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Personal Finance Wisdom from One Woman to Another: Lessons from My Journey

Personal Finance Wisdom from One Woman to Another: Lessons from My Journey

February 29, 2024

Each of us has the potential to enjoy a successful personal finance journey and none of us need to go for it alone. While discussing money can feel awkward, sharing our financial struggles and triumphs unlocks a treasure trove of knowledge for other women. By being open, we help each other avoid pitfalls and replicate successes, paving the way for a collective financial future full of empowerment and achievement.

Despite now dedicating my career to guiding others financially, I didn't always have a natural knack for money management nor open communication about it. Growing up, I was the eldest of three, raised by a single mom who taught me the hard truth that money was hard-earned and hard to keep. By my late teens, I had a crystal-clear vision – a college degree, health insurance, and a house of my own, all before 30. And guess what? I did it! By 21, I had my bachelor’s degree. At 22, I landed my first full-time job with health benefits. Then, at 25, I became a homeowner. I even managed to pay off five-figure debts – credit cards by 27 and student loans by 30 – all while earning a five-figure salary. Savings? You bet. I had five figures stashed away by 28. How did I do it? Following are notes on some of my stumbling blocks and ah-ha moments.

  1. Invest in yourself. College was a hustle. I juggled 2-3 part-time jobs – waitress, retail associate, office assistant – anything to pay my bills and build experience. What kind of work are you doing? Is it your dream job or a detour to help you build skills along the way? Take note of what you are learning now and what you’d like to learn in the future. What career paths interest you most? Research the salary range of your career path interests and explore options like trade schools or certifications to expand your skillset.
  2. Dream big, plan smart. Where do you see yourself in three years? Write down your goals and break them into actionable steps. Did you know just writing down your goals increases your chances of achieving them? It's science!
  3. Don't let debt hold you back. I understand debt can feel overwhelming because I have been there. I took out student loans and credit cards, created a plan to pay them off, then executed my plan. Don't let shame about your debt paralyze you. It took time, but by 30, I was debt-free! Educate yourself on responsible credit use and adjust your lifestyle to live within your means.
  4. Spend less than you earn. This may sound obvious, but trust me, it's easy to get swept up in the "treat yourself" culture. Track your spending and prioritize building an emergency fund. Remember, credit cards are not an endless money supply.
  5. Buyer beware when it comes to homebuying. My first house purchase was riddled with mistakes. When I bought my first house in 2004, 6.5% was an acceptable interest rate but probably not the best based on my situation and credit worthiness. In addition, the realtor I chose sold me a worthless home warranty that did not cover any claims because my house was too old. My takeaway? Do your homework. Shop around for mortgages, understand preapproval limits, review your home inspection report thoroughly (especially when considering the purchase of an older home), and research the potential costs of repairs.
  6. Save for your future, even if it's scary. I missed out on free money by delaying contributions to my employer's 401(k). If you have a retirement plan option, take advantage of it. Explore IRAs and consult financial professionals for personalized guidance.
  7. Know your worth, then demand it. I used to underestimate my value, accepting less than I deserved because I wanted an opportunity. Ladies, we need to fight for what we deserve! Research your industry's salary range and negotiate confidently based on your experience and skills.
  8. College isn't just about the degree. Don't just go through the motions. Have a goal in mind, whether it's a specific career path or a desired skillset. This focus will help you progress toward your dreams.
  9. Embrace or cultivate your fierce independence. In today’s world, you can learn how to do just about anything online. Take advantage of the information available to learn how to improve your situation.

How are you writing your own success story? My journey hasn't been without its bumps, but I've learned from each one. Remember, you are strong, capable, and deserving of your dreams. Stay focused, work hard, and never lose sight of your goals.

Wendolyn Forbes is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ with Wealth Transition Finance, A Member of Advisory Services Network, LLC. Wendolyn is a fee-only financial planner and member of the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA). For more information, please visit her website at

Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Inc. owns the certification marks CFP®, CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ and federally registered CFP® (with flame design) in the US, which it awards to individuals who successfully complete CFP Board’s initial and ongoing certification requirements.

This material is provided as a courtesy and for educational purposes only. Advisory Services Network, LLC does not provide tax advice. The tax information contained herein is general and is not exhaustive by nature. Federal and state laws are complex and constantly changing. Consult your own legal or tax professional for information concerning your individual situation.

Originally published in the February 28, 2024 issue of Rumble by Smoky Mountain News