when I tore it.

Scott: Oh, geez. Okay. So then, yeah. So you took on the two years of student loan debt, which equated to about a hundred thousand at, um, [00:06:00] expensive. Okay. And did you, during that period where you were, where this was coming, did you, you know, while you were in college here, did you work or how did you sustain other lifestyle expenses outside of the cost of education?


Christina: Great question. So I did work study and so, um, to, you know, my, my parents still, you know, they’re restaurant owners, so, you know, very, very middle-class. And so I definitely needed to find some pocket change any way I could. And so, um, I did apply for the work study program when I was at school. And so I w went to school, played water polo, and then I actually worked at a senior center in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania.

Scott: Oh, okay. Awesome. I love that. I think that’s a great creative option and a lot of those work study programs, I don’t know about yours, uh, allow you to actually just work on homework for most of the time. Um, You know, depending on it, like sometimes you supervise in the library or whatever it can, it can depend on those types of things.

Christina: Yeah. I definitely did work, but I also would help. I [00:07:00] also like did fun activities with, with the seniors in there. It was awesome.

Scott: So, okay. So you graduate in this position of a hundred thousand dollars in debt, it sounds like you didn’t accumulate a lot of other personal debts, like credit card debt, or was there anything else that was later?

Christina: No, thankfully that was all the debt for the time being. Um, but one thing I talk about was kind of the lack of financial knowledge and literacy. So my parents were able to, to send me, you know, a couple hundred dollars a month to eat, you know, and, uh, that’s about it. But, um, I, you know, I, I, I definitely had Lewisburg, Pennsylvania is a very small town, so there wasn’t a lot of temptation outside of.

You know, eating and like going small basically.

Scott: Okay. And so, so you graduate from Bucknell and you’ve got a hundred thousand dollars in debt, whatever, what happens next? What’s how does your financial journey progress from there?

Christina: Yeah. So once I learned of that, that payment, so that, that thousand dollars.

So basically we tell this to all of our [00:08:00] clients. For every $10,000 in debt that you take on it’s about a hundred dollars a month after school. And so once I learned that I immediately stopped studying for the LSAT and I started going to networking nights. Um, so, but now being a small liberal arts school have a great alumni network.

And so I went in and I realized that. I need to find a job that was going to pay me the highest salary going out of school. If I wanted to live in New York city and kind of do the things that I wanted to do. Um, and so outside of law school, what I wanted to do is live in New York and kind of experience like the Carrie Bradshaw dream.

So, uh, so I, so I went to the Bucknell networking nights for finance, knowing that finance at that time. So again, it was 2006. Right before the crash 2008. Um, and so that there were plentiful finance jobs. And so I went there being a poly science, Spanish, double major, not knowing anything about business and just [00:09:00] going out and saying, you know, are there any companies that any, any sort of wall street firms that would hire someone like me.

And so I did find one. Um, so back in that time, there were, you know, there were the traditional, um, you know, trading shops. There were also the investment banks. Um, but there were also asset managers at that networking that. And so I found a firm that sold mutual funds to financial advisors and they didn’t require any, any sort of business background.

They just wanted to make sure that you could make dials and make friends. So I found that job and I actually was the, the, the individual that was hired out of Bucknell for that firm. Awesome.

Scott: Okay. So, so you get hired out of Bucknell for this firm. And how does your, your, your money story progressed there?

Are you able to begin making a dent on that, that student loan debt, or how do you begin managing your money?

Christina: I would say that I, I’m very honest about my, um, about my [00:10:00] money journey, the twenties, by the time I was 30, I was able. I paid off all my student loan debt and I bought a house in Los Angeles. So the very end it was great.

But throughout that, um, again, I know we talk about money mistakes later on. We’ll be happy to share that, but I had no idea what credit card debt was. Right. And so for the first, you know, right after school, I got this job where I had income all of a sudden. And so you get credit card offers and those credit card offers say, you get this X amount of credit limit.

And go ahead and apply. So I applied for a couple and six months into my, my stint in New York city, living the high life buying cupcakes and buying shoes. I literally had wrapped up like $15,000 in debt. Wow a lot. Yeah.

Mindy: You paid off any of your student loan debts. Were you just paying the minimums on those or were you,

Christina: I was paying the $1,000 a month at that point.

Okay. [00:11:00] Yeah. So this, the, the credit card that all of a sudden became this like looming thing. And for the first few years, because I was working on a, um, on a, kind of like a bonus, uh, structure. So I had. Traditional salary. And then every quarter I’d get a bonus. What I started doing was I started paying off my credit card debt with every bonus.

Right. But then the cycle would start over again because I never learned that you should pay off credit card debt after every month, you know? And so, um, this was, this was a cycle for me for five years until I really started thinking about my future and what I wanted out of my future.

Mindy: So it sounds like you, from that point to now have done some sort of financial education self-education where did you start learning about finances?

Because like you said, you didn’t really know about them growing up. Like that’s not taught well, how did you start? Self-educating.

Christina: I would say that I was never taught about finances as a child. My parents still mismanaged their finances despite my, my heavy hand. Um, but for me it, it came through reading books.

Um, and I, and I actually, and it’s not like, you know, a lot of people say, rich dad, poor dad, those kinds of books. I read a book called seven stages of money maturity. Oh, and this is a book by my men. My now mentor George kinder, and the book was not about dollars and cents and managing finances, rather. It was about truly deeply thinking about what you want out of life.

