Interview with Debt Free Diva - Blog - BetterSaver
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Interview with Debt Free Diva

March 9, 2022

Tracy talks about her journey to financial freedom, finding a place in the financial world as a woman, and gives tips about how to get started with setting financial goals. You can read the full transcript of the interview below.

Emma:

Before we start, Tracy, do you want to briefly introduce yourself and let people know who you are and what you do?

Tracy:

Yeah, sure. So I am quite commonly known as the Debt Free Diva. So at the age of 18, I opened my own business, and six years later, I had to shut down that business, unfortunately, and came away with $94,000 of consumer debt to my name. So I decided not to go bankrupt at the time - there’s a lot of ramifications about bankruptcy. So I embarked on my first financial journey to pay all the debt off. So I did - all $94,000 plus interest in 3 years and then embarked on my second financial journey, which was to buy my own house. So a year after being debt-free, I bought my first house and now I have people in my house. So the whole point of debt-free diva is to help educate on finances.

I also recently, as of 1st of November, am now a fully qualified Financial Adviser currently specialising in mortgages, so helping other people with their financial journeys too - something I’m super passionate about! And yeah, but I still obviously run the Instagram and the blog as Debt Free Diva, just teaching the everyday Kiwi how to be better.

Beth:

That’s awesome! Obviously, there was a real external factor that drove you to get started on that financial journey as you talk to, but how did you get started on that learning journey? Because there’s a big difference between getting started out of necessity and actually figuring out, you know, how to get the tools to get moving.

Tracy:

Yeah, so at the time I went to the library, actually, because it’s free. So I went to the library, and I literally got out any book that I could on finances. So back then, there weren’t as many online. So we’re talking 2016 was when I started my financial journey. And there weren’t as many online tools as they are now. And so I had to think outside the box.

Emma:

Yeah, so cool! Would you say that that was where you learnt the most about money? Was it from those books? Was it from people around you?

Tracy:

It definitely was all the research I did, from the books and online as I went on. So as I sort of carried on with my financial journey, more and more online resources did pop up - more financial blogs, those kinds of things.

Emma:

Was there one particular piece of advice that really stood out, or one piece of information that you’re like, “oh, well, it changed everything”?

Tracy:

Yes, personal finances are personal to each person.

I know that we go on about it, well, I know I do on my Instagram, and I know BetterSaver does. We go on about it all the time, like, “get personalised advice”.

Dave Ramsey’s a very good example, he has seven steps, but the thing is, is that that doesn’t actually suit every single person. So you can take bits and pieces from the seven steps that suit your life, but personal finances are personal. That’s definitely the biggest thing I took away from all my research.

Beth:

A lot of your ethos is around making finances fun, rather than kind of fuddy-duddy, or scary, or boring. What are your top tips for ritualising that, for making them something that can be a fun part of your everyday life?

Tracy:

I like to challenge myself. So a huge, fun part for me, and for those that do follow me, every Monday I post my side hustle earnings from the week before. And every Tuesday, I do my grocery posts. Now those - my groceries, in particular, I like to challenge myself to get the prices down. So that’s definitely a lot of fun for me. I also like to check back on my budget all the time and just make sure I am including the things that are fun.

So for me, dancing is definitely a huge one. I do a lot of dancing, and I like to make sure that that’s in my budget. So at the moment, the cost of living is rising. We can’t ignore that. So I do look at my budget and recheck it sort of every week or every month, just to make sure that there is enough space for me to do the fun things.

Beth:

What are your top tips or any advice you have for women who feel excluded from the world of finance?

Tracy
The first thing I can honestly say is ask for help. So we, I always, and I mean, this with no offence. But when I talk to my friends about finances, I can almost see them start to glaze over because we have this conception that the finance world is a middle-aged man in a suit, right? And then I come in with all my glitter and sparkles! I’m very fortunate that I work in an office where they embrace the glitter and the sparkles and everything. So even like even the men, you know, they will quite happily wear pink if required. I think that’s really important, bringing the fun aspect to it. So for yourself, just don’t be afraid to ask for help. And also, don’t be afraid to take control of the finances.