And I found that in my late twenties, when I started thinking about what I wanted out of life. And for me, that was because of the burden that homelessness had placed on my shoulders from a very early age. I wanted to buy a home and learning that that was my deepest need. At that [00:13:00] time, I had to get there as quickly as possible.

And so that’s when I started learning the dollars and cents and the, what I call a mindful spend creating a mindful spending plan and learning personal finance basics, uh, because I knew what I wanted.

Scott: I think that’s awesome. I, you know, when you, when you think about like, th that is really the catalyst behind all of this, it’s all about what do you want out of life and are you working towards that?

And it’s amazing how many people do not do that simple exercise. And that is the root of their money problems, because once you’re like, Oh, here’s what I want in life. Okay. Now it becomes very clear how I need to use money to, as a tool to create that future reality, whether that’s you want to be working this job, uh, or climbing the corporate ladder, or whether that’s you want to buy a home as simple as that, or whether that’s you want to be financially free, um, and traveling the world like, uh, Uh, Bryce and Christie from [00:14:00] millennial revolution or whatever, you know, that’s the it’s, whatever you, however you go about setting that up.

So I think it’s, I think it’s fantastic. You started with that. When did you read that book and make those choices about or come to that? Understanding?

Christina: I read that book in fits and starts, um, towards my late twenties. Okay. And then I read it and then I read it again fully, um, in my early thirties. Yeah.

Scott: What was your, what was the turning point then? Do you, do you have like a moment in time and a shift in your behavior in terms of spending and income generation and money management, you can point to,

Christina: I would say that it was actually like right about when I was like, like 29. It was so, so I was actually, so I got my dream job.

Um, my first iteration of my dream job at 24. So after two years of kind of, you know, I was telling this, I was talking about, you know, I was dialing for dollars for two years. I made a hundred dials a day. I was in the office at 6:00 AM out of the [00:15:00] office by 7:00 PM. Just like I learned how to talk to anyone and everyone.

And so I did that for two years. And after that time, I had built enough human capital, um, that I was able to go out and interview for jobs where they were, they were accepting people with five to 10 years plus of experience, but I’d built that experience to that two years of hard work. So I got that job that I wanted covering Los Angeles and Hawaii.

Um, and, and that’s the job that I, that I stayed in for 10 years. Um, and so for that 10 year period, I would be getting massive amounts of checks, you know, in terms of, of bonus checks. And again, the first couple of years, it was so silly. I mean, again, biggest money regret, right? Like not, not doing anything with that money, but it really around my, my late twenties, when I started reading about.

The seven stages of money maturity. I realized I wanted to buy a home. And so it really came. I, [00:16:00] you know, I remember cause my birthday is on November 15 and that was the, that was the day, every year that I’d get my bigs bonus check. And so it was basically my 29th birthday when I got that big bonus check and I was like, I’m not going to spend this money.

I am going to put this away in a savings account so that I can put a down payment on. House next year. And so I bought, I bought my first home at the age of 30

Scott: question, a couple of questions here. One is what was this job that you’re working on for 10 years covering Hawaii and California?

Christina: Uh, it’s called a wholesaler.

So it’s a mutual fund wholesaler,

Scott: so, okay. So you’re selling, you’re selling mutual funds to, uh, financial advisors who operate out of those States. Okay. Awesome. And so what, and then when you say massive amounts of checks, what, what were these things going towards in terms of spending? Do you remember that?

The specifics

Christina: in my twenties, it was paying off credit card debt. So it was still that kind [00:17:00] of rat race of, I accrued the debt for a quarter and then I’d pay it off of one big chunk. Um, and what it went to, I mean, Cars clothes, nice dinners out. Um, treating, yeah, treating, treating my friends to a lot of things.

Um, being, you know, there is, you know, that I am a very generous person. And so I saw a lot of my friends struggling making, you know, 50 grand a year and I was making a lot more than that. And so I, you know, take them out to fancy dinners, that kind of thing.

Scott: Okay. Um, and then what, uh, with that 24 at 29, when you had that first one, you’re like this time I’m not spending it.

What, what did you ha ha, where did you put it? How did you begin managing your money differently from that point?

Christina: And so this was just a savings account. I just put the money into a savings account that I couldn’t see everything. And I mean, again, I was an asset management and that’s the, kind of the big thing that I try to tell people [00:18:00] I was already, at this point I’d been working for even like six years on wall street.

And I still didn’t know anything about brokerage accounts or about, you know, I, I, I maxed out my retirement every year. That’s what I did, um, which I’m very glad that I did, but I didn’t know how else to maximize my money, but also knowing that I wanted to buy a house in quick order within a year. I wanted to, the plan was basically to collect all of my bonuses to put a down payment on a house that the year after.

Scott: Okay. So again, I w we, we just had a good talk with, um, yeah. And, and we had a great discussion about how, um, You know, it’s just like amazing how smart people who work in the finance world or are, you know, heavily involved in math engineers, these types of folks, sometimes just completely miss that, the basics of personal finance and, and, uh, Uh, money management here.

So it’s just kinda like, you know, I, [00:19:00] I like, it’s amazing to me that that happens. It’s, you know, if you’re listening to this, don’t feel bad if you’ve, haven’t thought about these things in your life. Because like even folks who work in the industry specifically about wealth management, um, selling the products.

That you know, to invest in, to build this wealth. Sometimes don’t put two and two together for years in a row. Uh, even though there’s smart, making great incomes, those types of things, clearly solving problems in the market. I don’t know. It’s just like an interesting paradox that we get. Um, Uh, that we hear about

Christina: frequently.

It’s also because it’s also, as I learned in my thirties that there are very different segments of finance people think of finance as one big black box, but, you know, in fact, like investment bankers, I’ve seen them blow huge bonus checks, right? Because again, they don’t know the basics of personal finance or they’re not masters of personal finance.

They’re masters in taking their own risks in a, in a [00:20:00] specific type of portfolio. So there’s investment banking, there’s asset management, which is what I was in, which is managing other people’s money for different types of risks, but then personal finance. I mean, that’s why certified financial planners exist, right.

Is because we as CFPs. Are uniquely trained to figure out people’s personal financial lines and put the puzzle pieces together.

Scott: Yeah. So it sounds like Amara at the point in your story at 29 where you’re not quite a master yet, but you’re learning some lessons and beginning to put some things together.

Is that, is that right? That’s right.

Christina: That’s right. Well before,

Mindy: before she beats herself up too much, I’ve heard some pretty good gems here. I heard her in college say unfortunately, and I don’t agree with you. I think it’s fortunately you said, unfortunately, I looked up the cost of law school. There are people who go to law school without looking that up and incur all of those deaths without.

Perhaps [00:21:00] having the passion to do this, um, the full time, like I went to school for fashion design, I have said multiple times that that was not the correct choice for me. Um, and you knew that it was a thousand dollars a month, student loan payment. Other people are just like, whatever, I’ll figure out how to pay for it later.

So don’t beat yourself up too much. You were also maxing out your retirement plans. That’s a good thing. There’s a lot of people making your money. Paycheck to paycheck blowing every dime of it and not having enough money. I don’t have enough money to save for retirement. Yeah, you do. If you’re making this big, big, big money, just because you’re living paycheck to paycheck doesn’t mean that you don’t have enough to save for retirement.

You’re just choosing that. So you’re still doing a lot of really good things.

Christina: Thank you,

Mindy: Christie.

Christina: And just so you know, I mean, I say like I talk about the underbelly of my story. For a purpose, right? I mean, again, it’s I do this because I want people to [00:22:00] know it’s got to just, as you said, if you are listening to this, everyone makes money, mistakes. And especially because money has had been such a taboo topic and in many, in many families still is to talk about and educate people about.

And so this is something that I’m so passionate about today, and I think we’re going to go, go through this in terms of my evolution, but. The thirties that, that 30th year was really the turning point. Nice.

Scott: So what happens in that 30th year,

Christina: man? What happened to the 30th year besides being broken up with, um, and, and just realizing, well, like I’m, I’m, I’m just a whole different person.

I went through a complete evolution, so, you know, I was, I was broken up with, on my 30th birthday. And, uh, my fart was broken. We’d been together for, for several years. And I just, I kind of, I went down into the deep hole, but is, um, sadness that I believe everyone should experience [00:23:00] because that’s when the greatest ahas in life happen.

And, and I realized I need to do something about my, my life, what am I doing in my life? And, and I realized that. Selling mutual funds to financial advisors was not what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. Um, there’s, there’s many reasons what we can talk about just on a technical side about mutual funds versus exchange traded funds.

But really for me, it was just, I wanted to help people. I wanted to help individuals and, and really gain that path in life that I was starting to find for myself. And so I put myself on a path. To do a couple of things. Number one was to get my CFP designation, certified financial planning designation. I knew that is the gold standard for personal financial planning.

And so if you ever work with an advisor, I always say like has to be a CFP. Um, so I, I put myself [00:24:00] through that because what would take, what it would take was a couple of years of work. Um, studying while working full-time at my same job. Um, then I had to go pass a vet rigorous tests that is the CFP exam.

Um, and then I also simultaneously wanted to become a registered life planner, which is a designation. It’s a subset of the CFP community that are really trained by George Kinder’s kinder Institute of life planning. Meaning that I’m uniquely trained to really understand people’s most important values and aspirations in life and connect it with their money.

And so I went through the 30 to 35 was really my education while working full time.

Scott: Was there any during that period, which, you know, I think, I think that’s a great, um, you know, painful, but a great way to, to kind of figure out your, your, your vision for your life, basically there. What were you, how are you handling your money [00:25:00] during that period?

Uh, as you kind of were, were educating and moving towards that, that vision,

Christina: I was saving money every single month. So my, I w I wanted to have a year and a half of living expenses, because I also knew that by the end of my. Of of my training, I’d be quitting my job and launching a firm. Um, and so I knew that I needed at least a year’s worth of runway and more because I also wanted to save for my wedding.

And so I became a master of squirreling money away in different pots and giving each different pot a job description. So for the longer money, the money that I’d be pulling three to four to five years out, went into a taxable brokerage account. And for the money that I would be spending within a year, I kept it in a high yield savings account.


Scott: um, what was your kind of monthly spending, would you say prior to the shift in thinking and what did it kind of get [00:26:00] whittled down to afterwards?

Christina: Oh, highly variable is the answer to the first one I remember looking at, I mean, I it’s, it’s embarrassing to say I’m going to say it though, because I think we should all talk about it.

Um, I mean, it went 13 to 20 grand as a single person in Los Angeles.

Scott: And that was on cars, restaurants, treating friends, those kinds of

Christina: things.