I think a lot of women just sort of go, “oh yeah, somebody else will deal with it”. It’s actually fine for you to say, “I’m going to deal with this” or “no, actually, I’d like to learn more”.

Women, we’re our harshest critics, right? Do we agree? There’s literally no wrong answer in finances. Like, I ended up $94,000 in debt. Was that a wrong answer? Hell no, because here I am now. You know, you’re gonna learn from it.

Beth:

Yeah, for people getting started on their financial journey, female or not, there can be a lot of anxiety of, as you say, not knowing and just not feeling confident to get started. You don’t know what you don’t know. But just starting with that humility and going, “it’s all good, I’m starting now, and that’s what matters” is such a good shout!

Tracy

Absolutely. Like investing, for example, you don’t have to have tons of money to invest. You can start by reading a book or reading a blog, or listening to a podcast, or something like that. With finances, you literally do not have to have it all figured out. Because it changes. The finance world is always changing. If you look at mortgages, for example, at the moment, we’re just getting slammed with all different legislation changes, whatever. It’s always changing. Always. Like people have been in the game for 30 - 40 years that we know of, that are like “I’ve never seen changes like this before”. So you literally can’t get it wrong with finances. You can only learn.

Emma:

I love that! That’s such a cool statement. “You can’t get it wrong. You can only learn”. That’s great.

You mentioned earlier about budgeting and, well, about finances in general that it needs to be personalised and specific to each person. But if someone’s just starting out, figuring out how to budget, do you have any tips for them on how to make sure that it is personalised to them and they’re not just copying what someone else is doing?

Tracy:

It all comes from your values, so write down the values that are important to you.

So as I said before; dancing, my dancing is really important for me. It’s really important for my mental health.

For example, I know some people who go in, they dive in, they’re like, “right I’m gonna do this budgeting thing”, and they take out all the things that they think are luxury, so including things like gym memberships, tithing - some people like to say tithing needs to come out of a budget. I totally disagree; if those are your values, then leave them in and find something else to take out…

So making sure that your budget aligns with your values, beliefs, everything that makes you happy, not Susie next door… Because we’ve established, there’s no right and wrong in finances. Susie next door is not judging your budget. She’s not living your life. Make sure it aligns with your life.

Beth:

Do you have any female finance, either creators or voices in the space that you’d like to point people in the direction of?

Tracy:

Yes! So, Frances Cook - I’m very lucky to know Frances on a personal level. We have finance chats all the time. But I think what she’s done is amazing. Check her out; she’s got heaps of TikTok videos and stuff. She’s a financial journalist.

The Girls That Invest podcast, Sim & Son - amazing, absolutely amazing. Recently, they’ve done a whole bunch of Instagram posts on privilege, like how privilege affects your finances and how just really once again, bringing it back down to earth like how I started with, we need to be talking about the real subjects here. Let’s not sugar-coat things. So they’re definitely two.

Beth:

We’ve talked about women getting started in their [personal] financial journeys. Do you have any kind of hot tips for women who want to get started with a career in the finance space?

Tracy:

Well, first of all, the studies are quite intense. So just make sure if you are doing them while also working full time like I did, give yourself some break, some rest. The studies are quite intense. But um, yeah, I would definitely go FAP shopping and find a group of people that align with you because you got to have fun at work. That’s, that’s it. But there’s more and more females coming through in the finance world. And I think it’s brilliant and is being accepted, definitely being accepted.

Beth:

Before we wind up, are there any final pearls of wisdom you want to share about financial journeys and financial health?

Tracy:

I guess the main thing around financial health and, I guess, well being is to make sure that you include finances and your overall well being. That word’s being thrown around a lot at the moment, you know, mental health, mental well being, all that kind of stuff.

Just make sure you do a check on your finances as well. That would definitely be a huge pearl of wisdom.

If you don’t know where to start, reach out to a financial adviser to help you. But I think a lot of people bury their heads in the sand until it’s too late. So just include it.

It can be scary, but you only have to start with one thing. One thing - track your expenses maybe, or try and give yourself a supermarket budget. Just start with one thing.

If you want to know more about Debt Free Diva, you can head over to her Instagram or website.