Scott: And what were you able to whittle it down to over those five years in terms of monthly spend? 7,000. Okay. And, and what did that process of whittling it down from 13 to 20 grand to seven?

Did that happen overnight or was that a gradual process?

Christina: Absolutely not. Yeah. It was a gradual process and, and, and whittling it down even today. I mean, my business partner and I. We every single month, you know, we kind of just check in with each other, like, how do you do last month? Right? I mean that we call, we call these with our partners, our money dates.

Um, and so it’s, it’s a continuous process because life is [00:27:00] continuously changing to say that you’re gonna spend seven grand every month for the rest of your life is just an unrealistic. Um, but you know, through that time of whittling it down, it became just. It’s all about mindfulness and understanding.

Okay. So what did I spend my money on? What are these, this excess brought me joy and what didn’t. And then the next month, what I tried to do was eliminate the things that didn’t truly bring me joy. So clothes were one of the first things. That you know, that, that went out the door. Um, and then I slowly, you know, gave up taking all my friends to restaurants all the time.

Scott: Split the check. Yeah. Um, okay, well, uh, that’s fantastic. So w w was, was, this was all of the cash you began to accumulate going into, um, uh, uh, uh, Like investments or, you know, you said, you said you’re building up 18 months of [00:28:00] runway. Was it really just kind of mostly cash accumulation and in after tax savings accounts and brokerage accounts or was there other investing going on as well?

Christina: Yeah, no, it is ETFs. I wanted to put it into liquid, you know, uh, liquid tax efficient vehicles so that I could take it out whenever I needed it.

Scott: Okay, great.

Mindy: I want to clarify what an ETF is, or I want you to clarify what an ETF is. Cause we hear that that word bandied about are those, I guess it’s an acronym bandied about, but I don’t think we’ve really discussed it.

Well, maybe on the Chelsea Brennan show, but, uh, you can talk

Christina: about it or we can, we can talk about very quickly. So you’ll, you’ll typically hear two types of investment vehicles, ETF, which stands for an exchange traded fund and a mutual fund. And so both of those are what you call pooled investment vehicles.

And so a mutual fund, the way that you think about a mutual fund is there’s basically some person who runs that [00:29:00] mutual fund. So it’s a, it’s a expert who goes and picks a, uh, a pool of stocks and, or bonds and, or a mixture of both. And you buy shares into that investment vehicle and exchange traded fund.

Is not professionally managed by a person instead it’s modeled after an exchange. So there are exchange, traded funds for a lot of different things, but the most popular is the S and P 500. So when you own an exchange traded fund for an S and P 500 ETF, you own portions of that, uh, of the 500 stocks in the S and P 500.

Scott: Yeah. So, you know, and an ETF can mean a lot of things as well. Right? So, you know, when I say I invest in index funds, for example, what I’m really doing is I’m using, I, you know, I invest in index funds through my retirement account, but most of my excess cash is placed in after-tax [00:30:00] brokerage vehicles. And I’m buying a S and P 500 ETF.

From Vanguard, right. For example. And that’s, that’s kind of like, that’s one way of investing in ETFs. There’s a budget in ETFs out there, and it sounded like you chose something that you said was tax efficient. What does that mean to you?

Christina: Um, I can do a whole podcast on this. I just wrote a very lengthy blog post on it.

So, um, mutual funds and exchange traded funds, um, are taxed very differently because. Mutual funds the industry that I know so dearly because I worked on it in it for over a decade, they tend to be more tax inefficient because they have to pay out their capital gains at the end of every year. And those capital gains, whether you own the fund for the entire year, for a portion of the year, you have to pay those capital gains, um, exchange traded funds.

They, they don’t because you can buy and sell so quickly. Um, [00:31:00] you, they are much more liquid and they’re more tax efficient for you. So they have, you know, I’d probably say a quarter of the capital gains pant at the end of the year, if anything. Okay. Here to a mutual fund.

Scott: Great. So, so you’re, you’re, you’re really getting, getting control of your spending and socking away cash, both in the form of savings accounts and these ETFs, and then, uh, over this five-year period, getting ready for this next career.

What, what, what let’s w w what happens next?

Christina: So, it was, I mean, the dreaming part was, was the, the most fun part. Um, I did a lot of, you know, the registered life planning training that I went to. Was a five day retreat in HANA Maui. And it was at George Kinder’s home where, where we essentially spent five days being trained, but also being planned.

And it was all about this two year transition from 2015 to 2018, [00:32:00] actually, when I would be leaving the only job that I really knew, um, you know, as a, as an adult human being, um, and. Jettisoning myself into a whole new career, um, as a registered investment advisor in a firm owner. And so, um, that, that five day retreat was really the beginning point of how it was all going to play out.

Um, and in that, in that time as well, I, I found the love of my life. I got married. Um, and so all of that happened within. A very short amount of time. Um, and so, um, just on the money side, so I, I saved up enough money, so I didn’t get, so I didn’t have to be paid in that first year, affirm from ownership. And I also saved up enough to pay for my own wedding in Mexico.

Scott: Awesome.

Mindy: But you didn’t take out loans to pay for your wedding.

Christina: No loans.

Scott: So, so [00:33:00] as, as a business owner with this, how, how did that first year ago, were you able to, you know, were you able to, to begin generating income and, uh, and to get the business off the ground? Or what did it take a few years? Or how, how did that,

Christina: so we’re, we’re about two and a half years in now, but you’re still speaking to me at the beginning stages, but.

Uh, we D we generated income very quickly. Um, it was just a matter of how we, what we did with that income. So we decided purposefully not to pay ourselves so that we could really build the firm. Um, and so as of today, we have about 80 clients. Um, and again, we started from zero. So a lot of financial advisors that, that start their businesses, uh, new, uh, you know, if they transfer from, let’s say a big brokerage house, like.

Uh, Wells Fargo and Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley, and they moved to their own independent firm. They bring their clients with them, which enables them to have recurring revenue right away. But we didn’t. Um, so we were [00:34:00] able to bring on 80 clients over the past two and a half years, not a lot of sleep, but, um, we, we, uh, at the beginning of this year, we paid our, and we started paying ourselves and we’re making a living wage.

Scott: And where are you living

Christina: now? Still living in the house that I bought in 2014. Okay,

Scott: awesome. What’s um, so now you have a living wage here. Um, what’s next? What’s the future look like for you? What’s your, what what’s, what’s going to happen over the next couple of years and how are you going to, um, be managing your assets

Christina: there?

Awesome question. I just did this visioning exercise last night instead of watching the election. Um, and so, I mean, like the key, the key features of my vision for the next few years, In five years, I want to be, you know, one of the pioneers in financial life planning. So are our firms called mana financial life design.

And it’s truly, you know, Scott, as you said, it w we, we start with, what do you want out [00:35:00] of life? And so there’s so many advisors, I’d say 99% of financial advisors don’t start conversations that way. So I want to be a leader and a pioneer in the space. Where that’s how financial advisors begin conversations with their clients.

We want to be a boutique firms, so we don’t want to serve, you know, thousands of people in terms of clients. But we want to serve a, you know, a, I’d probably say a few hundred with about 20 employees and really build a firm. That’s all about achieving people’s highest vision in their life. Um, and then in terms of personal life, I’m also seven months pregnant.

So I tend to do everything. Yeah. I mean, my, my husband and I hope to keep this house as a rental property because we are, um, two [00:36:00] blocks from the beach here in LA and, uh, stepping, building up all over around us. Um, but we, we actually want to move closer to his, his, um, family in Pasadena. And, um, and start kind of having a, you know, a little bit more of a suburban lifestyle.

Scott: Awesome. How do you, how do you think about, uh, managing the, your ass as part of this?

Christina: So I’m I, so I’ll, I’ll tell you also, in terms of, of books I’ve been reading lately, I’ve been kind of validated by some of that. I’m a boring investor. Um, I, I believe in having, you know, my real estate as in hard, hard assets and then having a portfolio.

Of retirement assets, qualified assets, as well as taxable assets. And on the taxable side, again, like a broad range of ETS. I want municipal bonds in there, you know, because we live in a very high tax state of California. Um, [00:37:00] and I just, and I want that to work for me consistently over time. I’m not a big risk taker.

Um, though, you know, a lot of our, the clients that we work with, they, they have a portion of their. Wealth in their company stock, for example. Right. Um, I, I liked spreading everything out and I just want the highest probability to reach my highest goals and how you do that. As you stay diversified, you pay, you don’t pay a lot of fees and you minimize taxes.

Mindy: Okay. I got to jump in here and say, Christina is the CFP saying that she is a boring investor? And I think that is so powerful because having all of these exciting investments leads to a lot of sleepless nights. You want that everybody that we listened to, or I’m sorry, everybody that we interview who is successful in their investment strategy is [00:38:00] boring and that’s the best boring is the best.

You said diversification love that. Um, you said bonds. I don’t really like bonds, but we’ll agree to disagree. We’re in different places that I live right now. And I, uh,

Christina: they only have 10% bonds as the brakes to my gas pedal. Don’t worry,

Mindy: love bonds. And I, we should really bring somebody on who can. Talk intelligently about bonds, because I, I know that I can’t speak intelligently about them.

I just know that they don’t make a lot of money. So I want to make a lot of money in my investments. Um, but I love that you don’t like risk. Nobody wants to lose their money. Be boring in your investments. Stay the course, uh, put in, you know, on a consistent basis and just. Set it and forget it. Are you actively trading a lot of your ETFs or do you kind of just throw it in there and you’re done

Christina: so, so to [00:39:00] be clear, there is risk and stock and stock market investing

Mindy: past performance is not indicative of a future game.

Christina: Um, but, but again, the way that I think about it again, it’s the law of averages, right? So with a high yield savings account today, what are you making points? Seven. If you’re lucky, right? Like maybe, um, what, when we run long-term projections, you know, the stock market on average, um, you know, on, on average a year is like 7% going back in time, right?

7%. Um, if I can do 6.5% a year, my financial plan works until I’m 90 years old. I’m good with that. That’s kind of what I’m looking for, right. Is, is, you know, anywhere from five and a half to six and a half percent, anything above that is gravy. Oh, I’m sorry. What did you ask me? I just wanted to, I got into, I got on a little bit

Mindy: complimenting you on your boring strategy because I think that’s the [00:40:00] best way to go.

It’s you know, I see a lot of people talking about, you know, Oh, I got this great stock tip. Hey, put a dollar in it, you know, see what a dollar does, but don’t put everything in this hot stock tip, just because you have a hot stock tip doesn’t mean it’s going to pan out. I mean, have you ever had a hot stock tip that.

All of a sudden flopped.

Christina: Yeah. And we, and we have a have clients that actually love, you know, studying the stock market and making big bets. So what we tell them is 10% of your net worth no more than 10% of your net worth can go to that. What we call like the Robin hood bucket. You get to do that. We’ll take care of the serious money, the widows and orphans money, we call it.

We need to make sure that we take care of that while you, you can, you can have fun with 10% of your net worth.

Mindy: Okay. You just said two things that were very important. You said I have clients who like to study the stock market. They don’t just get some weird whim, hot stock [00:41:00] tip. And you said they make bets.

That is when you are getting off on a wild hair, it can be a bet. And 10% of your total net worth is not the same as throwing it all in on red. So I just, I love that. So I just want, wanna, I just want to reiterate that part.

Christina: Thank you.

Mindy: You know, people who. Come to the place where, Oh, I need to get my finances in order.

Always seem to feel like what they’re doing. Isn’t right. Or I should have known this. And I’m so embarrassed that I don’t. And you said it so perfectly. Everybody makes money, mistakes. Every single person makes the money, mistakes, even me, even Scott, uh, Scott. Sorry, I’m telling you. I’m not trying not to laugh.

Scott. [00:42:00] Uh, Scott didn’t want to participate in. Credit card hacking. Cause he got like 2% cash back on his credit card or something. And now he makes significantly more

Christina: by just credit cards

Mindy: to bonuses and things like that. Um, but that’s still, I mean, that’s a, that’s a great money mistake to have. Oh, I just didn’t take advantage of something, but you know, there’s lots of people, everybody makes money, mistakes.

And to hear from somebody who is in the space now, Who also made money, mistakes and learned from them is so powerful. It helps people really figure out that, you know, I’m not doing such a bad job, at least I’m paying attention

Christina: to what we do. Yeah. We do this with our clients all the time, because they think that we’re some wise, I’m not, I’m like I’m, I’m like 36 years old, you know, I’m still figuring this out, you know, but I, I happen to read a lot.

I surround myself with very smart people. Um, and. You know, w we’re all gonna make mistakes, but what we can [00:43:00] do is make, make the most educated decisions based on what we know. And because we spend all day everyday living and breathing in this space, we can help you make the most educated decisions.

Scott: Got it. Um, well,

Christina: hold on. Oh, go

Scott: ahead. Go ahead.

Christina: The one thing I was just going to say was, um, and I can weave this into the, the famous four or whatever. So, um, the idea of financial confidence, cause I think that’s kind of what, um, Mindy’s getting at is the idea. Like I say, that financial confidence is more important than financial literacy and, and that’s, especially what women lack.

It’s financial competence. That’s why so many, you know, it’s like 50. I, I posted something about, um, a UBS study that just came out in July that 54% of millennial women say that, that, that live with a, um, with a partner, um, [00:44:00] defer their decisions, their financial planning decisions to their husbands and that’s millennial women.

Um, and so. Like this, like we’re here to say that financial confidence is what is the most important thing to, to truly embody because financial confidence will give you the ability to go out and research and find the resources versus thinking you need to do it all

Scott: yourself. What is financial confidence?

How do you define it?

Christina: Financial confidence. How do I define it? Let’s see.

I think it’s the innate knowing that you don’t need to know everything.

Mindy: Oh, then I don’t have financial. I wouldn’t know everything. How do you get financial confidence? I am starting to realize that.

Christina: I think it’s the journey that we’re all talking about here. It’s it’s the [00:45:00] revisiting your past and understanding that everyone makes mistakes.

And that you two have made mistakes, but instead of criticizing yourself for it, learning from it and saying, what else can I do? What’s the best next step. And so for a lot of people, the best next step is to find an expert that they can trust. Right. Um, and sometimes it’s finding, uh, a podcast they can trust or finding a blog that they can trust.

Right. It doesn’t matter which. You know what, where on the spectrum, the service line, but, but truly being able to understand that there are resources out there that can aid them on, on their journey instead of having to do it all themselves.

Mindy: I love that. I love that. Yeah, you, if you’re going to do it all yourself, you should be prepared to do a lot of research.

And some people love that. My husband is crazy about research. I’m sick of hearing about Tesla. I’m sick of hearing about like all of his favorite things. Um, that sounds [00:46:00] mean I’m sick of hearing about all that savory things, but seriously talks about Tesla, like every single day. Oh, do you want to watch self-driving car videos?

No, not even a little bit. I’ve seen well, I’ve seen cars drive all the time. It doesn’t matter to me who’s driving behind the wheel, but he is confident in his research. He loves doing the research. If you want to, you know, do all of this stock picking and you know, if you really want to do this all by yourself, you have to be prepared to embrace the research or be prepared to race, losing a lot of money.

Christina: Well, and so it looks, let’s add one more. Part of that definition of financial confidence then. So the financial confidence to talk about

Mindy: money, love that. Oh, I love that. Yes. And have the financial confidence to talk about money and not be ashamed. Everybody has made money, mistakes

Christina: come in our Facebook group and

Mindy: talk about your money, mistakes, share

Christina: what you’ve learned

Mindy: from your money, mistakes, because, [00:47:00] you know, that’s kind of the whole reason the BiggerPockets exists because we want to share with people.

How to invest in real estate, more specifically real estate, but how to invest in real estate. And you don’t need to learn all of this mistakes from the school of hard knocks. Learn from me, learn from what I did wrong in my last flip learn from what I did wrong. When I screened my tenants, learn that, you know, this is a really good indicator that this person is going to be a terrible tenant.

And then don’t rent to that person or learn that this is a really good indicator that this person is going to be a great tenant and pursue people who fit that need you. Don’t need to learn all of this from scratch. Learn from other people’s mistakes. Talk about money. I’ll get off my soap box now, but yes, I love that.

Okay. Well I think this has been super fantastic, Christina, thank you so much for sharing your journey with us, but we’re not done. We want to look into your we’ve kind of talked [00:48:00] about your, uh, your investments. You’ve got a little bit in real estate.

Christina: So it’s a lot, a bit in real

Mindy: and you bought six years ago, speak of a lot, a lot of bit in real estate.

Um, and then you’ve got ETFs and, uh, retirement

Christina: accounts and retirement retirement accounts are also invested in, in ETS to my business partner who actually manages my money because I, you know, she she’s the CFA. And she, we run an impact portfolio. And so, so we actually eliminate fossil fuels at which this year has been amazing for our portfolio.

Um, as well as promote gender equity in our, in our modest impact portfolios. So all of my, um, additional. Uh, retirement assets are in our impact portfolios.

Mindy: Okay. And then currently in terms of annual spending, how much do you keep on hand? Like in months [00:49:00] I’m not looking for a dollar amount,

Christina: uh, in months, six months from my husband and I, yeah.


Mindy: And he has a full-time job.

Christina: He’s also a business owner. Okay. Yeah. Um, so full-time yes, but also, you know, it’s kind of that freelance LA lifestyle.

Scott: And how about how much cash do you keep on hand for your business in terms of month?

Christina: So that’s a little bit more of a complicated, uh, a complicated thing because we also have investors.

That we’re going to be paying off next year. So we have much more than we typically keep it for us. It’s a year of like operating, um, in terms of cash. Uh, but we’re also, you know, in, in the, we have a little bit more cash than that right now at this moment, because we are planning to pay down the investors, um, to, to gain more equity in our business.


Scott: great.

Mindy: Uh, I think that we have. Covered [00:50:00] everything about your story. Would you like to share anything else before we move on to the famous

Christina: four? I think we’ve covered it. Thank you both.

Mindy: Okay. Hey, it’s time for the famous four. These are the same four questions we ask of all of our guests. Christina, are you ready?


Christina: ready? What is your

Mindy: favorite finance book? I think I know.

Christina: Well, so because I already gave a nod to, to my mentor, George kinder. I’m going to throw a new one in there because this book just came out. And I’m literally obsessed and Mindy, I know that you subscribed to our newsletter, so you’ve probably saw my homage to it.

Um, but Morgan Housel psychology of

Mindy: money. Yes, yes. Yes. I need to get Morgan on the show. That book is.

Christina: Oh, my gosh, love. I haven’t

Scott: read it all to check it out.

Mindy: Oh my goodness, Scott. It is amazing. You know, so I came into the personal finance space in like 2013. And at that time you already had your money or your life and the [00:51:00] richest man, the millionaire next door and the richest man in Babylon.

And like all of the, the, uh, like the core books. And when I was reading Morgan Housel psychology of money, I’m, I’m looking through and I’m like, This is one of those books. That’s going to become the core personal finance books. And it’s like, I’m excited that I’m able to read it when it came out, as opposed to like, Oh, it’s 10 years old.

I already know everything in there. Like it’s so, Oh, it’s such a good book. I’m sorry. I’m going

Scott: on and on about it, but it’s

Mindy: a really awesome book. Morgan hit me up.

Christina: Okay.

Scott: Oh, yeah, that’s right. What was your biggest money mistake?

Christina: So the biggest money mistake. I’d, I’d say it’s, it’s what we were talking about in my twenties spending a lot of what I made. Right. And not thinking forward to what I wanted in the [00:52:00] future and not just, you know, three years in the future, but five years in the future, 10 years in the future.

So if I could do it all over again, which I can’t, that’s what I would do, but I would just urge, I, I hope this, that money mistake teaches everyone that you should dare to dream and think about what you want in the future, and then construct a, uh, an elegant structure to managing your money around that

Scott: dream.


Mindy: I love that. Well, that kind of tags into the next question. What is your best piece of advice for people who are just starting

Christina: out? You should save. So, you know, starting out max out retirement, I mean, we’ve started coming up with just kind of just one liners that, that help people. But if you spend more than a hundred thousand dollars a year, you’re going to need to save more than the max retirement contribution, which this year is 19,500.

So, you know, Scott, it sounds [00:53:00] like, you know, your, your listeners know how much they spend each month with it, which is amazing. A lot of our clients, when they first come have no idea, so understand how much you spent spend each month. And if it’s more than a hundred thousand, you need to at least max out.

Your 401k. And if you’re a solopreneur, um, if you own your own business, you don’t just contribute to an IRA. Look into a solo, 401k, or different retirement accounts that are specifically designed for people who own their own businesses. Yeah,

Scott: I’ll, I’ll go a step beyond that and say, if you spend, if you spend a hundred thousand dollars per year and you buy into that 4% rule, um, thing that we’ve been talking about at all, that means you’re going to have to accumulate $2.5 million in order to withdraw 4% of that $100,000 per year, um, on a, on a regular basis.

Christina: That’s only a 30 year retirement. Yeah. So, so if you, if you retire earlier that 4% rule doesn’t even. W w [00:54:00] well,

Scott: we’ve had a lot of discussions about that and I’ll politely disagree with that. I think the 4% rule is appropriate for the early retiree, but, but there’s, there’s a lot of different things going on with that.

And you have a 96 per week going on with that. But if the point is, if you can drop that to $50,000 per year, now you only need one. Now you’re accumulating $50,000 more per year. After tax that you can then cause a hundred thousand dollars of spending after tax for most of us. Right. That’s if you’re doing that math now I’m accumulating $50,000 more after tax.

And I only need 1.2, 5 billion time I ever did the math, right? Yeah. At one point about one, 1.2, 5 million to sustain that indefinitely. Right. So that, um, that spending. If you track your spending, it can get it down. It increases the amount that you’re accumulating and reduces the amount that you’re going to need downstream.

And look, you can always go back. And once you’ve reached that one point, you know, that financial freedom number or whatever it is, then [00:55:00] begin layering back in items to your lifestyle as your wealth continues to grow and you read, you know, Hey, I’ve got $2 million in wealth and I spend $50,000 a year. Now I can bump that spending up to 60, $70,000 a year.

And I’m still in this state of perpetual freedom with those types of things. So, um, love that concept of the, Hey, you know, track your spending, know how much it’s going to be and understand how that’s, how you’re going to have to have. That’s going to have big mathematical implications on your ability to retire.

All right. What is your favorite joke to tell at parties?

Christina: I’m not a funny person. Um, I have a joke that had me howling the other day. That is the dumbest joke, but I’m just going to say it. What are the zero state of the eight

nice belt.

Scott: That’s a great, [00:56:00] that’s great.

Mindy: That’s a number joke.

Okay. Christie, to tell people where they can find out more about you.

Christina: So we are, we have a website, mana, M a N a F L d.com. And we have the same tag on Instagram, mana FLD. Those are the two places we spend most of our time on the internet. So we run a blog, um, on our websites. And on the once you get to the blog page, you can subscribe to our bi-weekly newsletter.

Mindy: That’s fantastic. Yeah. I subscribed to your BI weekly newsletter and I really like it. There’s a lot of great information in there. Um, Christina, thank you so much for your time today. I think this is going to be hugely helpful for people from a variety of different, uh, viewpoints. First of all, you made mistakes and you’re still doing great.

You. [00:57:00] No, what you’re doing and you still made mistakes, like, like it’s okay to make mistakes. Everybody makes mistakes. I think a lot of people are like, Oh, it’s too late for me. It’s not too late for you. It’s never too late for you. You can do it too. Just be financially conscious. Uh, okay. Uh, and we will talk to you soon.

Thank you so much.

Scott: Thank

Christina: you. Bye.

Mindy: Okay. That was Christina . Scott, what did you think?

Scott: think it was great. I think there was a lot of really good lessons to be learned here. I think that, um, you know, there’s in working with, with a lot of folks that come from, you know, and I think it’s fair to say she did a disadvantaged background, you know, being homeless, uh, as a, as a, as a young child and those types of things, you know, it can be difficult in some cases for some personal finance.

Lessons to come through. And what I mean by that is that sometimes when folks get money, um, for the first time, their first inclination is to spend it before they [00:58:00] lose it or to treat their friends who have always been there for them and helping them out through the tough times in their local community or those types of things.

And you wonder if that’s kind of like. Something that’s difficult to break out of in some ways. Yeah. And sometimes I think it can be difficult to break out of that mentality over time. It sounds like what really happened for Christina today was she had that. Real reckoning on her 30th birthday, that crazy milestone of, you know, where her heart was broken, all those things changed.

And that was when she really began to, you know, say, look, I’m going to, I’m going to take care of myself and, and for, to bring financial discipline and get my vision and life goals, very clear and begin working towards those with a discipline, you know, discipline and rigor. And it’s been amazing to see the progress that she’s been able to accomplish since that change in mindset.

I think.

Mindy: Yeah. And I can see huge things for her future just because she is now [00:59:00] confident about her finances. She is conscious about them and she is purposely striving towards the goal. She hit the goal of home ownership, and now she’s moving forward with other goals. And, you know, I just love that she wants to help people who are.

Five years ago, Christina, get to current Christina and beyond her giving spirit is super, super inspirational.

Scott: Absolutely

Mindy: love it. Uh, the show notes. This never came up during the show today. The show notes for today’s episode can be found at biggerpockets.com/money. Show one five, zero, and near the end of the show.

Scott, we started talking, I started ranting. Let’s be honest about talking about money. We have a Facebook group that we would love for you to join, to come in and speak with other frugal weirdos, other finance nerds. [01:00:00] Other people who are just like you and talk about the issues that you’re facing with your finances.

Talk about some of the wins, some of the things that you’ve learned, you can join our group at facebook.com/groups/bp money. Okay, Scott, should we get out of here?

Scott: Let’s do it.

Mindy: From episode 150. I can’t believe Scott. It’s been 150 episodes.

Scott: Yeah. Thank you everyone for listening to us for 150 episodes. So, wow.

That’s, that’s an amazing thing there. So here’s the, here’s the next hundred and 50.

Mindy: Here’s to the next 550 episodes,

Scott: 150 that’s right

Mindy: from episode 150 of the bigger pockets, money podcast. He is Scott trench and I am Mindy Jensen saying, may the force be with you always [01:01:00] .

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